Aniceto Masferrer Domingo, a
featured speaker at the 2007
annual meeting of the ASLH.
Aniceto Masferrer Domingo, professor at the Universidad de Valencia in Spain and a featured speaker at the 2007 annual meeting of the American Society for Legal History, spoke about “Religious Freedom and School in Spain” at a faculty seminar.
Masferrer said religious freedom and the role of religion in schools is one of the most controversial issues in Spain today.
The Spanish Constitution of 1978 renounced Catholicism as the official state religion, which had been the case for nearly 500 years, and prohibited discrimination based on religion.
It also guaranteed religious education to any student in public school whose parent requests the education. Through cooperation agreements with the government, instruction is provided in public schools by Catholic, Islamic, Jewish and Evangelical churches. Instructors are chosen by the churches and paid by the school. At least 10 students in a school must request instruction in one of the designated religions before the school is required to provide a class.
“The social demand of Catholic instruction in school is high,” said Masferrer, noting that 75-80 percent of all students – in public and private schools – receive Catholic instruction.
Two conflicts exist in the system: first, less demanding courses are offered to those who chose not to take Catholic instruction, which Bishops think devalue Catholic instruction and encourage students to take the less-demanding class; and second, although the schools pay the teachers, they are hired by the church and have been removed for behavior deemed contrary to Catholic morals rather than lack of competence.
Masferrer said the current government passed new laws in 2006 that eliminated credit for religious classes and instituted a required course on citizenship that includes discussion of homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic research and cloning, all controversial issues in the Catholic Church. The move has sparked protests with participants in the thousands, he said.