Letter to Government of Bulgaria over plans for compulsory religious education
Mr Daniel Vassilev Valtchev
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Science
2A Dondukov Blvd
3 February 2008
Dear Mr Valtchev
We are aware that your Government is currently debating the form that religious education should take in Bulgaria.
May we draw your attention to the “Toledo” guidelines on teaching about religion and belief in public schools recently published by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe? These are set out in a book (“Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching About Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools”) that is available on-line at on-line at http://www.osce.org/odihr/29154. (Hard copies can be ordered free of charge at http://www.osce.org/item/28314.html )
We would also commend a Council of Europe publication, “Religious diversity and intercultural education: a reference book for schools” (2007), that can be ordered in English at http://book.coe.int/EN/ficheouvrage.php?PAGEID=36〈=EN&produit_aliasid=2191 or in French at http://book.coe.int/FR/ficheouvrage.php?PAGEID=36〈=FR&produit_aliasid=2191 It costs €15.00.
The OSCE’s Toledo guidelines are based on considerations of human rights and will (I venture) be consonant with your personal views as a distinguished writer on the philosophy of law. They have been drawn up after consultation by a group of experts on human rights and on education, and they were warmly received at a meeting (which I attended) during the OSCE’s annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw last September.
What they would suggest (and I append to this email letter their conclusions, recommendations and ten basic principles) is that teaching on the subject should respect the autonomy of the individual child and take account of his/her relative immaturity, therefore not seeking to impose any particular belief but opening young people’s minds to the range of world-views that mankind has discovered, including not only religious ones but also non-religious ethical beliefs such as Humanism.
We would also respectfully draw your attention to the value of teaching children together, not in separate groups according to belief, as this helps mutual understanding and social cohesion.
I do hope that you find these suggestions useful.
President, European Humanist Federation
[The Toledo conclusions, recommendations and ten basic principles, as attached to this letter, are to be found here.