Morning prayer and school religious services for kindergarten and primary school students are constitutional and legal, the plenary of the Council of State ruled on Friday. The court clarified that this ruling applies “exclusively to students who follow the Christian Orthodox dogma, not to students of other religions, other denominations or atheists.”
The latter can be excused from the morning prayer and the school religious services.
Greece’s highest administrative court reportedly reviewed a presidential decree of 2017 that related to the organization and operation of the schools, and particularly the part related to a joint prayer with teachers, as well as observing worship services on specific holidays.
The court ruled that prayer, religious ceremonies and the teaching of religion in these early grades are “necessary means serving the constitutional purpose of developing a religious conscience in Greek citizens, according to article 16 and paragraph 2 of the constitution.”
As a result, it said, the law “is addressed exclusively to students who follow the Christian Orthodox dogma, not to students of other religions, other denominations or atheists.”
In the latter case, the ruling said atheists “enjoy the right of religious freedom, established in article 13, paragraph 1 of the constitution, and have a direct right to be excused from prayer and religious ceremonies, without any adverse result, as long as their parents submit a statement that they do not wish their children to participate in prayer or worship services on grounds of religious conscience.”
Schools that refuse to waiver attendance for religious differences will be violating the Greek constitution and contravening the European Convention on Human Rights, the Council of State underlined, striking out the relevant section of the presidential decree as invalid.