Religion class

September 12, 2006 | 44 comments
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I registered my two oldest children for school on Friday. The principal needed to know which church they belonged to so that he could assign them to the proper religion class. For a first and third grader attending public school in Bavaria, there is a class for Catholics, a class for Lutherans, or a course on ethics.
Actually, we’re Mormons, I said, prepared to explain that I have only one wife and that we do use electricity.
But something clicked with the principal. Did I know that there was a large Mormon congregation in town? A lot of Mormons had come to help with the renovation of the schoolyard a few years ago.
Yes, I said, I know the congregation very well.
So you’ll probably want your children enrolled in the ethics course.
The Lutheran course might be a possibility, I said, trying to make sure the principal knew that Mormons are Christians.
The principal handed me the appropriate forms to request the enrollment of a child in the religion course of a different confession. A local ecclesiastical authority has to approve the request. Why don’t we place your children in the ethics course for now, the principal suggested.

So, do my kids get the prize behind door A, B, or C? With a good teacher, a Catholic or Lutheran religion course might not be a bad thing. Our kids know a thing or two about the Bible, and could stand to learn more. But the confessional courses might be primarily concerned with preparing children for first communion or confirmation. Or the teacher might decide to show the young heretics the error of their parents’ ways. Or the conflict between our church’s teachings and the school’s might be more than our kids could handle. On the other hand, the ethics class might be a first course in atheism, and most of the other students will probably be Muslims. Not a bad thing in itself, but it might be hard for an American Mormon to fit in.

Within limits, I can imagine sending my children off to any of the religion classes just for the sake of broadening their horizons. As a visitor in a foreign country, I’m more willing to accept local custom on its own terms than I am at home, while I would feel like I had much more at stake if I had grown up here and had no plans to leave. But in that case, I would know already which one of the three classes was the best choice for my kids.

Two last thoughts: It’s hard to foresee all the consequences of a ward service project, but I’m very grateful for the members who helped paint lines on a playground years before we came here. And if release-time seminary is a quintessentially Mormon experience, so is being the only member of the church in your school. For the near future, we can probably expect less of the former and more of the latter.

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44 Responses to Religion class

  1. Ronan on September 12, 2006 at 6:02 am

    Jonathan,

    Just had a similar experience in Vienna, except here, because Jacob already has a Religionsbekenntnis he is not allowed to take the Catholic class. This is a shame. We wanted him to. Were we atheists, it would have been OK.

    According to the Principal, all religions that are “staatlich anerkannt” can run school classes for their children. The Mormon church has been state-recognized since 1955 (a real coup), but I guess we don’t really count. After all, we’re the Church of Warren Jeffs.

  2. Russell Arben Fox on September 12, 2006 at 7:26 am

    Interesting dilemma, Jonathan. I’m not sure what I would do. Normally, given a choice between a sectarian education and an aggressively secular one, I would prefer the former, but I don’t know what “ethics” really means in a German context, and I wouldn’t want to cause trouble as a minority if it was avoidable. I hope that further investigation will make you and Rose comfortable with enrolling your kids in the Lutheran class (but that’s just my closet Lutheran talking again, probably).

    Incidentally, when I was at Catholic University, I once had to take a look at my original application file for some reason; I found, upon reading it, that while everything else I’d written had been faithfully transcribed, under “religion,” where I had written down “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon),” I was listed simply as “Protestant.” I joked with my advisor about it once; he kind of leaned back in his chair and said, “Well, you know, the way we see it, everyone’s Protestant except for us.”

  3. Wilfried on September 12, 2006 at 8:43 am

    A post that strikes a chord for Mormon parents in Europe and many other places, Jonathan. It’s been a core issue for decades here in Belgium. I learned there is no general guideline for our children. Everything depends on the local school situation, the principal, and especially the teachers in those religious classes or in ethics. The chance that an ethics class is anti-religious and atheistic is real. We choose for our daughter, in first grade in a Belgian State school, the ethics class and it was, even for those young children, brainwashing that any believer is a fool. The years after that she went to a Catholic school, had Catholic religion classes, and they turned out to be nice ethics with some religious sprinkling. Though in third grade the Catholic teacher told the children he did not really believe in God. And by the fifth grade they knew everything about sex and condoms.

    Local church leaders usually advice parents to first talk to the principal and to the religion and ethics teachers, be open about Mormonism, and get a feeling what the best class could be. In most cases it turns out well. Religion classes, especially “soft Catholic”, as in Belgium, have done well. But it also depends on age. If a class is a direct preparation for first or solemn communion, it may be less suited for a Mormon kid, who may feel excluded. But I also know cases where the Mormon child, 8 years old, invited the teacher and the whole class to his/her baptism.

    Ronan, you mention “The Mormon church has been state-recognized since 1955″. Is that really so? I found out in a number of cases in Europe that the Church thought they had been “recognized” in a certain country, because the mission president at the time registered the Church as a legal association or something similar, but that no real recognition, like for the Catholic church, had ever been granted. It’s complex in Europe, every country has its own legal rules. Plus, I also found out it is sometimes better not to be recognized, in order to avoid state-meddling and financial obligations or consequences.

  4. Nate Oman on September 12, 2006 at 8:50 am

    Wilfried: Does the Church retain local legal counsel in each European country to deal with these issues? I know that there are attorneys who work on a regional level for the Church, but I doubt having some American trained lawyer who does “Europe” is always a whole lot better than turning some poor mission president loose on the local bureacracy.

    I’ve heard that in some European countries (Germany?) that state-recognized church are entitled to funding from a government tax in support of religion. Is this true? If so does the Church avail itself of this funding? (Does it have a choice?)

  5. Wilfried on September 12, 2006 at 9:16 am

    Nate, on the first question: over about three decades (1970-2000) I have seen various Church legal counsel in Europe come and go on regional level, some really dug deeply into those matters of recognition, some scratched only the surface as they had too many other things to do. For Belgium, and I guess for other European countries also, local lawyers were sometimes involved, but the main problem has always been discontinuity. Whenever you had a transfer / replacement on regional Church level, some or much of the work one Legal Counsel had done would not be followed up the same way. Add to that the fragmentation over missions, and local initiatives that stopped with a change of mission president, or built-up experience being lost. Same with local lawyers: after a fresh start to solve problems, things tend to become diluted and forgotten. I do not know what the situation is now, but the problem with continuity seems to be the only thing that is continuous. It’s the price we pay for our system of frequent releases and transfers.

    Second question: yes, in most European countries state-recognized Churches receive funding to pay the ministers (imagine the state would have to pay a salary to all our priesthood holders!) and to help with buildings (even if only because of their status of monuments). Germany has a system of religious tax that is quite unique in Europe I think. In Belgium all people pay taxes, part of which is used for the five recognized religions (Catholic, Anglican, Protestant synod, Jews, Muslims). For Mormons it means we pay taxes to sustain those religions, while our own tithing is non-deductible. I have heard the European Union would like to standardize a system for all countries, but the variety is great. That variety comes from centuries of history in state-religion relations, different in each country.

  6. Ronan on September 12, 2006 at 9:47 am

    Wilfried:

    the recognition in Austria is bona fide. I have a sense that we don’t take full advantage of it.

    http://www.kirche.at/

  7. Ronan on September 12, 2006 at 9:48 am
  8. Ronan on September 12, 2006 at 9:53 am

    Fun fact:

    We got recognition in 1955 in Austria (the date the Second Republic was founded) due to gratitude for the Marshall Plan.

    With this recognition comes “die Möglichkeit für Religionsunterricht in den Schulen.” I haven’t been here long enough to see how this works, but it’s not something we were offered. So Jacob gets an extra hour in bed tomorrow! No bad thing…

  9. Geoff B on September 12, 2006 at 10:34 am

    Jonathan, I have lived overseas with my kids and have faced similar choices in Latin America, primarily. My kids know a lot of Catholic doctrine, which is always interesting to know. I think a good understanding of the Catholic church will help them understand the Apostasy better, but, by the way, there are many, many good things to learn from a good Catholic teacher. I have talked to good Catholic teachers who had fascinating things to say about the early church, for example. On the other hand, learning about Martin Luther and his doctrine would also be fascinating. I would steer away from an ethics course, but I guess the best thing to do is look at the curriculum and talk to the teachers and see how things go.

  10. bbell on September 12, 2006 at 10:35 am

    On my mission in South Africa the LDS kids were forced to attend basicly Evangelical protestant religion classes in the local schools. Generally they would be called to repentance by the teacher and students. These classes seemed to be a cause of constant irritation for the LDS parents and much discussed in Seminary.

  11. Susan M on September 12, 2006 at 11:32 am

    How old are your kids?

    I’d probably put mine in the Lutheran class, if only because I was raised Lutheran and would know more what to expect.

  12. Kevin Barney on September 12, 2006 at 11:38 am

    I have a friend in Austria who took the Catholic classes growing up. For him it was a good thing; he knows way more about the Bible and church history than your average Mormon.

  13. Wilfried on September 12, 2006 at 12:01 pm

    Interesting, Ronan (6 to 8 ). But if our recognition in Austria says “die Möglichkeit für Religionsunterricht in den Schulenâ€?, we probably have the right to send a primary or seminary teacher to the school (and perhaps get him/her paid!) if parents request those religion classes. On the other hand, if the child has to work alone for an hour with that teacher, it would probably isolate him/her more than just participating in a good Catholic class. But just to let the principal know that we have that right… I wish we could do that in a Belgian school!

  14. Floyd the Wonderdog on September 12, 2006 at 12:04 pm

    I travel to Germany on business occasionally. I have difficulty finding the church there. perhaps because my former bishop didn’t want to be bothered with looking up a foreign church address.

    I’ve attended church at the chapel next to the Freiberg temple. ut when I go to Germany on business, I’m usually in Berghausen, near the Austrian border. Anyone know if there is a branch in Berghausen, or should I pop over to Munich or Salsberg?

  15. john f. on September 12, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    Salzburg is the nearest ward, I believe.

  16. Wilfried on September 12, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    14 – “I travel to Germany on business occasionally. I have difficulty finding the church there.”

    OK, little sidetrack. http://www.lds.org has been doing a lot to improve information, but finding Church addresses in certain countries can still be improved. The site provides a link to “Country sites”, but if you go to e.g. “Germany”, all the info is in German (I have not been able to locate an English version with addresses – anyone? ). For the foreign tourist or businessman in Germany, not obvious to locate what you need. Taiwan? = 程。熟悉這. Even with the proper font… Belgium? According to the Church site, only Dutch spoken here. Nothing on French-speaking wards. A few weeks ago our family wanted to visit the Church in Namur — we could not find it. “France” gives the French speaking Swiss units, but not the French-speaking units in Belgium. There is some work still to do there.

    I should add: http://www.mormon.org has a feature “Worship with us�, that seems much better with country choices and cities, but lds.org does not seem to link to that. On mormon.org the French-speaking Belgian units can be found (but not Namur). Two different systems to locate chapels around the world seems in need of unification. Also, links to travel info & maps would really help.

  17. manaen on September 12, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    Your children’s situation reminds me of Wilfried’s The Flute, to which I still return for a moment of tender spiritual gratitude.

  18. Kristine Haglund Harris on September 12, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    When we lived in Germany, we all went to the Lutheran class. My teacher was an aging hippie sort, who mostly had us read the Sermon on the Mount and sing cheesy German religious folksongs (“Herr, deine Liebe ist wie Grass und Ufer, wie Wind und Weite, und wie ein Zuhaus…”) My younger brothers did little Bible plays and the one who was in 5th grade asked to tell the story of Helaman’s stripling warriors when it was his turn to do a class report, and gave his teacher a Buch Mormon.

    I don’t think our school had an ethics class, though–you were either Catholic or not.

  19. Greg Call on September 12, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    Growing up in Switzerland, my wife had to choose between Catholic and Protestant classes at school, and chose Protestant. (Like Kristine’s experience, there was no ethics class.)

  20. John Mansfield on September 12, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    Wilfried, you won’t find my stake (Frederick Maryland) or its wards through http://www.lds.org either. Our stake president hates taking up members’ time with unnecessary things like updating a website or rehearsing a choir. The stake and ward web pages at http://www.lds.org seem intended only for the units’ own use.

  21. john f. on September 12, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    The ethics class is a result of more recent legal fights in Germany about the constitutionality of requiring students to have religious instruction when they do not profess the religion of the offered classes. I believe the ethics instruction have also been the focus of legal battles recently in the state of Berlin.

  22. Wilfried on September 12, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    Interesting, john f. (21). In Belgium the “ethics” class was originally meant as a neutral class for students without religion or members of non-recognized religions. However, it has been claimed by the agnostic movement, with, depending on the teacher who gives it, often avowed anti-religious propaganda.

    John Mansfield (20), thanks for the clarification! I can see your point. Of course, for visitors from elsewhere, it is still important to have easy and correct access to info on chapel locations. While in the US such info can probably be found easily in other sources, in foreign countries it’s often not so. What I find strange, is that lds.org does not seem to link to mormon.org, e.g. for the “Worship with us”.

    Oh, and Manaen (17), thanks so much for referring to The Flute. That was kind and brought back sweet memories.

  23. Rose Green on September 12, 2006 at 3:39 pm

    Floyd (14), there are two different ways to find a meetinghouse address on http://www.lds.org. One is to look up stake and ward websites. This is indeed run on the local level, with content differing from ward to ward, depending on the interest of the ward. We’ve moved a fair number of times now, and they are all different. These are more for the members of that particular ward (and only in the US and Canada).

    What you are looking for is the “other resources” link on the Church’s main page, and then the “meetinghouse locator.” It is in English. Find Germany and then search for either the town or the nearest one to it that you can find. (I didn’t see Berghausen, and I’m not sure what ward boundaries it’s in, but maybe you are more familiar with the larger cities there and would recognize a name.) From just glancing through the list, it looks like a list of all of the existing meetinghouses in Germany.

    Er, sorry to hijack your topic, Jonathan. Back to the main theme here, I talked to a variety of ward members, and they seemed to think ethics was a good choice. They thought that for a 3rd grader, the Catholic option would be pointless (since the class would be geared towards first communion), and many of them had had bad experiences with the Lutheran option. Of course, these were bad experiences from a generation ago (or more), but I never did get the sense that it was the “atheist” class. I guess we’ll find out soon, won’t we? Still, it’s a very weird sort of educational situation for Americans.

  24. Craig V. on September 12, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    The teacher and your relationship with the teacher is, I think, key. If you can build a working relationship with the teacher, the actual class choice may not be as important as it seems. As a Presbyterian, I’d vote for the Lutheran class (just kidding).

    I have two questions which arise from the original posts and the responses. It seems clear that it’s important that LDS be recognized as Christians. What do you mean by ‘Christian’? A clear answer here might avoid a useless debate over words.

    Secondly, the ‘Apostasy’ was mentioned. What exactly is that? Did those who became apostate cease to be Christians? I think I asked about the Apostasy on another topic (I asked how the Catholic church lost its authority), but didn’t get an answer (no doubt because the answer is obvious if you are a Mormon, but not so obvious if you are a Presbyterian).

    Both of these questions are, I think, important. They address the ways in which we (Presbyterians, Mormons, Catholics, Lutherans and others) are and are not related to one another. A clear answer may even shed light on which class to choose.

  25. Jonathan Green on September 12, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    Nate, Wilfried, in Germany the church tax system only applies to Catholics and Lutherans, as only Catholic and Lutheran institutions benefit from it. It’s a double-edged sword, though, as most people who leave their churches would otherwise remain members if it didn’t cost them a couple percentage points of their income. At the same time, the Catholics and Lutherans support a large portion of the basic fabric of German society; losing members and thus church tax money hurts hospitals and kindergartens, not just church buildings and pastors. (Although most kindergartens are nominally denominational, the one nearest us is run by a godless socialist worker’s welfare organization, and we’re very happy with it.)

    For now, it looks like we’ll try the ethics course, based on the advice of several members. A few have mentioned that a Catholic or Lutheran course could in theory be a wonderful thing, but it depends very much on local conditions, and we just don’t have the knowledge required or the time to acquire it before school starts. It’s probably for the best; Veggie Tales was enough to convince my younger son that God created the planets out of nothing, and our attempts to resolve the issue only led him to declare that God didn’t create the planets, but instead they just formed out of gas and dust.

  26. john f. on September 12, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    A minor correction to my comment 21: the legal fight about the ethics class I was referring to was not in Berlin but rather Brandenburg and concerned Brandenburg’s law requiring all students to take “worldview – ethics – history of religion” classes and subordinating the more traditional religion classes for protestants and catholics to this state requirement. Parents tried to protest the mandatory nature of these classes in Brandenburg. The protestant and catholic churches criticized the law and the ethics class. The CDU in Brandenburg went so far as to accuse Brandenburg of trying to continue the old DDR process of de-Christianization through these classes:

    15 evangelische Eltern und Schüler hatten geklagt, um eine höhere Gewichtung des Religionsunterrichts zu erreichen. Es geht vor allem um das umstrittene Fach “Lebensgestaltung-Ethik-Religionskunde” (LER), das Brandenburg vor rund zehn Jahren eingeführt hatte.

    Nach einer mehrjährigen Testphase wurde es Mitte der neunziger Jahre zum ordentlichen Lehrfach in Brandenburg. Sowohl die katholische als auch die evangelische Kirche übten daran heftige Kritik; die CDU in Brandenburg sprach gar von einer “Fortsetzung früherer DDR-Entchristianierung”. Kirchen und Christdemokraten forderten Religionsunterricht als echte Alternative zum weltanschaulich neutralen LER, nicht nur als Wahlfach für die Schüler.

    The various parties reached a compromise. The churches got input into the content of the ethics/worldview classes and it remained a required class. But I believe the grades don’t count toward graduation. Anyway, all that is for high-school aged kids I think and not necessarily for primary school children.

  27. Ed Johnson on September 12, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    If the “ethics” class is full of Muslims (along with the occasional Mormon or JW), it’s hard to see how it could be very atheistic without really upsetting the parents. In fact, belief in God might be more common in the ethics class than in the Catholic or Protestant classes.

  28. Jonathan Green on September 12, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    Craig: “Christian” in the sense that we worship and pray to God the Father, accept Christ as his son and our savior, and believe in the Bible as scripture; but more especially that we don’t worship Joseph Smith or entirely replace the Bible with the Book of Mormon, as is sometimes claimed. We’re sensitive about being Christians because some Christians claim we’re not.

    “Apostasy” or “Great Apostasy” is the belief that great parts of the Christian message and all true priesthood authority was lost during the 10-300 years after Christ’s death and that neither was restored until 1830 through Joseph Smith as prophet. Mormons differ on whether Martin Luther helped get things rolling on the right track, or whether he merely added to the confusion, but Mormons of either camp usually approve of the Reformation, and there’s a certain amount of participation in the heritage of the Reformation.

    (There’s nuch more to both topics, but I’d like to leave it in that nutshell for now, as the full explanation goes rather widely afield. Like any form of Internet discussion, wait around for six weeks or so and just about every topic will come up for discussion again.)

  29. john f. on September 12, 2006 at 4:26 pm

    Jonathan, from my perspective, the Catholic classes will most likely indeed by preparation for communion and will consist of catechism. It sounds from several like the Protestant classes, for whatever reason, are less geared toward actual preparation for communion.

    But I also think that there might be less threat of the teacher trying to convince your kids that you and your wife are idiots for being LDS in the ethics class. It has to stay neutral, theoretically, and if it really is full of Muslims, then that would be an excellent learning experience. Your kids will gain a type of solidarity with the Muslims who will also likely reject the teacher’s anti-religion bias (assuming there is such, which is not certain).

  30. Mark Butler on September 12, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    Over at Seoul Foreign School, which is a school for children of foreigners founded and largely run by Presbyterian missionaries (the mascot is a Crusader, although I never saw a person with the actual role), there were a couple of mandatory religion classes, although they were relatively mild and non-denominational. My seventh grade Bible teacher steered us completely clear of any controversy about the proper interpretation of the Creation account, for example. She just wanted us to focus on how God dealt with people.

    We also had a couple of assemblies every year where some Christian motivational speaker or musical group came to speak or play for us, but I cannot recall any hard core doctrinalizing there either.

    Now I can imagine it might be better if they focused a little more on certain precepts of Christianity than they did – I do not know what the tensions were – we had about half of the foreign, non-military school population at our school, including a significant number of non-religious folk of course. On the whole though I can hardly say enough good about Seoul Foreign School – if we ran Latter-day Saint high schools, we would be hard pressed to do a better job than they did. Definitely the best school I ever attended, and certainly not for material reasons (although the facilities have much improved in the past few decades).

  31. Craig V. on September 12, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    Thanks Jonathan,

    I agree that going deeper would take us off topic. The discussion I’d like to see concerns how we, Presbyterians and Mormons are and aren’t related. I like your description of what it means to be a Christian but can’t quite see how, having that description in mind, one could claim that there was a great Apostasy in the early church. I guess I’ll have to wait for interest in these particulars.

    I’m a bit saddened that so many would find the secular class less threatening. I don’t mean that by way of advice but as an observation on how difficult it seems to be to have real conversation.

    Thanks Mark, for the good word about Presbyterian missionaries.

  32. john f. on September 12, 2006 at 7:40 pm

    Yeah, I’m with you on that Craig. The problem is these Protestant or Catholic school teachers in Germany or Austria who want to teach their pupils that the Church of Jesus Christ (or other religious minorities) is a dangerous cult and all the reasons why it is an absurd religion. The hope is that the supposedly religiously neutral ethics class would not be so hostile, although that hope is likely also unwarranted. Of course, however, not all teachers of these religion or ethics classes are intolerant of their students’ religions when those religions aren’t Protestant or Catholic. But some are.

    In 2004 I heard a presentation by one of the authorities on school religious instruction in Berlin at a conference in Berlin. He was the representative of the Lutheran (Evangelische) Church on the council. He made very clear that it is one of the principle objectives of at least the Lutheran teachers in at least the Berlin state schools to try to teach the children in the class why Jehova’s Witnesses and Mormons are dangerous cults (“Sekten“) to be avoided. I asked him whether it were ethical to tell a child, essentially, (in a mandatory religion class at a state school, in front of his or her classmates) that his or her parents were duped by a dangerous cult and that the religious precepts that the child was taught its whole life was fictitious. I asked whether in his view it was constitutional for the German state to take this position. He was incredulous. He insisted that, despite his direct assertion to the contrary in his presentation, a teacher of a Lutheran religion class would never say that. Then he reiterated, seemingly oblivious to the contradiction, that such teachers would only emphasize that the Jehova’s Witnesses or Mormons were a dangerous cult out of concern for the well being of the children. He said a recent (1998) congressional investigation committee’s (Bundestagsauschuss) findings about cults and psycho-groups supported his view of this necessity (that is questionable because, even though the committee’s findings were in no wise favorable to cults and “psycho-groups,” it still suggested using a word other than “cult” [“Sekte“] such as “new religious movement” out of an interest in political correctness). The final report of the Enquete-Kommission über sogenannte Sekten und Psychogruppen is an interesting read — English copy available for download here. Politicians have encouraged the findings of this congressional investigation on religious minorities to be incorporated as soon as possible into law. Incidentally, the constitutionality of such an investigatory commission was challenged on administrative bases in the courts (by an adherent, naturally, of a religious minority) and found, in Germany’s highest constitutional court, to be constitutional (BVerfG, 1 BvR 1114/98 vom 18.6.1998, Absatz-Nr. (1 – 14).)

    We must realize that religious freedom means something different to different people. I learned this reading about the law on religious freedom and state neutrality with regard to religion in Germany and from such discussions as I had in Berlin in 2004. He simply did not see the point that the mere existence of the Enquete-Kommission could be considered shocking to an adherent of a religious minority treated therein as a cult or “psycho-group.” He simply could not understand, it seemed to me, that a child who happened to be a Jehova’s Witness or Mormon or other religious minority, would find a lesson about why such a religious minority is a dangerous cult, in contrast to the Lutheran Church, to be an attack of the child’s faith and the faith and intelligence of the child’s parents. In the end, we were both incredulous, and I am confident that to this day he still endorses the approach, at least in Lutheran instruction, to denounce certain, perhaps all, religious minorities as dangerous cults (“gefährliche Sekten“). That is a real learning experience when you realize that such a person considers him- or herself to be perfectly enlightened and tolerant to all. Thus, unfortunately, caution is indeed called for when Jonathan and Ronan are considering where their kids will land for religious instruction.

  33. gst on September 12, 2006 at 7:53 pm

    Over at Seoul Foreign School, which is a school for children of foreigners founded and largely run by Presbyterian missionaries (the mascot is a Crusader, although I never saw a person with the actual role)

    My American, Catholic high school team mascot was the Crusader. That shouldn’t be offensive to anyone–to borrow a formulation from another religion, you might say that “crusade” refers to the inner, spiritual struggle. But that would be a lie.

  34. Suzanne A. on September 12, 2006 at 8:16 pm

    I would go for the ethics course. Several Canadian universities (including Trinity College and Saint Paul University) now offer courses (degrees) in ethics, with more universities adding it to their curricula each year.

    “Ethics is that branch of philosophy dealing with the rightness or wrongness of human actions and conduct. In practical terms, the study of ethics attempts to set standards for people’s behaviour in business, medicine and various other fields.”

  35. Wilfried on September 13, 2006 at 12:52 am

    Thank you for that long update, john f (32). I can relate to the matter, having followed the comparable parliamentary cult investigations in France and in Belgium and seeing the consequences of the related laws. I see it occasionally in Belgian schools where “warning the children for the dangers of cults” has become part of the educational objectives, and that ties in directly with the topic of the post.

    The problem is the confusion to which groups the laws and the warnings apply. There are no doubt cults that do represent a danger: compelled isolation from family, irrational demands on time and money, psychic destabilization, total control on one’s life and the like. The main problem I have seen with the approach is: anti-cult vigilantes & inquisitionists from main churches misuse the matter to move their attacks from the sphere of abuses to the sphere of beliefs. Any religion with different views (and proselytizing) is then easily called a cult.

    Another problem is that some, in their interpretation of criteria, can present Mormonism as a cult: e.g. tithing and the hours we spent in church are considered irrational demands, or home teaching as a way of controlling our lives. Ex-Mo’s like to distort those aspects as “witnesses” and thus feed the information against us. That, in turn, gives cult-hunters ammo when they talk about Mormonism as a dangerous cult. And, sadly, our members sometimes suffer because of those misrepresentations. The Church’s image used to be much better in previous decades. The cult-related drama’s (Jonestown, Waco, Heaven’s Gate, Sun Temple…) have done their share to make religious minority groups suspicious. Media sensation around cases with “Mormon fundamentalists” do not help of course.

  36. Ronan on September 13, 2006 at 5:11 am

    Always happy to give another reason to shout “God Save the Queen,” I am pleased to report that during 14 years of education in schools sponsored by the Church of England, I was never made to feel like a brainwashed cultist. England is an example of a country where you can have a State religion without it being oppressive to minorities. We had religious assembly every day and RE classes very week. All very benign. On this point, Mormons in England are quite lucky compared with their European cousins.

  37. Wilfried on September 13, 2006 at 5:25 am

    So true, Ronan. As far as I know, Holland has the same basic religious tolerance and openness. History explains a lot in those attitudes.

  38. Doc on September 13, 2006 at 7:43 am

    “A cult is what the big congregation calls the little congregation.” the 4400

  39. Adam Greenwood on September 18, 2006 at 9:04 am

    ” On the other hand, the ethics class might be a first course in atheism.”

    In Spain, the ‘Catholic’ classes were just as likely to be a first course in atheism. Dunno about Germany.

  40. Mark Butler on September 18, 2006 at 9:17 am

    Gst, I agree. The Crusades had excesses of course, but they were primarily a defensive enterprise, and that is the key fact that ennobles the Crusaders, whatever their other weaknesses.

  41. Mike S on September 19, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    Given the experiences above, it’s worth reflecting on Doctrine & Covenants 134. Verse 9 is especially applicable here: We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.

    Of course this has to be set against Article of Faith 12, We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

    But the nex time someone argues in favor of, say, officially sanctioned school prayer, these experiences — to say nothing of our scriptures — would be good to keep in mind.

  42. bbell on September 19, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    #41

    Mike S.

    I appreciate your comments. Its really interesting to note that the last important school prayer case decided by the Supremes involved prayer over the loudspeakers before High School football games here in TX. What is really interesting is that some of the plaintifs were LDS kids and families.

    From what I have heard thru the TX LDS grapevine the reason the LDS families joined the lawsuit was that the LDS kids were being harrased on a regular basis by students, coaches, and administrators in this heavily evangelical area of the San Antonio Suburbs. The other plaintifs were Catholic families.

    Viva First Amendment……………!!

    The protection of LDS kids outside of the intermountain west is a concern to those of us parents here in the bible belt.

  43. Jordan on September 21, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    bbell:

    I am glad to see that someone else in the bloggernacle finally *gets* this. John and I have been pounding the pulpit, so to speak, on this one for years, only to be decried by others as secularists who want to eradicate religion from society and as enemies of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. What we really don’t want is institutionalized discrimination against our children at the hands of state actors (the public schools), like what happens in Germany and Austria, and has happened often here in the South.

  44. Mark B. on September 21, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    It’s been a long time since I studied anything about the crusades, but I’m not sure how we can call the crusades primarily defensive when they involved the gathering of armies in Europe and tramping off to the Holy Land in an attempt to take it away from the heathens.

    Of course, in late 20th Century (and onward and upward) Newspeak, we engage our Department of Defense in attacking others who never attacked us–Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Iraq–but since it the DoD, I suppose those actions have been primarily defensive.