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Court: Compulsory Religion Class Against Equality Principle

The İstanbul 4th Administrative Court has given its final judgment on an appeal by a parent, who requested her child to be exempted from compulsory religion class. The court has ruled that the class is against the principle of equality.

The 4th Administrative Court of İstanbul has made its final judgment on a parent’s appeal against the compulsory religion class. The court has ruled that the religion class is “against the principle of equality.”

Selnur Aysever, the parent, and Özge Demir, her attorney, have spoken to bianet on the ruling.

Aysever submitted a petition to the Üsküdar District National Education Directorate on October 5, 2017, demanding her child, who was at her fourth year in elementary school at the time, to be exempted from the compulsory religion class.

İstanbul Provincial National Education Directorate dismissed the petition on the ground that Aysever “should document that they are Christian or Judaic”.

“When my petition was dismissed with such a reason, I filed a lawsuit” said Selnur Aysever. Aysever and Özge Demir, the attorney of the Movement for Enlightenment (Aydınlanma Hareketi), an organization which defines itselfas “people struggling against Islamization of the state”, filed a lawsuit at the The 4th Administrative Court of İstanbul.

The court pronounced its verdict after one year, ruling that the İstanbul Provincial National Education Directorate’s reply to Aysever is unlawful. Aysever has shared the document of the final judgment on her Twitter account.

‘I am happy with the verdict’

Selnur Aysever has said the following on the verdict:

“I think secular and scientific education is a right for every child. I believe the curriculum should be reorganized with this understanding.

“When I and my lawyer first filed the lawsuit, we decided that we would even go to the ECtHR (European Court of the Human Rights). I was not hoping that the Administrative Court would make this ruling. I am happy with the verdict.

“Through you, I am calling on the parents who congratulate me and ask me what they can do to protect their children’s constitutional rights without fear and hesitation.”

The attorney Özge Demir also said,

“We as the Movement for Enlightenment, are dealing with the cases which are filed against the compulsory religion class. Ms. Aysever wanted to file a lawsuit last year and we did that.

“Our basic claim when we were filing the lawsuit was that the current religious education concentrates on Sunni Islam. But the opposing party claims that it includes all religions.

“We presented the books of the religion class as evidence. If you look at the headlines, you could see that the book is basically on Sunni Islam. Apart from that, there was a mechanism that includes practices like praying and fasting.”

‘ECtHR has two verdicts’

“ECtHR has already two verdicts that state exemption should be granted to those who demand it. We also presented the verdicts to the court.

“Forcing a parent, who wants her child to be exempted from the religion class, to declare which religion he or she belongs or does not belong to is clearly against the article in the constitution which states ‘No one shall be forced to declare his or her beliefs or thoughts on religion.'” (SO/AÖ/VK)