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Russia: Religious Orthodox Classes Will Be Taught in Public School Buildings

(Nov. 26, 2014) On November 24, 2014, the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant reported that according to Moscow City Council Member and Chair of the Moscow City Board of Education Nina Minko, the Russian Orthodox Church has been granted the right to use public school buildings when classes are out, without paying rent. (Aleksandr Chernykh & Pavel Korobov, Priests Will Stay in School After Classes, KOMMERSANT (Nov. 24, 2014) (in Russian.)

Minko stated that the Moscow Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church petitioned the City Council to allow the Church to conduct religious educational activities in public schools. Even though public education in Russia is secular, and religion is separated from the state under the Russian Constitution, the City Council believes that this decision will not violate the law. According to Minko, the final decision will be made by each school independently; however, the City Council recommends that schools share their buildings with the Church. (Id.)

At present there are about 300 religious Sunday schools in Moscow that operate in church buildings. It is believed that religious classes will attract more students if taught in regular schools instead of churches, and the Orthodox Church may assist schools in celebrating major Orthodox religious holidays. (Id.)

The idea of providing school facilities rent-free to a nongovernmental organization was opposed by the teachers’ union, which views the opportunity to lease school space commercially as a way to improve the financing of public schools. (Id.) Reportedly, the head of the Russian Muslim community expressed interest in the free rental idea and said that this issue should be resolved on the basis of equal treatment. (Moscow Authorities Permitted Russian Orthodox Church to Lease Schools for Free, NOVAYA GAZETA (Nov. 24, 2014) (in Russian).)