November 2007 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A debate over religion in the public sphere in Russia is heating up in some of the country’s public schools.

In September, The New York Times reported on the growing number of public schools throughout the nation that are in­structing students in the ways of the Russian Orthodox Church. The article notes that lessons on Christianity are usually adopted by the public schools at the behest of the Orthodox churches and leaders.

The Times reported on instruction given to second graders by teacher Irina Donshina in the city of Kolma. Donshina lectured the students about God, telling them that people should learn from God.

“Because people he created crucified him,” she told the youngsters.

Later in the class, Donshina led the children in recital of the Ten Commandments.

“Faith in God is as important for every human as the root for a tree,” she said.

The aggressive effort to insert the Orthodox Church’s understanding of Christianity into the public schools has sparked concerns that the nation’s separation of church and state is being overlooked. Recently, the newspaper noted, ten prominent scientists sent a letter to President Vladimir Putin that argues against the “growing clericalization” of Russia society.

Putin has been reluctant to take sides in the debate, saying that the nation should “think about it together.”\n