January. 17. 2022
Christian schools receive warning for violation of religious freedom
By Bahk Eun-ji
Seoul education authorities have issued warnings to a number of private Christian and missionary schools in the capital for including worship services and religious events during school hours, in violation of the principle of freedom of religion.
An audit by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE) found that several private Christian schools in the capital provided religious classes last year.
|Education File/Korea Times” src=”https://img.koreatimes.co.kr/upload/newsV2/images/202201/3d03c528439e4e9eb10060bc5632731c.jpg/dims/resize/180/optimize”/>|
|Seoul Metropolitan Bureau of Education File/Korea Times|
During the audit, a high school identified only by the initial “A”, which allegedly adopted the Christian spirit as its educational ideology, was found to have included a worship class in its regular curriculum for all students from 2019 to 2020.
In addition to regular worship, special devotional events were also held, such as a Thanksgiving service and a memorial service for the opening of the school, and Bible lessons were also offered to all students every morning during the period.
The high school was also found to have held religion-related competitions twice during regular class hours from 2018 to 2019.
The warnings came as Seoul’s education bureau believed that forcing students to participate in such religious activities violated their religious freedom.
Classes should be conducted on the basis of objectivity without bias towards specific cultures or ideologies, including religion.
The SMOE instructed the high school not to require its students to attend specific religious education and weekly worship times during regular school hours.
A Christian high school, identified only by “B”, also received an institutional warning for having organized an hour of worship each week and a time of prayer each morning, from 2018 to 2021.
It was also pointed out that the school rents a specific church auditorium for all students twice a year to hold spring and fall revival services.
In the process of the stimulus services, the school voluntarily received donations from all students and teachers that it felt should be dedicated to helping the underprivileged.
However, the SMOE pointed out that although the school went through an internal approval process for the use of the donated money, it is illegal to collect such donations from schools rather than religious establishments.
“Additionally, spending the offerings on events related to specific religious activities was also inappropriate,” an SMOE official said.
This is not the first time that the cults and religious education offered by some private schools have sparked controversy in Korea.
In 2004, the student body president of a private Christian school in Seoul refused to attend school worship and fasted for 46 days to demand religious freedom at the school.
The case resulted in a legal battle, and in 2010 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the student, saying that religious freedom should be recognized in mission schools.