Religious education has split Romania in two writes Adevărul. The subject is no longer compulsory, and parents who want their children to take classes in religion must now explicitly request it of their school, from primary level to sixth form. The news has been met with anger among religious authorities. Leaders in the Orthodox Church have even begun an online campaign, using local celebrities to support religious education. Parents in favour of the classes have made a Facebook group with the same goal.

For writer Vlad Zografi, there are two points of view to consider. On the one hand —

from a strictly secular perspective, once we have accepted that the Constitution guarantees a secular state, the debate is over. Since this same Constitution also protects religious freedom, religion can be taught in faith schools, but can have nothing to do with public education.

At the same time, Zografi adds —

the majority of what we might call culture is shaped by religion, by Christianity for us Europeans. Culture gives us an interior articulation that defines us. Whether we are atheists, agnostics or believers, if we have even a minimum of culture, and religion makes up a part of who we are. Schools should obviously teach elements of religion. If not, the Sistine Chapel would only be seen as a collection of colourful marks.

The debate also rages in Spain, where school children must choose between citizenship or Catholic religion classes. If in Romania less than half of pupils across the education system sign up to religious education classes – 1.4 million out of 3 million – in Spain two thirds have done so – 3.5 million in total. While in Romania, parents opposed to religious education are seen by its supporters as nostalgic for the Communist era, in Spain the idea of a return to Francoism is rejected in La Vanguardia

There is a big difference between the world of 50 years ago and today. Before, classes in Catholic religion were compulsory. Today, by contrast, it is one of 13 optional subjects.