Kindergarten: Religious Orientation Must be Known

Die Presse, September 11, 2017

German original:

The City of Vienna presents eight pages of religious guidelines. Catholic, Islamic, and Jewish kindergartens will have to declare themselves unambiguously in the future.

Vienna.  Eventually, eight printed pages are enough: the City of Vienna presented the long-awaited religious guidelines for kindergartens on Monday. Under the title „Ethics in Kindergarten. On Dealing with Religion, Worldview, and Values,“ six principles are specified (Die Presse already reported exclusively in June), to which kindergartens must confess. They include, for example, the supremacy of law over religious rules. Or the definite rejection of „ideological indoctrination of children and other coercions.“ In addition, according to the publication, religion as a curriculum is „inherently independent from any denomination.“

Also in the case of confessional kindergartens, children may not be taught just „one specific denomination as the only worldview.“ What is more, all institutions, their concepts and guiding principles, as well as in their everyday care, have to adhere to four principles: „the democratic state under the rule of law; the equality of religious and non-religious people, and the equality of people of different denominations, respectively; gender equality; and openness and readiness to engage in dialogue with regard to plurality of society.“

The guidelines time make clear for the first that a declaration regarding if and how religious education is happening is now mandatory: „If the everyday instruction at the pedagogical institution follows a specific denomination, it has to be made clear towards parentsand those entitled to custody how religious education is taking place,“ according to the guidelines.

Law will be changed

This means that religious associations as vehicles of private kindergartens now have to declare their confession unambiguously – may it be Catholic, Islamic, or Jewish. This was also confirmed by a spokesperson of city councilman for education,  Jürgen Czernohorszky (SPÖ) upon request. The declaration of religion until now has been a suggested provision, which now will turn into a mandatory provision, according to the spokesperson. The provision applies to all kindergartens; already approved institutions will still have to provide the necessary information; i.e. amend the pedagogical concept.

The obligation to declare is not only part of the religious guidelines, but will also be part of an amendment of the kindergarten law, which will undergo review soon and is expected to go into effect in early 2018.

The guidelines were already announced by the city at the end of 2015. The long period of time it took to complete them is being explained with the fact that the guidelines have to be effective “without being discriminatory. “