MADRID — As Spain prepares for its general election in December, Pedro Sánchez, the leader of the nation’s socialist party, has said that if elected, his government will pull religion courses from both public and private schools.
Sánchez leads the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), the largest opposition party in the nation. General elections will take place Dec. 20, for all the seats in the lower house of Spain’s parliament and more than three-quarters of the seats in the upper house.
The proposal to remove religion courses from all schools in Spain is part of the first draft of the PSOE’s platform, which was reviewed Oct. 19 by the Standing Executive Committee.
The platform states that the Spanish government must promote “necessary reforms in the current legal framework, as well as international agreements,” in order to “promote a secular public school where religious instruction is not included either in the curriculum or the school schedule.”
Under the proposal, not even private schools, run independently of the government, could offer religion courses for students to take during school hours. They could only do so as an extracurricular activity.
The spokesman of the Spanish Conference of Catholic Bishops, Father José María Gil Tamayo, speaking to Spain’s largest radio network (COPE), noted that no student is obliged to take religious instruction classes, but it is obligatory for the course to be offered by the schools.
Father Gil Tamayo also emphasized that this course forms part of “a curriculum that is on a par with the rest of the subjects,” and “this is a matter of parents exercising their right within the educational system, laid down in the constitution, for their children to be educated in accordance with their religious and moral convictions.”
According to the socialist platform, the religion course could no longer be used in calculating the average grade used to obtain a scholarship or be admitted to a university.
In this regard Father Gil Tamayo pointed out that the socialist leaders, perhaps looking for a few votes, are only “stirring up a problem [for themselves]” and emphasized that the party “needs to keep in mind that the moderate people of this country, the voters of the PSOE, proportionate to the major religious denomination in Spain, are Catholics.”
PSOE is one of six parties vying in Spain’s general election. The current ruling party is the People’s Party, which is conservative and Christian democratic. The social democratic PSOE last led the Spanish government from 2004-2011, under then-Prime Minister José Rodríguez Zapatero.