Following criticism from Human Rights groups of a high school textbook assailed by critics as being anti-Semitic, the city of Moscow has endorsed an alternative that covers all major world religions in addition to Russian Orthodoxy, according to a report in the daily Novostiy Vremya.
The “Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture,” currently the basis of a mandatory course taught in five regions of the country, was pilloried for what critics saw as its xenophobic and anti-Semitic content. Since the course was made mandatory by these local schoolboards on September 1st, 2006, there has been heated debate over whether or not a required course on religion violated the seperation of church and state enshrined in the Russian constitution.
Along with Evangelical Christian leaders, Rabbi Berel Lazar, a chief rabbi of Russia, had called for the teaching of a course on all major world religions as a possible remedy to the outrage of some local parents who felt that their children were being force-fed religious traditions running counter to their own.
The new coursebook for the Moscow region entitled “The Foundations of World Religion” will be used in an elective course, subject to the approval of principals.
The article in Novostiy Vremya also described an agreement made two weeks ago between the Ministry of Education and the Orthodox Patriarchate, allowing for the use of the controversial textbook in an elective.