The Cyprus Humanists expressed their discontent over proposed education ministry teaching materials that target and discriminate against atheists.
The group said in a statement that on the education ministry’s website, on the proposed teaching materials section, there is a PowerPoint presentation on ‘the phenomenon of atheism’.
“In short, this presentation states that the causes of atheism are the arrogance of modern scientists, superficial knowledge, and that it is the highest form of ingratitude, that God can use pain for pedagogical purposes, that the atheist makes the wrong choices, is self-absorbed and behaves without any moral constraints,” the group said.
The presentation concludes: “Let us avoid atheism then, to avoid experiencing its bad and sinful consequences.”
This, the group said, raises an issue of negative discrimination against atheists and a violation of the religious neutrality a public-school ought to adopt.
“We also raise the possibility of violating the law on hate rhetoric towards a particular group of people, namely atheists,” it said.
What’s worrying, they said, is that the presentation may have already been used in many schools. This also raises another issue, that of misinformation or dangerous information for the pupils.
Despite the Cyprus Humanists reported the material to the ombudswoman and to the anti-discrimination body last April, the presentation is still on the education ministry’s official website. The group said they had also filed a complaint with the ministry itself.
“Due to the severity of the issue, the Cyprus Humanists call all competent parties to take a stand and take the necessary actions to restore legitimacy and remove all discrimination against atheists,” it said.
The Cyprus Humanist Association promotes the full separation of church and state. The group says it is not against religion, but argues that religious activities should not be promoted at schools.
The same group filed another complaint with the education ministry last month over a Nicosia primary school that invited a priest to hear pupils’ confessions.
Actions such as taking pupils to church, participation in religious mysteries and confessions within schools, the group said, suggest a religious state that adopts a specific doctrinal direction and consequently does not treat equally citizens of different religions.