Minister of Education Athena Michaelidou defended the screening of a homophobic video in a lyceum classroom, claiming it was in the framework of a pluralist approach to the subject. Teachers could not be silenced nor could the utilisation of material for the discussion of a subject be criticised if it is within the objectives of the lesson.

It was a disingenuous response considering the video was shown during a religious instruction lesson, which is neither pluralist nor open-minded as it teaches Greek Orthodox dogma. Everyone knows that religious instruction in secondary schools is dogmatic, a form of indoctrination that presents the Orthodox faith as an absolute truth.

Nobody could claim that a video of a speech by a Greek bishop slamming gay marriage and arguing that sex between two men is abnormal and against the laws of nature was not homophobic and was done to promote pluralism. Since when do public schools promote the view that a relationship recognised by the law is abnormal? Does this encourage respect for the law or promote the idea that Church doctrine supersedes the law and the constitution?

In a letter to the education minister, responding to the accusations of homophobia, made by the independent deputy Alexandra Attalides, the president of the House education committee, Pavlos Mylonas, also posed as the defender of pluralism. He said this “fascist mentality cannot continue to be imposed on the education of children by deputies or organised groups that do not respect the opposing view.”

When this opposing view presents the members of a minority group as being abnormal, we are not talking about pluralism and free speech but about bigotry. Does the Church, which has a say on lessons of religious instruction at public schools, also encourage showing videos of speeches by atheists or agnostics, for the sake of pluralism? If it had it would be deputies like Mylonas who would be complaining about the undermining of our faith.

In his letter, Mylonas also accused the minister of showing weakness in confronting “such phenomena prohibiting the circulation of ideas in our schools in modest and moderate way.” He added that the “scientific community cannot be gagged, neither of course the democratic principle of freedom of expression and education of our children, according to who is shouting or issuing threats about specific issues.”

Since when are the teachings of the Church considered scientific? And how scientific is declaring same sex relationships abnormal when these are recognised by the law? Has the branding of members of a minority group as deviant have a place in a liberal education system that should promote tolerance and open-mindedness?

Under pressure from Mylonas and his fellow travelers in Elam, the education minister has also adopted the thinking that teaching bigotry is part of the pluralist approach. Michaelidou probably did not want to upset the Church which still wields enormous influence in public education.