Evangelicals are leery of religious education proposal.

While Catholics and evangelical Protestants in the United States may be cooperating as never before on everything from politics to promoting teenage chastity, that is not the case in Catholic-dominated Latin America.

Proposed mandatory religious-instruction classes in Nicaragua and Ecuador—and the passage of such a law in Bolivia—have some evangelicals concerned that the state is promoting Catholicism.

To many Nicaraguan believers, bringing Christian instruction into the country's public schools as an after-hours elective sounds like a balm to help relieve drug abuse, delinquency, and despondency among Nicaragua's youth. Yet some evangelical Christians here oppose the plan now before the legislative assembly and fear it would force-feed evangelical children Catholic doctrine, thus violating the Nicaraguan constitution's principle of education independent of religion.

Minister of Education Humberto Belli stresses the classes are voluntary and says the teaching would not be Catholic but rather promote teachings that all Christians adhere to, such as the Apostles' Creed. Belli, a member of the City of God charismatic Catholic movement and author of Breaking Faith, which details repression of Christians during the Sandinista regime, cites statistics from an Education Ministry parental survey: 83.5 percent want their children to receive religious instruction. Under the new proposal, Belli says, priests would teach Catholic students, and evangelical pastors would teach evangelicals during after-school hours.

The Council of Evangelical Churches Pro-denominational Alliance (CEPAD) opposes Belli's plan. CEPAD founder Gustavo Parajon, who is pastor of Managua's First Baptist ...

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