Protestants in Nicaragua will persist in their efforts to keep Catholic doctrine out of the public schools, even though the country's president has replaced the controversial, devoutly Catholic head of public schools with a bureaucrat some Christians perceive as more moderate.

Throughout Humberto Belli's eight-year tenure as education minister, many Protestant leaders opposed his program to promote Christian values, viewing it as an unconstitutional attempt to force Catholic teaching in public schools (CT, April 28, 1997, p. 78).

Protestant concerns focus on "Education in the Faith," an elective after-hours program that Belli established to teach children basic Christianity. "Parents have the right to have their children receive the religious instruction of their liking … as an extracurricular activity," Belli says. Under the program, parents select and pay for a teacher, curriculum, and textbooks. The ministry, in turn, permits free use of classrooms.

Yet some fear the classes are a step toward returning to the days of mandatory public-school catechism classes, when non-Catholics were legally denied access to public education and health care.

REMOVAL WELCOMED: "Schools shouldn't be teaching religion," says Guillermo Osorno, Christian Way party president and a member of Nicaragua's legislative assembly. He believes faith should be taught in homes and churches. The Assembly of God pastor-turned-politician (CT, March 3, 1997, p. 60) applauds Belli's removal as minister of education. "[The classes] are a violation of the constitution and a violation of human rights," Osorno says.

Osorno refers to the constitution's Article 124, which establishes Nicaragua as a secular state with no official religion. Gustavo Parajon, president ...

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