Some people feel strongly about the separation of church and state. There is no clear right or wrong because each country is very different. In the United States ignoring the separation of church and state would be inappropriate given the mix of religions worshiped in the U.S. and the short period of time the nation has been organized as the United States of America.
In Greece the Greek Orthodox Church was established as a state religion by the Emperor Constantinos when he moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). Greek Orthodoxy is a religion with deep roots. It is more attractive than Catholicism and a welcome counterweight to the edicts of the Vatican. A different attitude exists towards women. Papas (priests) are allowed to marry; they are family men.
Greek Orthodoxy includes all the saints one desires, relics, icons, murals, rituals and best of all: guardian angels.
In Chania, Crete besides the Greek Orthodox churches, so far I have found a Russian Orthodox Church, two Evangelical houses of worship, a Jewish temple, and two Catholic churches. I don't know where the Muslims hold their community prayers but Muslims also have a space for community spiritual prayer and lessons.
Religion class is taught in the public schools. The success or failure of a religion class is a function of the teacher.
Kleo (my older daughter) and her high school religion teacher did not have a smooth relationship. Kleo was baptized in a Greek Orthodox Church so that was a plus with the teacher. The problem was Kleo's habit of speaking up when she hears information that doesn't seem to match reality. One day she came home amazed that her religion teacher had taught the class that yoga was a type of devil worship. Kleo had tried to explain to her teacher why yoga was not devil worship but the teacher was not at all appreciative!
Natalie (my younger daughter) has the same religion teacher now. They have a wonderful relationship although Natalie was baptized as a Protestant in the United States. Natalie likes to discuss the difference between Protestantism and Greek Orthodoxy with her teacher in order to decide whether to become baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church.
Natalie also learned from Kleo's experience to avoid commenting on controversial subjects!
When Natalie first started school in Chania she was about 8 years old. She would come home repeating something to herself. I couldn't understand it all but I could hear a lot of God's and Mother Mary's and Christ's. I was starting to get upset because I thought she was learning Greek swears from the other children (I'm such an American mother). Kleo calmed me down and explained that Natalie was practicing the prayers she had been learning in religious class.
At that time Natalie was thrilled with the idea of a religion class at her school. "Now we don't have to go to church on Sunday ‘cause we pray every day and we learn about God at school!" she excitedly explained to me one day.
Here's a story I clipped from the newspaper. With all the banking scams finally being talked about openly, I thought this money scam story about a Greek Orthodox nun makes an interesting contrast.
Nun held for tax office scam worth thousands
A nun who also worked at a tax office in Serres, northern Greece, is being investigated for allegedly forging dozens of applications for financial aid in order to obtain thousands of euros that was meant to go to poor families.
The 45-year-old woman was transferred to the tax office in the village of Nea Zichni from Thebes seven months ago and police believe that since then she has been engaged in serious fraud.
Officers said that the nun, who was not named, forged the signatures of local officials on false claims for financial assistance and obtained between 600 and 900 euros for each of the dozens of applications that was approved.
The families in whose names these applications were being made had no idea that claims had been submitted on their behalf. The tax office has also launched an internal investigation into the allegations.
Date : 7/1/09