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President to abolish religious education

BOLIVIA

The government of President Evo Morales is proposing to axe religious education in state schools and abolish Roman Catholicism as the country's official religion, a move likely to meet great resistance.

An education reform law being prepared by Morales' administration will replace Catholic education in state schools with the teaching of Indian languages, education minister Felix Patzi said.

"Instead of religion, they'll do languages," Mr Patzi said. "Religion is a question of faith, and faith can't be taught, much less in an obligatory manner."

The left-wing government, in its efforts to rid Bolivia of the vestiges of a colonial past that discriminated against the Indian majority, is also pushing a constitutional reform that would topple Catholicism, the country's official religion since Bolivia was founded in 1825.

The Catholic Church, a powerful presence in Bolivia, expressed strong concern about the proposals. Jesus Juarez, secretary-general of the country's Conference of Bishops, said: "What worries the Catholic Church is that they're not respecting the fundamental human principles and values, among which is the right to religious education."

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