U-turn over faith lessons

President Evo Morales has decided to soft-pedal a proposal to remove Roman Catholic instruction from schools, easing a dispute with church officials over his plan to put greater emphasis on Indian faiths.

Mr Morales, an Aymara Indian and the Andean nation's first indigenous president, had earlier accused the Catholic hierarchy of behaving as if it were "in the times of the Inquisition".

But in a joint statement with Cardinal Julio Terrazas last week the leftist leader said: "The government and the Catholic church agree to preserve the course on religion, respecting the existing religious diversity in the country."

The decision represented a dramatic U-turn. In June, education minister Felix Patzi proposed replacing Catholic teaching with a broader "history of religions" course with greater emphasis on indigenous faiths.

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