Withdrawing from religious education at school

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 14.3) provides parents the right to ensure that the education and teaching of their children conforms to their religious, philosophical and pedagogical convictions.

In its General Comment No. 20, the CRC Committee stresses that schools and other institutions should respect the right to freedom of religion, and that there should be a choice over the attendance of religious instruction classes.

In the majority of EU Member States, children receive religious education in public schools, either as a compulsory or as an optional subject. In most cases, the possibility to withdraw from religious education is subject to the written consent of parents.

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Key aspects

  • In most Member States, withdrawing from religious education requires parental consent.
  • In some Member States, from a certain age, only the consent of the child is required to withdraw from religious education. In Italy and Spain, this is possible from secondary education onwards; in Austria and Lithuania, from the age of 14 years; and in Portugal, from the age of 16 years.
  • In Bulgaria and Latvia, to withdraw from religious education, children from the age of 14 years have to give their consent together with their parents’ consent.
  • In France and Slovenia, religious education is not part of the curriculum in schools. In Sweden, it is compulsory, without the possibility to withdraw.
  • In Germany, regulations on the matter vary between federal states. For example, in the federal states of Bavaria and Saarland, children cannot choose to withdraw from religious education on their own, whereas in other federal states, they can withdraw from religious education from the age of 14 years without parental consent.