The Education Bureau of the Chinese district of Lishan has launched a campaign to eradicate religious belief in kindergartens, which includes having the schoolchildren sign a commitment statement promising to avoid religious activities.
Both pupils and teachers are now required to “sign a commitment statement promising they won’t browse religious websites or participate in religious forums,” according to recent reports.
The commitment statement includes the declaration: “I will adhere to the correct political direction, advocate science, promote atheism, and oppose theism.”
The new campaign forbids schools from hiring new teachers who hold religious beliefs, while calling for increased supervision of current teaching staff, including “comprehensive inspections of teachers’ preparation for lessons in order to root out any and all religious content.”
China’s ruling Communist Party under President Xi Jinping has made the forced separation of children from religious influence a hallmark of its efforts to enforce China’s official atheism.
In September 2017, authorities told more than a hundred Christian churches that children are now forbidden from attending church services and joining Christian groups. The measure followed the release of a study from the University of Shanghai, which found that more than 60 percent of students are interested in learning more about Christianity and that young catechumens in official and underground Christian communities have been steadily increasing in number.
In August of the same year, communist officials issued “notices” to over a hundred churches in Wenzhou, within the largely Christian Zhejiang province, informing Christians that children are no longer permitted to enter any church.
The notices stated that minors attempting to enter a church would be turned away at the door, even if accompanied by their parents.
Along with students, school teachers have also been banned from attending church. The Yonglin district instructed schools that “the higher authorities strictly forbid all secondary and primary school teachers, students and toddlers to join Catholic or Protestant churches.”
Chinese authorities have justified their action by alleging that church attendance and religious instruction keep young persons from developing “a correct worldview and set of values.”
“Minors receiving religious education and formation too early in churches would seriously affect the normal implementation of the education system,” the Ouhai district’s notice declared.
On February 1, 2018, a set of regulations on religious activities went into effect preventing children and young people from getting religious instruction or taking an active part in Christian worship.
According to one local report, authorities are enforcing the government ban on minors in church in several regions, while forcing a number of Protestant house churches in Henan province to close.
Since 1999, the U.S. State Department has designated China as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act for having engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
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