- December 2006 : Triggering public debate on removing icons from state schools
On 12 August 2006, Emil Moise, teacher of philosophy in a high school in Buzau (South-eastern Romania), filed a petition for "the removal of religious symbols from state school classrooms" with the National Council for Combating Discrimination (NCCD), a government body.
The teacher’s move sparked debate and controversy within the entire Romanian society. Emil Moise explains in the petition his stance against the presence of icons in state schools, stating that he is not opposed to religious education in schools nor to the presence of icons in the private sphere. In his view, icons on the classroom walls "discriminate against children belonging to other religions and are a threat to the right to freedom of conscience and religious choice". The author of the petition also refers to "the violation of freedom of thought of all Romanian children, the purpose of school being to train autonomous individuals who when reaching the age of majority choose, without being influenced, to keep their religion, become atheists or to adopt another religion" (V. Borza,"Moise nu vrea icoane în scoli"in Cotidianul, 15 November 2006 ; C. Patrasconiu,"Bunul simt dupa Moise" in Cotidianul, 15 November 2006).
This approach by teacher Emil Moise was backed by several non-governmental organisations which submitted an open letter of support to the NCCD, including further arguments to support the teacher’s action. They invoked Article 4 of the Romanian Constitution on the "equal treatment of pupils and teachers belonging to different faiths" and Article 29 prohibiting the interference of the state in ways of thinking, opinions and religious beliefs. Article 5 of the UN Declaration on eliminating all forms of discrimination was mentioned, as well as Article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Law on the Rights of the Child which specifies that young people have the right to choose their own religion from age 16.
In response to the petition submitted by Emil Moise, on 21 December 2006 the NCCD announced its decision (no. 323), recommending that the Ministry of Education and Research prohibit the icons in schools. This decision states that "unlimited and uncontrolled presence of icons in state educational institutions is a violation of the principle of the religious neutrality of the state".