eurel     Sociological and legal data on religions in Europe and beyond
You are here : Home » Austria » Religions and society » Religions and schooling » Religious instruction in public and private schools

Religious instruction in public and private schools

According to Art. 17 (4) of Basic Law of 1867, religious instruction is a right and a duty reserved to the legally recognised Churches and Religious Societies as a result of their cooperation with the State. The obligating aspect was recently laid down in § 9 of the Act on the External Legal Status of the Israelite Religious Society, as modified in 2012.
Religious instruction is generally organised by the respective Church or Religious Society, Lutheran, Calvinist and Methodist instruction is organised jointly, the same goes for Christian Orthodox instruction.
Islamic Religious Education has been offered since 1982/83.

The main legal basis is the Religious Instruction Act of 1949, whose § 1 (1) declares religious instruction compulsory for all pupils affiliated to a legally recognised Church or Religious Society and attending schools with public status, such as primary and secondary schools, agriculture and forestry colleges, vocational schools, colleges for social work and pedagogical colleges. At other schools religious instruction is optional.
In accordance with religious freedom, § 1 (2) leg. cit. offers a possibility of withdrawal. This right can be exercised by the pupils’ parents; after the pupils have reached the age of 14, by themselves.
Pupils who are not affiliated at all or members of other than legally recognised Churches or Religious Societies are allowed to stay in other denominational lessons. Yet, this does not mean that they attend this religious instruction; the latter is not provided by the law.
There have been lively discussions about introducing a compulsory ethics subject in schools. So far, a certain number of secondary schools runs educational experiments providing for an ethics subject for pupils who cannot or do not want to attend religious instruction.
According to § 2 leg. cit. the curricula for religious instruction are adopted by the recognised Churches and Religious Societies themselves, whereas the number of lessons per week is determined by the State. The teachers need to be authorised by the respective Religious Society. Their salaries are paid by the State unless there are fewer than three pupils registered for one class. Small groups – also of different schools – can be joined, in order to enlarge the class. For details see § 7a leg. cit.
Religious education is a subject marked in the school reports. If registered Confessional Communities organise religious education outside public schools and not subsidised by the State, the pupils’ attending can be recorded in the school reports, but not marked.
The pupils’ denominational affiliation – be it to a legally recognised Church or Religious Society or to a registered Confessional Community – is written down in the school reports.

Religious Private Schools
According to § 4 (1) of Private Schools Act, private schools can be established and run by:
 morally reliable Austrian citizens,
 public bodies corporate and legally recognised Churches and Religious Societies,
 any other domestic legal entity whose representatives are morally reliable.
The latter category comprises religious communities other than legally recognised ones, including registered Confessional Communities.
§ 14 leg. cit. sets forth requirements which the schools must meet in order to have public status conferred upon them. Hereby, schools run by local authorities, legally recognised Churches and Religious Societies and other public bodies corporate are automatically considered to guarantee correct and appropriate education. In contrast, other schools are scrutinised individually.
§§ 17, 18 leg. cit. entitle public status schools run by legally recognised Churches and Religious Societies directly or by associations, foundations and funds, which are recognised by the competent ecclesiastical authority, are entitled to public subsidies for the personnel necessary to fulfil the curriculum. The number of pupils and teachers are weighed in correspondence to those of comparable public schools.
Subsidies for other schools are left to the competent minister’s discretion.

Sources and for further information: Rothgangel, Martin, “Bildung und Religionen”, in Karsten Lehmann / Wolfram Reiss (Hg.), Religiöse Vielfalt in Österreich, Baden-Baden, 2022, pp. 509-527.

D 7 September 2023    AFlorian Hackel ARobert Wurzrainer AWolfgang Wieshaider

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

Follow us:
© 2002-2024 eurel - Contact