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Posted : 2008-05-09 17:29
Updated : 2008-05-09 17:29

Court Rules Against Religion Class Denial

By Kim Rahn
Staff Reporter

The Seoul High Court ruled against a student who sued his high school for expelling him on the grounds that he rejected the school's chapel service.

Kang We-suck, 23, seeks compensation from Daegwang High School, claiming the school infringed on his freedom of religion and inflicted mental suffering on him by the expulsion.

In 2004, Kang refused to attend the weekly chapel service at the Christian school, claiming the mandatory service impairs his religious freedom. He declared his decision in an announcement through the school's loudspeakers and held one-man rallies in front of the school gate. The school expelled him.

The court said Daegwang school did not provide a class that could substitute chapel but it did not seriously infringe on Kang's religious freedom and his rights to pursue happiness.

``Both Kang and his parents had not refused attending the chapel service until early 2004, and he had participated in the school's various activities up to that time,'' the court said in the ruling. ``He did not change schools, although he could have. Considering these factors, it does not seem that the school forced religious services on him against his will. We recognize that chapel was conducted in a socially acceptable manner.''

It said the expulsion is also justifiable as he showed a ``rude attitude'' toward his teacher and did not obey their instructions.

``Disobedience and rude behavior themselves are grounds for expulsion. Even though we acknowledge the expulsion was an abuse of the school's discretion, it is also socially acceptable,'' it said in the ruling.

A year after the expulsion, Kang won a lawsuit in which he demanded the school annul the expulsion. Kang then filed a compensation suit, demanding 50 million won ($50,000), and the lower court ruled partially in favor of him. The court ordered the school pay him 15 million won, saying that students' religious freedom is more essential than a school's freedom to teach a religion and that the expulsion was harsh compared to Kang's actions.

Kang, who was admitted to Seoul National University in 2005, is now on sabbatical.

rahnita@koreatimes.co.kr

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