The parents from the parish in Valkininkai appealed to the rayon administration in regard to the discrimination students experience for their religious convictions. The complete text of their petition is presented below:
A Petition to the Chairman of the Varėna Rayon Soviet
of Working People's Deputies Executive Committee
"In September of this year, after returning from school, our children complained that they had been interrogated in school as to whether they attend church and who else does; and they were threatened that their conduct grade would be lowered for attending church and that the fact would be noted in their personal records.
"I, J. Griežė, state that my daughter was questioned at the secondary school in Valkininkai by the teachers [Miss] Kliukaitė and [Mrs.] Butkienė, and by the principal, as to whether she and her younger sister attend church, and when do they go to confession? A year ago she had been reminded that if she attended church she would not be permitted to take the examinations.
"I, [Mrs.] S. Andriuškevičienė, state that my daughter was threatened at the eight-year school in Urkionys by teacher [Mrs.] Saulėnienė and she was asked when she had received First Communion and whether she goes to church. She was also threatened that her churchgoing would be noted in her personal records and that as a result she would be unable to find a job.
"I, [Mrs.] J. Kazlauskienė (Plekštorė Village), state that both of my sons were questioned by teacher Kliukaitė, by the principal, and by officials from the rayon headquarters as to whether they had received First Communion, which of the boys and girls went to church, and under whose care they had received their First Communion.
"I, [Mrs.] J. Blažulionienė (Užperkasė Village), state that both my son and my daughter were questioned by teacher Butkienė, by the principal, and by officials from the rayonheadquarters as to when they had received First Communion, who had prepared them, and which girls had gone.
"During a parents' meeting at the school in S. Nanis-kės, demands were made that the parents would not take their children to church. I, Jurgelevičius (Mištūnai Vilage), state that my son told me after returning from school that the teachers had said that if 'you children go to church, the pastor will get two years in prison.'
"There were also others who were questioned for an hour or more.
"It seems to us that no one may question our children without our presence as to whether they attend church, or attempt to intimidate them. The children cry and cannot sleep nights. The questioning alone frightens the children and is a violation of the freedom of conscience and our parental rights. If our child had committed an offense, then we would be blamed and punished. It is our sacred duty to nurture our children. We, the believing parents, feel and understand that our faith is a great help in nurturing our children properly. The children are altogether different after returning from attending services in church. The children see and hear so much that is good there.
"Do the above-mentioned teachers have the right to behave in this fashion with our children—to interrogate and intimidate them solely because they attend church and participate in services at the altar? They go to church because we take them and oblige them to go. Our very nature and the constitution gives us the right to take our children to church and the duty to raise them in a proper manner. Why is there such disregard of the parental rights of us believing parents?
"We would like to ask you, Honorable Chairman, to inform us whether our children can be interrogated in this manner and to help us in order that such events would not recur.
October 10, 1971"
* * *
This was signed by nine parents. The chairman of the Varėna Rayon Executive Committee sent back the following reply after ten days:
"After examining your petition, we did not reach the conclusion that your children were interrogated. The teachers were questioning the children about how they spend their free time and what they do outside of school, and this is natural because teachers should know how their students are occupied and should constantly be concerned about their upbringing.
"Furthermore, you have no right to demand that the teachers propagate the faith since you know perfectly well that the church is separated from the state and that the atheistic education* of the students is being conducted in all the schools according to the demands of present-day knowledge.
November 9, 1971
Chairman of the Varėna Rayon
This reply to the students' parents by the chairman of the Varėna Rayon Executive Committee clearly reveals how devoid of rights Catholics are and also the arbitrariness of government officials.
* * *
And now let us consider another complaint written four months later by believing parents from the parish in Lukšiai. At that time the LSSR government was already aware that signatures were being collected for the memorandum from the Catholics in Lithuania.
The Persecution of Students in Lukšiai
In November, 1971, the teachers, especially the homeroom teachers and the principal of the secondary school in Lukšiai started a crude campaign against the pupils who serve mass, strew flowers, participate in adorations and processions, and in general, against all churchgoers. Those who would serve mass were summoned to the principal's office and interrogated. Attempts were made to intimidate them, and to force them to keep away from the altar. They were shamed before the entire class, mocked in newsletters posted on bulletin boards, and were the subjects of caricatures. Even their parents would be told to come to the school and were ordered not to permit their children to assist during mass or during other religious rites. After New Year's Day in 1972, two believing parents, G. Krikštolaitis and [Mrs.] N. Didžbalienė, went to see Principal S. Urbonas and asked that the children who serve mass and those who attend church would not be terrorized. The parents reminded the principal what the Soviet Constitution and the laws say about this.
The principal sternly declared: "We've harried them and will continue to harry them, and even more forcefully than before. The authorities of Šakiai Rayon harry us, and we will harry your children; and you may complain to Moscow itself if you wish."
"As for us, we have been taking and will continue to take our children to church," stated the parents in parting.
The servers and the participants of processions did not cease going to church; only one or two had been frightened away. For a long time the believing parents endured patiently and waited, hoping the teachers might see reason; but they did not stop humiliating, mocking, or intimidating the children. Then the parents wrote a complaint to the Procurator's Office of the LSSR. Here are its contents:
"To: the Procurator of the LSSR
The Ministry of Public Education of the LSSR
The Department of Education of Šakiai Rayon
The Chairman of the Šakiai Rayon
A Petition from the Believing Parents of the Parish in Lukšiai,
"A booklet published in Vilnius in 1970 by the Mintis Publishing House and authored by J. Aničas and J. Rimaitis entitled Tarybiniai įstatymai apie religinius kultus ir sąžinės laisvę [Soviet laws concerning religious cults and freedom of conscience] states that 'every citizen may profess whichever religion he wishes, or none at all. The denial of any rights whatsoever because of the profession of some particular religion or the nonprofession of any religion at all has been rescinded' (p. 17).
"'The requirements of the principle of freedom of conscience are: (1) the right of every citizen to profess any religion he wishes; (2) the right to perform the rites of the cult;____(6) the equality of the citizens before the law irregardless of their religious affiliation' (p. 15).
" 'The Soviet government wages a constant battle against those citizens or workers within the governmental apparatus who infringe upon the rights of either religious organizations or of believers. In the criminal codes of the Union Republics special articles prescribe the liabilities in case of criminal violation of the principles of freedom of conscience of believing citizens' (p. 24).
" 'Both the Communist party and the Soviet government have also indicated the necessity of strict adherence to those Soviet laws which guarantee to religious communities and to the clergy the freedom to function within the limits of church canons and dogmas, and to believers every opportunity to fully enjoy their constitutional right of religious freedom. The socialist state forbids any kind of administrative measures, rudeness or tactlessness in regard to religious cults, their ministers, and the believers. Any type of interference with the performance of religious rites when they are performed without violating the laws regarding religious cults is considered a punishable offense. In accordance with Article 145 of the Criminal Code of the LSSR, any interference with the performance of religious rites which do not disturb the public peace or interfere with citizens' rights is punishable with the loss of up to one year's freedom, or with forced labor for the same period, or with a fine of up to 100 rubles' (p. 31)."
(See the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the LSSR 'Dėl Lietuvos TSR Baudžiamojo Kodekso 143 str. taikymo' [Concerning the application of Article 143 of the LSSR Criminal Code], Tarybų Socialistinės Respublikos Aukščiausios Tarybos ir Vyriausybės Žinios [News of the Supreme Soviet and of the Government of the Soviet Socialist Republic], May 20, 1966, no. 14, pp. 183-184.)
"In its declarations, Vatican Council II—on whose basis the bishops of Lithuania, in concert with the commissioner for the cult, published at the Vaizdas Printing House theLiturginis maldynas [Liturgical prayer book] in 1968—urges and instructs the faithful to participate as actively as possible in religious rites. Therefore while in church, we parents, together with our children, kneel, sing hymns, pray silently or give various responses aloud, and walk in processions carrying ritualistic articles. Our children kneel or stand at the altar, and we parents do so beside them, etc. Our children are not any sort of ministers of the church. They are ordinary churchgoers and participants in the services.
"Yet it is with great sadness that we believing parents are having to bear grievous injustice and discrimination. Because our children participate in religious rites together with us, their parents, the administration and the teachers of the secondary school in Lukšiai tend to persecute them in various ways, to behave rudely with them, to make fun of them, intimidate them, and discriminate against them:
a) Because first-class student Juozas Naujokaitis had gone to church and participated in the services, his teacher, [Mrs.] Vaišvilienė, ordered him to pull off his pants in the presence of all of his classmates (boys and girls) and to lie down; and she said:
"You'll get a licking for going to kneel at the altar."
Frightened by such words from the teacher, the boy began to cry.
b) The head of the science department, teacher [Miss] Martišiūtė, instructed Rolandas Tamulevičius, a student in class 6B, to perform a deed evil in nature by ordering him to drink up the church wine which the priest uses during mass and to refill the container with water.
c) Teacher [Mrs] Vanagienė came to see the parents of R. Didžbalis, a sixth-class student, and explained to them that even if their child were to commit a rather serious offence, this would still be a lesser offence than kneeling at the altar. ft
d) Teacher [Mrs.] Urbonienė told second-class student Vitas Pavalkis to choose one or the other: either to go to church or to schooL
e) Teacher [Miss] Martišiūtė, who had brought some artistic religious pictures to class, asked student Virga Mikelaitytė: 'Why did God drive Adam out of paradise?' When the girl did not answer, she said to [Miss] Vita Maceikaitė: 'You're from a religious family, your cousins are altar boys, so why don't you answer this question?' Afterward, while mocking religion, she questioned the students [Miss] Liutvinaite and [Miss] Alytaitė.
f) Teacher [Miss] Skirskytė visited the parents of the student Krikštolaitis and whined that if their child will go to kneel at the altar, her pension would be adversely affected.
g) Teacher [Mrs] Sakalauskienė, without determining who was at fault, assailed a completely innocent student from class 7A, Rimas Didžbalis, saying: 'Didžbalis, stop it! You're not at mass now.' After this remark from the teacher, the boy stood up and started to cry.
h) Children who go to church to kneel and pray are rudely interrogated and they are made fun of and shamed before their classmates.
i) On January 22, 1972, caricatures of the following students were included in the newsletter posted on the school's bulletin board: Krikštolaitis, a student in class 5B, shown kneeling in the sacristy and holding a rosary; R. Tamulevičius, a student in class 6B, shown as his mother is driving him to church in the family car, and he is saying: T'm going to church. It's fun there. When the priest drinks his wine, I ring a little bell.' The Didžbalis brothers were ridiculed in a similar fashion.
"In addition, in the same issue of the newsletter there is an article by the editorial board which states: 'There is no shortage of those who worship God in our school. Such students degrade themselves, lose their dignity, and discredit the name of the school. These are two-faced persons, hypocrites, who by their actions try to adapt themselves both to the church and the school, to be both Pioneers and altar boys, and who get a few kopeks from the priest's hand for their chameleon like activities. Such chameleons are class 9A student [Miss] Alytaitė, class 6B student Alyta, class 5B student Krikštolaitis, and class 7A student Didžbalis. Besides these pawns of the church, there are also those in this school who go to church and perform the religious rites like sanctimonious grannies; these are class 9A student [Miss] Liutvinaitė, tenth-class student [Miss] Staugaitytė, eleventh-class student [Miss] D. Bacevičiūtė. Let us give them and their activities a suitable retort.'
"The first such concrete 'retort' was perhaps when ninth-class student [Miss] Janina Alytaitė, fourteen years of age, who had worked as a cleaner at the restaurant in Lukšiai, was promptly dismissed from work after a conversation with her mother about churchgoing children even though the teachers had been aware of the fact that she worked in the restaurant but had never said anything and had tolerated it.
"Finally, is it not a 'retort' when a young person is called a chameleon—that is: an animal? Are not intimidation and threats a 'retort?' Is not punishment and terrorization because of one's religion a 'retort,' because a child attends church with his parents? Is it not a 'retort' to humiliate churchgoers before their classmates by creating the impression that churchgoing is a terrible, shameful offense?
"Furthermore, does not such conduct by the teachers in regard to the students debase their position of authority? Even a child knows that there is freedom and equality of all the faiths. But what are they given to understand by the actions of the teachers? We parents want our children to respect both us and their teachers, to learn, and to be virtuous.
"The teachers of the secondary school in Lukšiai call believing parents backward and stupid. For example, teacher Genys and teacher [Miss] Martišiūtė said to [Mrs.] Ona Alytienė: 'You parents are fools for going to church and for taking your children along.' How can a child refuse to go to church if his father or mother takes him along or tells him to go there by himself? After all, it is the parents who have the greatest responsibility in the upbringing of their children. Is it wise or pedagogical, therefore, to ask a child every Monday during classes 'Did you go to church yesterday?' and again on Saturday to ask him, 'Will you be going to church tomorrow?' How can a child not go? How can he disobey his parents! What an effective means of alienating a child from his parents! In many cases a child will be incapable of making the distinction. He will say to his parents: 'You're a fool, you're backward. Don't try to tell me what to do.' When a child misbehaves, he is told to bring his parents, but when we parents teach them religion and take them to church, the children are told to disregard their parents. Where is the logic in this, where is the respect due the parents and teachers?
"Thus, greatly distressed by these matters, we believing parents are appealing to you and asking you to take action in order that our children would not be punished, persecuted, derided, or discriminated against for professing the faith and for participating in religious rites. We parents have tired of the constant pushing around, the intimidation, and the mockery of our children; we're tired of their tears, their sudden awakenings at night. We do not want our children to have to be afraid of a school in which terror, derision, and humiliation prevail against a child who believes in God.
"We want our children to go to school with joy and to return in a happy mood. We want the school to be a second home to them, and the teachers—a second set of parents, who, noticing a student's mistakes or tactlessness, would be capable of educating the student in a pedagogic and parental manner, of providing him with the access to knowledge, and of developing a highly cultured person.
"We believing parents want the law regarding freedom of religion to be not merely pretty words of propaganda but a reality.
"We ask you, Honorable Procurator of the Republic, to remind the principal and the teachers of the secondary school in Lukšiai that they too are bound by the Soviet laws, and that they should not continue making these and similar mistakes.
The petition was signed by fourteen parents.
* * *
When the principal and the teachers found out that a petition had been written, they tried to stop it from reaching any agency of the Republic. Class 9B student [Miss] J. Alytaitė was questioned as to whether her mother had collected signatures and who else had collected them, etc. The student had answered that she knew nothing.
The teachers turned to the chairman of the Lenin Collective Farm and deputy to the Supreme Soviet, K. Glikas, so that he would intercede for them. The enraged chairman assailed the believing parents for slandering the teachers of the secondary school in Lukšiai and for publicizing this matter throughout the Republic.
At a meeting of one of the collective farm's brigades, Glikas stated that the complaint had been shown to him in Vilnius, that he had had to suffer much unpleasantness because there was such disorder in his collective farm.
"We'll show them! We'll twist off the fangs of those who are aggravating our teachers!" said the agitated deputy. He threatened among other things to have the parents who had signed denounced in the newspaper. Glikas went to the home of G. Krikštolaitis and angrily reproached him, asking why the parents had slandered the teachers. "They are scholars; they must be respectedc and you should not quarrel with them." The chairman stated that life would be made miserable for the parents who had signed the petition.
Glikas told [Mrs.] Tamulevičienė through the agronomist, that if she would not "change her tune," she would be kicked out of her position as accounting clerk. He also threatened that if the Tamulevičius family would have to move to a settlement, they would get but little money for their old farm.
The intervention of Chairman Glikas disheartened the parents. Rumors began to circulate among the people that the church in Lukšiai would be closed, that the pastor would be transferred, etc. To many it seemed that there was no need for so much unpleasantness which results from having children serve mass. Some were even angry with the parents who had signed the complaint. The more courageous persons consoled themselves with the belief that God would not abandon them. During his sermons the pastor would remind them of the need for self-sacrifice. The more fervent Catholics prayed: "O Lord, retain at your side the little children whom You love best."
On March 9 a commission from Vilnius arrived at Lukšiai to investigate the facts brought to light by the complaint. The members of the commission stated that they were from the Ministry of Education. The commission remained in Lukšiai for three days; children, parents, teachers, and uninvolved persons were questioned.
They asked first-class student J. Naujokaitis:
"Did the teacher scold you very much because you serve mass?"
"Did the teacher really try to frighten you by telling you to 'pull down your pants?'"
"That's what happened," confirmed the boy.
The commission members explained that the teacher had no right to do so, that there is freedom of religion, and whoever wants to attend church may do so while those who do not, don't.
The members of the commission explained to Vitas Pavalkis:
"If you like, you may go to church and serve mass; no one will punish you for this or expel you from school."
The boy returned from school in a happy frame of mind, convinced that no one would make fun of him anymore.
They asked seventh-class student R. Didžbalis:
"Was a caricature of you included in the newsletter on the school bulletin board?"
"Yes, it was."
They explained to the boy that no one can ridicule a child or place caricatures of him in a newsletter because of his faith; it is only permissible to say that there is no God. The boy was asked whether there was anything else that he wanted.
"The freedom to go to church!"
They asked [Miss] Alytaitė why she had been dismissed from the restaurant.
"For going to church."
"Were you written about and caricatured in the newsletter posted on the school bulletin board?"
"What is it that you want? " she was asked by the commission.
"That the teachers would not scold me for going to church, and that they wouldn't put me in the newsletter."
The members of the commission again explained that students may not be insulted for attending church; they promised to warn the principal and the teachers not to use such an approach.
The commission asked R. Tamulevičius:
"Who told you not to go to church and not to serve mass?"
"The teachers and the principal."
The boy related how once he had been summoned by three teachers. They were laughing as they told him to put on a red tie and then see whether the priest would let him serve mass or not.
"Did your teacher, [Miss] Martišiūtė, tell you in jest or in all seriousness to drink the priest's wine and refill the container with water?"
"I don't know, but that was what she said."
"You may go to church if you want to; if you like, you may serve mass, but read more atheistic books and don't join the priesthood."
Pijus Didžbalis explained to the visiting commission:
"I don't have anything against the school. There is only one thing wrong, and that is that the teachers tend to greatly harass the children who go to church. Those children are afraid—they don't even want to go to school. Our faith is such that on Sundays we must go to church and take our children along. The teachers started to intimidate our children, to write about them in the newsletter which is posted on the school bulletin board, to make fun of them in class, and so on."
The commission members explained that the teachers should not have behaved this way, and that they would amend their ways.
One commission member explained to [Mrs.] Ona Alytienė that teachers were not allowed to insist that a child would not believe in God or go to church; they were not allowed to ridicule children because of their faith or to write about them in the newsletter to be posted on the bulletin board. The commission member also reminded her that the principal and the teachers would be punished for their misdeeds. The commission members also explained to G. Krikštolaitis that children may not be scolded, interrogated, or written about in the newsletter for attending services. One of the commission members recommended that the children be kept in the middle of the church during services, but if their parents allowed them to serve mass, they had the right to do so.
One could only rejoice if complaints were always handled in this manner, but, unfortunately, this was perhaps the first such response during the postwar years.
In 1969 the Scientific Research Institute of the LSSR Ministry of Education published a book by B. Bitinas entitled Religingi mokiniai ir jų perauklėjimas [Religious students and their re-education]. Here is what is written therein:
"Some assert that in the atheistic nurturing of students satirical criticism should not be used in regard to those students who practice religious rites. The data we have compiled indicates that this contention cannot be accepted categorically when one is confronted with young religious adolescents. In some cases the expression of an atheistic public opinion in satirical form actually helps the religious adolescent to accept the goals of an atheistic education more readily than other forms of atheistic influence..." (p. 122).
This book by B. Bitinas can be found only in the methodology sections of public education departments, and it is being recommended as instructional material to be used in the re-education of religious students.
The question arises—which should be believed? The words of the commission members or the written instructions?
That is something the future will reveal.