Problem Statement: The Constitutions are the main sources of legality for democratic societies. The 1961 and 1982 Constitutions have dominated the last fifty years of Turkey. In this regard, it is essential to examine and comment academically on the way these Constitutions and their amendments address the rights of education, freedom of thought and faith in light of the relationship between political and educational systems. It is also important in terms of academically contributing the current constitution polemics.
Purpose of the Study: The main purpose of this study is to comparatively examine the rights of education, freedom of religion and conscience and religious education in the 1961 and 1982 Constitutions of the Republic of Turkey.
Methodology: In this study, among possible analytic research patterns, document research is preferred. The articles on the rights of education, freedom of religion, conscience and religious education in the 1961 and 1982 Constitutions constitute the data source of this study. Descriptive and constant comparative analysis is used in analysis of the data. A related body of the literature is cited for the purpose of reflecting the social, cultural and political context.
Findings and Interpretation:It can be stated that there is no important difference in the 1961 and 1982 Constitutions in terms of considering the freedom of religion-conscience. In both constitutions, it is stated that the state cannot be organized on religious tenets, religion or religious feelings, and things considered sacred by religion can not be exploited and abused in any manner. It is the tendency that strict regulations are made in cases of abuses of religion, and functionalism has dominated by a monist “consensus” in case of conflicts. While religious education and teaching in the 1961 Constitution is subject to the individuals’ own will or that of their legal representatives, the lesson “Religious Culture and Knowledge of Morals” becomes compulsory in the curriculum of primary and secondary schools. There is an obvious differentiation about religious education. In both constitutions, it is stated that primary education is compulsory and free at the state’s schools; the state takes necessary measures to support students in financial need as well as those who need special training on account of their physical and mental incapacity. It is the tendency that functionalism is empowered with democratic values.
Conclusion and Discussion: The general tendency regarding language is that the debates continue although the education language is not specified directly. Freedom of religion-conscience has been one of the issues that is discussed frequently and seriously. Religion and state affairs have always been affected negatively by the fact that the Republic of Turkey was founded on a large multicultural empire. Thus capitalism did not develop over its own internal dynamics, and Turkey did not experience religious reformation. Compulsory religious education is problematic also in terms of making constitutions. The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey adopts a strict “casuistic” methodology instead of setting general principles, adopting a “framework constitution” and seeking to regulate possible situations. In general, it can be observed that the qualities of strictness and non-amenability strengthen from the 1961 Constitution to 1982 Constitution. We are in a period in which more flexible constitutions are preferred to more detailed and stricter ones. It is possible that more libertarian and egalitarian constitutional regulations could be made. Privatization efforts in education have been ruining the equality of opportunities and possibilities, which has been one of the most important arguments of the Republic since the early years. In this regard, constitutional arguments and regulations are under postmodern and neo-liberal effects.
Key Words: Constitution, freedom of religion-conscience, the right of education, postmodernism, functionalism, interactionism, social-conflict approach