J. Aničas and J. Mačiulis in their book Katalikybės evoliucija (Evolution of Catholicism) complain that the religious Lithuanian press abroad is reporting fabrications about religion in Lithuania (Mintis, Vilnius, 1979); for example, "religious practice in the Soviet Union is considered a punishable offence," and "believers are considered suspect citizens" (p. 206).
Let the authors explain the following incident. A Saldutiškis Secondary School student, sixth-grader Juozas Valiulis, served at mass during the summer of 1973 at the Labanoras church. The student was ranked first in his class, but the new academic year had barely started when he brought home a "D"!
His mother, [Mrs.] Veronika Valiulienė, taught at the Plaučiškiai Elementary school. On October 20, 1973, she had visitors: Education Department Director Ribokas, Methodology Department Director Untulis, and Communist Youth League Secretary [M-ss] Kadzickaitė. They did not question her students about the curriculum but about prayers and the catechism. Considering their age, the children knew their religion and replied fearlessly. Then the visitors flooded them with questions: Who had taught them the catechism? The children again replied: father, mother, brother, sister . . .. The questions then became even more ambiguous: "And where does your father work? What does he do?" Now the children sensed something was wrong and avoided giving direct answers. The commission then turned to the teacher herself: "Do you, Comrade, believe in God?"
"Yes, I believe!" the teacher stated firmly before the entire class.
"Then, it is not your place to work in a school," was the conclusion of the visitors. The teacher immediately wrote a letter of resignation and gave it to the'guests,' but they did not accept it. They told her to go to the Utena Education Department. The next day the teacher, upon arriving at rayon headquarters, found dismissal documents already prepared for her. At the same time Valiulienė was told that the pastor of Labanoras would also suffer because of her; he would be fined for allowing children to serve at mass. On November 1 this mother of three was no longer employed at the school.
Shortly after, her husband, Edvardas Valiulis, employed as a stoker at Utena Secondary School no. 3, was also dismissed from work. The reason for dismissal: the possibility of his having an adverse effect on the children's principles because he had attended the theological seminary. (E. Valiulis was among the 158 seminarians dismissed from the seminary by Soviet authorities in 1946).
Valiuliene's "punishable offense" was not the first on her record. In 1959 her husband painted the cross which his father had erected on his homestead. The local farm authorities demanded that the cross be demolished. Valiulienė tended the flowers growing around the cross and this was enough to transfer the "offender" for "reeducation" to another school 22 kilometers away in Rieškutėnai (Švenčionys rayon). While it was still possible, she bicycled to work from her home in the village of Palsodė, but in the winter she was forced to live far away from her family.
As this incident shows, it is not a "fabrication" but an actual fact that the practice of religion is not an accepted thing in our country and believers are considered suspect citizens. The law which forbids dismissing a person from work for his religious beliefs does not help here; it is but a showpiece which can be twisted in a number of ways.