State Religious schools /Designated Community Colleges

Education & Training Boards manage religious schools on behalf of the Catholic Church. Designated Community Colleges are religious and operate with a religious ethos. These Colleges are under the full patronage of Education and Training Boards and operate under the Model Agreement. This is an agreement signed between the ETB and a local Bishop or Religious congregation. They are referred to as State multi-Denominational Colleges,  there is religious worship and instruction in the colleges and they have a specific religious ethos.

Human Rights law does not oblige any state to fund religious schools let alone provide religious education in public schools. In Savez Crkava “Rijec Zivota and Others v Croatia 9th March 2011 the European Court stated that:-

“57. Likewise, the right to manifest religion in teaching guaranteed by Article 9 § 1 of the Convention does not, in the Court’s view, go so far as to entail an obligation on States to allow religious education in public schools or nurseries.”

If the State decides to voluntarily provide Religious Education and Instruction in schools then it is obliged to do so without discrimination.

“The Court reiterates in this connection that the prohibition of discrimination enshrined in Article 14 of the Convention applies also to those additional rights, falling within the wider ambit of any Convention Article, for which the State has voluntarily decided to provide. Consequently, the State, which has gone beyond its obligations under Article 9 of the Convention in creating such rights cannot, in the application of those rights, take discriminatory measures within the meaning of Article 14. It follows that, although Croatia is not obliged under Article 9 of the Convention to allow religious education in public schools and nurseries or to recognise religious marriages, the facts of the instant case nevertheless fall within the wider ambit of that Article.”

In Ireland we have:-

1. Publicly funded religious (denominational) schools.

2. We also have publicly funded Community Schools and Comprehensive schools. The Supreme Court referred to these schools as denominational in nature.

3. Then we have State multi-Denominational schools that operate with a specific religious ethos which are referred to as multi-Denominational. They also have Religious Worship and Instruction. These are called Designated Community Colleges.

4. Last but not least we have State non-Denominational schools/multi Denominational that have Religious Worship and Instruction, these are called non-Designated Community Colleges.

In Ireland the terms Denominational, multi-Denominational, Interdenominational and non-Denominational are not legally defined. In 2007 the Dept of Education listed second level schools as follow:-

Catholic                         372

Church of Ireland         25

Interdenominational  334

Jewish                                 1

Quaker                                1

Interdenominational schools are Christians schools and in 2007 all VEC (now ETB) schools and colleges in Ireland were registered  as Interdenominational. For no apparent reason other than it sounds better, their designation has changed from Interdenominational to multi-Denominational or non-Denominational. The Dept of Education stopped publishing the designation of schools in Ireland a few years ago but it was once available for all to see.

Continue reading

Posted in ETB (VEC's), Religious Education, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Religious Worship and Instruction in ETB non – designated Community Colleges.

All Education and Training Board (ETB) non-designated Community Colleges at second level are obliged to ensure that there is religious worship and religious instruction in the college.

These Community Colleges are referred to as State multi-Denominational colleges. They are also sometimes referred to as non-Denominational, despite the fact that there is religious instruction and worship in the college.  This is Ireland where multi-Denominational, Interdenominational and non-Denominational are not legally defined.  This can mean that a so called State non-Denominational school ends up having religious instruction and worship for one specific religion (Catholic).

According to the Handbook for Boards of Management of Schools and Community Colleges the arrangements for Religious Worship and Religious Instruction in Community Colleges are as per Circular 73 of 74 issued by the Dept of Education in 1974.

These Colleges are also obliged to employ Religious Education teachers approved by the competent Religious authority. As far as we are aware it is mainly Catholic Religious Instruction and Worship that takes place in these Community Colleges so these State non-Denominational schools are obliged to employ Religious Education Teachers approved by the local Bishop.

Circular Letter 73/74 does not refer specifically to Catholicism but obviously they have got their foot in the door here. In fact any religious group can seek to have Religious instruction taught in non-designated Community Colleges.  They can also seek to have Religious worship as Circular Letter 73/74 is not just confined to Religious instruction classes.

The Circular Letter does not mention the number of students of a particular religion required in a school before they could seek this privilege.  Of course how these rules are implemented will depend on the Principal and Board of Management of a particular school but regardless this Circular Letter is their starting point.

In Ireland not only do we have State funded religious schools, but we also have State religious schools, that are called non-Denominational but operate as religious schools.

The following is the extract from Circular Letter 73/74 on Religion in ETB/VEC non-designated Community Colleges.

“10. (a) In exercising its general control over the curriculum and conduct of the school, the board shall ensure that there is religious worship and religious instruction in the school except for such pupils whose parents make a request in writing to the Principal that these pupils should be withdrawn from religious worship or religious instruction or both religious worship and religious instruction.

(b) The religious worship by any pupil at the school and the religious instruction given to any pupil shall be in accordance with the rites, practice and teaching of the religious denomination to which the pupil belongs. At least 2 ½ hrs religious instruction as aforsaid  shall be given to all the  pupils in the school (except those who are withdrawn from religious instruction  in accordance with the provisions of sub paragraph (a) above) in each week in which the school is in session.

(c) If any question arises whether the religious worship conducted or the religious instruction is or is not, in accordance with the rites, practice and teaching of a religious denomination, that question shall be determined by the competent religious authority. Such religious worship and religious instruction be inspected under arrangements made for this purpose by the competent religious authority on such days and on such times and with such notice as may be agreed  from time to time by the competent religious authority and the board.

(d) The Principal shall be immediately responsible for making arrangements for all the religious worship conducted and the religious instruction given at the school and for the attendance of pupils thereat.

(e) The board shall endeavour to ensure that there are at all times sufficient teachers in the school who are appointed, with the approval of the competent religious authority, to give religious instruction as aforesaid.”

 

Posted in Enrolment policies, ETB (VEC's), European Convention on Human Rights, Human Rights Standards, Religious Education | Leave a comment

The Catholic Church: Undermining the right to Freedom of Conscience

The Catholic Church in Ireland campaign to maintain their privileged position by claiming that:-

To equate all religions is to empty them of any significance”.

How does treating equally all religions and philosophical convictions empty them of significance?

The UN has said that:-

10. If a set of beliefs is treated as official ideology in constitutions, statutes, proclamations of the ruling parties, etc., or in actual practice, this shall not result in any impairment of the freedoms under article 18 or any other rights recognized under the Covenant nor in any discrimination against persons who do not accept the official ideology or who oppose it.

The State has a duty of neutrality with regard to religious and philosophical beliefs but despite this the Catholic Church in Ireland retains a privileged position.

Continue reading

Posted in European Convention on Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, Human Rights Standards, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ireland has no non-denominational schools. Even the nine schools directly run by the state are religious

The Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan is the patron of nine state run religious schools.

These nine schools are the old Model schools and they are not non-denominational despite being under the patronage of the Minister.

The Report from the Forum on Patronage & Pluralism recognised that there are no non-denominational schools in Ireland. The Report stated that:-

“Non-denominational Patronage:

Schools under the patronage of a secular body and which has an explicitly secular ethos.

This does not preclude the provision of a programme on education about religion. As yet, there are no non-denominational national schools in Ireland.”

Not only do schools have to be under a secular body to be recognised as non-denominational but they also must have an explicitly secular ethos. There are currently no recognised schools in Ireland that have an explicitly secular ethos or claim to have one.

Despite the Report from the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism the Minister was unable to answer a recent Dail question on whether there was any non-denominational schools in Dublin North East.

The Irish Human Rights Commission in their Report, Religion & Education: A Human Rights Perspective Recommended that:-

“Terms such as “denominational”, “multi denominational”, “inter denominational”, “non denominational” or “other” school should be clearly defined in primary legislation, Ministerial regulations or be determined by reference to the recognition of such schools under the Education Act.”

Continue reading

Posted in Articles, Enrolment policies, European Convention on Human Rights, Forum on Patronage and Pluralism, Human Rights Standards, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, National School Rules, Religious Education, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Publicly funded Irish National schools integrate “The Saviour” into spelling lessons for ten year olds

In Irish publicly funded National schools, religion is integrated into the state curriculum.

Rule 68 of the Rules for National Schools reads:-

“Of all parts of a school curriculum, Religious Instruction is by far the most important, as its subject matter, God’s honour and service, includes the proper use of all man’s faculties, and affords the most powerful inducements to their proper use. Religious Instruction is, therefore, a fundamental part of the school course, and a religious spirit should inform and vivify the whole work of the school.”

Most parents believe that Rule 68 is about prayers, holy communion and various religious celebrations during the school day. A parent sent us the following example which he discovered on helping his child with her homework.

R68 Saviour Pic

IMG_1634

The book is Spellbound 4, ISBN 978-0-7144-1638-0 published by CJ Fallon. The inside cover reads:

“Spellbound, a series of seven books, encourages a multidimensional approach to spelling for children from Senior Infants to Sixth Class, while helping to develop phonological and phonemic awareness.”

St. Patrick managed to find his way into the maths book.

IMG_1637

Mathemagic 4 – ISBN 978-0-7144-1443-0 -Published by CJ Fallon

“The Mathemagic Programme has been compiled to support the Revised Mathematics Primary School Curriculum. It promotes sound constructivist principles and approaches in the teaching of primary mathematics, while offering ample opportunities for reinforcement and consolidation.”

As you can see it is impossible to opt out of religion that is integrated into the state curriculum. The UN has already Recommended the removal of Rule 68 and so has the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism.

In July this year the UN Human Rights Committee asked the state the following questions:-

“And going forward, how is the State Party planning to deal with the possibility and the demand for non-denominational education in the future? Is it considering a move away from the integrated curriculum provided by Rule 68 of the Rules for National Schools? Is it considering a significant rise in the number of schools transferred to public hands?”

“My follow-up question goes to the issue of denominational education, and I note the statement on improvements that are planned in the transparency of school admission policies. My two follow up questions in this regard are:
How does the Delegation explain the compatibility with the Covenant of a state of affairs that allows private schools, which have a near monopoly in Ireland on a vital public service, to openly discriminate in admission policies between children on the basis of their parents’ religious convictions?

I would appreciate, whether orally or in writing, the Delegation’s theory on this point, on this legal point. And whether the State believes or not that it is required to ensure a neutral studying environment in those schools, in denominational schools, outside the confines of religious instruction classes that can be opted out from?”

Posted in Human Rights Standards, National School Rules, Religious Education, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Religious Crests on school uniforms are symbols of discrimination.

Atheist Ireland welcomes the comments of the Anglican Archbishop of Dublin regarding religious crests on school uniforms.

In an article in the Sunday Independent Archbishop Michael Jackson (Anglican Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough) said there should be “scope for negotiation” around the wearing of uniforms that display religious crests.

Many atheist/secular parents have no option but to send their children to school wearing a religious crest on their school uniform. Muslim parents and other religious minorities face the same dilemma as they also are put in this position. The main issue in Ireland is not the hijab, but the fact that minorities including Muslim parents are obliged to send their children to school wearing a crucifix on their school uniform (in some cases).

The majority of parents in Ireland simply have no choice where they send their children to school because the majority of publicly funded schools at both primary and second level are under the patronage of the Catholic Church, or operate with a specific religious ethos.

If it was the other way around and Catholic parents were obliged to send their children to the local publicly funded school with a crest that read ‘there is no god’, we would never hear the end of it. Does anyone believe for an instant that that Catholic Church would not point out that such schools could not by any stretch of the imagination be called inclusive and respect diversity. Would the Islamic Foundation of Ireland object to sending their children to school with a crest on their uniform that read ‘there is no god’?

Continue reading

Posted in ETB (VEC's), European Convention on Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, Human Rights Standards, Irish Constitution, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How Irish law effectively prohibits non-denominational secular schools based on human rights

Irish law effectively prohibits non-denominational secular schools based on human rights, despite the Irish Government telling the UN Human Rights Committee last month that there are no obstacles to establishing such schools in Ireland.

The Government did outline two requirements to the UN, that the Government seemingly doesn’t consider to be obstacles. These are that there must be sufficient parental demand in an area for such a school, and that the requirements of being a Patron body must be met.

In reality, there are four obstacles to establishing non-denominational secular schools based on human rights in Ireland.

The first obstacle is the parental demand requirement, which breaches human rights law, because the right to a neutral education cannot be denied by local majority votes. The parental demand argument would mean that you could have your human rights vindicated if you live in one part of the country, but not if you live in another part, based on the preferences of your neighbours.

The second obstacle is that the requirements of being a Patron are such that it would be impossible in practice to provide secular non-denominational education consistently with them. Recognised schools are obliged to to promote the spiritual development of students, and to abide by Rule 68 of the Rules for National Schools, which includes that a religious spirit should inform and vivify the whole work of the school.

The third obstacle is that the very nature of our education system involves the State ceding the running of schools to private bodies. This means that, even if the parental demand and Patron requirements were changed, there would be no guarantee that secular education would actually be provided, or that if it was provided that it would continue to be provided.

The fourth obstacle is that, even if such schools were provided by a Patron body, the Patron body would still be a private body and not an organ of the State. That means that there would be no effective remedy to vindicate the human rights of parents who are denied secular education for their children based on human rights law.

The State has made no proposals to remove any of these obstacles, and consequently the response of the government delegation to the UN Human Rights Committee was simply not true. In effect, the State’s argument is that you can set up a secular non-denominational school, if you meet requirements that you cannot actually meet.

The biggest obstacle is, of course, that this government, like previous governments, is simply not prepared to do anything to guarantee the human rights of minorities in the education system. Human Rights are the minimum standard required for the protection of the individual citizen and here in this Republic our standards are so low that we don’t guarantee these rights.

Continue reading

Posted in Articles, Education Act 1998, ETB (VEC's), European Convention on Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, Forum on Patronage and Pluralism, Human Rights Standards, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Irish Constitution, Irish Human Rights Commission, National School Rules, New VEC Community National Schools, Religious Education, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Children have a human right to a neutral studying environment, even in denominational schools

Last month Ireland appeared before the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva under the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR). Every five years the UN questions Ireland in relation to their human rights obligations under the Covenant.

In relation to the right to freedom of conscience and the right to be free from religious discrimination in the education system the UN asked Ireland the following questions:

“And going forward, how is the State Party planning to deal with the possibility and the demand for non-denominational education in the future? Is it considering a move away from the integrated curriculum provided by Rule 68 of the Rules for National Schools? Is it considering a significant rise in the number of schools transferred to public hands?”

“My follow-up question goes to the issue of denominational education, and I note the statement on improvements that are planned in the transparency of school admission policies. My two follow up questions in this regard are:
How does the Delegation explain the compatibility with the Covenant of a state of affairs that allows private schools, which have a near monopoly in Ireland on a vital public service, to openly discriminate in admission policies between children on the basis of their parents’ religious convictions?

I would appreciate, whether orally or in writing, the Delegation’s theory on this point, on this legal point. And whether the State believes or not that it is required to ensure a neutral studying environment in those schools, in denominational schools, outside the confines of religious instruction classes that can be opted out from?”

Continue reading

Posted in Education Act 1998, Enrolment policies, Forum on Patronage and Pluralism, Human Rights Standards, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Irish Constitution, Irish Human Rights Commission, National School Rules, Religious Education, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Educate Together is undermining the duty of the Irish State to provide non-denominational schools

Educate Together has made two statements recently that undermine the duty of the Irish Government to provide secular education though new non-denominational schools, as required by the UN Human Rights Committee.

Educate Together is doing this by blurring the distinction between multi-denominational schools (which Educate Together schools are) and non-denominational schools (which the UN Human Rights Committee has told Ireland to provide access to).

Educate Together is creating the impression that, by providing more Educate Together schools, the UN’s requirements would be satisfied. This is not correct. There would still be no non-denominational schools.

Educate Together is also using the UN’s requirements to seek more funding for more Educate Together schools. But if this and only this happens, then there will be less money for non-denominational schools.

Clearly Educate Together schools are good for parents who want a multi-denominational education for their children. But they do not satisfy the requirement for non-denominational education that the UN has told Ireland to also provide.

Indeed, Educate Together cannot satisfy the requirements of the UN, because those requirements are aimed at the Irish State and not at Educate Together.

Continue reading

Posted in Education Act 1998, Enrolment policies, European Convention on Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, Forum on Patronage and Pluralism, Human Rights Standards, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Irish Constitution, Irish Human Rights Commission | 3 Comments

The new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission should be mandated to monitor ICCPR rights

This is Yuval Shany of the UN Human Rights Committee, during the Committee’s questioning of Ireland in Geneva in July.

He is challenging the Irish State’s reasons for not mandating the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to monitor human rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Starting with the new Human Rights Commission, I appreciate the clarifications provided by Mr Briain on the reasons underlying the decision not to invest the Human Rights and Equality Commission with an enforcement mandate that includes the Covenant as well as other international treaties.

I find however the explanation provided not fully convincing, and I will explain why.

Continue reading

Posted in Education Act 1998, Enrolment policies, Forum on Patronage and Pluralism, Human Rights Standards, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Irish Constitution, Irish Human Rights Commission, Uncategorized | Leave a comment