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.”

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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

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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’?

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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.

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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?”

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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.

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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.

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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

UN asks Ireland about religious discrimination in Irish schools – video and transcript

The UN Human Rights Committee has told Ireland to stop breaching the human rights of atheists and minority faiths in the education system, reflecting concerns raised by Atheist Ireland at the questioning session in Geneva. The Committee concluded:

The Human Rights Committee is concerned about the slow progress in increasing access to secular education through the establishment of non-denominational schools, divestment of the patronage of schools and the phasing out of integrated religious curricula in schools accommodating minority faith or non-faith children.

Ireland should introduce legislation to prohibit discrimination in access to schools on the grounds of religion, belief or other status, and ensure that there are diverse school types and curriculum options available throughout the State party to meet the needs of minority faith or non-faith children.

Here are the questions that the Committee asked Ireland about religious discrimination in schools, in the session in Geneva that led to the above recommendation.

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UN asks Ireland about discrimination against atheist teachers – video and transcript

The UN Human Rights Committee has told Ireland to stop breaching the human rights of atheists and minority faith teachers and health workers, reflecting concerns raised by Atheist Ireland at the questioning session in Geneva. The Committee concluded:

The Human Rights Committee is concerned that under Section 37(1) of the Employment Equality Acts, religious-owned institutions, including in the fields of education and health, can discriminate against employees or prospective employees to protect the religious ethos of the institution (arts.2, 18, 25 and 27).

Ireland should amend Section 37(1) of the Employment Equality Acts in a way that bars all forms of discrimination in employment in the fields of education and health.

Here are the questions that the Committee asked Ireland about this discrimination, in the session in Geneva that led to the above recommendation.

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UN Human Rights Committee tells Ireland to stop breaching the human rights of atheists and minority faiths

The UN Human Rights Committee today told Ireland to stop breaching the human rights of atheists and minority faiths in the education system, employment, religious oaths and blasphemy law.

The UN report published today vindicates all of the complaints raised by Atheist Ireland when we briefed the Human Rights Committee in Geneva last week, and it makes several recommendations that were specifically suggested by Atheist Ireland.

The Committee was questioning Ireland about its duties under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Education System

The Human Rights Committee is concerned about the slow progress in increasing access to secular education through the establishment of non-denominational schools, divestment of the patronage of schools and the phasing out of integrated religious curricula in schools accommodating minority faith or non-faith children.

It said Ireland should introduce legislation to prohibit discrimination in access to schools on the grounds of religion, belief or other status, and ensure that there are diverse school types and curriculum options available throughout the State party to meet the needs of minority faith or non-faith children.

Employment

The Human Rights Committee is concerned that under Section 37(1) of the Employment Equality Acts, religious-owned institutions, including in the fields of education and health, can discriminate against employees or prospective employees to protect the religious ethos of the institution (arts.2, 18, 25 and 27).

It said Ireland should amend Section 37(1) of the Employment Equality Acts in a way that bars all forms of discrimination in employment in the fields of education and health.

Religious Oaths

The Human Rights Committee is concerned at the slow pace of progress in amending the Constitutional provisions that oblige individuals wishing to take up senior public office positions such as President, members of the Council of State and members of the judiciary to take religious oaths.

It said that Ireland should amend articles 12, 31 and 34 of the Constitution that require religious oaths to take up senior public office positions, taking into account the Committee’s general comment No. 22 (1993) concerning the right not to be compelled to reveal one’s thoughts or adherence to a religion or belief in public.

Blasphemy Law

The Human Rights Committee is concerned that that blasphemy continues to be an offence under article 40.6.1(i) of the Constitution and section 36 of the Defamation Act 2009 (art. 19).

It said Ireland should consider removing the prohibition of blasphemy from the Constitution as recommended by the Constitutional Convention, and taking into account the Committee’s general comment No. 34 (2011) concerning the incompatibility of blasphemy laws with the Covenant, except in the specific circumstances envisaged in article 20, paragraph 2 of the Covenant.

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