Education Committee report must not lead to fine-tuning of religious discrimination

The Oireachtas Education Committee has made two important recommendations regarding religious discrimination in Irish schools.

The most important proposal is respecting the right to opt out from religion in schools, and putting in place guidelines to enable this to happen. The second is ending the use of baptism certs in admission policy.

The Minister must not respond by merely fine-tuning the religious discrimination by tweaking the least important parts of the problem.

The last Oireachtas Education Committee made an even more fundamental proposal three years ago, which went to the heart of the religious discrimination in Irish schools.

The 2014 report concluded that multiple patronage and ethos as a basis for policy can lead to segregation and inequality in the education system, and that the objectives of admission policy should be equality and integration.

This reflected the arguments made by Atheist Ireland to the last Committee, both in our written submission and in the presentation by Jane Donnelly to the Committee hearings.

We made a similar submission to this year’s Committee, along with the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Ireland, with whom we work to promote secular schools.

The Oireachtas must tackle four problems at the same time — Patronage, Access, Curriculum and Teaching — if we are to have an education system that respects equally the human rights of all children, parents and teachers.

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