Teach Don’t Preach – Information on School Religion

Resources for Researchers, Teachers, Parents and yes – Children

This website is published by Atheist Ireland as part of our “Teach Don’t Preach” campaign for a secular Irish education system based on equality of treatment and human rights law.

It includes a variety of information for different audiences interested in education in Ireland, its history, the current issues with the denominational patronage model and the discrimination this causes to teachers, parents, and more importantly to their children. If they are to grow up respecting the rights of others and to build a non-sectarian society free from discrimination based on religion then they deserve the right for this to start in their primary school and be continued in their secondary school.

Parents have the right for their children to be educated free from indoctrination at school contrary to their own religious beliefs. In Ireland, in practical terms, most non-religious, atheist or secular parents and their children are denied this right. Hopefully this site can help you stand up for your rights.

You can also find out how to opt out your child from religion in schools with sample letters for primary and second level here opting-out letters.

This site contains resources and a discussion forum about secular education, the denomination school system in Ireland, education rights in the constitution, education and discrimination legislation and sample letters to help you to opt your child out of religious education classes in your current school whether primary or secondary.

The vast majority of primary schools in Ireland (approximately 3,300) are church controlled, over 90% Catholic and about 6% by Protestant. The Irish State provides for education through the Department of Education and Skills. Nearly all schools are publicly funded (teachers salaries, school operating costs, school transport, school repairs and building) but essentially privately controlled.

The Irish Catholic Bishops say that “Catholic schools seek to reflect a distinctive vision of life and a corresponding philosophy of education, based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The Irish State is legally obliged (by statute, legislation, the constitution and international agreements on human rights) to provide religiously neutral studying environments if it continues to ‘provide for’ the education in denominational schools. The state is also legally obliged to ensure that there is no religious discrimination in access to schools and in workplaces. Claiming that denominational schools are inclusive, while they still discriminate in access on religious grounds is absurd. Continuing to operate “religious integrated curriculum” (because of historic requirements such as Rules for National Schools Rule 68) is in breach human rights law (the right to freedom of conscience and the right to be free from discrimination).

The Forum on Patronage and Pluralism recommended that Rule 68 be removed. The Irish Human Rights Commission hasrecommended the Education Act 1998 be amended to ensure the curriculum is delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner. To date successive governments have taken no action: Rule 68 has not been removed and there are no plans to amend the Education Act 1998 to ensure that the curriculum as required.

Atheist Ireland believes that a secular education system is essential to the building of an ethical and secular society. One of the most powerful ways in which religion maintains its hold on society is by teaching children religious tales as truth when they are at an intellectually formative age.

Atheist Ireland is an advocacy group that promotes reason and atheism over superstition and supernaturalism, and that campaigns for an ethical and secular Ireland where the state does not support or fund or give special treatment to any religion.

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