Even two schools directly run by the State have discrimination on religious grounds. Why?
Why does Irish State discriminate on religious grounds in two schools it runs directly?
Ireland has nine State schools at primary level where the Minister for Education & Skills is patron. Last June Atheist Ireland wrote to the Dept of Education asking why as Patron they discriminate on religious grounds in access to Athy Model School (see letter below).
We received a letter of acknowledgement, and were informed that the matter was being investigated. We wrote again recently asking had there been any developments and over four months later the Dept of Education inform us that they are still investigating why as a Patron body they are discriminating on religious grounds.
We have since been informed that another one of these Model Schools gives preference to Dept of Education staff in Limerick. An Mhodhschoil in Limerick gives preference in access to Dept of Education & Skills staff living in Limerick. It is referred to as a non-denominational school but has Catholic religious instruction and worship.
This means the government in our Republic not only facilitates discrimination on religious grounds in schools where it cedes control to patron bodies, but it also directly discriminates on religious grounds, even in the small number of schools it directly runs itself, and gives preference to its own staff in access to state schools.
As it stands now atheists/secularists are not protected from religious discrimination even in State schools. We are really looking forward to hearing an explanation as to why we are treated as second class citizens and why this Republic discriminates on religious grounds and ignores their human rights obligations.
This is our letter to the Minister for Education & Skills last June.
RE: Athy Model School under the Patronage of the Dept of Education.
The above school is one of the nine Model Schools in the country which are under the direct patronage of the Dept of Education. According to the school website, Athy Model School primarily serves the Church of Ireland community. The ethos of the school states that:-
“ Athy Model School is a primary school under the patronage of the Department of Education, with a Church of Ireland ethos. We endeavour to enable each child to acquire a set of moral values based on the ethos of the school.” “We encourage parents and children to involve themselves in the activities of both the Church of Ireland community and the wider community. However, we have due recognition of all other beliefs and cultures and we respect cultural and religious diversity.” http://athymodelschool.ie/
Their Enrolment Policy gives preference to the following:-
“a) Church of Ireland parishioners of Athy Union of Parishes.
b) Church of Ireland parishioners of adjoining parishes customarily served by the school, where such parishes have no Church of Ireland school of their own.
c) Children, one of whose parents is a member of the Church of Ireland.
d) Children who are members of Protestant Reformed or Orthodox Churches and are living within the parishes listed at (a) and (b) above.
e) Children of parents living within the areas specified in sections (a) and (b) above and who wish their children to be educated within the ethos of the Church of Ireland.
Given the duty of neutrality of the state can you please let us know why the Dept of Education & Skills as patron of the school believes it is appropriate to discriminate in access on religious grounds?
The school endeavours to enable each child to acquire a set of moral values based on the ethos of the school (Church of Ireland) while giving due recognition of all other beliefs. The European Court of Human Rights in the Folgero v Norway case in 2007 defined what is meant of respecting parents’ convictions be they religious of philosophical (Article II of Protocol 1).
They stated that:- “(c) Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 does not permit a distinction to be drawn between religious instruction and other subjects. It enjoins the State to respect parents’ convictions, be they religious or philosophical, throughout the entire State education programme (see Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pedersen, cited above, p. 25, §51). That duty is broad in its extent as it applies not only to the content of education and the manner of its provision but also to the performance of all the “functions” assumed by the State. The verb “respect” means more than “acknowledge” or “take into account”. In addition to a primarily negative undertaking, it implies some positive obligation on the part of the State. The term “conviction”, taken on its own, is not synonymous with the words “opinions” and “ideas”. It denotes views that attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance (see Valsamis, cited above, pp. 2323-24, §§ 25 and 27, and Campbell and Cosans, cited above, pp. 16-17, §§ 36-37).”
It is difficult to understand how it is possible to endeavour to enable each child to acquire a set of moral values based on the ethos of the school (Church of Ireland), while respecting parents’ philosophical convictions under Article II of Protocol 1.
Can you please also let us know:
(a) how the right to opt out of religion is practically applied on the ground in the school, if parents can opt their child out of the religious integrated curriculum, and
(b) how endeavouring to have the children of parents of other and no religion base their moral values on the ethos of the Church of Ireland constitutes respect for parents religious and philosophical convictions under Article II of Protocol 1 of the European Convention and Article 42.1 of the Irish Constitution.
We look forward to hearing from you.