Labour Party forgets its pledge to protect atheist teachers

The Labour Party seems to have forgotten the pledge in the Programme for Government to protect non-faith and minority faith teachers along with publicly out LGBT teachers, despite the Labour Party claiming political ownership of that particular Government commitment.

A Labour Party press release today is now selectively recasting it as a pledge to protect teachers “on the basis of their sexual orientation or family status,” without any indication that this is a different commitment to the one in the Programme for Government.

Atheist Ireland is asking both Labour and Fine Gael to reconsider this change, and to amend the current Section 37 Bill next Tuesday to remove all religious discrimination in employment in our schools and hospitals.

The commitment in the Programme for Government

Here is what the Programme for Government says about Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act, which allows religiously run schools and hospitals the right to discriminate against atheists and others in order to protect their religious ethos:

“People of non-faith or minority religious backgrounds and publicly identified LGBT people should not be deterred from training or taking up employment as teachers in the State.” – Page 13, Programme for Government 2011

But a press release published today by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan, on behalf of herself and Equality Minister Aodhan O Riordain, instead says this:

“As a result of Labour’s commitment to this issue, the Programme for Government included a commitment that “LGBT people should not be deterred from taking up employment as teachers in the State.” This legislation will deliver upon that commitment.”

You will notice that the part of the pledge that protects atheist and minority faith teachers has been edited out of the sentence as it appears in today’s Labour Party press release. This would be misleading enough in any context, and is even more so when writing about a pledge to bring about equality and human rights.

Commitments to Atheist Ireland before the election

Before the last general election, Atheist Ireland asked all of the political parties: “If elected, would you vote to ensure that religious bodies are treated the same as other organisations under equality and employment legislation?”

Fine Gael replied:

“Yes.”

The Labour Party replied:

“We believe that all organizations, religious or secular, should be treated equally. We acknowledge the enormous amount of work that many organizations undertake in this society. In relation to employment legislation we simply believe this should apply equally to all.”

Both Government parties are now in the process of breaking these pledges, and in addition the Labour Party is misleading people by selectively quoting half of a pledge that, in the context of equality, should be read as one commitment.

Please contact your politicians about this before Tuesday

The Bill to amend Section 37.1 will next be debated, at Report stage, next Thursday afternoon in the Seanad (this was initially announced as Tuesday, but it has been changed to Thursday).

Please contact your local politicians over the weekend, and ask them to ensure that this Bill is amended in such a way as to bar all forms of discrimination in employment in schools and hospitals.

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