Ask your TDs this week to remove religious discrimination in new Schools Bill
The Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016 will begin its second stage in the Dail this week. Please lobby your TDs and ask them to amend this Bill to remove religious discrimination in the education system.
It is important to amend the Bill to remove religious discrimination in access to schools, but that is only a small part of the problem. There is no point in getting equal access to being discriminated against within the schools, and most parents who raise complaints with Atheist Ireland are concerned about problems within the schools.
The new Bill will also fail to ensure that the State Curriculum is delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner. It will continue to allow the State Curriculum to be delivered through the religious ethos of the Catholic Church. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission asked the previous Government to make this change to the 2015 version of this Bill.
In their observations on the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2015 the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission made the following Recommendations. They remain relevant to the current version of the Bill, that will begin its second stage in the Dail this week.
(a) Education admissions and the religious exemption clause:
Within the context of the 2015 Bill, the Commission recommends the Equal Status Acts should be amended to give effect to the principle that no child should be given preferential access to a publicly funded school on the basis of their religion. The amendment could include an individualised derogation granted by the Minister for Education and Skills in the case of a specific school where refusal to admit a student is proved to be essential to maintain the ethos of the school, and where no other alternative means is reasonably available to the Minister in that particular case.
(b) Schools admission policies and promoting the inclusive school:
The Commission recommends that the new section 62(6) to be inserted into the Education Act should be amended to the effect that, in setting out the characteristic spirit and general objectives of the school, outside the specific context of faith formation and religious instruction which parents wish to avail of and where exemptions apply, regard shall be had to providing information in relation to religion in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner that avoids indoctrination.
The Commission recommends that the 2015 Bill presents an important opportunity to set down some minimum standards in relation to the nature of exemptions for students who do not want to attend religious instruction.
The Commission recommends that the new section 62(6) to be inserted into the Education Act should be amended to the effect that in setting out the characteristic spirit and general objectives of the school regard shall be had to the values of an inclusive school that respects and accommodates diversity across all nine grounds in the equality legislation.
Please send these Recommendations to your local TDs, and ask them to speak up about this religious discrimination.