Catholic Church reaction to NCCA report shows need to amend Education Act

The Catholic Church reaction to what seems to be a leaked NCCA report on Education about Religion, Beliefs and Ethics further confirms the analysis that Atheist Ireland has consistently made in recent years. We will again raise the need to amend the Education Act 1998 when Jane Donnelly addresses the Oireachtas Joint Education Committee on Thursday 15th December on behalf of Atheist Ireland, the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association of Ireland.

  • The Government has a Constitutional and human rights law obligation to provide children with a moral education in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner.
  • They cannot do this without amending the Education Act 1998, or else the Catholic Church will implement the State curriculum in accordance with Catholic ethos.
  • The Catholic Church is now threatening to do just that with the NCCA’s proposed curriculum about Religion, Beliefs and Ethics.

When the NCCA report is published, we will be forwarding it to Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, who we met last week on his visit to Ireland, and who said last Friday that religious school patron bodies were holding the Irish state hostage.

If what has been published today about the NCCA report proves to be accurate, here is how our analysis of this issue has developed and has been vindicated:

  • We told the Taoiseach, and we also told the Forum on Patronage, that the State has a Constitutional obligation to provide moral education to all children in schools, separately from the religious instruction classes that students can opt out of.
  • We told the NCCA that it has a public service duty to protect the human rights of children to have their education about religion, beliefs and ethics delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner, in accordance with the European Court of Human Rights.
  • We told the Government that the NCCA cannot fulfil that public service duty unless the Government amends the Education Act 1998, to prevent the religious ethos of schools from indoctrinating children outside of the Patron’s formal religious instruction class.
  • We accurately predicted that, without such amendment to the Education Act 1998, the Catholic Church will resist attempts to have the State Curriculum delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner.

Atheist Ireland will continue our work to promote a secular education system based on human rights law, along with our colleagues in the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association of Ireland.

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