Teaching more than one religion can be indoctrination, and you have a right to not attend the NCCA religion class

The Minister for Education, Joe McHugh, and the Department of Education are now claiming that if a class is teaching one religion then it is religious instruction, and if it is teaching a number of religions then it is religious education. They go on to claim that, because of this, there is no reason to not attend the NCCA religion class.

The European Court of Human Rights has found that teaching more than one religion can be indoctrination. And the Irish Constitution and Education Act allow children to attend schools without attending classes that teach more than one religion.

This includes the NCCA Religious Education course at second level, which is defined as multi-denominational. Regardless, it is still indoctrination in accordance with the general principles of the European Court.

Also, even if it wasn’t indoctrination, you still have the right to not attend it under Article 44.2.4 of the Irish Constitution and Section 30 of the Education Act 1998.

European Court of Human Rights

The European Court has examined several cases in relation to the teaching religions and beliefs in schools. These courses were presented by particular States as courses that were open to all religions and beliefs and also suitable for those that had no religion. They were not confined to  teaching one religion.

In every instance, the court found that teaching religion and beliefs was indoctrination, as it did not respect the right of some parents to ensure that the teaching of their children was in conformity with their convictions. The failure to put in place non discriminatory exemptions meant that those particular countries had failed to protect the human rights of parents and their children in the education system.

Some examples from the European Court are:

This is a link to a guide from the Council of Europe on the right to education. The above cases are referred to in this guide, as well as many more.

The following case is from the United Nations.

Irish Constitution and Education Act

In Ireland, the State Religious Education course at second level, and the Goodness Me Goodness You course in Community National Schools, fit into this category, of multidenominational religious education that does not respect the rights of parents and their children.

The Minister for Education, Joe McHugh, and the Department of Education are now claiming that if a class is teaching one religion then it is religious instruction, and if it is teaching a number of religions then it is religious education. They go on to claim that, because of this, there is no reason to not attend the NCCA religion class.

This interpretation is not based on the Constitution, the Education Act, or Human Rights law. This new interpretation is undermining the rights of parents and their children.

Instead of supporting the Constitutional and Human Rights of parents to ensure that the teaching of their children is in conformity with their convictions, we now have a Minister for Education saying that there is no need to exercise this right. We cannot think of any other instance where a government Minister would claim that there is no need to exercise a Constitutional right. It is the only area of the Constitution where the word ‘inalienable’ is used. Parents have an inalienable right to respect for their convictions.

This is the first time that any political party has said that religious instruction under the Constitution is the teaching of one religion, and religious education is the teaching of a number of religions.

Micheal Martin was the Minister for Education when the Education Act 1998 was enacted. He was quite clear about the right to not attend religious teaching under Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution. He described the right to opt out of any subject that is contrary to conscience as being a modern restatement of the right to not attend religion class.

Irish High Court

The Minister and the Department of Education are simply ignoring the courts in Ireland. In the High Court case in 1996 Campaign to Separate Church and State v Minister for Education, Justice Costello cited the rights guaranteed to parents under the European Convention and the United Nations. He said:

“The parties to the First protocol of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms agreed that States when assuming functions in relation to education “shall respect the rights of parents to ensure such education and teaching in accordance with their own religious and philosophical convictions (Article 2). The Irish Constitution has developed the significance of these parental rights and in addition has imposed obligations on the State in relation to them.”

It seems to us that Human Rights law is used to support the rights of Catholic parents but when it comes to supporting the human rights of non religious parents and their children the Minister and the Department of Education ignore those rights. You can find the High Court case here Campaign Separate Church and State High Court Judgement

Summary

The European Court of Human Rights has found that teaching more than one religion can be indoctrination. And the Irish Constitution and Education Act allow children to attend schools without attending classes that teach more than one religion.

This includes the NCCA Religious Education course at second level, which is defined as multi-denominational. Regardless, it is still indoctrination in accordance with the general principles of the European Court.

Also, even if it wasn’t indoctrination, you still have the right to not attend it under Article 44.2.4 of the Irish Constitution and Section 30 of the Education Act 1998.

 

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