Parteen school separates graduation ceremony from religious ceremony

Parteen National School in Co, Clare has changed its Graduation ceremony to another time and venue, following concerns highlighted by Atheist Ireland. We would like to thank the School for its quick and positive response to these concerns.

The school had scheduled a Graduation ceremony for sixth class students during a Confirmation ceremony in the Church. In order for minorities to attend the Graduation Ceremony, they would have had to attend a religious ceremony.

Atheist Ireland received a complaint about this and contacted the school online. The school responded quickly and has changed the Graduation ceremony to another date and venue. The person who contacted us is delighted with this change.

Parteen National School is under the Patronage of the Catholic Church and consequently has a Catholic ethos. Many minority belief parents in schools with a Catholic ethos are reluctant to bring issues such as this up with the school authorities.

Challenging the status quo is not easy, and families just want their children to go through school without having to deal with discrimination on the grounds of religion or race. These types of issues not only impact on atheist and humanist families, but also religious minorities.

All schools must comply with the Equal Status Act. They have obligations under Section 7 of the Act and cannot discriminate on the grounds of religion. Unfortunately, many schools just don’t see that they need to change to comply with the Act, and unlike Parteen National School many won’t even give consideration to a complaint regarding religious discrimination.

In a recent case at the WRC in relation to homework passes for attending religious ceremonies it was stated that:-

“It is acknowledged that the school is entitled to establish and adhere to its religious ethos, but in so doing it cannot disregard its obligations under Section 7 of the Act by discriminating in relation to the access of a student to any … benefit provided by the establishment… and any other term or condition of participation in the establishment by a student. The case within refers to the reward of a homework pass for the attendance at a church ceremony, and by way of the Complainant’s religious beliefs he could not avail of the reward.”

“I note the Respondent, by maintaining it is appropriate to award a benefit to children to attend a religious ceremony, does not appreciate this action had an adverse effect on students who are not of a Catholic faith. As such it is in breach of its obligations under section 7 of the Act. Whilst it is not required to change the ethos of the school, nor is it in my power under the Acts to make such an order, it must operate in manner that it does not discriminate students who are of a different religious belief, or of no religion, in relation to the access of any benefit provided and in any term or condition of participation in the establishment by a student.”

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