The Irish State continues to help the Catholic Church to evangelise schoolchildren
The Irish State continues to help the Catholic Church to evangelise schoolchildren. In our education system, Church and State policy is to develop values to enable children to come to an understanding of the relevance of religion to their lives. Children are taught to respect religious beliefs and their codes of conduct. This is not just in the religion courses developed by the Patron bodies, but also courses developed by the State.
The Main Aim of the State Religious Education course at second level is:
Religious Education aims to develop knowledge, understanding, skills, attitudes and values to enable young people to come to an understanding of religion and its relevance to life, relationnships, society and the wider world. It aims to develop the students’ ability to examine questions of meaning, purpose and relationships, to help students understand, respect and appreciate people’s expression of their beliefs, and to facilitate dialogue and reflection on the diversity of beliefs and vlaues that inform responsible decison-making and ways of living.”
Developing values in children from atheist, humanist and non religious families to enable them to see the relevance of religion to their lives is part of our culture. Successive Ministers for Education, the ETBs, the NCCA, the TUI and teachers all have claimed that this is suitable for all religions and none.
If the main aim of any course was to develop values to enable all students to see the relevance of atheism to their lives, it would be seen as indoctrination. But the people who control and influence our education system cannot see the problem with doing this for religion. They won’t even question it, they just accept that it is in order to do this and keep telling us that curriculum religion is suitable for all religions and none.
Catholicism evangelises cultures. Because of the influence of the Catholic church in Ireland, Irish culture see no issue with evangelising and teaching children to respect beliefs, religious codes of conduct and developing values to enable children to see the relevance of religion to their lives.
The Irish State is not neutral with regard to religions and beliefs. It evangelises and enables the mission of the Catholic church. It undermines the rights of minorities by giving no practical application to their rights in the education system.
State enables evangelisation
There is a Constitutional Right to not attend religious instruction but the State has never put in place any statutory guidelines to ensure that this right is given practical application on the ground. If parents do manage to ensure their children are not taught religion, no other subject is offered and they are left sitting in the religion class. This is religious discrimination. The state does nothing about this, and continues to ensure that this right is given no practical application on the ground.
In 2018 the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act was passed. Section 62-7(n) of the Act obliges schools to put in their Admission Policies the arrangements for children not attending religious instruction. The schools have ignored this and despite Atheist Ireland raising this issue with the Minister for Education, she has done nothing to compel them to follow the legislation.
In 2018 the Department of Education issued a Circular Letter to all ETB schools. The Circular Letter gave students an option to pick another subject if they decided not to attend curriculum religion classes. The Catholic Church, the ETBI, the Teachers Union of Ireland and the Religion Teachers Association all complained to the Minister at the time (Richard Bruton) and the Circular was reversed.
Religious discrimination is such a part of our culture that even the TUI won’t challenge it. Why does a Union think it is in order to develop values in children from non religious families to enable them to see the relevance of religion to their lives?
Catholic grip on our education system is still in place
The influence of the Catholic Church on our education system has not gone away. The Mater Dei is now a college of DCU and still has a Catholic ethos. Teachers are not trained to uphold human rights. We have never heard a religion education teacher complain that is it is not in order to develop values in children from atheist families to enable them to see the relevance of religion to their lives. Telling parents that this is suitable for their children is evangelisation and breaches their rights.
There are no plans to amend the Education Act to ensure that all children have access to objective sex education. For the vast majority of children it is Catholic sex education or no sex education at all. Updating the course will make no difference as it can still be delivered through the religous ethos of schools.
Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act is still in place. The vast majority of our primary schools are Catholic and teachers are obliged to have the Catholic Certificate in Religious studies to gain employment. They are legally obliged to uphold the religious ethos of schools even if they believe that the ethos undermines the rights of others.
ETB schools at primary and second level make religion a core subject and students cannot pick another subject if they decide to exercise their right to not attend. Many of the ETBs operate in the same manner as Catholic schools.
Indoctrinating all children into religion is a normal part of our culture and it is supported by Church and State. Atheist Ireland will continue to campaign for the separation of Church and State in our education system.