You do not have to attend religious education, however the school describes it
Many schools are telling parents that curriculum Religious Education is not Religious Instruction and therefore the right to not attend does not arise. The Department of Education claims that Religious Instruction is ‘instruction in the rites of one particular religion.’ This argument has no legal basis. It is just a made-up argument to coerce students into curriculum Religious Education.
The Irish courts have found that Religious Formation (under Article 42.4 of the Constitution) is familiarising a child with doctrine and religious practice. Religious Formation is also part of Article 42.1 (the inalienable right of parents in relation to the Religious and Moral education of their children). The courts said that Religious Formation is an extra dimension to the Religious Education of children.
The courts have also found that Religious Education (under Article 42.1) includes doctrine, apologetics, comparative religions and religious history. The courts said that Religious Instruction (which you do not have to attend under article 44.2.4) is a narrower concept because Religious Education can also take place in the general atmosphere of the school.
But any form of religious teaching is Religious Instruction, under both the Constitution and the Education Act. The Irish version of the Constitution takes precedence over the English version, and the Irish phrase in Article 44.2.4 translates directly into ‘religious teaching’ not ‘religious instruction’.
Reachtaíocht lena gcuirtear cúnamh stáit ar fáil do scoileanna ní cead idirdhealú a dhéanamh inti idir scoileanna atá faoi bhainistí aicmí creidimh seachas a chéile ná í do dhéanamh dochair do cheart aon linbh chun scoil a gheibheann airgead poiblí a fhreastal gan teagasc creidimh sa scoil sin a fhreastal.
The courts could hardly recognise the right to not attend Religious Instruction without also recognising the right to not attend Religious Formation (Art 42.4) which is part of Religious Education (Art 42.1). They have said that Article 42.1 must be read in conjunction with Article 44.2.4.
The Department of Education, schools and teachers are simply coercing students into curriculum Religious Education with made up arguments about the Constitutional rights of parents and their children. This breaches the Constitution and the findings of the courts.