At a recent meeting with Atheist Ireland, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Education personally apologised to atheist parent Derek Walsh, whose child had been refused access to his local school because he is “a category two boy”, that is, not a Catholic.
At the same meeting, an atheist pupil and teacher described the religious discrimination they faced at school. They stayed out of the group photograph with the Taoiseach and Minister, fearing their schools might find out they had complained.
Irish schools can legally discriminate against atheists and minority faith members. They are State-funded but privately run, 90 per cent by the Catholic Church, most of the rest by other religions.
Despite the apologies to Derek Walsh, the Government now supports two Bills – on admission to schools and employment equality – that reinforce the right of State-funded schools to religiously discriminate.
The Schools Equality PACT is a major new initiative of Atheist Ireland to enable everybody, regardless of your religious or nonreligious beliefs, to support religious equality in Irish schools. It is part of an ongoing campaign of national political lobbying, and representations to UN and other international human rights bodies.
Irish primary schools are State-funded but privately run, 90% by the Catholic Church and most of the rest by other religions. Religion is integrated throughout the school day. State-funded schools have the legal right to discriminate against children, parents and teachers on the ground of religion.
The Schools Equality PACT says:
We ask the Irish Parliament to urgently reform the school system of State-funded religious discrimination. This PACT (Patronage, Access, Curriculum, Teaching) describes the changes needed.
The State has a duty to respect equally the human rights of all children, parents and teachers. This requires a national network of public secular schools, inclusive of all, neutral between religions and atheism, and focused on the educational needs of all children equally.
I debated State-funded schools in Ireland demanding baptism certs of children trying to access the school, with Michael Kelly, editor of the Irish catholic newspaper, on Newstalk Radio with David Harvey yesterday.
Sir, – In a democratic republic, should the State fund an essential public service in a way that satisfies the wishes of a religious majority, but breaches the human rights of atheists and minority faiths?
Human rights standards are not lofty aspirations. They are the minimum we should expect as the foundation of an ethical society.
Parents and children have a right to State-funded schools that do not evangelise, and teachers have a right to jobs in State-funded schools.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee has repeatedly told Ireland to establish non-denominational schools, divest religious patronage, phase out the integrated religious curriculum, and end religious discrimination against teachers.
I discussed discrimination against atheists in Irish schools on the 99% podcast with Michael McAndrew and Lucien WD. The segment starts at about 17 minutes in. You can listen to other episodes of the 99% podcast here.
The Minister for Education and the Department of Justice are blaming each other for the continued discrimination against atheists in State-funded schools. Atheist Ireland has recently met the Department of Justice about this, and will soon be meeting the Department of Education, following up on our meeting with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Minister […]
Philomena Lee speaks at Roscrea with her daughter jane at the remembrance event for the mothers and babies of Sean Ross Abbey, organised by Mary Lawlor on Sunday 26 July 2015. Susan Lohan hosts, Darragh McGann sings and Fintan Dunne reads a poem. Atheist Ireland supports the work of the mother and babies advocacy groups, […]
The Irish Times today published this letter by Atheist Ireland calling for equality for atheists in Irish schools. Sir, – Ireland has long had a political “nod and wink” culture of pretending that certain laws don’t mean what they say. We must overcome this if we are to develop a school system that respects equally […]
Update: PZ Myers has now closed down the social interaction aspect of his blog, after blaming his commenters for attacking an insider in the way that he has always encouraged them to attack outsiders. He also complains that FreeThought Blogs itself is ‘less a unified group than a disparate collection of loosely affiliated blogs that have […]