The Irish Times and RTE have reported on yesterday’s launch of Atheist Ireland’s review of the State Religious Education curriculum in second level schools.
Extracts from The Irish Times report on the launch:
Students are being forced to study religion, group claims
By Carl O’Brien
Many students in secondary schools are being forced to study religious education despite rules which state it is an optional subject, it has been claimed.
Religious education was introduced to the curriculum for secondary schools in 2000 to allow students to learn about a range of faiths and beliefs. However, Atheist Ireland has gathered evidence which it says shows that many second-level schools are teaching religious education on a compulsory basis. It claims that many of these schools are merging this State course with their own faith formation classes
John Hamill, of Atheist Ireland, said schools have placed a series of barriers in the way of students who wish to opt out of the subject. “It’s easier to opt out of purgatory than it is to opt out of religion at second-level,” Mr Hamill said. “Secular parents and those of minority faiths are being forced to have their children subject to Catholic faith formation as part of this State course.”
Jane Donnelly, of Atheist Ireland, said the course discriminates against secular and minority faith families and called on the Minister for Education to issue a circular to schools advising them that the State’s religious education subject is not compulsory. She said students should be given the option of choosing another subject instead of religious education.
Extracts from the RTE report on the launch:
Call for State to help students who want to opt out of religion
By Emma O’Kelly
Secularist organisation Atheist Ireland has called on the Department of Education to ensure that second-level students are able to exercise their right to opt out of Religious Education should they wish to. Atheist Ireland says it also wants to remind parents, over the summer months, of their legal right to have their child opted out of the subject. The body has asked the department to issue instructions to schools to ensure that Religious Education is timetabled in such a way as to give students real choice.
The Constitution gives parents the right to withdraw their children from religious instruction. However the subject is timetabled as a core subject in all schools, just like English or Maths, with no alternative offered. Atheist Ireland says Religious Education should be treated as other optional subjects such as Home Economics or Accounting are; and timetabled in a way that provides students with real options.
Atheist Ireland’s Jane Donnelly said the RE curriculum itself also discriminated against non-religious children. She said documents received by the organisation in a Freedom of Information request showed that while the country’s Catholic and other main Christian churches had a significant input into the design of the programme, no other religious or non-religious organisations had been invited or allowed to participate, despite requests from several of those organisations.