The Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, has formally launched his four-week consultation process on his plans to address the role of religion in school admissions. Please make a submission, however futile you may feel it to be. Atheist Ireland has prepared the template below for you to use if you want to make a short submission.
You can add to and/or edit this template to describe your own experiences of religious discrimination in Irish schools, and any other points that you think are important. It includes a summary of what we think are the most important points to raise in order to protect your Constitutional and human rights.
Next week Atheist Ireland will also be publishing a more detailed analysis for people who want to make a longer submission. This consultation is an unrealistically complex process, with extra complications having to be added along the way to address obvious flaws in the original complications. The Minister is expecting busy parents to rank six options in preferred order, then address each of those six options under four different headings.
Firstly the Minister wants you to put these six options in your preferred order (the order listed here is the Minister’s numbering, not our preferences): 1 Catchment areas, 2 Nearest school, 3 Quotas, 4(a) Prohibition, 4(b) Declaration of support for ethos, and 4(c) Minority faith school quotas. Secondly, for each option, the Minister also wants your opinions on four Specific Issues, which are: A. Impact on minority religions, B. Possible Constitutional issues, C. Management/administration, and D. possible unintended impacts.
This short template, and next week’s longer template, will help to guide you through this maze, by highlighting what Atheist Ireland believes are the most important points to raise in this consultation process.
Atheist Ireland’s template for a short submission
Please copy and paste the following text, then add to it and/or edit it to use as your short submission. You have until 5pm on Monday 20th February. You should email your submission to email@example.com
Submission to Consultation Process on Religion and Admission to Schools
Dear Minister Bruton,
I have experience of religious discrimination in Irish schools.
[add details here in your own words,
and make any points you personally think are important,
then continue with, or amend, the rest of the letter]
This issue is not merely about access. It is also about the religious discrimination that happens within schools. There is no point in having equal access to being discriminated against. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has already made this point by asking the Government to amend the Admission to Schools Bill to ensure the State curriculum is delivered in an objective, critical and pluralist manner.
None of the six Consultation options respect our Constitutional and human rights. Under Article 42.1, the State has a duty to respect the inalienable right and duty of all parents to ensure the teaching of their children is in conformity with their convictions. The European Court says this is an absolute right, not to be balanced against the rights of others, or to be gradually achieved. Under Article 42.3.1, the State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State.
The proposals as a whole are unjust, costly, bureaucratic, and bizarrely complicated. Option 4(a) (outright repeal of Section 7(3)(c)) is the only option that could even form part of respecting our Constitutional and human rights. And it could only do that if the Government also removes the right to evangelise inside the school, including by integrating a religious ethos throughout the whole school day and discriminating against teachers on the ground of religion.
Most worryingly, whatever option is chosen, Specific Issue B (possible Constitutional issues) means the Government might balance it off by strengthening the right to enforce a religious ethos inside the school. This is the biggest danger: that this process will strengthen religious discrimination within schools and further undermine the rights of parents, children, and teachers.
Option 4(c) and Specific Issue A (protecting “minority faith” schools) are also unjust. All religious ethos schools discriminate against atheists and members of minority faiths. Church of Ireland schools discriminate against Evangelicals, and Islamic schools discriminate against Ahmadi Muslims. Instead of privileging some religious institutions over others, the Government should protect the Constitutional and human rights of the real religious minorities: individual parents, children, and teachers, regardless of their religious or nonreligious beliefs.