Atheist Ireland welcomes proposed opt-out from religious instruction in ETB schools

Finally, in ETB schools, a proper opt-out from religion seems about to happen, with alternative subjects being offered at the start of the year, based on proposals that Atheist Ireland has been intensively lobbying for in recent years.

The Irish Times has seen records of a coming Ministerial Circular that Atheist Ireland first asked the Minister for Education to issue in 2016, after our comprehensive Freedom of Information Report about respecting human rights in the NCCA State Religious Education course.

We have since intensified our lobbying on the issue with our recent FOI campaign on religion in ETB schools. We met the Department of Education on this issue last December, along with the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Ireland.

The following article includes a timetable of Atheist Ireland’s impact on the review of religion in ETB schools, with links to the relevant documents:

Today’s revelations

Based on today’s Irish Times report, it looks as if we may be on the verge of a very significant breakthrough for atheist, minority faith, and secular students in ETB schools. Some excerpts from the Irish Times report:

“Pupils in State-run secondary schools are to be given the option of opting out of religious instruction and studying alternative subjects on an annual basis. It will affect tens of thousands of students in 275 of the State’s 700-plus secondary schools run by Education and Training Boards (ETBs)…”

“Many community colleges, for example, provide two hours of religious instruction each week. These schools will need to organise alternative classes for these students…”

“Instead of waiting for a parent to request a withdrawal and then having to make alternative arrangements for the pupil for class periods concerned, pupils who do not choose religious instruction should be timetabled by the school for alternative subjects…”

“Groups such as Atheist Ireland say non-Catholic children who seek to opt out of religion in community schools are regularly discriminated against under current rules. It has pointed to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act which found that ETBs in areas such as Tipperary, for example, have rules which state that children who opt out of religion should not have access to other classes, as it would give them an “unfair advantage” over other pupils. Records also show the head of Tipperary ETB told schools principals in 2015 that the “spirit of our schools is Catholic and this needs to be addressed in all policies”…”


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