Another school year, and another €9.8 million for faith formation in ETBs

Back to school and back to €9.8 million for faith formation in ETB schools and colleges. That’s how much the Department of Education spends per year on 156 Chaplains in ETB schools, which are supposed to be the alternative to denominational schools.

This €9.8 million is paid to help Catholic and Church of Ireland parents with the faith formation of their children. The vast bulk of the €9.8 million goes to helping Catholic parents.

There is plenty of funding to help Catholic parents with the faith formation of their children in ETB schools, but none to give minorities another subject if they manage to exercise their constitutional right for their children to not attend religion.

The vast majority of ETBs make religion mandatory, using the false argument that they don’t teach religious instruction but religious education. There is no legal basis to this claim, and students are coerced or forced into taking religion classes against the wishes of their parents. If they do manage to exercise their constitutional right they are left sitting in the religion class and no other subject is offered. This is religious discrimination.

Not endowing religion, but helping parents

The Supreme Court found that the funding of Chaplains was not contrary to Article 44.2.2 of the Constitution, which forbids the State from endowing any religion.

It found that in funding the role of Chaplains in ETB schools, the State was not endowing a religion, but was helping parents with the religious formation of their children.

The funding of Chaplains was therefore sanctioned under Article 42.4, which states that:

The State shall provide for free primary education and shall endeavour to supplement and give reasonable aid to private and corporate educational initiative, and, when the public good requires it, provide other educational facilities or institutions with due regard, however, for the rights of parents, especially in the matter of religious and moral formation.

Justice Keane in the Campaign case at the Supreme Court said that:

I would entirely agree with this conclusion that, in any event they are constitutionally sanctioned, having regard to the recognition in Article 42.4 of the right of parents in relation to the religious and moral formation of their children.

Chaplains instructing children in religion

The Supreme Court also said in the Campaign case that it was constitutionally impermissible for a Chaplain to instruct a child in a religion other than its own without the knowledge and consent of its parents.

This is not written into the contract of Chaplains, nor is it in the Education Act 1998. Chaplains and Religion teachers instruct students in a religion other than their own all the time, and probably are not even aware that they are breaching the constitutional rights of parents.

They believe that they have the right to decide for parents and their children what is or is not against their conscience despite the constitutional rights of parents under Article 42.1 of the constitution.

It is not up to Catholic chaplains, teachers, Minister Foley, the NCCA, Patron bodies or schools to decide what is or is not against the conscience of parents given the rights of parents under the Constitution.

Atheist Ireland will continue to campaign for the Constitutional rights of parents and the right to freedom of religion and belief.



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