Amend Equal Status Act, say Atheist Ireland and IHREC

The Department of Justice is reviewing the Equal Status Act and the Employment Equality Acts. Atheist Ireland made a Submission which you can find here. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission also made a submission, which you can find here.

Under the Equal Status Act schools can refuse access to a child if they believe that the child will undermine their ethos. Many parents are frightened by this Section of the Act which is written into all Admission Policies in schools with a religious ethos.

It is impossible for any child to undermine the religious ethos of a school. How can a five year old challenge the free practice of religion of other five year olds? It doesn’t make any sense and is simply religious discrimination.

Atheist Ireland’s recommendations include:

“Amend the Employment Equality Act 1998 and Equal Status Act 2000, which allow churches, schools and hospitals and training colleges to discriminate on the grounds of religion. This discrimination is not proportionate to its purpose of protecting freedom of religion.”

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s recommendations include:

“The Commission believes that the paramount concern in balancing the rights of individual children with the rights of institutions, such as religious patrons, must be the right of children to an education under reasonable conditions and without discrimination.

  • The Commission recommends that section 7(3) of the Equal Status Acts be reviewed to ensure there is appropriate balancing between the right to equal treatment and the right to free practice of religion.
  • In the immediate term, section 7(3)(ca) should be amended to provide a definition of ‘ethos’ and to define precisely what would be required in order to establish that a refusal was ‘essential’ to maintain the ethos of the school.”

We hope that the Department will agree with these recommendations, and that the law will be changed to protect the right of children from atheist and other nonreligious families to attend school without discrimination.


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