Religion in school is incompatible with Human Rights Law

The Education Policy of Atheist Ireland is based on international human rights law.

This policy is based on the human right to be educated without being indoctrinated with religion and to be free from proselytism summarised as “Teach Don’t Preach”.

The demand for diversity requires the Irish education system not only to consider, but guarantee, the Human Right  to respect the religious and philosophical convictions of ALL parents without discrimination. The Irish State has ratifying the European Convention on Human Rights and the various UN Conventions and therefore has already agreed to guarantee to respect ALL parents’ religious and philosophical convictions in the Irish education system.

The European Court of Human Rights has stated in Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pedersen v Denmark 1976 that:

“the ‘travaux prèparatoires’ of Article II of Protocol 1 (the Right to Education) of the European Convention aims in short at safeguarding the possibility of pluralism in education which possibility is essential for the preservation of the “democratic society” as conceived by the Convention.

Plurality of patronage (as far as possible) cannot achieve pluralism in education.  No state, and particularly the Irish state with its limited means and many smaller local communities, can guarantee provision of education in accordance with the religious and non-religious affiliation of every child’s parents.

Therefore the patronage system cannot provide the “democratic society” as defined by the European Convention. Respect for the religious and philosophical convictions of ALL parents is realistically impossible under the Irish patronage system as human rights are guaranteed to individuals not to the religious majority in a given area.

What we have in Ireland is the abuse of a dominant and historical position (Catholic & Protestant). The patronage system identifies members of society by their or their parents’ religious affiliation. The patronage system coerces parents to identity with various groups in society as children can be refused access to the local school in the event of a shortage of places and in order to uphold a “religious ethos”.

It also allow for discrimination in employment:

  • requiring teachers in primary school to obtain a certificate in teaching the religion of the controlling body
  • excluding non-religious or minority religious teachers access to jobs in the majority of primary schools

1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Desparate parent June 08, 2018

    Hi, just found the site.
    Very informative. Please read this. We’re depressed, desparate parents and one very soft and at risk five year old.

    My five year old will tomorrow be enrolled in a catholic ethos primary school to start in September. This, at the eleventh hour as we had hoped to move closer to any Educate Together school but now won’t be able to in time (plus all of the ET schools in or near North Kildare are now over subscribed).
    Months of sleepless nights now as
    my son is the kindest and gentlest soul and it will criple his confidence and well being come September when he’ll be discriminated against, either left out of class or left to work at the back for over 20 times per week I’m told (prayers and instruction). Or worse, indoctrinated.

    For clarity, the school accepts children of all faiths. This is not an admissions issue I’m raising.
    Both parents are atheist and will be insisting our son does not receive any form of religious instruction whatsoever, per his and our rights both in Irish law (debatable?) and constitution (lesss debatable?) let alone human rights (EU/UN convention levels)..

    So I’d an idea and maybe I’m coming at this too simply but here it goes. .
    Just seems so simple to fix.

    **Put Religion on at the start or the end of the day and have some kids start late or finish early (note here that a quick goolge shows most schools have 20-30 mins between lunchtime and home time. Duck out after lunch wouldn’t even disrupt the class as it might if during lessons. This could work nationwide, if I guess patrons supported. Maybe optimistic.

    After being accepted and enrolled in the school, and then opted out of RE, can’t we simply insist the school facilitate these rights. I see so many references to human rights conventions, constitutional rights, then legislation/Acts which perhaps support the catholic school position more so and finally then Dept. of Education rules etc but is all of this a non-issue. Are laws not hierarchical. Does the education act that schools hide behind really matter if once already accepted into the school then the constitional right to not be discriminated against or forced to attend religious instruction is now in play e.g. the act supports discrimination in admissions but not once admitted nor can it cancel the higher constitutional right??

    So let’s now assume the school does not agree. On day one, my son will likely be discriminated against and made to attend RE, even if sitting at the back.
    Should we not just take a high court action or two immediately on day two?

    One a case for compensation for discrimination (if removed from class) or for breach of rights.
    A second case then to challenge the act as unconstitutional, and while this could take years, could seek a temporary order preventing the school from further discrimination/forced religious education in the meantime.

    I’d have thought the school will not want the hassle and might then agree to cancel morning and mealtime prayers and move RE to last class of the day.

    Let’s see how many kids do RE when some of the class finish early. Let’s see how many parents realise they are atheist after all when they can grab junior/senior infants aged children on the way from picking up the baby/toddler from creche and save a trip.

    Would love to hear thoughts and if anyone knows of catholic schools who have agreed to do this?


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