Atheist Ireland is campaigning for a secular education system based on international human rights law. Parents have a right to not have their children indoctrinated at school with religious beliefs contrary to those of their parents. In Ireland, in practical terms, most nonreligious parents are denied this right.
The vast majority of the approximately 3,300 primary schools in the Republic of Ireland are church run, over 90% by the Catholic church. The Irish Catholic Bishops say that “Catholic schools seek to reflect a distinctive vision of life and a corresponding philosophy of education, based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The Irish Catholic Bishops also say that “Religious education, prayer and worship form an essential part of the curriculum, functioning at its core. Such learning is founded on faith and inspired by wonder at the transcendent mystery of God revealed in the complex beauty of the universe”.
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment states that the curriculum “is designed to nurture the child in all dimensions of his or her life — spiritual, moral, cognitive, emotional, imaginative, aesthetic, social and physical”. However, it does not contain guidelines on the teaching of religion, instead explicitly leaving this to school authorities.
Atheist Ireland believes that a secular education system is essential to the building of an ethical and secular society. One of the most powerful ways in which religion maintains its hold on society is by teaching children fantastic tales as truth when they are at an intellectually formative age.