Getting them out of the shcools

Issues relating to promoting a secular state education and raising children in a non-religious home
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Feardorcha
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Getting them out of the shcools

Post by Feardorcha » Fri Dec 04, 2009 9:21 pm

Ygern, a chara, this grew out of the VEC thread but I thought it needed a thread of its own. Please shunt as appropriate.
I asked Joe Higgins MEP if there was any route for complaint in Europe regarding the Catholic Church control of education in Ireland and received the following:
Co-incidently the Socialist Party put out a press release yesterday restating (in the light of the recently reveled child abuse scandals) the case for a complete separation of Church and State and in particular in the realm of Schools and Hospitals.

In terms of your specific query. We feel in general the EU won't act as a white knight for the secular cause in Ireland. In order to make an issue of this at an EU level one would need to take make a case to the Petitions Committees but only on the basis that EU law/EU directives regarding religion in schools has either not been transposed into Irish law or has been transposed but is not being enforced. We can look into this for you.

The other legal route you might consider is the European Court of Human Rights which is not a creature of the EU (unlike the European Court of Justice) but its rulings have effect in Ireland nonetheless. If I'm not mistaken the ECHR recently ruled against the Italian state in a case taken by secularists seeking religious statues to be removed from all public buildings. You might take legal advice about this route. It can be costly because it would necessitate exhausting the Irish courts system first.

Finally, can I fraternally suggest that a legal challenge be viewed as one prong of a two prong campaign. The second prong is the political/campaigning side of your efforts to inform and pull public opinion to your way of seeing things. You would be pushing an open door given the current situation. You might make common cause with people who are not necessarily atheist but who nevertheless favour the total separation of church and state.

Good luck in your work

Michael O'Brien
On behalf of Joe Higgins MEP
I've taken him up on his offer of looking into the Petitions Committee option.
Feardorcha
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Re: Getting them out of the shcools

Post by Feardorcha » Mon Dec 07, 2009 10:57 am

Further news from Joe Higgins MEP:
I have forwarded our correspondence to my colleague in Brussels to see if there is a non-implementation of an EU directive upon which a petition or a question to the Commission in Joe's name can be put. Michael O'Brien
On behalf of Joe Higgins MEP
Marks
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Re: Getting them out of the shcools

Post by Marks » Tue Dec 08, 2009 2:13 am

There may be the possibility of trying to use the EU Race Directive. Race and religion are connected through the education system.

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/Lex ... 43:en:HTML

Quote
“(1) The Treaty on European Union marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.

(2) In accordance with Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union, the European Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, principles which are common to the Member States, and should respect fundamental rights as guaranteed by the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, as general principles of Community Law.

(3) The right to equality before the law and protection against discrimination for all persons constitutes a universal right recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination and the United Nations Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, to which all Member States are signatories. “Unquote

The Race Directive as we see from above is based on fundamental principles. These principles are common to all member states including Ireland. Ireland has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and in particular the International Covenant on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights. The right to equality before the law and protection against discrimination is the main principle. As the EU Race Directive is based on an understanding of Human Rights under the Intl Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination then there is definitely an issue arising from this point.

In 2005 the UN Committee under the International Covenant on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination stated the following:-

http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/%28Sym ... endocument

“18. The Committee, noting that almost all primary schools are run by Catholic groups and
that non-denominational or multi-denominational schools represent less than 1% of the total
number of primary educational facilities, is concerned that existing laws and practice would
favour Catholic pupils in the admission to Catholic schools in case of shortage of places,
particularly in the light of the limited alternatives available. (article 5(d)(vii) and 5(e)(v))

The Committee, recognising the “intersectionality” of racial and religious discrimination, encourages the State party to promote the establishment of nondenominational or multi-denominational schools and to amend the existing legislative framework so that no discrimination may take place as far as the admission of pupils (of all religions) in schools is concerned.”

The Irish Government did not amend the Equal Status Act and in 2008 in Balbriggan we ended up with a school for coloured children. Note that they not only ask the State to set up non-denominational and multi-denominational schools but ask that the existing legislative framework be amended. That is Section 7 of the Equal Status Act which protects ethos and permits denying access because of religion. As the majority of Catholics are white and Irish the scope for racial segregation in the education system is significant and as we know has already happened in Balbriggan. The reasons the UN requested the amending of the legislative framework are set out in their General Principle:-

General Comment 19 on Article 3 of the ICERD.

Quote “3. The Committee observes that while conditions of complete or partial racial segregation may in some countries have been created by governmental policies, a condition of partial segregation may also arise as an unintended by-product of the actions of private persons. In many cities residential patterns are influenced by group differences in income, which are sometimes combined with differences of race, colour, descent and national or ethnic origin, so that inhabitants can be stigmatized and individuals suffer a form of discrimination in which racial grounds are mixed with other grounds.

4. The Committee therefore affirms that a condition of racial segregation can also arise without any initiative or direct involvement by the public authorities. It invites States parties to monitor all trends which can give rise to racial segregation, to work for the eradication of any negative consequences that ensue, and to describe any such action in their periodic reports. “unquote

The very nature of our education system which is based on religion is giving rise to racial segregation “an unintended by-product of the actions of private persons”. That private person is the Catholic Church. If the State leaves the Education system as it is and funds more Educate Together schools we will still have the same problems with racial segregation as the majority of children of colour will be segregated in these schools. It is not Government policy to fund Educate Together schools throughout Ireland so there will always be issues over race and religion. Stating that they were refused because of religion and not race will not wash with the UN, European Court of Human Rights or the EU. This is already clear from what the UN have stated.

It is also worth remembering here that the UN in 2008 under ICCPR has stated that an integrated curriculum denies parents access to a secular education. A secular education protects minority religious rights as well as the rights of the non religious. The consequences of this are that not only does our Government have to find a solution to the education system on religious grounds but now race is mixed in as well. A lot of immigrants are Christian but not Catholic and do not hold a Baptismal certificate so therefore they do not have a right of access to Denominational schools. Denominational schools are our National School system but the Irish State cannot guarantee the right to Freedom of Conscience in these schools or guarantee a right of access. They simply cannot get over this fact because this is the law. A welcome is not a right and a right of access guaranteed by law without discrimination is a fundamental principle of the human right to education under the UN Conventions, European Court and now EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
andrew
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Re: Getting them out of the shcools

Post by andrew » Tue Dec 08, 2009 12:08 pm

Great article on this by Fintan O Toole today.

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opi ... 97899.html

Agents of foreign state should not control our schools

We owe it to ourselves as a democracy to end the role of bishops as patrons of Catholic schools, writes FINTAN O'TOOLE

THE VATICAN, in its refusal to deal with the Murphy commission on child abuse in the Dublin diocese, made it clear that it wishes to be regarded, not as a church organisation, but as a foreign state. Which raises the rather stark question: why do we allow a foreign state to appoint the patrons of our primary schools? If some weird vestige of colonial times decreed that the British monarch would appoint the ultimate legal controllers of almost 3,200 primary schools in our so-called republic, we would be literally up in arms. Why should we tolerate the weird vestige of an equally colonial mentality that allows a monarch in Rome to do just that?

Last week, Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe told the Dáil that questions like these are of no importance because “the current management of schools is working exceptionally well. The patron is in place in terms of ethos but has nothing to do with the overall management of schools. That is the responsibility of the board of management.”

This is wildly inaccurate, not least because the boards of management are themselves both appointed by and accountable to the local bishop. The handbook given to every school principal on his or her appointment spells this out with admirable clarity: “In appointing the board of management of the school, the bishop delegates to the members certain responsibilities for the Catholic school in the parish. Such delegation carries a duty of accountability by the board of management to the bishop and – where appropriate – to the Department of Education and Science.” (Note that accountability to the State is qualified, that to the bishop is not.)

Batt O’Keeffe misled the Dáil (presumably through sheer ignorance rather than intent) when he claimed that the role of the bishop is confined to the ethos of the school. Again the handbook is unequivocal: “The bishop, as leader of the Catholic community in the diocese and as patron of the school, has ultimate responsibility for the school. The bishop delegates some of his responsibility to the board of management which is accountable to him. There will be contact between the board and the bishop on a number of specified issues – for instance, the appointment of the board, the appointment, suspension or dismissal of teachers, finance, school ethos.”

While the entire board of management is essentially a servant of the bishop, he has very specific powers in relation to its composition and functioning. The board’s chairperson is legally obliged, according to the Education Act (not a medieval statute but passed in 1998), to act on behalf of the bishop: “The chairperson shall be appointed by the patron and his/her authority shall derive from such appointment.”

There is a timid suggestion in the Act that the bishop in making this key appointment should “give due consideration to the opportunity to engage in a consultative process within the wider school community”. He may, of course, consider consulting the rest of the school and decide against it, or he may consult everyone and then do what he damn well pleases.

Crucially, the bishop as patron has a legal stranglehold over the appointment and dismissal of teachers. All Catholic schools are subject to what is called Maynooth Statute 262: “To avoid prejudice against the managership of schools, a clerical manager is forbidden to appoint any teacher or assistant, male or female, in National Schools until he shall have consulted, and obtained the approval of, the bishop: likewise a clerical manager shall not dismiss any teacher or assistant, male or female, or give notice of dismissal, until the bishop be notified, so that the teacher, if he will, may be heard in his own defence by the bishop.” Even the appointment of a special needs assistant requires the “prior approval” of the bishop.

The current line from both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is not to defend the retention of these powers by unelected and unaccountable people who may or may not recognise Irish law, but to insist that they are little used. This is typical of the slithery sleeveenism that still infects Irish politics. Anti-democratic powers are okay so long as they are not used.

There are just two possibilities here. Either the statutory powers of the bishops have fallen into disuse, in which case who can object to the clearing away of this offensive anachronism? Or they have not fallen into disuse, in which case they remain as an affront to a republican democracy.

Even if the bishops were not collectively and institutionally incapable of putting the welfare of children first, the idea that the primary school system of a 21st century democracy should be ultimately controlled by the appointees of a foreign dictatorship would be shameful.

We need to grow up as a society, and that means growing out of our dependence on a 19th century instrument of power and control. Every intelligent theologian knows that that institution (as opposed to the faith it has distorted and betrayed) is effectively dead. It is long since time that politicians who claim to be republicans stopped prostrating themselves before its corpse.
Emm....would anyone like to see my monkey impression?
Marks
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Re: Getting them out of the shcools

Post by Marks » Tue Dec 08, 2009 5:13 pm

Fintan O'Toole's article states:-

"Batt O’Keeffe misled the Dáil (presumably through sheer ignorance rather than intent) when he claimed that the role of the bishop is confined to the ethos of the school. Again the handbook is unequivocal: “The bishop, as leader of the Catholic community in the diocese and as patron of the school, has ultimate responsibility for the school. The bishop delegates some of his responsibility to the board of management which is accountable to him. There will be contact between the board and the bishop on a number of specified issues – for instance, the appointment of the board, the appointment, suspension or dismissal of teachers, finance, school ethos.”

This power that the Catholic Church has in schools comes directly from Cannon Law which they refer to in their policy document "Catholic primary school policy" section 2.2. All the footnotes are referenced to documents emanating from Rome. The following are quotes from Cannon Law on Education which you will recognise because it is how our education system is run.

Can. 794 1. The duty and right of educating belongs in a special way to the Church, to which has been divinely entrusted the mission of assisting persons so that they are able to reach the fullness of the Christian life.

2. Pastors of souls have the duty of arranging everything so that all the faithful have a Catholic education.

Can. 795 Since true education must strive for complete formation of the human person that looks to his or her final end as well as to the common good of societies, children and youth are to be nurtured in such a way that they are able to develop their physical, moral, and intellectual talents harmoniously, acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility and right use of freedom, and are formed to participate actively in social life.

Can. 797 Parents must possess a true freedom in choosing schools; therefore, the Christian faithful must be concerned that civil society recognizes this freedom for parents and even supports it with subsidies; distributive justice is to be observed.

Can. 799 The Christian faithful are to strive so that in civil society the laws which regulate the formation of youth also provide for their religious and moral education in the schools themselves, according to the conscience of the parents.

Can. 803 1. A Catholic school is understood as one which a competent ecclesiastical authority or a public ecclesiastical juridic person directs or which ecclesiastical authority recognizes as such through a written document.

2. The instruction and education in a Catholic school must be grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine; teachers are to be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life.

3. Even if it is in fact Catholic, no school is to bear the name Catholic school without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority." unquote

+++

The Catholic Church maintains that there is no difference between Cannon and Civic law and they actually state this in Section 3.3 of their policy:-

"There is no contradiction between the civic and the religious goals of Catholic education because the promotion of the human person is the goal of both:"

It was not because of ignorance that Batt O'Keeffe said what he did. He stated it because there is no difference between Government policy and Cannon law, they are one and the same.
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