Compulsory Religious Education in the Junior Certificate

Issues relating to promoting a secular state education and raising children in a non-religious home
Marks
Atheist Ireland Member
Atheist Ireland Member
Posts: 362
Joined: Mon Sep 07, 2009 12:09 pm

Re: Compulsory Religious Education in the Junior Certificate

Post by Marks » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:08 pm

He is evangelising because he is legally obliged to do so. His job depends on it, I’m quite sure he believes in it as well. I know the Catholics teach that atheism and humanism are belief systems so I presume it is a Christian thing.

He is also following the RE course under the curriculum. Atheists and Humanists are acknowledged in a section of the course called ‘Challenges to faith’ alongside materialism and fundamentalism. This is the disrespect the state holds for your philosophical convictions. The school cannot do anything about what the teacher is imparting as he is just following the course which was put together by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and with the help of the partners in education.

Your school is legally obliged to teach Religious instruction (formation) for 2 hours per week and they are doing this in the Religious Education course under the curriculum which is supposed to be for all religions and none.
Marks
Atheist Ireland Member
Atheist Ireland Member
Posts: 362
Joined: Mon Sep 07, 2009 12:09 pm

Re: Compulsory Religious Education in the Junior Certificate

Post by Marks » Wed Oct 06, 2010 12:34 pm

I went looking to see could I find anything that would explain the situation better than I can. It’s long but as the research points out the Irish Education system is confusing and contradictory. It is based on the primary school system but can equally apply to second level. It’s even more confusion as second level as so called multi-denominational schools are run just like denominational schools.

It is also worth remembering that these New Vec Community Primary Schools are classed as interdenominational by the Government. It is also worth noting that the religious education course as second level under the curriculum is simply a reflection of the failure of the Irish Constitution to protect us in the education system.

The following is from the published research of Dr. Alison Mawhinney – Freedom of Religion in the Irish primary school system – A failure to protect human rights?


“THE RESPONSE BY DOMESTIC LAW

The domestic legal framework surrounding the teaching of an integrated curriculum in state-funded schools creates a confusing and contradictory picture. Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution provides that a child has the right to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at that school. In addition, Art 42.3.1 provides that ‘the State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or to any particular type of school designated by the State’.
This same Article has been interpreted to mean that parents can elect to choose denominational education for their children and, under Art 44.2.4, state funding for such denominational schools is permitted. However, if the conscience provisions found in Arts 44.2.4 and 42.3.1 are to be respected, such denominational schools
would be required to refrain from many practices such as the integrated curriculum.
This, however, would negate what many people consider to be the essence of a denominational education. The tension produced by these constitutional provisions has not come under detailed legal scrutiny.
In 1991, a lobby group called the Campaign to Separate Church and State attempted to mount a legal challenge to the integrated curriculum. However, a draft Green Paper on Education produced at the time appeared to promise reforms in this area and the case was not pursued. The unpublished draft Green Paper stated that ‘the
integrated primary curriculum appears to be in conflict with Art 44.2.4 of the Constitution which safeguards the right of children not to attend religious instruction in schools in receipt of public money’. However, in the event, the subsequent White Paper and Education Act 1998 did not address the issue. In its negotiations with the
churches on the setting up of boards of management, the government was apparently prepared to relinquish its position on the issue of the integrated curriculum. Walshe remarks:

‘[The Minister for Education] went to great lengths to progress the White Paper and its implementation, [she] concentrated on winning changes in the composition of school boards from the main Churches. But in so doing she was, initially at any rate, prepared to make concessions which amounted to a hefty price to pay for
convincing the Churches to give up direct – but not indirect – majority control over primary schools boards of management.’

In its 1996 report, the Constitutional Review Group noted the unsatisfactory nature of the constitutional situation created by the near-monopoly provision of denominational education and the rights of minority believers. In its view, either Art 44.2.4 ought to be changed or the school system needed to be changed to accommodate the requirements of Art 44.2.4. It concluded that if Art 44.2.4 did not exist to provide
a safeguard for the rights of non-believers the state might well be in breach of its international obligations insofar as minority-belief children:

‘might be coerced by force of circumstances to attend a school which did not cater for their particular religious views or their conscientious objections. If this were to occur, it would also mean that the state would be in breach of its obligations under Art 42.3.1.’

It therefore recommended that:
‘if a school under the control of a religious denomination accepts state funding, it must be prepared to accept that this aid is not given unconditionally. Requirements that the school must be prepared . . . to have separate secular and religious instruction are not unreasonable or unfair.’

A similar conclusion was reached by Desmond Clarke in his observations that Irish educational policy makes it impossible for a child to attend a state-funded primary school without receiving denominational religious instruction. He argues that according to the rights guaranteed in both the Irish Constitution and the Convention, schools are obliged ‘to separate denominational religious instruction from other subjects and to allow parents to choose whether their children should attend that portion of the school curriculum’.

The Irish government has not acted upon the recommendations of the Constitution Review Group. Moreover, the rationale behind these recommendations was ignored in the drawing up of the Education Act 1998. This Act, the first piece of legislation dealing with education since the formation of the state, failed to clarify the situation.
While it contains a provision to protect pupils from receiving religious instruction contrary to their conscience or the conscience of their parents, it was silent on the issue of the integrated curriculum and gave statutory protection to schools to promote their ethos, thereby simultaneously ignoring and conflating the issues. As noted
above, the integrated curriculum continues to receive additional sanction through rule 68 of the Rules for National Schools and through the 1999 Primary School Curriculum.
In March 1998, it appeared to receive explicit judicial support in a ruling by the Supreme Court. In this decision, the court held that a child who attends a school run by a religious denomination different from his own may have a constitutional right not to attend religious instruction at that school ‘but the Constitution cannot
protect him from being influenced, to some degree, by the religious “ethos” of the school’. The court further held that ‘A religious denomination is not obliged to change the general atmosphere of its school merely to accommodate a child of a different religious persuasion who wishes to attend that school’.

In the absence of constitutional and education legislative provisions guaranteeing freedom of thought, conscience and religion in the context of the integrated curriculum, it might be presumed that the recent European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 (ECHRA) could be employed to offer protection for such a Convention right. However, constitutional jurisprudence and recent disputes involving matters of ethos in schools suggest that this protection may not be forthcoming. First, the provisions of the Act are subject to the overriding authority of the Constitution, which remains the supreme law of the country. To date, denominational school bodies have been excluded from certain rights obligations found in the Constitution when the
courts have considered it ‘necessary to make distinctions in order to give life and reality to the constitutional guarantee of the free profession and practice of religion’.
For instance, in McGrath and O’Ruairc v Trustees of Maynooth College, it was held that the prohibition of discrimination under Art 44.2.3 of the Constitution was confined to the state and not extended to institutions receiving public funding. The autonomy of religious bodies is additionally safeguarded by Art 44.2.5 of the Constitution, which protects the right of denominations to control their own affairs, including the running of educational establishments and the enforcement of its own regulations.

A second reason to doubt the capacity of the ECHRA to protect the rights of minority-belief individuals in denominational schools lies in the applicability provision of the Act. The Act is applicable only to those bodies defined as ‘organs of the state’. As yet, the courts have not been asked to consider this definition. For present
purposes, the question arises as to whether privately owned and managed, state funded, denominational schools would be classified as ‘organs of the state’. In its initial report to the Economic, Social and Cultural Committee in 1997, the government stated that ‘Overall responsibility for education in Ireland lies with the Minister
for Education who is a member of the Irish Government and responsible to the National Parliament’.
However, the test for deciding on the phrase ‘organ of the state’ proposed by the government during the passing of the ECHR Bill does not suggest that in matters of ethos, state-funded denominational schools would necessarily be considered as acting as ‘organs of the state’. This test stated that if a body ‘exercises the legislative,
executive or judicial powers of the state, it . . . falls within the definition’. However, in the Education Act 1998 the state is not given powers in matters to do with ethos. A recent disagreement illustrates the power that patrons hold over matters of ethos and the unwillingness of the state to intervene in such disputes. In 2003, the patron
body of an inter-denominational school sacked the principal in a dispute about the teaching of religion. The principal, parents and teachers had decided to undertake sacrament preparation outside of school hours to avoid segregating the children during the school day. The patron disagreed with this decision and dismissed the principal
for taking this initiative. The Department of Education stated that this was a matter which it could not ‘interfere in’ as it was for the patron to decide on matters of ethos.

This position of the government demonstrates that it believes it does not exercise any powers when matters of ethos arise in primary schools. Such a view, in turn, leads to the conclusion that schools would not therefore be considered to be ‘organs of the state’ for the purposes of the ECHRA when considering matters of ethos and would not, in such situations, be bound to respect the human rights standards found in the Convention.

The interplay of history, domestic legislation and the Constitution has produced a situation where human rights standards are not protected. The nature and intensity of this failure in human terms have been illuminated by the reported experiences of teachers, pupils and parents. Given the lack of an adequate response to the protection
of rights of these individuals by the domestic legal framework, attention now turns to the efficacy of international supervisory bodies in protecting the religious freedom of these persons.”
Marks
Atheist Ireland Member
Atheist Ireland Member
Posts: 362
Joined: Mon Sep 07, 2009 12:09 pm

Re: Compulsory Religious Education in the Junior Certificate

Post by Marks » Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:37 pm

I just discovered that the Vatican has rejected the OSCE Guidelines for teaching about Religion in schools. These are comprehensive guidelines that draw on human rights principles when teaching about religions and beliefs in schools.

They are not only for public schools but for private and religious schools that teach about religions and beliefs under the curriculum. These guidelines are very useful for us as Ireland is a member of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. If the Vatican has rejected these Guidelines and are happy with the RE course under the curriculum at second level in Ireland well that just says a lot.

http://www.neurope.eu/articles/95548.php

http://www.osce.org/publications/odihr/ ... 993_en.pdf
chemicals
Atheist Ireland Member
Atheist Ireland Member
Posts: 1018
Joined: Wed May 06, 2009 5:21 pm
Location: Dublin

Re: Compulsory Religious Education in the Junior Certificate

Post by chemicals » Thu Oct 07, 2010 1:05 pm

Marks wrote: If the Vatican has rejected these Guidelines and are happy with the RE course under the curriculum at second level in Ireland well that just says a lot.
I'd like to say Unbelievable but sadly it's not :cry:
والقس هو مجنون
Feardorcha
Atheist Ireland Member
Atheist Ireland Member
Posts: 1266
Joined: Fri May 01, 2009 4:28 pm

Re: Compulsory Religious Education in the Junior Certificate

Post by Feardorcha » Thu Oct 07, 2010 1:13 pm

At second level, the syllabus for Religious Education is concerned with understanding religion as a phenomenon in the world and is designed to be studied by students of all religious faiths and of none. - Dept of Ed
Yeah sure!
BubbleWrap
Atheist Ireland Member
Atheist Ireland Member
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2007 3:30 pm
Location: Dublin

Re: Compulsory Religious Education in the Junior Certificate

Post by BubbleWrap » Thu Oct 07, 2010 1:25 pm

This is all very disturbing. I am also troubled by the fact that only AI are starting a campaign. What's happened to HAI?
I'm going to start a revolution... er... if that's ok with everyone?
Mr. Mercurial
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2008 5:37 pm

Re: Compulsory Religious Education in the Junior Certificate

Post by Mr. Mercurial » Thu Oct 07, 2010 4:22 pm

I don’t really see the problem with this, given that the curriculum is designed to be studied by students regardless of their religion, or lack thereof.
Feardorcha
Atheist Ireland Member
Atheist Ireland Member
Posts: 1266
Joined: Fri May 01, 2009 4:28 pm

Re: Compulsory Religious Education in the Junior Certificate

Post by Feardorcha » Thu Oct 07, 2010 4:39 pm

If only it were so, Mr Merc.

The curriculum is presented as a neutral academic study of religion but in practice it is Catholic faith formation. I believe this was intentional in order to assuage the fears of non-religious parents and allow the Catholic 'chaplains' (who are often the teachers of these classes) to push their agenda.

I haven't got the textbook to hand but sooner or later someone from AI is going to have to examine it and write a critique of it.
Mr. Mercurial
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2008 5:37 pm

Re: Compulsory Religious Education in the Junior Certificate

Post by Mr. Mercurial » Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:11 pm

Feardorcha wrote:If only it were so, Mr Merc.

The curriculum is presented as a neutral academic study of religion but in practice it is Catholic faith formation. I believe this was intentional in order to assuage the fears of non-religious parents and allow the Catholic 'chaplains' (who are often the teachers of these classes) to push their agenda.

I haven't got the textbook to hand but sooner or later someone from AI is going to have to examine it and write a critique of it.
What is the evidence that in practice teaching of this subject amounts to ‘Catholic faith formation’? I've only read the curriculum for the Leaving Cert course, but it seemed to be presented in a fairly neutral tone.

Personally I quite enjoyed Religion classes in school (which was before it was made into a proper exam subject), though I suspect I may have been one of the lucky ones, as my religion teachers were very much on the liberal side of things (one year even included a section on combating homophobia as part of the course, for example).

That said, I think it would be a good idea to replace religious education with philosophy, but I'm probably biased.
Feardorcha
Atheist Ireland Member
Atheist Ireland Member
Posts: 1266
Joined: Fri May 01, 2009 4:28 pm

Re: Compulsory Religious Education in the Junior Certificate

Post by Feardorcha » Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:26 pm

You have found my Achilles heel, but I'm glad of it.
I don't have an effective critique of the curriculum but will now get out the book and go to work.

What I do have is my little darling's reports that they were all going to Mass etc and notes that fell from the book which were of Matt Talbot and Mother Teresa.
Post Reply