I was talking to my religion teacher and mentioned the opt out religious education clause in the constitution and she informed me that while I could opt out of the class, the school is obliged to make me study 2 hours of religion a week, so I would have to study atheism (clearly thinks atheism is a religion) in a separate classroom
Believe me there is nothing in the Education Act or the Constitution that obliges you to study a religion or atheism especially if you have opted out of a particular religion.
Section 30 – (2) – e of the Education Act 1998 reads as follows:
Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), the Minister,
“shall not require any student to attend instruction in any subject which is contrary to the conscience of the parent of the student or in the case of a student who has reached the age of 18 years, the student.”
You can opt out of taking the religious instruction class but as the school are not responsible for your supervision if you opt out you probably will be required to sit in the class.
As they cannot legally make you study anything that is against your conscience they are mistaken if they believe they can make you study another religion.
You should try and get the Religious Education Policy of the school. I very much doubt that it will state that any student that opts out of religion will be required to study atheism.
They probably will tell you that you have to study philosophy as that is what they told my children they must do. However I very much doubt that they can oblige you to study even philosophy as it is not on the curriculum and you have not chosen it as one of your subjects. My child just studied and they could not make her study philosophy.
They are also obliged to publish an admissions policy under Section 15 – 2 (d) which states that they must publish, in such manner as the board with the agreement of the patron considers appropriate, the policy of the school concerning admission to and participation in the school ...etc
I don’t believe that the admissions policy will state that participating in the school means that if you opt out of religion as you are entitled to do you will have to study another religion or atheism. Plenty of students I am sure are undecided about these matters but still wish to opt out of religion. You could always try saying that Atheism is against your conscience as well as you have not decided yet on these matters.
The best thing to do is to put it in writing and quote the above section 30 of the Education Act 1998. If they continue to state that you must study another religion or atheism ask them to put it in writing. Tell them that you are not doing it as you are making a formal complaint to the Board of Management and if you are not happy with that to the Minister for Education.