5,000 signatures reached
To: The Minister for Education; The Oireachtas Petitions Committee
Education Equality: don't teach religion during school hours
Change the law so that religious faith formation is no longer taught during school hours
Why is this important?
It’s horribly unfair that children not of the right religion – that’s the Catholic religion in 90% of primary schools in Ireland - are segregated and excluded in our taxpayer-funded schools. Religious patrons control the vast majority of schools in Ireland.
The solution is simple: any religious faith formation in our taxpayer-funded schools should take place outside school hours. This respects the religious freedom of everyone - who could object to that?
From four years of age, children who are not of the right religion sit separately in the classroom during the daily 30-minute period of religious faith formation, segregated from the rest of the class doing non-curriculum busywork while their friends come together for lessons, to sing songs and so on. This is the fate these children will face every day of their primary school lives. Every. Single. Day. The situation is far worse during communion and confirmation years as days and weeks are lost to sacramental preparation.
Ireland has a blind spot when it comes to religious discrimination. Just imagine if we segregated children in school on one of the other grounds that are prohibited by law, such as race, nationality or ethnic origin. It's unthinkable, right? So why should we accept religious discrimination in our schools?
The Constitution forbids religious discrimination and sets out the explicit right “to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction”. But the State does absolutely nothing to uphold this right.
Not only are children made to feel different and unwanted within the classroom but they absorb every word of the lesson anyway, thus undermining the child’s right not to receive religious instruction.
It's almost as though parents are supposed to just shut up and be happy that their children got a place at school. But we do not want children to be grudgingly tolerated at the local school – we want them to be treated equally.
A state's education system provides an extraordinary opportunity to shape young minds, foster independent thought, challenge inherited institutional structures and influence the development of society for generations. Is religious difference really what we want to reinforce in our children throughout their school years? Is the State doing its job by allowing this to happen? We say ‘no’ on both counts – and we believe that many other parents and fellow-citizens throughout Ireland feel the same way. Please feel free to contact us at [email protected] if you would like to share your story as part of this campaign.