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Ireland misleads UN about nondenominational schools  - Secular Sunday #550 || 10 July, 2022

Editorial



Ireland misleads UN about nondenominational schools

 
Atheist Ireland raised several issues with the UN Human Rights Committee who questioned Ireland about this week under the International Convention on Civil and Political Liberties. We also highlighted during the session misleading answers from Ireland.

For example, Ireland told the UN Committee that it aims to have 400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030. But the State ignored the fact that the UN Committee has repeatedly asked Ireland to also provide secular or non-denominational schools.

Indeed, Ireland misled the UN Committee in its written response, by saying the government’s objective is to have 400 ‘multi-denominational or non-denominational schools’. But this is not true. The programme for government refers only to ‘multi-denominational’ schools.

The UN Human Rights Committee also asked Ireland about religious beliefs influencing the practice of symphysiotomy, removing the religious oaths in the Constitution, and why Ireland has defended the religious oaths in the Constitution at the European Court of Human Rights.

And in the final question of the session, the Committee reminded Ireland that it had not given any information about its commitment to provide a greater number of non-confessional or secular schools.

As always, you can help us to continue our work by joining Atheist Ireland as a member, or by asking anybody who you think may be interested in joining us to do so. We are an entirely voluntary body with no paid staff, and we depend on our members to continue our work. You can join Atheist Ireland here.


 
- Secular Sunday Editorial Team

 

Éire Aindiach



Éire Aindiach

 
                                         
 
Chun ár gcuid feachtais a leathnú agus a neartú, tá sé beartaithe ag Éire Aindiach níos mó úsáid a bhaint as an Ghaeilge.
Ba mhaith linn meitheal a eagrú, chun cuidiú le:
  • Polasaithe agus feachtais Éire Aindiach a phlé ar an raidió nó ar an teilifís
  • Cuidiú le doiciméid ghaeilge a scríobh
  • Bualadh le polaiteoirí chun stocaireacht a dhéanamh
Táimid i mbun aistriúcháin a dhéanamh ar dhoiciméid polasaí faoi láthair, agus teastaíonn cabhair uainn le aistriúchán agus profáil.  Más maith leat bheith páirteach san iarracht seo, cur ríomhphost chugainn ag gaeilge@atheist.ie.
 
English translation:

To broaden and strengthen our campaigns, Atheist Ireland have undertaken to make more use of the Irish language.
We are looking to assemble a group of volunteers, to help with:
  • Discussing our policies and campaigns on radio or tv
  • Helping to write documents in Irish
  • Meeting with politicians to lobby them
We are in the process of translating policy documents at the moment, and we need some help with translating and proofreading.  If you would like to assist with this effort, please email us at gaeilge@atheist.ie.
 
 

Atheist Ireland News

 



Ireland misleads United Nations about nondenominational schools



Atheist Ireland had this letter published in the Irish Times this week following the UN Human Rights Committee questioning Ireland under International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Minister Roderic O’Gorman told the UN Human Rights Committee this week that Ireland aims to have 400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030. But he simply ignored the fact that the UN Committee has repeatedly asked Ireland to also provide secular or non-denominational schools.
Indeed, Ireland misled the UN Committee in its written response, by saying the government’s objective is to have 400 ‘multi-denominational or non-denominational schools’. But this is not true. The programme for government refers only to ‘multi-denominational’ schools.
And in the final question of this week’s UN session, the Committee reminded Ireland that it had not given any information about its commitment to provide a greater number of non-confessional or secular schools.
Why is this important? Opening up more multi-denominational schools will not necessarily help minorities as many of these schools operate in practice as Catholic schools while claiming that they have a Christian ethos.
Even with the maximum implementation of the proposed Government plan of 400 multi- denominational schools (and no non-denominational schools), that would still leave 85% of schools with a single denominational ethos.
Also, most areas have standalone schools, so atheist or minority faith parents in those areas would have no choice other than to send their child to a school with an even stronger Catholic ethos, which is what the Bishops are lobbying for in return for divesting a small number of schools.
All of this shows why multiple patronage and multiple ethos as the basis for policy is the underlying problem in Irish schools, not the solution. The Oireachtas Education Committee has already concluded that this brings about segregation of children and inequality.
Ultimately the only way for the education system to treat everybody equally is to have state funded secular schools that do not promote either religion or atheism, but simply teach children in an objective, critical, and pluralistic manner. Read more...


 

#ICCPRIreland


Here is how Ireland is fudging the issue of non-denominational schools at the United Nations Human Rights Committee today.

The UN Human Rights Committee is questioning Ireland under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee asked Ireland in its list of issues whether progress has been made in improving access to secular or nondenominational schools.

Ireland responded that the Government’s objective is to have 400 multi-denominational or non- denominational schools in the primary system by 2030. But this is not true. The programme for government refers only to multi-denominational schools.

The State’s written response to the committee is false. There are no publicly funded secular or non-denominational schools in Ireland, and there are no plans to open any or to divest patronage to any.

Opening up more multi-denominational schools will not necessarily help minorities as many of these schools operate in practice as Catholic schools while claiming that they have a Christian ethos.

Even with the maximum implementation of the proposed Government plan of 400 multi- denominational schools (and no non-denominational schools), that would still leave 85% of schools with a single denominational ethos.

Atheist Ireland, in our written submission to today’s session, responded to the Government’s statement by telling the UN Human Rights Committee about these discrepancies.

Today Minister Roderick O’Gorman in his opening contribution told the UN Human Rights Committee that Ireland aims to have 400 multi-denominational primary schools. He ignored the fact that Ireland was asked about non-denominational or secular schools.

We have again informed the UN Committee about this today. The Committee will be questioning Ireland in detail about education and freedom of belief tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what the Irish state says about this issue.


In today's final question, Ms. Hélène Tigroudja of the UN Human Rights Committee has reminded Ireland it did not give any information about its commitment to provide a greater number of non-confessional or secular schools and remove religious oaths. #ICCPRIreland




Ireland has told the UN Human Rights Committee that it will give further details in writing about the religious oaths in the constitution and the Censorship of Publications Act 1929




How Ireland is misleading the UN Human Rights Committee today about the Education (Admission to Schools) Act. #ICCPRIreland

Ireland has just told the Committee that the Admission to Schools Act says that Admission policies must include arrangements for dealing with students who do not attend religious instruction.

That is indeed in the Act, but the Department of Education knows it is ignored in practice. Atheist Ireland has sent research to the Department about this.

We compiled research on a sample hundred admission policies of schools, and we found that most schools are defying this requirement of the Act.

Some schools do not refer at all to this requirement. Of those that do refer to it, most denominational schools try to evade the requirement by stating that parents must seek a meeting with the Principal.

Most ETB schools try to evade the requirement by making a spurious distinction with no legal basis between religious instruction and religious education.

Most schools do not address the right to not attend the class, i.e. the right to not physically leave the classroom and be supervised or get another subject.

Some schools unlawfully ask parents to give reasons for wanting their children to not attend
religion classes of any description thus breaching the right to privacy.

These evasions are coordinated, based on common templates from either the Catholic
Church, the Edmund Rice Schools Trust, or the Education and Training Boards.

The State should ensure that schools actually write the details of the arrangements into their admission policies, and not just say parents have to meet with the school principal.

Ireland has just told the UN Human Rights Committee that it will give further details in writing from reports about any relationship between religion and symphysiotomy




Mr. Yadh Ben Achour of the UN Human Rights Committee has asked Ireland how the Censorship of Publications Act 1929 is consistent with the provisions of the Covenant?
Mr. Yadh Ben Achour of the UN Human Rights Committee has asked Ireland why it has defended the religious oaths in the Constitution at the European Court of Human Rights?

Mr. Yadh Ben Achour of the UN Human Rights Committee has asked Ireland about removing the religious oaths in the Constitution - why has this been laid aside?

Mr. Yadh Ben Achour of the UN Human Rights Committee has asked Ireland about the Education (Admission to Schools Act) - How does this law guarantee a fair and balanced approach in all schools?




Mr. Yadh Ben Achour of the UN Human Rights Committee has followed up on his question from yesterday if there were religious reasons for the use of symphysiotomy in Irish hospitals? He did not get an answer yesterday.



Ms. Hélène Tigroudja of the UN Human Rights Committee has told Ireland our laws do not vindicate legal safe non-discriminatory access to abortion, including the compulsory waiting period and access for vulnerable women




Mr. Jose Manuel Santos Pais of the UN Human Rights Committee has told Ireland that our representation of women in politics is way below the European average. Also asks about support for victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse.




Mr. Yadh Ben Achour of the UN Human Rights Committee has asked Ireland if there were religious reasons for the use of symphysiotomy in Irish hospitals?




UN Human Rights Committee - Atheist Ireland have a Letter to the Irish Times published this week


 


Calling concerned teachers


If you are a teacher and concerned about unwanted religious influence contact Chris at teachers@atheist.ie
 

 

List of Atheist Ireland Submissions

 

 

Buy this book "Is My Family Odd About Gods?"

 
**Schools Special Offer**
Atheist Ireland are offering the book ‘Is my family odd about godsfree (excluding postage and packaging).  This means that you can get this book for the total price of 10 euro. This offer is aimed at families with school going children, who would like to read this book. This offer is limited to one book per family unit and for postage within Ireland only. Read more...


 
Have you noticed that your school and your teachers may tell you one thing about religion, while some of your friends and family may have different ideas about god?
If you think that this is a little odd, then this book is for you. Buy this book here.
 

Lessons about Atheism


Atheist Ireland has published a set of free lesson plans about atheism for children aged 8 and up. We welcome feedback, which we will use to develop the lessons. You can download the lesson plans

 


 

Be Good without Gods

 
Atheist Ireland 'Good Without Gods' Kiva team members have made loans of  $37,075 to 1292 entrepreneurs in the developing world. You can join the team here. Before you chose a loan, make sure you do not support religious groups. You can check the loan partner's social and secular rating here.

 

Notme.ie

 
Atheist Ireland's 'notme.ie' is a place where people can publicly renounce the religion of their childhood. Currently there are 1929 symbolic defections. Many share their reasons for making a public symbolic defection which you can read here

 

Petition on Schools Equality PACT 

Atheist Ireland currently runs one petition - The Schools Equality PACT. This seeks to reform religious discrimination in state-funded schools. Currently this stands at 4,113 Help us reach it's target of 5000. Please sign and share this petition if you haven't already done so. Thank you.


 

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Atheist Ireland is an entirely volunteer run organisation. We receive no grants or government funding to continue our campaign work. We rely entirely on membership fess and donations.

Annual membership is nominal; €25 waged, €10 unwaged/student and €40 for family membership. Please consider becoming a member. Membership means:
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Opinion and Media

Material on atheism, secularism, human rights,politics,science etc. collected from media and the blogosphere from Ireland and beyond; used without permission, compensation, liability, guarantee or implied endorsement. We aim to include a variety of diverse opinions and viewpoints.
 

Blogs & Opinions

 
 

National

 

Religious groups to retain ownership of schools that become multidenominational

 

By Carl O'Brien

 
The Government has pledged to improve parental choice by delivering hundreds of multidenominational primary schools by 2030 by transferring the patronage of religious-run schools to others and building new schools. Catholic schools account for 89 per cent of primary schools, while about 5 per cent have a multidenominational ethos.
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy questioned if there would be any “clawback” for the State for these reconfigured schools given that religious-run schools are likely to have received extensive public investment over the years in the form of extensions or upkeep.
Hubert Loftus, assistant secretary at the Department of Education, said in reply that the “reconfiguration” approach will involve the multidenominational patron “becoming a tenant” in the religious patron’s school. He gave the example of a Catholic school changing its patronage to become an Educate Together or multidenominational community national school.
In such a case, he said, the Catholic patron would retain ownership and be paid rent which would be decided on a case-by-case basis given the level of State investment in the building. In the past, Mr Loftus said, similar rental arrangements had been in the order of 10 per cent of local market rents.
Mr Loftus said trustees — typically religious bodies, own 87 per cent of publicly funded schools in Ireland — while 9 per cent are owned by the Minister for Education. The remaining 4 per cent are owned by education and training boards.
The committee also heard of frustration among parents over the access to appropriate school places and special needs assistants in schools for children with additional needs.
Department officials told the committee that the National Council for Special Education had advised that there were sufficient school places outside the Dublin area to meet the needs of children with special needs. However, Fine Gael TD Colm Burke said he had been contacted by a number of families in his Cork North-Central constituency who cannot find appropriate school places for their children for September. Read more...

 
 

Northern Ireland primary schools Christian-focused religious education unlawful, High Court rules

 

By ITV

 
The exclusively Christian-focused religious education taught at primary schools in Northern Ireland is unlawful, a High Court judge has ruled.
Mr Justice Colton held that an obligation to base the core curriculum on the Holy Scriptures breaches human rights.
The verdict came in a legal challenge mounted by a father and daughter to the current syllabus in controlled primary schools.
He said: “The unlawfulness… identified requires a reconsideration of the core curriculum and the impugned legislation in relation to the teaching of Religious Education (RE) and the provision of Collective Worship (CW).”
Judicial review proceedings were brought against the Department of Education on behalf of a seven-year-old girl who attends a school in Belfast.
Her lawyers argued that the complete focus on Christianity in RE and CW, to the exclusion of all other faiths, violates education entitlements protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Described as a non-religious family, the child's parents expressed concerns that she may adopt a specific worldview.
Despite not objecting to most of the focus being on Christianity, they alleged that no meaningful alternative teaching is available in Northern Ireland's state-funded primary schools.
In a challenge which centred on provisions in the Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1986, it was contended that the current arrangements lack pluralism and involve proselytising the Christian faith.
Counsel for the department insisted the system was flexible and lawful, with potential scope for supplementing the statutory syllabus.
But Mr Justice Colton said: “It is no answer that the core curriculum is a minimum requirement if it has the effect of failing to provide religious education in an objective, critical and pluralist manner.”
He cited a statement that the department has no knowledge of whether individual schools provide additional opportunities for pupils to learn about other religions or none.
“This is a damning admission and, in the court’s view, emphasises the need for a reappraisal of the core curriculum in so far as it relates to RE and the provision by schools of CW,” the judge found.
With the girl’s father expressing fears that she could be isolated or bullied if they had taken the step of having her excluded from religious education or collective worship activities, Mr Justice Colton held that those concerns were valid.
“Whilst an unfettered right to exclusion is available it is not a sufficient answer to the lack of pluralism identified by the court,” he said.
“There is a danger that parents will be deterred from seeking exclusion for a child. Importantly, it also runs the risk of stigmatisation of their children."
He confirmed: “The court therefore concludes that the impugned legislation is in breach of both applicants’ rights under Article 2 of the First Protocol ECHR read with Article 9 ECHR.” Read more...


 

 
 

International


 

Private education booms in Poland amid impact of politics and pandemic on public schools

 

By Agnieszka Wądołowska

 
Poland has seen a boom in the number of parents choosing to educate their children privately. As well as Poles’ growing wealth, the pandemic, upheaval caused by education reform, fears of politicisation of schools, and a shortage of teachers in the public system are all factors that have played a part in the growing trend.
This school year, around 36,700 pupils in Warsaw are attending private schools, according to estimates from city hall. That is over 20% more than the figure of 30,000 in 2018 and an increase of 37% since 2016, when it stood at 26,754. It also means that 12% of all school pupils in the city are now being privately educated.
Nationwide, the figure has also been rising, though it remains well below the level in the capital. Data from Statistics Poland (GUS). a state agency, show that the proportion of children in Poland attending non-public schools reached 7.25% in the 2020/21 academic year, up from 6.45% in 2015/16.

One of the reasons behind the trend has been a shortage of teachers and overcrowded classes in public schools. In Warsaw, the number of teacher vacancies has risen from 1,600 three years ago to more than 2,000 at the beginning of this school year. Approximately 7% of teachers quit their jobs in the 2020/2021 school year.
Iga Kazimierczyk from the Space for Education foundation says that a closer look at most private schools reveals that they do not offer anything extraordinary. What is dramatic about the current situation, she argues, is that people in Poland need to pay for things that are standard in western Europe.
“Parents declare that they choose private education simply because they want a school that has no vacancies, that offers extra classes, or simply has a common room,” Kazimierczyk told Notes from Poland.
Many teachers left public schools due to the strains caused by the pandemic, which forced them to quickly adapt to online classes and to lose direct contact with students for long periods. Read more...

 
 

Freedoms that flow from secular democracy need to be defended

 

By Stephen Evans

 
The rolling back of reproductive rights in America shows necessity of secularism, says Stephen Evans.
"History is not a linear narrative of progress. Rights may be won and taken away; gains are never complete or uncontested".
These words from American historian Eric Foner will surely resonate with millions of women across the United States right now who have lost their constitutional right to abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade.
The decision means individual states will now be able to legalise or prohibit abortion. Thirteen states have 'trigger laws' on the books, which means abortion will swiftly be outlawed in most cases. The signs are that new abortion bans in many states will be more restrictive than those from the pre-Roe era.
In America and elsewhere around the world, opposition to women's reproductive autonomy is largely driven by Christian theology – the religious idea that all human life is made in the image of God and begins at conception. Prohibitions and severe restrictions on women's access to abortion are the enshrinement of that theological viewpoint into law.
Christian conservative activists may rejoice at their recent Supreme Court victory, but abortion bans do little to reduce the number of abortions. Severe restrictions on access to abortion compel women to either seek out unsafe abortions – which can have fatal consequences – or carry a pregnancy to term against their will. Both are truly chilling prospects.
In her 1993 confirm­a­tion hear­ing to join the Supreme Court, the late Ruth Bader Gins­burg told the Senate Judi­ciary Commit­tee: "The decision whether or not to bear a child is cent­ral to a woman's life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When Govern­ment controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human respons­ible for her own choices."
Criminalising abortion also fuels stigma against women and girls. Unsurprisingly, women denied abortions are more likely to experience anxiety and loss of self-esteem. Early nineteenth century pioneers of birth control also recognised the role of reproductive freedom in liberating women from crippling poverty. The same is true today.
These real-world implications of abortion bans demonstrate what secularism really means to ordinary people's everyday lives. The undermining of American secularism is going to hit women hard, particularly the most vulnerable. Read more...

 




 
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