What about the freedom of conscience of Catholic parents who disagree with the Church?

Despite claims from the No side, teaching practices will not change in Irish schools if there is a Yes vote in the marriage referendum. There are many Catholic parents who support marriage equality, and their children, along with the children of secular parents and religious minorities will continue to be taught that marriage is just for opposite sex couples and is a sacrament.

The Irish Times have reported that the Catholic Church has stated that:-

“a Yes vote will make it “increasingly difficult” to teach that marriage is between opposite-sex couples.”

This is a red herring. The Catholic Church can teach what it likes in publicly funded National schools, because the State cedes control of our education system to mainly religious institutions. The Catholic Church have control over the vast majority of schools at both primary and second level.

This is not just an issue for atheist and secular parents and religious minorities, but for Catholic parents as well. There are many Catholic parents who support marriage equality, and who do not want their children to be taught that marriage is just for opposite sex couples. It is a matter of conscience for them.

Publicly funded National Schools in Ireland will continue to teach the children of atheist and secular parents, the children of Catholic parents, and the children of religious minorities, that marriage is between opposite-sex couples. A Yes vote in the Marriage referendum is not going to change that.

The government has recently informed the UN that publicly funded schools in Ireland are private schools. The Irish state cedes control of the vast majority of National schools to the Catholic Church, and the rights of parents are just ignored. Catholic parents have different views on the Marriage equality, but it is the teaching of the Catholic Church that is protected by the religious ethos of denominational schools. The rights of parents and children take second place.

As far back as 2008 the United Nations has raised concern about the right to freedom of conscience of secular parents and their children and religious minorities in denominational schools.

The Catholic Church has done nothing in all this time to protect the right to freedom of conscience of parents and their children, and they continue to undermine human rights. The Irish State goes along with this, having ceded control of our education system to the agents of a foreign state.

Just last July the UN Human Rights Committee again raised this issue and asked the Irish delegation which included the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald:-

“And going forward, how is the State Party planning to deal with the possibility and the demand for non-denominational education in the future? Is it considering a move away from the integrated curriculum provided by Rule 68 of the Rules for National Schools? Is it considering a significant rise in the number of schools transferred to public hands?”

“My follow-up question goes to the issue of denominational education, and I note the statement on improvements that are planned in the transparency of school admission policies. My two follow up questions in this regard are:

How does the Delegation explain the compatibility with the Covenant of a state of affairs that allows private schools, which have a near monopoly in Ireland on a vital public service, to openly discriminate in admission policies between children on the basis of their parents’ religious convictions?

I would appreciate, whether orally or in writing, the Delegation’s theory on this point, on this legal point. And whether the State believes or not that it is required to ensure a neutral studying environment in those schools, in denominational schools, outside the confines of religious instruction classes that can be opted out from?”

The human rights that the UN are raising concern about are the right to freedom of conscience, the right to be free from discrimination, the rights of the child and the right to equality before the law.

It is difficult to listen to the Church and religious organisations like the Iona Institute complain that a Yes vote will undermine freedom of conscience, when they support denominational schools who undermine the basic rights of Catholic parents and their children, atheist and secular parents and their children, and religious minorities.

Atheist Ireland
Atheist Ireland