Special Needs Assistants must evangelise vulnerable children in Irish schools

Special Needs Assistants must evangelise vulnerable children in State-funded Irish schools. It is not an occupational requirement of a Special Needs Assistant to teach religion, but they still must be prepared to evangelise vulnerable children into a religious way of life.

This is a breach of the right of atheist and minority faith Special Needs Assistants to access employment in most national primary schools without acting against their conscience, as well as a breach of the human rights of atheist and minority faith families who have children with special needs.

You can read here about how Irish school teachers must be missionaries for the Catholic Church.

Today we publish the employment criteria of a State-funded Irish school for Special Needs Assistants. This shows that the requirement to be a missionary for the Catholic Church is not just confined to all teachers, but applies to Special Needs Assistants as well.

Special Needs Assistants evangelise vulnerable children

The ethos of the Catholic Church is to evangelise all children, and that includes children with special needs. In the State-funded school whose employment criteria we publish here, upholding the ethos of the school is the main criterion for the post as a Special Needs Assistant.

Note that, not only is ethos ahead of experience and qualifications, but there is no elaboration on experience and qualifications in the way that there is for ethos. We very much doubt that there is a parent in Ireland who believes that the main purpose of a Special Needs Assistant is to evangelise vulnerable children into a religious way of life.

The wording of the interview criteria

“Criterea for position of Special Needs Assistant

Criterion 1 – Ethos

[name of school] is a Roman Catholic School. A Roman Catholic School (which is established in connection with the Minister) aims at promoting the full and harmonious development of all aspects of the person of the pupil: intellectual, physical, cultural, moral and spiritual. This includes a living relationship with God and with other people.

The school models and promotes a philosophy of life inspired by belief in God and the life,d eat and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Catholic school provides religious education for the pupils in accordance with the doctrines, practices and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and promotes the formation of the pupils in the Catholic faith.

Criterion 2 – Experience and Qualifications

Criterion 3 – Flexibility and Team Work

Criterion 4 – Suitability for Appointment (skills and qualities that could be brought to our school)”

State supports Church in evangelising vulnerable children

The Irish Episcopal Conference in the National Directory for Catechesis in Ireland state that (page 208):

“Staff in a Catholic school will know, understand and sustain the Catholic ethos within which they are employed”

The above requirement is supported by Section 15 – 2 (b) of the Education Act 1998, which obliges the Board of Management of all schools, to uphold and be accountable to the Patron for so upholding, the ethos of the Patron. The vast majority of publicly funded schools in Ireland are controlled by a religious Patron, the Catholic Church. In reality the agents of a foreign state control the vast majority of publicly funded National schools, there is no parallel system of non denominational schools available.

Our Equality Legislation permits religious Patron bodies (in this case the agents of a foreign state) to evangelise vulnerable children. The Bill making its way through the Oireachtas at present will still not protect atheist or religious minority teachers, including Protestant or Muslim teachers or Special Needs Assistants, who cannot access the teaching profession in Ireland.

The Government argues that the European Union sanctions this discrimination through an exemption in the EU’s Employment Equality Directive. It was never intended that the European Equality Directive would bar atheists and minority faith members from access to the teaching profession, let alone bar Special Needs Assistants who do not see their function as evangelising vulnerable children.

Please help stop evangelising vulnerable children in schools

Please lobby your local TD’s and ask them to stop the Catholic Church evangelising vulnerable children. Tell them that it is not the job of a Special Needs Assistant to be a missionary for the Catholic Church.

Atheist Ireland is campaigning to change these unjust laws and to promote equality. Please help us to do so. If you would like to get involved in our campaign, please email us at humanrights@atheist.ie.

Atheist Ireland