Minister Bruton’s new proposal is an unjust fine-tuning of an already unjust religious discrimination
Minister Bruton’s new proposal on schools admissions is an unjust fine-tuning of an already unjust religious discrimination.
He is proposing to stop Catholic schools refusing to admit children on the basis of religion, but minority faith primary schools will be allowed to continue doing this.
But there is a basic principle at stake here, which is that no State-funded school should be allowed to discriminate against any children on the ground of religion.
We are concerned that the final wording might even make the situation worse, particularly if it includes proposed requirements for parents to commit to upholding the religious ethos of the school.
Minister Bruton says that “the aim is to meet the wishes of non-denominational parents without unfairly impinging on the rights of other children.”
But this proposal would discriminate against atheist or minority faith families, whose local State-funded school is run by the Church of Ireland, and who see that option as preferable to a school with a Catholic ethos.
It would also legitimise the discrimination that State-funded Church of Ireland schools currently implement against members of other minority Christian denominations such as Evangelicals.
More fundamentally, it would not meet the wishes of parents who want the State to provide a secular, human rights based, education for their children without any religious discrimination.
Under this proposal, more children might get access to a school that discriminates against them within the school, contrary to the conscience of their parents.
The only way to protect equally the rights of all parents and children is to provide a State-funded education system based on human rights, that teaches all children objectively, critically and pluralistically.
Image: Day 3 of the WTO’s Ministerial Conference, Bali, 3 December 2013. Author World Trade Organization from Switzerland