Another court judgment that supports the rights of atheist and secular parents

In Ireland parents have a constitutional right to raise their children in accordance with their philosophical convictions.  The State is constitutionally obliged to respect that right in the education system.  Despite this Church and State continue to ignore the findings of the courts in Ireland and evangelise all children into a religious understanding of the world.

In the High Court in 2011, Justice Hogan stated that:

“35. There is thus no doubt at all but that parents have the constitutional right to raise their children by reference to their own religious and philosophical views.”

“27. Along with the guarantee of free speech in Article 40.6.i, Article 44.2.1 guarantees freedom of conscience and the free practice of religion. Taken together, these constitutional provisions ensure that, subject to limited exceptions, all citizens have complete freedom of philosophical and religious thought, along with the freedom to speak their mind and to say what they please in all such matters….” (AB v Childrens Hospital Temple Street & CD & EF – January 2011)

Successive Ministers for education have supported developing morals through religion and bringing all children to a knowledge of God (Primary School Curriculum 1999). The updated second level Religious Education course (2019) seeks to develop values in all students to enable them to see the relevance of religion to their lives.

Norma Foley the Minister for Education insists that this is suitable for all religions and those with no religion. She obviously does not respect the philosophical convictions of those parents who seek secular education for their children on the basis of their conviction.

In addition to developing values through religion, the State supports delivering sex education through religion and has done nothing concrete so far to ensure that all students have access to objective sex education.

Children are not supervised if their parents manage to opt them out of religion, and no other subject is offered.  At second level, schools continue to insist that syllabus religion is not religious instruction, and that therefore there is no constitutional right to not attend. Some schools force students to take the course.

The education system is Ireland disrespects the philosophical convictions of parents and simply ignores their Constitutional Rights.

It is difficult to understand how any Minister for Education can reasonably come to the conclusion that respecting the philosophical convictions of parents who seek secular education for their children means developing values in their children to enable them to see the relevance of religion to their lives.

In a recent article we outlined how Church and State are still ignoring the 1998 Supreme Court judgment on religious ethos in schools. You really couldn’t get anymore disrespectful than that. It seems that the aim of the Department of Education is undermining the Constitutional rights of parents who seek secular education for their children, as they have been doing that for years.

Church and State, with the help of the National council for Curriculum and Assessment, continue to ignore the courts in Ireland and the Constitutional rights of parents, because of their commitment to evangelising all children into a religious way of life. Atheist Ireland continues to campaign for the rights of children, parents, and teachers in the Irish education system. Please join Atheist Ireland as a member and help us to continue this important work.

Atheist Ireland


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