Catholic schools foster relations with God when teaching Relationships and Sexuality education

The Minister for Education, Norma Foley, still has no plans to amend the Education Act 1998 to guarantee that relationship and sexuality education will be delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner and not through religious ethos of schools.

Atheist Ireland has made submissions to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in relation to the delivery of objective Relationship and Sexuality Education. You can find our latest Submission here. We will be raising the issue again at the United Nations in Geneva later this month when the Committee on the Rights of the Child questions Ireland.

If the Education Act 1998 and Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act are not amended, then teachers will be legally obliged to deliver Relationship and Sexuality education through the religious ethos of schools. Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act is still in place which obliges teachers to uphold the ethos of the Patron.

In 2021 the Council for Education of the Irish Episcopal Conference published Guidance for Catholic Post-Primary Schools in Ireland on Relationship and Sexuality Education. The Minister and the NCCA have not dealt with the fact that the Catholic Bishops have Guidelines in place for schools and teachers to ensure that Relationship and Sexuality education is delivered in accordance with the beliefs of the Church.

The majority of publicly funded Catholic schools in Ireland are under the patronage of the Catholic Church. In addition many ETB schools have a catholic ethos. Minorities have no choice but to attend these schools, and have a choice between Catholic Relationship and Sexuality education or no Relationship and Sexuality education at all. Many Catholic parents don’t want their children taught Catholic relationship and sexuality education either.

Schools do not inform parents that Relationship and sexuality Education will not be taught objectively. The intention of the Catholic Bishops is to make Catholic Relationship and Sexuality education mandatory for all students. Students from minority backgrounds will just be enrolled into the course. This is all part of the evangelisation mission of the Catholic Church. This breaches the Constitutional and Human rights of minorities in relation to the education of their children.

The Catholic Guidelines for schools state that:

RSE and the Characteristic Spirit of a Catholic School

In a Catholic school, RSE provision can only be fully understood in the context of the wider ethos of the school. The ethos of a Catholic school is entirely concerned with fostering the development of relationships; with God, with self, with others and with all of creation. The school dedicates itself to the education of the whole human person.

In providing for RSE and in developing an RSE policy for a Catholic school, it is important to remember this fundamental role of the Catholic school. In addition, Relationships and Sexuality Education in the Catholic school shares its vision of the human person in relationship with others by how it lives out important values like inclusion, respect and care.

This is just indoctrination. What this means is that our children will be taught Catholic beliefs on Relationship and Sexuality education, and taught to accept them as respectful and inclusive and offering care. We teach our children that these beliefs are harmful and discriminatory and undermine the dignity of the human person.

The Catholic Church will tell you that they recognise the rights of parents under the Irish Constitution and that parents have inalienable rights in relation to the education of their children. When it comes to their mission to evangelise, this principle goes out the window and they will not respect the rights of minorities in publicly funded schools.

The Minister, Norma Foley, and the Department of Education stand over this abuse of Constitutional and Human rights. The Unions will not do anything either even though they are aware that their members will be left to deal with a Catholic school policy that obliges teachers to teach Catholic sex education to all against the wishes of their parents. Atheist Ireland will continue to campaign for the Constitutional and Human Rights of minorities in the educaton system.

Atheist Ireland