Irish School Finally Agrees to Let Student Opt Out of Religious Education Class November 24, 2015

Irish School Finally Agrees to Let Student Opt Out of Religious Education Class

It won’t surprise you that religion is baked right into schools in Ireland — religious education is a mandatory subject and there’s a special emphasis on Christianity:

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment says Religious Education for the Junior Certificate allows pupils to “explore how many religions, particularly Christian religions, have shaped the Ireland you live in today” and that at least one of the major world religions will be studied in detail as well as “how different communities of faith organise themselves”.

I’m all for religious education, since it’s important to understand one of the primary motivators for so much conflict in the world, but there’s a difference between education and promotion that’s lost in many of these schools.

Paul Drury, a non-religious parent, has been fighting Castletroy College in Limerick to let them exempt his daughter from taking those classes. Until this week, the school insisted she remain enrolled because it was an all-inclusive course required for graduation. It’s a weird position for the school to take since the Irish Constitution says parents may opt their children out of any classes they deem contrary to their conscience.

School officials finally came to their senses Monday night:

“Mr Drury requested that his daughter be allowed to opt out of the Religious Education course. Following discussion at a regular Board of Management meeting this evening, this request was agreed with immediate effect,” read the statement. “Mr Drury has been informed of this decision.”

The school explained afterwards that the student will have to remain in the classroom while the subject is being taught, but will not have to participate in the religious education class.

So it’s not a perfect resolution. In fact, it’s downright awkward to force the student to remain in the classroom while not participating in it. But it’s a step in the right direction.

It’s also a victory for Atheist Ireland, a group that has been fighting for decisions like these for a while now. AI’s Human Rights Officer Jane Donnelly was pushing for this decision as recently as last week:

To be clear, there’s no problem with educating students about religion. Unfortunately many of these schools have crossed the line into arguing that religion — Christianity specifically — is good.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to GodVlogger for the link)

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