In Ireland, religious education is a part of the school system, which makes sense when you consider 90% of the schools are run by the Catholic Church. However, parents have a right to opt their kids out from learning what they consider to be nonsense.
The problem is that “opting out” doesn’t mean those kids can always take another class — or even leave the classroom.
Children are regularly left to sit at the back of the class during religious instruction. They are often prohibited from studying other subjects. Some stipulate that wearing headphones or completing schoolwork is banned.
Take the case of Tipperary Education and Training Board (ETB). It, in theory, is a multi-denominational patron body owned by the State.
However, its policy for second-level students is that they must remain in religion class at all times and not take part in any other activity.
“The rationale for this is to ensure that no unfair advantage accrues to students opting out of religious education, but rather to ensure that all students have equality of opportunity time-wise when it comes to exam preparation during the school day,” it states, according to documents obtained by Atheist Ireland under the Freedom of Information Act.
Everyone else is getting dumber, so you aren’t allowed to educate yourselves during that time.
The Irish government says they’re looking to change the rules so that the kids who aren’t sitting through religious education classes aren’t just wasting time, but what that will entail isn’t obvious. Will they take a separate class? If so, what will they learn instead? Who will teach it? It’s not apparent.
But given the way more Irish people are non-religious than ever before, it’s about time this issue was resolved. Non-religious students shouldn’t be treated like second class citizens, especially when they could be using that time to learn things of actual value than myths masquerading as facts.
If you’d like to learn more about this issue, Atheist Ireland has a fantastic resource compiling all their work on this topic.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)