We the undersigned petition to Remove the control of the churches from our education system More detailsSubmitted by Cyril Butler Deadline to sign up by: 2011-06-30 19:26:00 Signatures: 905
An open letter to the Irish Equality Authority and Minister for Education; We call on you to implement essential changes in relation to the teaching and practice of religion at both primary and post primary school level. We also urge you to radically overhaul the teacher training college management structures to respect the freedom of conscience of our future teachers, who do not wish to learn or teach what they do not believe themselves. Hypocrisy should not be a prerequisite for a career as a teacher in our primary schools. Article 44 of our constitution explicitly declares that the State guarantees not to endow any religion. It also declares that the State shall not impose any disabilities or make any discrimination on the grounds of religious profession, belief or status. Yet the vast majority of schools in our country are owned and managed by the Catholic Church and are governed by Catholic ethos. Our primary school structures, with the exception of the Educate Together model, are in flagrant breach of our constitution and infringe upon the human rights of students, their parents and teachers alike. Further to this, it falls drastically short of the expectations of the vast majority of the Irish people, who do not wish for our schools to remain under Catholic or any other denominational control. We believe our current educational establishment renders it impossible to comply with the religious aspirations of those who hold minority religions and parents who wish to have their children taught in an environment free from religious indoctrination. The current patronage system would require several different schools to serve the diverse wishes of the people of Ireland in 2010. With many rural villages scattered around the country hosting only one Catholic school, it is clear that there is only one possible solution in the short to medium term; that being the abandonment of the teaching of denominational religious instruction in all schools that are in receipt of public funding. Preparation of students for religious Sacraments during school times yet again violates the rights of non-Christians and Atheists and is socially divisive on children. Further to this, it consumes precious teaching time. Such activities should be undertaken outside of school hours at no cost to the taxpayer. This should be undertaken as an absolute minimum. We believe the vast majority of the Irish people do not wish to maintain the present voluntary boards of management for a variety of other reasons as well as religious concerns. Such reasons may include fear of litigation etc. We understand that the transfer of schools from denominational boards of management to the control of the State will not be achieved in the short term, which is why we petition you to enact the necessary legislation to remove all teaching and references to denominational religious doctrine and religious paraphernalia from all public funded schools at the earliest possible date. Such religious classes should be replaced with a syllabus designed to teach children equally about all the religions of the world, as well as an equal allocation of time to the arguments for Atheism and Humanism as is successfully accomplished by the Educate Together model. This will not only be consistent with the constitutional and human rights of students, parents and teachers, but will also ensure our future generations gain cultural knowledge instead of religious indoctrination as well as instilling the virtues of critical thinking in the nation’s future leaders. Previous governments have failed to take the necessary action on these matters. The current system of providing government funding to schools whose boards of management have differing ethos should not detract from the government's responsibility to respect the rights of all its citizens with regard to educational policy. The claim that the government cannot interfere in the running of schools under boards of management should not be an excuse for lack of reform. If there are constitutional difficulties, these should be dealt with by a referendum to the people if necessary. The detailed study undertaken by the Irish Primary Principals Network, in association with the RedC poll, is one of the most comprehensive studies undertaken in recent times in relation to religion and primary education in Ireland. The poll covered approximately 25% of school principals and revealed that 72% of parents wanted primary schools to be taken over by the State with equal time devoted to teaching the tenets of all religions. 66% of principals wanted the same. Parents and teachers reported that there is a reluctance of parents and teachers to participate in the preparation for religious sacraments, with many just turning up on the day. All of this indicates the necessity for action. We do not wish to place restrictions on religious practice but rather this should be excluded from the classroom. Parents who genuinely wish to pass on their faith to their children could show their appreciation of it by taking the time to conduct their religious instruction outside school hours. This would teach their children the important virtues of pluralism and diversity. The same standards should apply to secondary schools. The Religious Education programme, while reaching beyond the Christian spectrum does not go far enough in placing equal emphasis on the world's other major religions and only requires its students to acknowledge those who take a secular approach to life, as opposed to teaching the arguments for and benefits of secular, Humanist and Atheist philosophies. This again falls far short of what should be expected in a modern and vibrant country in the twenty first century. This problem should not be left for another generation to resolve.
Cyril Butler, the Petition Creator, joined by: