Faith Formation in National School Classrooms

Letter to Editor of The Irish Times from Paddy Monahan: 9 January 2018

Sir, – In your otherwise excellent editorial on the “baptism barrier” (January 5th), you state “many schools are flexible and inclusive”.

Some 96 per cent of taxpayer-funded primary schools in Ireland have a religious ethos and, as father to a three-year-old boy who happens to be unbaptised I have to ask, where are these flexible and inclusive schools? I have searched pretty hard and have yet to come across one (outside the 2 per cent of schools in the State run by Educate Together).

The Constitution sets out “the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at that school”. Around 90 per cent of our primary schools are run by the Catholic Church, and in virtually all of them children not of the Catholic religion are sent to the back of the class for 30 minutes of mindless busy work every day while the rest of the class receives faith formation. This segregates and stigmatises children as “other” on a daily basis throughout their childhood while also breaching a clear constitutional right as such children absorb every word of the lesson being taught – not exactly inclusiveness. Catholic patrons appear deaf to the simple and expedient solution of moving faith-formation lessons outside the school day.

If, when it stated many schools “are flexible and inclusive”, the editorial meant “will enrol children of any religious background”, then I am afraid this is simply factually wrong. Almost every school in this country prioritises four-year-old and five-year-old children in enrolment on the basis of their religion.

We must be wary of mistaking an undersubscribed school that is obliged by law to take any child, but will rigidly apply its discriminatory enrolment policy as soon as it is fully subscribed, for a school that does not have such a policy in the first place. The mere existence of a discriminatory enrolment policy at the local school places years of stress and anxiety on parents of children of no religion or of a minority faith as to whether they will be lucky enough to get a place when the time comes. It also, of course, encourages baptisms of convenience; Catholic parents are safe in the knowledge that their children will always be in the top enrolment category.

To be clear, in my experience Catholic primary schools are neither flexible nor inclusive. If there is an example of a Catholic school anywhere in the country that does not operate a Catholics first enrolment policy and does not segregate children on the basis of religion, I’d love to hear of it. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Message sent to all members of the Oireachtas today asking them to reflect on zero ‘equality’ with import of Article 12.8 on 35th Amendment

To: Members of the Oireachtas

Citizens to Separate Church and State (CSCS) wrote to our government (cabinet) on 24 February pleading with it to drop the proposed 35th Amendment to our constitution until the religious oath required by Article 12.8 for installation of the President was amended or dropped.

This letter is here:

At that stage the Bill to move the 35th Amendment (age for president) had not been introduced into the Oireachtas.

The government ignored our pleading and the Bill was subsequently moved and passed.

CSCS has issued a short (7 min) video documentary setting out why it is calling for a ‘No’ vote in the Presidential age referendum.

It is CSCS’s view that the government’s 35th amendment is ill-judged and ill–timed because it has failed to deal first with the issue regarding the religious oath that has to be sworn by the president-elect (Article 12.8).

We would ask you to watch it on:



It raises an important human right abnegation in relation to Irish citizens.

CSCS is struck by the fact that posters produced by the proponents calling for a ‘Yes’ vote in the 34th Amendment (marriage equality) campaign emphasise the ‘Equality’ aspects of this worthy cause but there has been a marked ‘blindness to equality’ in relation to the import of Art. 12.8 in its connection to the 35th amendment proposal.

We are urging citizens genuinely commited to equality for all to vote No and we ask you to consider the contradiction between the two referendums

Dick Spicer & Mike McKillen

Update on Letters sent to (1) cabinet members and (2) various fath bodies

The formal letters we sent to (1) all cabinet members, (2) Oireachtas members and political parties and (3) various faith bodies back in February when CSCS was formed were an attempt to have the Presidential Age Referendum (35th Amendment; #AgeRef) dropped until the human rights abnegation contained in Article 12.8 was remedied.

At that stage the Bill moving the Age Referendum had not been introduced into the Oireachtas so it could have been pulled by the government. Remember that this amendment was not even in the Programme for government.

Needless to say we have received not a single reply from any government minister, Oireachtas member or faith body to our plea. Total silence.

Omerta rules! Ireland continues to make much about human rights issues abroad but is blinded by the motes in its own eyes.

The celebration of the centenary of Proclamation of the Republic takes place next year. A strange place.

Letter from Citizens to Separate Church and State to the various Faith Bodies established on the Island

Citizens to Separate Church and State wrote to the various Faith Bodies operating on the Island of Ireland asking each to support CSCS’s plea to government to stall the proposal to hold the 35th Amendment to our Constitution until such time as there is a parallel ‘Affirmation’ inserted into our Constitution to deal with the religious oath required of the President-elect at the time of his/her installation. Referendum-Letter to religious leaders-PressRelease-01-03-15