Secularism and schools


Sir, – John Waters (Opinion, April 13th) is entitled to his personal beliefs, but making offensive judgments about a form of education received by thousands of Irish children and the choices made by their parents is an abuse of his position as a columnist.

I write as a mother of two thriving young adults whose very different personalities and beliefs were encouraged to grow in a secular education setting. The parents of 14,000 children are currently choosing Educate Together schools. Thankfully the measured tone of the article by Paul Rowe of Educate Together (Opinion, April 12th) offers us a buffer against the harshness and intolerance behind John Waters’s references to “functionaries rather than mature beings animated with affection and curiosity” and terms such as “primordial slime” and “units of meat and bone”. Attitudes like those of John Waters are exactly what we are trying to save our offspring from. – Yours, etc,


Northbrook Avenue,

Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

Sir, – Congratulations to The Irish Times for publishing and to John Waters for writing this article. It is important, pertinent and timely. Furthermore, it is absolutely superb. – Yours, etc,


Bushy Park Road, Terenure,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – John Waters paints a bleak picture of our society should religious education be removed from our schools (Opinion, April 13th) A very bleak picture indeed. Luckily it’s merely the product of his overheated imagination rather than any prediction grounded in reality.

Considering the track record of abuse in this country, perpetrated by religious orders, in the name of religion, John Waters has no business criticising atheists. Many of the greatest humanitarians, free thinkers, social campaigners and all round decent people are atheists.

However he also overlooks a simple fact – removing religion from schools has nothing to do with removing religion from society. If you believe in your religion, whatever that might be, you don’t need the school system or society to back you up. His Christ must indeed be dying if he needs the schools to ensure his continued presence.

Here’s an idea. Let parents take charge of religious education and leave the school system open to all, regardless of their faith, or lack thereof. Let parents take their children to their place of worship, prepare them for their rituals and rites of passage and generally encourage them in their path. And let schools teach them facts, figures, and how to be citizens of a State where everyone is equal, and no one religion oppresses another. And where not believing in a mysterious sky fairy doesn’t automatically mean you see yourself as primordial slime. – Yours, etc,



Brookfield, Dublin 12.

Sir, –   Surely John Waters’s extraordinary article on religious instruction in schools (Opinion, April 13th) is one of the most compelling reasons yet for speeding up the complete separation of schooling and religious instruction. This would allow those of all persuasions freedom to have their children develop in an open manner which would help in developing their curiosity, ethics and principles.

I find it rather scary that John Waters would categorise anyone as a fusion of meat and bone emanating from the primordial slime, and therefore I can only wish Ruairí Quinn the very best in his endeavours to democratise the educational process.

This will also establish the right to religious instruction for those who desire it without inflicting their beliefs on those who differ in faith, logic and curiosity of their existence! – Yours, etc,


Doolin, Co Clare.