Spicer resigns as humanist leader over religion in schools row


HUMANIST ASSOCIATION of Ireland founder Dick Spicer has resigned as chairman of its board in a clash over the teaching of religion at two new VEC-run pilot primary schools in west Dublin.

The association is among interested parties consulted by a reference group that is developing a multi-faith programme for the schools, Scoil Ghráinne and Scoil Choilm.

The differences in the association centre on which form of religious teaching is preferable in the schools. A majority favours a French model that seeks to create an entirely secular sphere within the classroom, as currently practised in Educate Together schools.

The Scandinavian approach, which attempts to deal equally with differing religious and non-religious perspectives by offering equal respect to all, is favoured by Mr Spicer.

“I believe the Scandinavian model is far more in keeping with an ethical humanist approach to society, and that the pursuit of the French model is more suited to a simply secular or atheist pressure group,” he said. He believes endorsement of the French model for Irish schools “is particularly wrong given our national history”.

He said the position favoured by the association “sacrifices for an ideological principle the possible achievement of a network of State schools for the nationally dispersed non-religious community, and the opportunity of accommodating many from other religious minorities within such schools”.

He continued that “the building of a national network of schools which minority religious groups can attend is not something which should be jeopardised in Irish circumstances”. The funding of religious schools was “facilitated by our Constitution and the minorities may move towards ghettoising their children within schools which isolate them further from democratic Irish culture”.