Religion and school patronage

Sir, – Article 44: 4 of the Constitution is clear when it states that “denominational management” must not “affect prejudicially the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at that school”. I would suggest that frequent recourse to the rather numinous notion of “ethos” by denominational managers does “affect prejudicially” the right of many children to vindicate this explicit constitutional entitlement.

In addition, Article 44:2 of the Constitution – which may seem to be at variance with historical practice – quite properly “guarantees” that the State will not “endow any religion”. In the interest of social harmony and cohesion, it is imperative that the funding of sectarian indoctrination by the State must be phased out as quickly as possible. The State should have no role in subventing sectarian “faith” schools or maintaining their sectarian “ethos”. If religionists wish to establish “faith” schools, their right to do so is guaranteed under the Constitution. But these institutions should not be funded by the State in any way.

If parents wish to indoctrinate their children, they are free to do so in their churches, mosques, synagogues, mandirs and temples. Indoctrination, no matter how nuanced or elliptical, has no place in any educational system.

Given the cultural and political importance of religions, though, some account has to be taken of them educationally. However, this should not be done in a proselytising context. Religions and their mythologies are best studied critically, philosophically, and anthropologically in relation to the social and historical circumstances which gave rise to them.


This would not in any way inhibit the constitutional right of any citizen to practice their religion as they see fit but would rather promote a greater understanding of the way in which these frequently divisive belief systems came into being and evolved.

As an academic discipline, comparative religion is a fascinating and rewarding field of study. “Faith” is another matter entirely. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.