Religious education and faith formation
Sir, – Recent discussion of religion in State-funded schools in your letters page includes reference to the Constitution. I believe this is a mistake. The provisions of the Constitution are often ambiguous.
For example, we now differentiate between religious education, or the comparative study of different religions, and religious instruction, which is faith formation or indoctrination (John Collins, Letters, December 19th).
There can be little doubt but that the framers of the Constitution made no such distinction.
Their understanding of the subject matter of Article 42.1 is the inculcation of one particular religion’s doctrine in the children of the school concerned.
The salient fact is that it is completely inappropriate for the country we have now (Derval Duggan, letters on the same day).
As with many other provisions of the Constitution that have been found wanting, such as the clauses that specify the subjugation of women, the sectarian nature of the early State, and so on, this one needs to be removed.
In the short-term I suppose we could do the old Jesuitical trick of the abuse of casuistry and represent that Éamon de Valera and those who had some influence on him at the time, such as John Charles McQuaid, did indeed see a need for the study of the characteristics of all those other religions by the children attending our primary schools, but where would that get us? – Yours, etc,