Religious instruction in schools


Sir, – I read with interest that “Catholics bishops have called on the Minister for Education to withdraw a directive which allows students who opt out of religious instruction in State-run secondary schools to be timetabled for other subjects” (Education, July 17th).

Apparently it is far preferable that students who opt out of religious classes should continue to be made to sit at the back of the class to emphasise their secondary status. Heaven forbid they should be enabled to spend their time usefully being taught another subject like science or a European language!

Not content to have their schools funded by general taxpayers, the bishops seem to feel that those who refuse Catholic religious instruction should be made to feel as unwelcome and uncared for as possible.

It is high time that religious instruction be taken out of the State-funded school curriculum entirely, to be conducted after regular class hours for those who really want it.

It is not the function of our democratic, pluralistic and secular republic to fund and provide for the religious instruction of the adherents of any particular religious grouping. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – You report this morning that Catholic bishops want to determine how religious education should be conducted in the 300 or so Education and Training Boards (ETB) schools that are not under Catholic Church control. Perhaps the bishops should first look at religious instruction and education in the near 3,000 primary schools and the 300 or so secondary schools they control. After seven years of religious instruction in Catholic primary schools and five years of religious instruction and education in Catholic secondary schools, the outcome is that only one school-leaver in eight goes to weekly Mass. ETB schools could hardly produce a worse outcome for the Catholic Church than this. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – The bishops have called on schools to prevent those opting out of religion not to receive instruction in an exam subject as this could give them an “unfair advantage”. Do the bishops see no irony in claiming that the non-religious would have an “unfair advantage”? Do the religious not enjoy enough unfair advantages in our schools, our hospitals, laws, Constitution, property, taxes, etc, that this does seem to be a case of the pot and the kettle?

The bishops claim “it is crucial that students are exposed to the religious interpretation of life”. Do they have any evidence for this claim? Do they not again see the irony that they have fought so hard to keep students from being “exposed” to the secular or non-religious interpretations of life in our schools?

The ideal might be that all students are given a grounding in philosophy and ethics of which religion in general and religious history would be one topic. But this would be a new subject that the same bishops have fought so hard to keep out of our schools requiring new resources that do no exist at present (due to religious influence of our education system). So letting students study a subject that is already taught at the school is clearly the most practical approach. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.