Schools' religion divides humanists

 

Madam, – I would like to make a few points of clarification in relation to Dick Spicer’s reported comments over the difference of perspective on the proposed VEC primary schools (Home News, July 19th). As Secretary to the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) since it was formed from what was the Association of Irish Humanists in 2003, I have also been HAI delegate to many European Humanist Federation and International Humanist and Ethical Union meetings where the different models of the state and church relationships are often discussed. These are not simple arguments to be reduced to the “French/Scandinavian” models, which is merely a short-hand.

The first point of clarification is that the Scandinavian/French models have no relevance to the discussion concerning the Irish VEC pilot schools as was suggested and certainly didn’t form part of the general debate which I chaired. The HAI has no wish to end the teaching about religion or discussion of it in schools. But neither do we see a place in this day and age for religious instruction/faith formation paid for by taxpayers in State-funded national schools.

Secondly, it is implied that children from minority religious homes and families will somehow feel excluded from schools where religious instruction doesn’t take place. Far from it; the secular approach is indeed inclusive because children are taught together, parents don’t have to sign up to a belief system on registering their child (or reject that option as it’s their own business) and children aren’t separated at all during the day because of faith – haven’t we had enough of that?

If parents wish to have their children instructed in their faith they have ample opportunity to do so in their own time, while their children can rest assured of equal treatment and non-segregation in their places of education.

Finally, there was no row as suggested in the headline; it was a debate at a recent HAI members’ meeting with arguments put on either side and the majority present took a secular view for a pluralist society. – Yours, etc,

ANN JAMES,

Secretary, Humanist

Association of Ireland,

Coach Road,

Balrothery,

Balbriggan,

Co Dublin.