Debate on faith teaching in school

Debate of faith teaching in schools

Madam, – As a Church of Ireland priest, I was involved for some years in giving religious instruction in a secondary school run by the VEC. There were various negative aspects to the system.

Firstly, the pupils were often from different classes, so while in some cases the Protestant pupils would be receiving religious instruction at the same time as the Roman Catholics, in other cases they would be missing a maths, Irish or English class. Secondly, it was often impossible to find a proper classroom for the instructio, so I found myself trying to teach in an office or staff room. Thirdly, and most seriously, asking Protestant students to “opt out” only emphasised that they were somehow different from their Roman Catholic fellow students. It is bad enough for us to be trotting off to different churches on Sundays, without continuing the separation during the week.

The plan to make the new VEC-run primary schools multi-faith, rather than non-denominational, would only multiply the difficulties that I experienced. Not only would Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic students be dispersing to different classrooms for religious education, but in fairness, Methodists, Presbyterians, Hindus, Muslims, and whatever other faiths were represented in the school would have to be accommodated. The mind boggles at the chaos that would ensure.

It really is not the Department of Education’s responsibility to do the work of churches and other faith bodies, Let religious education be done out of school hours, at weekends or in the evenings.

Fr Seamus Murphy (April 9th) says demands for a “state-controlled school system with all religious education excluded amounts to a demand for secularism to be the recognised ‘religion’ of all schools.” I suggest it does not. It simply says that the churches and other faith bodies have a part to play in society, but that our schools are not the places where their role is fulfilled.

Michael Nuttall, Anglesborough, Co Limerick

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