No baptism, no school

Priest-ridden Ireland has a problem when it comes to education. The New York Times reports:

Almost all state-funded primary schools — nearly 97 percent — are under church control, and Irish law allows them to consider religion the main factor in admissions. As a practical matter, that means local schools, already oversubscribed, often choose to admit Catholics over non-Catholics.

That has left increasing numbers of non-Catholic families, especially in the fast-growing Dublin area, scrambling to find alternatives for their children and resentful about what they see as discrimination based on religion.

Not really what they see as – it would be hard to explain how that situation could be anything but discrimination based on religion. The schools choose to admit – i.e. discriminate –  Catholics over non-Catholics. That is discrimination based on religion in the most literal sense.

And it’s ludicrous. State schools should be open to everyone, without discrimination or choosing one group over another.

Nikki Murphy’s son, Reuben, 4, was rejected by nine local schools in south Dublin last year because he was not baptized. Forced to delay Reuben’s formal education by a year, she is frantically seeking alternatives for next fall. But Ms. Murphy, who is 36 and describes herself as “nonreligious,” said she would not baptize her child simply to gain access.

Because he was not baptized – can you believe it? For a state school?

Irish law guarantees freedom of religious education but allows schools to admit students of a particular religious denomination “in preference to others” to protect the ethos of the school.

US law does too, but only in the case of private schools. Public (state) schools can’t be religious, and religious schools can’t be public.

The problem is especially pronounced in the Dublin area, where the population is projected to swell by up to 400,000 over the next 15 years, according to official statistics.

The capital attracts the biggest proportion of non-Catholic migrants from other countries, and increased secularization in Irish society has prompted a drop in regular Catholic church attendance in Dublin to 14 percent from over 90 percent in the mid-1970s, according to a 2011 survey.

That drop is so massive it made me burst out laughing. In 40 years it’s gone from near-total to negligible.

And yet the priests still have their chokehold on the schools.

Yet the Catholic-run state schools still dominate the education system, with at least 30 minutes a day of formal religious instruction in Catholicism included in the curriculum.

In Catholicism, mark. Not about it, but in it – because they are Catholic schools.

It’s outrageous.

And for non-Catholics, the enrollment process is only the beginning of the difficulties they fear their children will encounter.

While parents are entitled to opt their children out of formal religious instruction, the reality is that most pupils are forced to sit through the class because there are not enough teachers or aides to supervise them elsewhere.

Informal religious practices, such as morning prayers and preparation for the sacraments, can also contribute to a sense of alienation among non-Catholic students and their families.

I would imagine so. That crap is nothing to do with education, and is in fact inimical to education, and for some of us it’s downright creepy. And these are state schools.

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