This week my eyes were open, by a letter written by Anna Latin to the Chronic and published on the 3rd June 2010, to an issue that I had never given much thought. It was on the subject of government schools and secularism, briefly explained secularism is the separation of state and church. In this sense, it is a subject closely related to the ongoing debate on the equalisation in law of the heterosexual and homosexual age of consent.
Briefly explained Anna points out that whilst government schools are secular in name they are in fact run as Roman Catholic schools, with daily prayers, services at Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Marian Services etc. , walls and public spaces in schools are also covered with crucifixes and religious statues, preparation for sacraments are under the control and auspices of schools, and all this without adequate arrangements being made for children whose parents are not in agreement with such matters.
She complains, rightly, that children, whose parents do not want them to participate in Roman Catholic sacraments, are left to feel socially different and awkward by a lack of proper arrangements. The only arrangement being that they are left at the back of the class in the hopes that they ignore what is being said. I cannot think of any more insensitive treatment of a child of such a tender and impressionable age.
I must agree with Anna's request that all this preparation for the Roman Catholic sacraments should take place outside schools and school hours and be the responsibility of the Roman Catholic church and, I would add, done at its expense. The functions of a state school, if it is not denominational and the attendance of a child is with the specific consent of his/her guardian, is to educate and within that process to teach comparative religions as an academic subject and not concentrate on any denominational religion.
In fact, if what is happening is what Anna says is happening, and I have no reason to doubt her, it engages the 2006 Constitution. The 2006 constitution guarantees freedom of religion. This includes the right not to receive religious instruction or to take part in or attend any religious ceremony or observance save with his/her or his/her guardians consent and then in that individuals denomination. It seems to me that this right is breached by all that Anna complains of, not just sitting at the back of the class being bombarded with religious denominational propaganda but also being exposed overtly and surreptitiously to one denomination: Roman Catholicism.
And before anyone suggests otherwise, yes I am a Roman Catholic and, because I am, I respect the rights and freedoms of others.