- 05 Nov 21
The Flourish sex education programme being pushed in schools that are under the control of the Catholic church has already triggered controversy. However, so far people seem to have missed the unwitting admission of human rights abuses on the part of the Irish Bishops' Conference.
The Catholic Church has been accused of utilising public education as a tool to indoctrinate children, regardless of their faith or religious preferences. In the latest issue of Hot Press (out today with Damien Dempsey on the cover), Education Equality’s David Graham makes it clear that the stunning accusation is based on the words of the bishops themselves.
“95% of Ireland’s publicly funded schools remain under private religious control, with 90% run by the Catholic Church,” David Graham explains in a wide-ranging and powerful article, written specially for Hot Press. “Most Irish children’s education still comprises religious evangelisation, dogma, and prayer. To pass the school gate is to step back in time.”
However, it is a passage from the highly controversial new, so called, Flourish relationships and sex education programme developed by the Irish Bishops' Conference that has triggered the accusation of an extremely serious breach of the rights of students and parents alike, in what amounts to an extraordinary abuse of power by the Catholic church.
"One of Flourish's most brazen passages never made the headlines," David Graham writes. "The document acknowledges that many children attending church-run schools today are not actually from Catholic families, but are evangelised into the Catholic faith regardless."
The article quotes the relevant passage from Flourish, which acknowledges that 'faith formation' no longer occurs in many Irish families.
"In many cases," the document says, "the classroom will be the first, and possibly only, place that the child considers their actions in terms of the teaching of the gospel.”
"These lines amount to an open admission by the Bishops that the human rights of families – to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – are being consciously and wilfully breached in our schools."
The article makes the case that there is a silent revolution undergoing in Ireland, pointing out that from 1980 to 2020 religious marriages have fallen by over 60%. In the same period, secular ceremonies have risen from 2% to 50%. Each year, more and more couples choose to tie the knot in secular ceremonies. And yet in education, the State has failed to even remotely mirror those changes.
David Graham, who wrote the op-ed article, is a Communication Officer with Education Equality, a parent-run human rights advocacy group that believes that religious instruction should be removed from the curriculum and offered to parents and teachers on an optional basis outside core school hours.
The Flourish programme will be taught in Catholic-controlled schools from junior infants all the way through sixth class. Flourish includes statements that many citizens would regard as being utterly preposterous – for example that "puberty is a gift from God." It is also designed to enforce the church's bigoted, heteronormative views on marriage.
In a wide-ranging analysis of what currently happens in Irish schools, David Graham makes a cogent argument that the State must move to end the abuse by the Catholic Church of their dominant position in education.
Opting children out of religious instruction in Catholic controlled schools – that is the vest majority of primary schools in Ireland – is possible, although schools make it extremely difficult and potentially highly embarrassing for the kids involved.
"For help on opting out," David Graham writes, "you can contact Education Equality at [email protected]."
You can a petition to move religious faith formation outside core school hours on an opt-in basis by clicking here.
Photo Credit: Graham Keogh
Read David Graham’s full report on the latest issue of HotPress.
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