Ireland moves to protect gays but not atheists in schools
THE DÁIL HAS passed a Bill that will make it illegal for religious-run schools to discriminate against LGBT teachers.
But according to Michael Nugent, above, of Atheist Ireland, the Irish Government has reneged on a pledge to protect atheists and teachers of minority faiths from religious discrimination.
The Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013 amends the provisions of Section 37(1) of the Employment Equality Act. It has already passed through the Seanad, and will now go to the President for signing.
Section 37 currently allow for discrimination against workers based on their family status and sexual orientation.
In Ireland, schools run by the Catholic Church (the vast majority) are exempt from certain aspects of equality law because of their religion’s ethos and teachings. They were given an exemption to the European Equality Directive back in 2000 which allows for this ethos to be upheld during recruitment.
Labour TD Aodhán Ó Riordáin said at the time:
In its current form, this section of this Act allows religious institutions to discriminate against employees who may contradict their ethos.
The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) welcomed the news. Its Director of Education Policy, Sandra Irwin-Gowran, said:
We are delighted that this Bill has passed all stages in the Dáil. This Bill is the key piece of the legislative map that will allow LGBT people to be themselves, get married and have a family without a threat to their job if they work in a religious run institution.
Kieran Rose, co-Chair of GLEN, said:
The passage of this Bill by the Oireachtas marks the final step in a remarkable year for equality for LGBT people. We would like to express our thanks to Minister Aodhán O’Ríordán and Ministers Frances Fitzgerald and Jan O’Sullivan and the officials at the Department of Justice for their great achievement in bringing this Bill to fruition.
He added that the Bill:
Has wider implications for our schools and in particular for LGBT young people; it provides a critical springboard for the cultural change necessary in our schools.
But Irwin-Gowran pointed out that further progress remains to be made for for transgender people and for those of no religion in privately funded religious-run institutions.
Nugent accused the Government of :
Voting to betray its own pledge in the Programme for Government to protect atheist and minority faith teachers from religious discrimination.
The commitment in the Programme for Government was: People of non-faith or minority religious backgrounds and publicly identified LGBT people should not be deterred from training or taking up employment as teachers in the State.
Fine Gael and Labour have now formal abandoned that part of the pledge …
The Government has now effectively passed a new ‘equality’ law that protects Catholic LGBT teachers from discrimination, at the expense of reinforcing the right to discriminate against teachers who are atheists or members of minority faiths, and that does not even address the other aspects of religious discrimination in Irish schools.