Any equality law change must be balanced – Church

Faith based schools should maintain religious ethos

Staff reporter

Any change in the law that protects a school's right to uphold its ethos must take account of the rights of parents, the Church has warned.

Fr Michael Drumm, head of the Catholic Schools Partnership (CSP) criticised much of the commentary on the provisions of the Employment Equality Acts as “negative”.

 The current law allows faith-based schools and other institutions to expect employees to uphold the particular ethos.

Fr Drumm warned that the Government “should keep in mind that schools do not exist primarily to employ teachers but to assist parents in the education of their children”.

“Clearly, very many parents wish, in accordance with their constitutional rights, to provide this education for their children through denominational schools,” he said.

Fr Drumm said that the current exemption is an attempt to balance the rights of potential employees and the rights of institutions to protect their ethos. “Those who propose to amend it must also seek balance,” he said, pointing out that many European countries have provisions similar to Ireland.


“European Union employment law clearly recognises the importance of ethos in religious institutions. Any rebalancing of Irish law should take account of the European directives.

“Denominational schools in Ireland are committed to protecting the rights of teachers. Legislation in this area, however, must maintain a balance with the rights of parents to have their children educated in a school with a living religious ethos and the rights of religious communities to establish and run educational and other institutions which give expression to their faith,” he said.

The Fine Gael-Labour Programme for Government contains a pledge to amend the current exemption. However, the Church has previously indicated that it would be prepared to mount a legal challenge to any such change that would remove from faith-based organisations the right to operate in accordance with a Catholic ethos.