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Is SPHE the new state religion – with evangelisation in schools?

“Religious evangelism soaks into every pore of the Irish school curriculum,” blared the headline in the Irish Times. For once I agree. 

The school my family attends is discriminating against my children by pushing a religion on them that they neither consented to be instructed in, nor want.  But it’s not the liberal’s favourite bogeyman, the Catholic Church, which is proselytising in this way.

Instead, it’s the postmodern DIE faith – an acronym for Diversity, Inclusion and Equity; a system of morals and values based on cultural relativism, and deontological deconstruction, and it is being pushed on them by the Department of Education – often without the knowledge or consent of parents.

It is the new State religion and all must attend service says the Department of Education. They call it Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and pretend it is not a religion.

The problem with this claim is that “religion” is not defined in our laws. We all just assume we know what religion means. Even though the Irish Constitution is viewed as informed by a religious outlook, it does not define religion. It uses language that might be construed as originating in, and having recourse to religiously informed values, but these are assumptions of language and are not defined.

I believe that the content of SPHE is in all respects a religious framework of behaviour and morality, and it is damaging to young people.

The big question to ask is why? Why is the Dept. of Education so determined to indoctrinate my children with a new set of morals and values and ethics that I never consented to? And why are they giving so many resources over to this indoctrination whilst there are such massive resource pressures in schools that they can’t deliver on their core mission of education and skills development. As an example, one day last week my child told me she had only 3 classes that day because teachers were either absent or had left the school and had not been replaced.

And yet the school is left in the unenviable position of trying to force my children to attend this proselytizing session on a daily basis against their will, and in contravention of the wishes of their parents.

When I brought this up representatives of the school management board told me they are forced to do this by the Department of Education. There’s that church and state thing that the liberals at the Irish Times should be fuming about.

However this is a new religion that they most likely subscribe to, and which they most likely believe should be compulsory. It all seems horribly theocratic.

The Irish Times commentator wrote that it was unfair that children who opt out of religious instruction remained in the class feeling isolated and excluded while absorbing the lesson anyway. He brought up the waste of resources and time that went into this instruction.

He said it was a discrimination against those who did not share the professed overview of morality and ethics of the religious code of the schools patrons.

Graham expresses a view that many parents share. Atheist Ireland have watched and commented on the legal position of this matter for decades and they argue that it is a discrimination against the “opt-out” children that they are not being provided alternative tuition.

I happen to agree; and not only want to opt out of SPHE, but also want to have alternative tuition provided as there is clear discrimination against children who don’t want to participate. Graham also has another point. When you sit in these classes, even nominally not partaking, you are absorbing the religious instruction regardless.

The constitution acknowledges the prerogative of parents to decide on the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children. So why does the social and moral instructions contained in SPHE get to supersede this “inalienable” parental right?

There are many parts of the SPHE course that seem useful – such as how to plan study time – but the problem is that these useful elements are packaged with so many modules with embedded ethical and moral values that include cultural relativism. The hygiene lessons and study planning lessons are not the focus; the methods of learning and the embedded moral values are. For instance, lessons are frequently done on a workshop model requiring feedback and input from students where the focus is on consensus making. In a world of cultural relativism, where everyone has their “own truth” consensus is reached not by an empirical pursuit of fact and logic, but by whomever makes the most noise.

Add diversity to this mix, where diversity means “centering the margins” in order to be “inclusive” and “kind” and you end up with whatever is the most absurd notion being declaimed as the moral consensus.

These are all instructions in morality, carried out in Maoist fashion through the social pressure of the group. It’s bizarre and confusing for children who quickly learn that it’s better to pretend than to be sincere.

As I was explaining the working of this course to another parent, the one thing that she was really concerned about when I mentioned cultural relativism was the ubiquitous presence of gender theory in contemporary culture. Well, of course gender theory is covered in SPHE. That is the most sacred doctrine in the new religion.

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