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BAPTISM BARRIER – WHO WINS & WHO LOSES?

The removal of the Baptism Barrier from Catholic Schools has been met with the usual reactions from the usual parties. However, who are the real winners and losers if this decision comes through?

WINNERS:
Protestant Schools/Church
Whatever their denomination of protestantism, the big winners in this debacle are members of this Church. These schools can continue to give privilege to people of their own faith. As there are very few pockets of the country where there isn’t a Protestant school, no matter where you are in the country, you’ll be guaranteed a school place and an indoctrination in the faith of your family.

Some Jews in and around Dublin 6 and some Muslims in and around Dublin 4 and 7
For similar reasons to the above, these children will also be guaranteed the same privilege. It isn’t much good to the rest of the Jewish and Muslim community around Ireland as they have no school of their faith so they will now have to make do with getting access to Catholic schools and attempting to opt out of Catholic indoctrination.

Catholic Schools/Church
Many are arguing that the plans discriminate against Catholics. However, in reality, these laws put the Catholic Church in a much stronger place. Initially there will be the “inconvenience” of tolerating and accommodating children that aren’t Catholic but once they sort that out, they can get on with what they’ve always been doing. Unlike minority faiths, they can now insist that they are “inclusive” to everyone now because they don’t discriminate on access, and the vast majority of Ireland will agree. Better yet, if a Catholic school finds itself “overrun” (to use Richard Bruton’s words) with non-Catholics, they can always divest to the Community National School model, where there is a deal in place to guarantee Catholic Faith Formation continues and children of other faiths will be taught some other programme. I would be celebrating today if I were the CPSMA.

Community National Schools
The decision is another important step in the divestment process. See above and below.

LOSERS:

All Children

It doesn’t really matter what faith you are or if you don’t have a faith at all, the decision to remove the Baptism Barrier from Catholic Schools and no one else is bad for every child in the country. There is now a 3 tiered system where children are pawns in a political game and whatever tier they are fitted into, is bad for them. Children who will attend schools of their own minority faith will be unlikely to meet or learn about anyone of a different faith. Catholic Children who will attend a Catholic school will see blatant segregation and “othering” on a daily basis. Children who have to attend a school that is not of their faith will be treated as second class citizens.

Some will view all of this as a step in the right direction but I see it as a Cul de Sac. The media has entirely focused on access to schools and very few people care what happens once children enter the gates. I doubt we’ll hear anything about religion in schools again if this legislation pass.

However, for me the most worrying thing of all is that this legislation paves the way for Community National Schools’ segregationist model, which appeals very much to the Catholic Church. I foresee a future where all Catholic schools will become Community National Schools with some offering faith formation within school and others not offering this service. Effectively, you will be face discrimination by accident of geography.

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