Is Ireland sliding further down the slippery slope of religious intolerance?

Freedom of conscience and freedom of religion campaigners in Ireland were given further cause for alarm yesterday. The country’s Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, went on national radio and seemed to say that if his proposed constitutional change is passed next month then teachers in all schools will be obliged to teach children that marriage is no longer exclusively a bond between a man and a woman.

The campaigning organisation, Mothers and Fathers Matterset up to persuade the Irish electorate to oppose the change – in the face of 100% parliamentary party support for same-sex mariage – issued a statement immediately following Kenny’s remarks calling for clarification.

Kenny said that schools – and this will include all Catholic schools –  “will be expected to teach children that people in this country, in Ireland, in 2016, will have the right to get married irrespective of their sexual orientation.”

Like many of Kenny’s unprepared statements, the meaning is not entirely clear. Because it is somewhat muddled, the pro-marriage group says that  the “statement needs clarification.”

It asks,  “Will those schools be allowed to refuse to do this? If not, will they also be allowed to state the Catholic belief that marriage can only take place between two people of the opposite sexes? We call on Enda Kenny to issue this clarification immediately. The grave implications for freedom of religion, and not just for Catholic schools, should be obvious to all.

Speaking on behalf of Mothers and Fathers Matter organisation, Dr Tom Finegan said: “We are very concerned at what Taoiseach Enda Kenny had to say today. He needs to immediately clarify whether or not he thinks Catholic and other religious schools should be forced to teach that people have a right to marry regardless of sexual orientation, if the referendum passes, and if so, will they then be allowed to say that the teaching of the Catholic Church is that marriage is by definition the union of one man and one woman”.

He concluded: “If Mr Kenny does not show that his Government respects the right of religious schools to teach what is in accordance with their ethos, we will certainly be making an issue of this in the coming referendum campaign.”

Meanwhile, today the Iona Institute has released the findings of a poll which one the one hand should encourage those campaigning for traditional marriage while on the other it shows how out of touch the country’s parliamentarians are with the values of the majority in Ireland.

The survey, conducted by Amarach Research, has found that seventy percent of respondents agree with the statement, ‘Children have a right to be raised by their own mother and father’.

Only eight percent disagreed with the statement while the remainder said they neither agreed nor disagreed.

The Institute comments that the fact that such a clear majority of people believe that children have a right to be raised by their own mother and father is pertinent to the Children and Family Relationships Bill which takes no account of this fact.

The finding of this poll, when combined with the finding of another poll Amarach conducted on behalf of The Iona Institute in February which found that a massive ninety-one percent of respondents believe when a child is available for adoption, clearly shows that Irish people believe it is best to place the child with a mother and a father.

The new Children and Family Relationships Bill is also odds with this belief.

Commenting on the latest poll findings, Professor Patricia Casey said on behalf of The Iona Institute: “The fact that 70 percent of people believe a child has a right to be raised by their own mother and father means the Government and the opposition parties are completely out of step with public opinion. The Children and Family Relationships Bill attaches no special value at all to motherhood and fatherhood which is why it is completely indifferent as to whether or not children are raised by their own mothers and fathers, or any mother and father.

She continued: “The earlier poll finding on adoption also shows the extent to which our politicians are out of step with public opinion. The Children and Family Relationships Bill is the most radical piece of family law reform in the history of the State. It has been rushed through the Oireachtas with almost no debate. This is a terrible reflection on the state of Irish parliamentary democracy at present”.

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