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Funding of chaplaincies is challenged by atheists

10 January 2020

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MULTI-DENOMINATIONAL secondary schools in the Irish Republic benefit from almost €10 million from the state for the provision of Anglican and Roman Catholic chaplaincy services, the Irish Department of Education has confirmed.

The funding of chaplains in non-denominational schools has been continually challenged by the group Atheist Ireland, as well as other campaigners who are calling for the separation of Church and State.

The monies are an allocation from a fund held by the Educational and Training Boards in the state, and provide salaries for 156 full-time chaplaincy posts to schools and colleges that successfully apply — most of them RC, but including the Church of Ireland, where lay chaplaincies are more the norm.

According to the Department, the practice stems from the contractual arrangements put in place when such schools were founded. A spokesman said that the Department supported the part played by chaplains as an important element in the pastoral and counselling of students.

Atheist Ireland says that it was wrong for the State to fund chaplaincies for schools that were intended to be an alternative to RC and C of I secondary educational establishments, and that it worked to the exclusion of students of minority faiths or none.

As far back as 1996, the then President of the High Court, Mr Justice Costello, ruled that the constitutional guarantee not to “endow any religion” was not breached by paying chaplaincy salaries with regard to the wishes of parents on the religious formation of their children.

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