By Cathal Barry.
A leading figure in Catholic education has warned that the Church could mount a constitutional challenge to any attempt to strip schools of the right to defend their religious ethos.
Fr Michael Drumm, chairman of the Catholic Schools Partnership (CSP), said any attempt to remove section 37 of the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011 would be “unconstitutional”.
Section 37 permits faith-based organisations to employ only those who will uphold their religious ethos.
“It would be unconstitutional as it would interfere with the constitutional right of religious bodies to run their own affairs and it undermines the human right of freedom of religion,” Fr Drumm told The Irish Catholic.
If section 37 did not exist, Fr Drumm said, then a religious body “could not use religious belief as a criterion for selecting its employees”.
He insisted that a “balance of rights” must be found. “We are still awaiting the publication of the draft amended legislation from Government but balance has to be found. There is a balance to be found between employees’ rights and the rights of religious employers to maintain the ethos of the school,” he said.
Fr Drumm also warned that any amendment to the legislation must also be respectful of “parents’ rights to have their children educated in accordance with their wishes”.
But Fr Drumm remains confident that section 37 will not be deleted.