O’Sullivan rejects Church’s claim of legal action on ethos

USI president Laura Harmon and Domhnall McGlacken Byrne launch 'VoterMotor' to get students voting on Friday. Picture: Tommy Clancy

The Education Minister has dismissed concerns that the Church could face a legal challenge or be forced to incorporate teaching into schools if the same-sex marriage referendum passes.

Jan O’Sullivan said religions were protected in law and schools could decide on what they wanted to teach. Her comments came after bishops raised concerns about potential lawsuits.

“Nothing will change apart from the fact that the factual situation will presumably be part of the education in modern history and society and politics in that area,” she told Newstalk’s Lunchtime show yesterday. “But nothing will happen with the right of schools to teach in accordance with their ethos.

“They’re protected in law in relation to their ethos and particular view in relation to matters of religion.”

Marriage Equality Referendum: Answering key questions .

Bishops said at the weekend it could become increasingly difficult to teach students about marriage between a man and a woman and lawsuits could be filed, if the referendum passes.

Ms O’Sullivan rejected this, saying: “There will be no lawsuits against anybody.”

David Quinn of the Iona Institute disagreed, saying: “This assurance is almost worthless. Even if it is Jan O’Sullivan’s full intention not to change the curriculum and not to change legislation, a future government could easily do this.

“The churches would then have to go to court to fight for their ethos and who can say what a court might decide.”

Elsewhere, the Department of Environment yesterday confirmed that more than 60,000 extra voters have been signed onto the electoral register in recent months.

The yes side welcomed the extra numbers, which showed that, in Dublin City and County alone, almost 27,000 new voters joined the supplementary register in advance of the deadline earlier this month. In Galway City, more than 3,100 voters were added, while in Kildare County alone, 4,500 new electors were added to the register since mid-February.

Meanwhile, a group of independent psychologists backing a yes vote have said: “Same-sex couples are similar to heterosexual couples in many regards. All of the available research shows that children of same-sex couples are similar to children of heterosexual couples.

“Inequality and discrimination, however, are damaging to mental health. It is for these reasons that we intend to vote ‘Yes’ in the marriage referendum.”

Both the no and yes side will engage in an RTÉ debate tonight, hosted by Miriam O’Callaghan. This will include a senior church figure.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin will appear on RTÉ’s Six One tomorrow where they will each be given several minutes to outline the yes and no side arguments.

Marriage Equality Referendum: Answering key questions .

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