NewsWed May 7, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST
Education Minister’s Coming Guidelines May Ban Students from Wearing Crucifixes in Northern Ireland
By John-Henry Westen
BELFAST, May 7, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Education Minister Caitriona Ruane, a member of the Sinn Fein Party, is importing school uniform policies from London which led to schools being able to ban students from wearing crucifixes and Sikh religious bangles.
Gregory Carlin, a pro-faith campaigner in the UK who has fought for the religious rights of students in England to wear crucifixes and religious symbols of other faiths, told LifeSiteNews.com that Ruane’s measures would mean the "Anglization of Ulster’s schools."
Over the last two years many students in England have been forbidden by principals from wearing crucifixes and similar religious items as infractions of school uniform policies. The schools were empowered to prohibit crucifixes by guidelines issued by the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCFS). Concerned about the possibility of similar incidents happening in Northern Ireland, Carlin contacted Minister Ruane to ensure freedom of religion for students.
In response, however, Minister Ruane divulged that she was in fact "currently working on similar guidance" for schools in Northern Ireland, to be issued "before the end of the current school year." Ruane noted in her letter that while schools are asked to give reasonable accommodation to religious requirements, the "freedom to manifest a religion or belief does not mean that an individual has the right to manifest their religion or belief at any time, in any place, or in any particular manner."
Carlin reacted to the statement, saying, "The anti-faith policies being adopted by teachers in England and Wales should be avoided by the profession in Northern Ireland. The DCSF advice which is to be brought over from London by Minister Ruane will probably be applied the same way it is used in England and that means anti-faith measures."
Having helped families in England attempt to exercise freedom of religion Carlin, a native of Northern Ireland, said, "Children in Ulster have an absolute entitlement to manifest their faith in their schools"
"Ulster’s parents," he said, "will not tolerate a policy of anti-faith Anglization in our schools by a discredited Sinn Fein politician. I intend to challenge Ms. Ruane’s decision to adopt the English guidance."
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