Roman Catholic bishops in the Republic of Ireland have raised concerns about a planned EU Directive which could threaten religious liberty.
The President of the Bishops’ Commission on Education, Bishop Leo O’Reilly, said he was worried about the implications of the new law for faith schools and other religious organisations.
The Church of England raised similar concerns earlier this year.
Speaking in Limerick last week, Bishop O’Reilly asked if the Directive would force faith schools “to admit children not of the faith of the schools and refuse admission to children who are of the school’s faith, in a situation where school places were limited?”
He said the body representing Roman Catholics in Brussels had proposed amendments to make sure religious freedoms were properly protected.
But, he said, MEPs had also come up with a set of amendments which “weaken the protections for religious organisations and believers contained in the Commission’s draft”.
The draft “needed to be strengthened in any case”, he said, and the MEPs’ amendments “have potentially very serious implications for religious organisations as well as member-state family law”.
Bishop O’Reilly warned: “It is urgent to ensure that the Directive, if passed, will properly protect religious freedom.”
Under the MEPs’ amendments, which will not be included in the final Directive unless the Council of the European Union approves them, UK churches could be sued for refusing to give communion, baptism or church membership to a non-Christian.
The MEPs also say faith schools should only be allowed to select pupils who share their ethos if this does not “lead to a denial of the right to education”.
Under this wording, an atheist may be able to sue a church school which does not accept them on the grounds that their right to education had been infringed.