The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, announced today that any student who wishes to opt out of studying religion in secondary school will have the choice to do so.
The Department of Education published a new approach to arrangements that are made for religious studies in Education and Training Board (ETB) and Community Post Primary schools.
ETB and Community Post Primary schools are multi-denominational schools that provide for their local communities regardless of their composition.
Many of these schools may have assumed that its population was mostly Catholic when they were first established, and therefore Catholic religious studies were arranged.
However, Minister Bruton's new change would make religion an optional subject in more than 300 multi-denominational second-level schools in the country.
One of the key aspects of the change in the circular published today is that anyone who doesn't want to study religion would be scheduled to spend this class time doing "alternative tuition".
Announcing the change, Minister Bruton said: "The new arrangements will ensure that children who do not want to participate in religious instruction will no longer be sitting at the back of the class or confined to the library".
Another key change is that parents will no longer have to request a withdrawal from religious instruction.
Minister Bruton added: "It is important that ETB and Community Post Primary schools as multi-denominational schools, fully implement this circular as it presents an important opportunity to meet the expectations of parents and students in a changing society."
"This can only be achieved by consulting with parents, and including their wishes as part of the normal planning process of any school".