Secular Sunday #254 'Patronage system undermines rights of parents and children' || 6 November, 2016
Secular Sunday - Atheist Ireland's weekly newsletter


Patronage system undermines the rights of parents and children


The Patronage system has reduced education to a competition for parental preference. It manufactures consent on the basis of a limited choice. Parents and their children are faced with a choice between a limited number of Patron bodies, and these Patron bodies have control over the application of their human rights in their local publicly funded schools. If Parents do not support the majority limited choice, or lose out in their particular choice, they are left in a position that they must send their children to a school that integrates a particular life view into the state curriculum. It is impossible for parents to opt their children out of an ethos. Publicly funded schools with a religious patronage can discriminate on religious grounds in access.

Eamon Ryan from the Green Party recently asked a question in the Oireachtas on the competition for schools in a particular area in Dublin.

33. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when the result of the recent patronage competition for secondary schools in County Dublin, Firhouse, Lucan, Swords, Carpenterstown, Castleknock, Malahide and Portmarnock will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32131/16]

The Minister for Education &Skills Richard Bruton responded as follows:-

“In April 2016 applications were invited for the patronage of nine new post-primary schools to be established in 2017 and 2018, including new 1,000 pupil post-primary schools to serve the areas of Firhouse; Lucan; Swords; Carpenterstown & Castleknock; and Malahide & Portmarnock. The closing date for receipt of applications for this process was 8 June 2016. Patrons submitted with their application a parental preference template in which parents have been requested to declare their preference for their child to be educated through that patron’s school model and also their preference with regard to education through the medium of English or Irish. Read more...

Atheist Ireland News


Notice of Atheist Ireland AGM on Saturday 19th November in Dublin

The 2016 Atheist Ireland AGM and public meeting will take place on Saturday 19th November in Wynn’s Hotel, Abbey Street, Dublin.

The AGM morning session, from 11am to 1pm, is for members only (but you can join on the morning). It will include a review of our last year’s activities, arrangements for our programme of work for this year, and election of officers. The AGM afternoon session, from 2.30pm to 5pm, is open to the public. 

We look forward to seeing you on Saturday 19th November in Wynn’s Hotel, Abbey Street, Dublin.

Dublin Events

We are planning on getting 'Atheists in the Pub' and other regular evening social events up and running in Dublin in the new year. Have you any suggestions for events? Is there someone you would like us to invite to a debate? Drop us an email to with your suggestions.

Celebrate the life of Christopher Hitchens in Dublin.

Atheist Ireland are pleased to announce that we will be hosting the annual Hitchmas celebration.

Christopher Hitchens loved parties: "Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration."

Bring your favourite Hitchens quotes and passages to share on the night.

Join us on Thursday 15th December, from 8pm in Wynns Hotel, Dublin. The event is open to members and non-members of Atheist Ireland and is free to attend, but voluntary contributions to help cover the room hire cost would be welcome.


Not on Facebook? Did you know you can keep up-to-date with all Atheist Ireland events on our Meetup page?

Be Good without Gods

Atheist Ireland 'Good Without Gods' Kiva team members have made loans of $17,000  to entrepreneurs in the developing world. You can join the team here.



Petitions on Blasphemy and Schools Equality PACT 

Atheist Ireland continues to run two petitions; one for a referendum to remove blasphemy from the Irish Constitution and the other, the Schools Equality PACT seeks to reform religious discrimination in state-funded schools. Please sign and share if you haven't already done so. Thank you.

Please consider joining or re-joining Atheist Ireland. 

Atheist Ireland is an entirely volunteer run organisation. We receive no grants or government funding to continue our campaign work. We rely entirely on membership fess and donations.

Annual membership is nominal; €25 waged and €10 unwaged/student. Please consider becoming a member. Membership means:
  • You can help to build an ethical and secular Ireland.
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  • You can attend members meetings and our AGM.
  • You will have access to our members only Facebook group
  • Your membership fee will go towards supporting our many campaigns.

 You can join Atheist Ireland here.

Thank you for your continued support.

Atheist Ireland Committee

Places and Faces

Photos from Atheist Ireland events.


Atheist Ireland Information Table in Dublin

Atheist Ireland Information Table in Cork

Atheist Ireland lunch in Cork

Atheist Ireland Events

All events are free and open to everyone to attend unless otherwise stated.

All Atheist Ireland events are listed below as well as on our website


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Sunday 13th November, 13.00-15.00, Irish Film Institute, Temple Bar

Saturday 19th November, 11.00-17.00, Wynn's Hotel, O'Connell Street

Thursday 15th December, 20.00-01.00, Wynn's Hotel, O'Connell Street


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Sunday 13th November, 13.00-15.30, A Casa Mia, Tobergal Road


Watch this space, more events coming soon.

Other Events of Interest

Tuesday 8th November, 18.30-20.00, Gresham Hotel, Dublin
Everything you wanted to know about abortion but were afraid to ask

Friday 2nd December, 18.30-20.00, Central Hotel, Dublin
The Moral Case for Abortion

Saturday 22nd July - Sunday 23rd July 2017, Venue TBC, London
International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in the 21st Century


Opinion and Media

Material collected from media and the blogosphere from Ireland and beyond; used without permission, compensation, liability, guarantee or implied endorsement.

If you are a blogger or vlogger writing or talking about atheism, secularism, ethics, skepticism, human rights etc. and would like us to include your work here please email the link to




Church abuse survivors say they continue to be ignored

by Clerical Whispers

Survivours of sexual abuse at Catholic churches and institutions say they continue to be ignored by Bishops who once pledged to involve them in reforms. 

Alan Draper, of the In Care Abuse Survivors group (INCAS), said that many of the 400 people represented by the organisation were still waiting to be approached by the church and had been offered no compensation for the abuse they suffered at the hands of priests, staff and teachers. Read More...

The BAI is conducting a review of its strategic objectives (including media pluralism and diversity)

by Eoin O'Dell

Hot on the heels of the announcement of a review of the Defamation Act 2009 by the Department of Justice comes news of a consultation by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland on its Strategy Statement for 2017 – 2019.

Sections 66(2)(i) and 137(2)(i) of the Broadcasting Act, 2009 (also here) require the BAI to have regard to “the desirability of allowing any person, or group of persons, to have control of, or substantial interests in, an undue amount of the communications media” in a specified area. Read More...

Does Death Make us the Lucky Ones? Existential Luck and the Consolations of Atheism

by John Danaher  

This is a long post. It is the draft text of an article I wrote some time back about Richard Dawkins's claim that 'death makes us the lucky ones'. I originally planned on publishing this in an academic journal, but after receiving some negative feedback from peer reviewers, I decided that it wasn't worth it. They complained that the article wasn't sufficiently original in its main line of argument and on reflection I decided they were correct. Nevertheless, I don't think that means the article is devoid of all value. I figured it would be worth posting here for anyone who is interested in the topic. It also corresponds, roughly, to the contents of talk I gave at McNally Robinson books in Winnipeg, Manitoba on the 3rd of November 2016. Read More...


In defence of Laicite: Our lives depend on it

by Maryam Namazie

I am truly honoured to have been awarded the International Secularism (Laicite) Prize from the Comité Laïcité République in Paris on 2 November. The wonderful Malek Boutih won the National Prix and Étienne-Émile Baulieu the Scientific Prize for 2016.

Here is my acceptance speech in English.

Thank you for this wonderful honour. I am so glad to have the support of so many present here, including my husband and son, as well as my Muslim parents.
We live in an age where totalitarianism is masked as divine righteousness, theocrats legitimised, dissent vilified and victims blamed for their own murder.
This is a time where “solidarity” is no longer an act of defending revolutionaries but fascists; where there is always support for Islamist projects like Sharia courts, the burqa, gender segregation, apostasy and blasphemy laws – whether de jure or de facto – but never for those who refuse to be silenced, erased and “disappeared”.
It’s a time when “progressive” all too often means protecting regressive identity politics, which homogenises entire communities and societies, and deems theocrats as the sole legitimate arbiters and gatekeepers of “community” values. Read more...


Religious Exceptionalism

by The Free Thought Prophet

Sarah Silverman makes the point very well, that we frequently make exceptions for certain religions, purely because they are old and we have become used to them. Many behaviours within the Abrahamic religions can seem outrageous and grotesque when evaluated objectively, but are nevertheless widely accepted due to their familiarity. We become inured to how eccentric they are, in a way that we would never accept if the same behaviour was associated with a new religion or world view. Read More...

Open letter to British Gymnastics over decision to suspend Louis Smith

by National Secular Society


The National Secular Society has written an open letter to British Gymnastics calling on the body to reverse the two month suspension given to athlete Louis Smith for mocking Islam.

The sporting body suspended Smith for two months and gave fellow athlete Luke Carson a reprimand over a video in which the two mocked Islamic prayer.

President of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson wrote to British Gymnastics that's its own "censorious actions" had caused far more harm than Smith and Carson's mockery of Islam.

In an open letter Mr Sanderson said that British Gymnastics "has contributed to a climate of censorship brought on by the unreasonable and reactionary views" of religious extremists.

"Rather than defending free expression, one of the most precious pillars of our liberal democratic society, you have chosen instead to side with extremists and patronise British Muslims by assuming they will take offence at the trivial actions of these two athletes. Read more...

Protecting women’s rights is the priority, but that isn’t the only legitimate concern about sharia


by National Secular Society


Gender inequality isn't the only problem with sharia councils, and non-Muslims have every right to object to the foundation of a parallel legal system in the UK, writes Benjamin Jones.

The discrimination against women inherent in sharia is its most objectionable feature. But when considering the impact of sharia councils in the UK, women's rights are not the only consideration, and the debate is not one for Muslims to have solely among themselves, excluding all others with accusations of 'Islamophobia'.

These councils have immense cultural influence in many communities, and by this fact alone they subvert our legal system and the principle of one law for all, whether or not they have any formal legal standing.

If sharia councils operated fully within UK law, they would still pose a profound cultural challenge, and even if they made no pretence at legal power, non-Muslims would still have every right to object to their malign influence.

Even if every single participant in a sharia council was there voluntarily without coercion or social pressure, and even if every ruling and process complied with equality and human rights standards, non-Muslims would still have every right to protest the fragmentation of our legal system.

How can there be integration if our secular legal system is openly rejected? Read more...


Should Church and State Remain Separate? Oklahomans Will Soon Vote on That Issue

by Hemant Mehta

In June of 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a Ten Commandments monument on Capitol grounds was unconstitutional. They specifically said that the blatant promotion of Christianity violated Article 2, Section 5 of the State Constitution, the bit that says no public money can be used to support religion.  A year later, legislators were doing all they could to change the Constitution in a way that would allow the Ten Commandments monument to go back up. Read More...


Supplements: Still popular despite little evidence they’re useful

by Scott Gavura


As healthcare systems struggle to cope with growing and ageing populations, there is renewed interest in eliminating wasteful, and possibly harmful, care. The Choosing Wisely campaign suggests that up to 30% of health care services may be unnecessary. Driven by the medical profession itself, Choosing Wisely is challenging both patients and health care providers to have an honest dialogue about the appropriateness of care. What is increasingly obvious is that ineffective and inappropriate medical care can’t be counted on to disappear naturally, even when the evidence is clear and is acknowledged by health professionals. Read More...


Podcasts, Videos and Interviews


Do you host an Irish-based podcast on atheism, secularism, science, skepticism, human rights etc.? Let us know and we will link to it here.




Media Watch

News and views from Ireland and around the world. Sharing is not an endorsement. 






6th November

International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict

10th November




This Week in History

Celebrating/remembering a momentous event in atheism, science, skepticism, secularism or human rights, plundered shamelessly from Wikipedia and other sources.

9th November 1989: marks the fall of the Berlin Wall. On midnight of that day, East Germany's Communist rulers gave permission for gates along the Wall to be opened as a result of days of mass protest.

After decades of partition, East Berliners surged through cheering and shouting and were greeted by West Berliners on the other side. Ecstatic crowds immediately began to climb on top of the Wall and destroy segments of the concrete fort.

The Berlin Wall Falls 1989 NBC Coverage Pt1

The Berlin Wall Falls 1989 NBC Coverage Pt2



Celebrating the life of a notable atheist born this week in history.


November 9, 1934: Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator in astronomy and other natural sciences. 

He is best known for his work as a science popularizer and communicator. His best known scientific contribution is research on extraterrestrial life, including experimental demonstration of the production of amino acids from basic chemicals by radiation. Sagan assembled the first physical messages sent into space: the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager Golden Record, universal messages that could potentially be understood by any extraterrestrial intelligence that might find them. Sagan argued the now accepted hypothesis that the high surface temperatures of Venus can be attributed to and calculated using the greenhouse effect.

Sagan published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books. He wrote many popular science books, such as The Dragons of Eden, Broca's Brain and Pale Blue Dot, and narrated and co-wrote the award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. The most widely watched series in the history of American public television, Cosmos has been seen by at least 500 million people across 60 different countries.[2] The book Cosmos was published to accompany the series. He also wrote the science fiction novel Contact, the basis for a 1997 film of the same name. His papers, containing 595,000 items,are archived at The Library of Congress.

Sagan always advocated scientific skeptical inquiry and the scientific method, pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). He spent most of his career as a professor of astronomy at Cornell University, where he directed the Laboratory for Planetary Studies. Sagan and his works received numerous awards and honors, including the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal, the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for his book The Dragons of Eden, and, regarding Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, two Emmy Awards, the Peabody Award and the Hugo Award. He married three times and had five children. After suffering from myelodysplasia, Sagan died of pneumonia at the age of 62, on December 20, 1996. Read more...



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