Secular Sunday #269 'Important revelations about Catholic Church attitude to running schools' || 19 February, 2017
Secular Sunday - Atheist Ireland's weekly newsletter


Important revelations about Catholic Church attitude to running schools

This has been a significant week in revelations about how the Catholic Church sees it role in running State-funded Irish schools. The NCCA published its report on the new proposed State course on Religions, Beliefs and Ethics, and also published the written submissions from various Catholic Education bodies, including the Bishops Conference, the Catholic Primary School Management Association and various Bishops and school boards.

All of this information has yet again vindicated the position that Atheist Ireland has been warning about for years: that the Catholic Church believes that Catholic schools exist to educate children in Catholic religious life and in Catholic religious beliefs which are normative for them, and that a pluralist approach to religion goes against the philosophical basis of Catholic religious education. This is is what the Irish State is funding to happen in 90% of our primary schools.

Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland discussed this on Newstalk Radio during the week, and was also scheduled to discuss it on TV3 this morning, with the General Secretary of the Catholic Primary School Management Association. We will have a full account of these discussions online soon. While the State is still not addressing these issues properly, it is at last being forced to put them on the agenda for decisions. It is important that we keep up the pressure for a State-funded secular education system that does not privilege any religious belief or institution.


Atheist Ireland News

NCCA report confirms that ERB and Ethics course will not meet human rights standards

The National Council of Curriculum and Assessment has published its long-awaited report regarding the proposed course on Education about Religions, Beliefs and Ethics.

The Report vindicates the analysis of Atheist Ireland that any new course on ERB and ethics cannot be implemented in accordance with the Constitution and Human Rights law.

It is clear that the legislation underpinning our education system is undermining the rights of parents and their children to a human rights based education.

It is clear From the NCCA Report that any new course in ERB and ethics will not be introduced in accordance with the Recommendation from the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism.

If you are still wondering about the grip that the Catholic Church has on Irish schools, please follow this link to read some sample quotes from Catholic educators in their submissions to the NCCA report.

The Forum on Patronage & Pluralism had recommended that a new course on ERB & Ethics be introduced in line with the Toledo Guiding Principles. The Toledo Guiding Principles are international human rights based Guidelines on teaching about Religions, beliefs and ethics.

The Forum Recommendation said “that all children have a right to receive education in ERB and Ethics and that the state has the responsibility to ensure that this is provided”.

The Report from the NCCA shows that the Education Act 1998 is a barrier to ensuring that any course on ERB and ethics is delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner. The legislation pertaining to the duties of the patron body combined with the structure of the school patronage system means that the rights of all children cannot be guaranteed and respected in our education system.

Denying children their right to an education in ERB and ethics Children because the education system cannot guarantee and protect their human rights undermines pluralism and inclusion.” Read more...

New Ethics Course in Irish schools?

Jane Donnelly debates Seamus Mulconry of the Catholic Primary School Management Association on Newstalk Radio



“The Catholic school exists to educate children in Catholic religious life and beliefs,” and other quotes to the NCCA

If you are still wondering about the grip that the Catholic Church has on Irish schools, here are some sample quotes from Catholic educators in their submissions to the NCCA report on the proposed new course on Education about Religion and Beliefs. You can read all of the submissions here.

Please also read Atheist Ireland’s initial response to the report itself:
NCCA report confirms that ERB and Ethics course will not meet human rights standards

The following sample quotes are from:

Commission for Education and Formation of the Irish Episcopal Conference
Catholic Primary Schools Management Association
Community National Schools Management Group
Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford
Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare
Derry Diocesan Catechetical Centre
Education Secretariat, Dublin Diocese
Education Secretariat, Cashel, Emily and Kerry Dioceses
Board of Management, Callystown National School, Armagh
Board of Management, Patrician Primary School, Newbridge, Kildare
Principals of the schools in the Catholic Parish of Clonbologue, Offaly

Commission for Education and Formation of the Irish Episcopal Conference

The Catholic school exists to educate children in Catholic religious life and in Catholic religious beliefs which are normative for them.

[Under the NCCA proposals] young children could be given the impression that beliefs are things which they create themselves, as if human beings were the source of religious beliefs.

In secular approaches to Religious Education, reason is primary… In Catholic schools, Revelation is primary and the learner’s experience and reason are brought into dialogue with it.

These approaches require teachers to adopt and promote a pluralist approach to religion. This is an approach to religion that goes against the philosophical basis of Catholic religious education.

In the area of Relationships and Sexuality Education… it is explicitly acknowledged that the curriculum must be interpreted in the context of the characteristic spirit of the school. Similarly, NCCA proposals in areas such as religion and ethics should accord with the characteristic spirit of the school. The determination of the ethos or characteristic spirit of a school is not the function of the NCCA or the Minister but rests with the Patron.


Minister Bruton gets it wrong again – Community National Schools prioritise belief in God over atheism

The Minister for Education, Richard Bruton has got it wrong again in relation to Community National Schools. In response to a Dail question from Sinn Fein’s Carol Nolan, the Minister claimed that the Community National Schools do not prioritise any particular religion or belief. But they do prioritise one particular belief over another, and that is the most fundamental religious belief of all. They prioritise the belief that there is a god over the belief that there is not a god.

One of the aims of the ‘Goodness Me Goodness You’ programme in the Community National Schools is to enable children to learn ‘about’ and ‘from’ religion. Learning ‘about’ and ‘from’ religion is prioritising religious beliefs over non-religious philosophical convictions. The ‘Goodness Me Goodness You’ programme prioritises religious families over non-religious families and over parents that seek a human rights based education for their children.

Prioritising religious beliefs over non-religious philosophical convictions is part and parcel of the state Primary School Curriculum, so it is difficult to understand why the Minister is claiming the opposite. This is something that the Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission has raised in their observations to the Minister on his Admissions to Schools Bill 2016.

The Minister was asked the following question by Carol Nolan TD.

“Carol Nolan (Offaly, Sinn Fein)

99. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department has undertaken an analysis of the community national school model in terms of inclusion, particularly in terms of those children of minority faith and none at times of religious instruction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6466/17]”

Response from Minister Bruton

“Community National Schools are multidenominational, and aim to accommodate parents who wish to have their children learn about different faiths and beliefs while at the same time nurturing children in their own beliefs. The schools do not prioritise any particular religion or belief.

The ‘Goodness Me, Goodness You’ (GMGY) curriculum is the patron’s programme that underpins the characteristic spirit of CNS schools, and is being developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). GMGY is a common programme suitable for pupils of all faiths and beliefs and none. Read more...


Atheist Ireland to address Citizens Assembly on abortion rights and respecting individual conscience

Atheist Ireland will address the Citizens Assembly on abortion rights on Sunday 5th March, along with other advocacy groups and representative bodies. Unlike previous weekends of the Assembly, which only ran until 1pm, this meeting will continue into the afternoon in order to allow for a wide range of organisations to be heard.

The Assembly received submissions from 117 advocacy groups. From these, the Assembly and its chairperson, Ms Justice Laffoy, have selected a balanced range of groups who support or oppose the right to choose abortion to make presentations and answer questions on 5th March.

Atheist Ireland has already made the following written submission to the Assembly on the subject of abortion.

It's OK to ask for help.

Atheist Ireland supported Schools Go Orange on Friday 17th February. Cycle Against Suicide is an initiative started by Irish entrepreneur, Jim Breen, as a result of his appearance on RTE’s The Secret Millionaire  programme. The main objective of the Cycle is to raise awareness of the considerable help and supports that are available for anyone battling depression, self harm, at risk of suicide or those bereaved by suicide.


Does God exist? Michael Nugent vs William Lane Craig

Does God exist? Atheist Ireland chairperson Michael Nugent will be debating Christian apologist William Lane Craig at 7.30 pm on Tuesday 21st March in University College Cork. The debate will be live streamed online. More details closer to the date.

William Lane Craig established and runs the online Christian apologetics ministry, He has previously debated about God with Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris and others.

If you live in or near Cork, this will be a great opportunity to meet up, before and after the debate, with local members of Atheist Ireland, and find out how you can help us to promote atheism, reason and ethical secularism. For more details contact Ashling at


Be Good without Gods

Atheist Ireland 'Good Without Gods' Kiva team members have made loans of  $18,375  to 643 entrepreneurs in the developing world. You can join the team here. Before you chose a loan, make sure you do not support religious groups. You can check the loan partner's social and secular rating here.

Atheist Ireland's '' is a place where people can publicly renounce the religion of their childhood. Currently there are 597 symbolic defections. Many share their reasons for making a public symbolic defection which you can read 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.


Tell us what you think.

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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.

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Thank you for your continued support.

Atheist Ireland Committee


Places and Faces

Photos from Atheist Ireland events around the country.

Atheist Ireland lunch, Dublin, February 2017

Jane Donnelly on TV3

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


Tuesday 21st March, 7.30pm, UCC (more details to follow)
Micheal Nugent debates William Lane Craig



Thursday 23rd February, 7.30pm, Fottrell Theatre, Arts Millennium Building, NUI Galway
Does God Exist? Michael Nugent debates Martin Molloy

Saturday 25th February, 12pm, AIB Bank, Shop Street
Information Table


Watch this space, more events coming soon


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Watch this space, more events coming soon


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Watch this space, more events coming soon


Other Events of Interest

(Sharing events run by other organisations is not an endorsement)

Abortion Rights Campaign
Monday 20th February, 7pm, Outhouse, 105 Chapel Street, Dublin

Open Meeting

Monday 20th February, 8pm, McSwiggans, Eyre Street, Galway
Galway Skeptics

Northern Ireland Atheists and Atheist NI
Sunday 26th February, 11am, Galgorm Castle Golf Club, Ballymena


NI Science Festival
Sunday 26th February, 5pm, The Whitla Hall, QUB

John Bell Lecture: Quantum Biology w/ Professor Jim Al-Khalili (tickets required)

Coalition to Repeal the 8th
Monday 27th February, 6pm, Outhouse, 105 Capel Street, Dublin

Volunteers Meeting

Tuesday 28th February, 7pm, Back Page Pub, 199 Phibsboro Road, Dublin
Pro-Choice Book Club

Kerry for Choice
Tuesday 28th February, 8pm, Abbey Inn, Bridge Street, Tralee

Open Meeting

Tuesday 24 January - Monday 20 of February
Minister Bruton commences 4-week consultation process on plans to address the role of religion in school admissions
You can find a template to help with your own submission here

Wednesday 8th March, across the country

Wednesday 8th March, 12.30pm, O'Connell  Bridge, Dublin
Strike Assembly

Wednesday 8th March, 5.30pm, Garden of Remembrance, Dublin
March4Repeal/International Women's Day

Abortion Rights Campaign
Wednesday 8th March, 8pm, Sugar Club, Lesson Street, Dublin

No Assembly Required - Variety Show in Celebration of International Women's Day (tickets required)

Thursday 23rd March, 7.30pm, Trinity College, Dublin

Does God Exist? William Lane Craig debates Daniel Came

Tuesday 28th March, 7.30pm, Devere Hall, UCC, Cork
Cosmic Chemistry: Do God and Science Mix? with Prof. John Lennox 

Thursday 30th March, 7.30pm, Exam Hall, Trinity College, Dublin
God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design is it Anyway? with Prof. John Lennox

Wednesday 10th May, 7.30pm, Belfast Castle, Antrim Road, Belfast
Northern Ireland Humanists Launch (tickets Required)

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


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



Ireland’s ‘wait and see’ policy towards Eighth Amendment unacceptable – Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment    


By Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment

The Irish State’s policy of ‘wait and see’ when it comes to the issue of abortion is entirely unacceptable.  That’s according to Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, reacting to the State’s hearing before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva today.

Patricia O’Brien, Ireland’s Ambassador to the UN, appeared before the committee today, the first time in ten years that Irish officials have been  examined under CEDAW.  Commenting on the hearing, Ailbhe Smyth said, “At today’s hearing the Irish Government made no commitment to calling a referendum, and also failed to clarify how they would deal with the provision of abortion services in the event of repeal of the Eighth Amendment.  Their policy of waiting to see what results from the Citizens’ Assembly shows that the Government has no firm commitment to dealing with this issue.

“During the hearing the Irish delegation evaded answering direct questioning on the wording of a referendum, and presented no indication of a timeline as to when the referendum would take place.  The issue of abortion is not going away, regardless of the findings of the Citizens’ Assembly, and it’s time for the Government to act decisively and commit to dealing with it.”


The Ethics of Trigger Warnings: A Review of the Arguments

by John Danaher

I have taught a number of controversial topics in my time. I have taught about the ethics of sex work, the criminalisation of incest, the problems of rape and sexual assault, the permissibility of torture, the effectiveness of the death penalty, the problems of racial profiling and bias in the criminal justice system, and the natural law argument against homosexuality (to name but a few). I try to treat these topics with a degree of seriousness and detachment. I tell students that the classroom is a space for exploring these issues in a discursive and reflective manner. I also warn them to be respectful to their classmates when expressing opinions. They may not realise how the issues we discuss affect others in the class.

That said, I’ve never had an explicit policy or practice of issuing trigger warnings. To be honest, I had never even heard the term until about 2013. But from then, until roughly the end of 2015, there seemed to be an explosion of interest in the ethics of trigger warnings. Students started demanding them in a number of US universities. And opinion writers fumed and fulminated about them in newspapers and websites. A lot of heat was generated but little light. Commentators divided into pro and anti camps and became deeply entrenched in their positions.

My general sense is that the debate about trigger warnings has waned since its peak. There is certainly still a vigorous debate about ‘coddling’ on university campuses, and a persistent desire to create ‘safe spaces’ in order to accommodate oppressed minorities, but the specific debate about trigger warnings seems (to me at any rate) to have faded into the background.

So that means now is probably a good time to reflect on its merits and see whether it casts any light on the more general debate about safe spaces and campus ‘coddling’. Fortunately there are some academic resources that help us to do this. Wendy Wyatt’s article “The Ethics of Trigger Warnings” is a particularly useful guide to the topic and I’m going to summarise and evaluate some of its contents over the next two posts. Read more...


Could The Far-Right Be Successful In Ireland?

by Robert Nielsen

Across the West there has been a growth in support for the far-right and a surge in the number of votes they’ve received. New Fascist political parties have been increasing in size and influence and even the mainstream conservative parties have been pulled further right. Anti-immigrant sentiment can be seen in the Brexit referendum, the election of Donald Trump and the threat of Marine Le Pen.

So far Ireland has stayed completely clear of this rising tide. There is no New Fascist presence here and little anti-immigrant activity. There have been attempts to create a far-right party (Identity Ireland and the National Party) but neither of them got off the ground. A google search shows that their party launch was their only activity. Out of all the candidates in the 2016 general election, only a single one could be called far-right and he only received 183 votes.

So is Ireland safe? Does the far-right simply have no appeal here? Is there something about Irish society or politics that prevents the extremists from being popular? Or are we just as susceptible as the rest of the West and might one day too have to face far-right extremism? Can it happen here? Read more...




How distrust of unbelivers runs deep in american history


By Leigh E. Schmidt/Areo Magazine

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama recently raised eyebrows during his confirmation hearing for attorney general when he expressed doubts that secular people respected the truth as much as did those with religious convictions. Even as he insisted that there should be no religious tests for holding public office, Sessions was queasy about the potential dangers of the secular worldview.

This was hardly uncharted territory for Sessions. During a speech in 2015, for example, he had singled out the “relativistic, secular mindset” of Justice Sonia Sotomayor as “directly contrary to the founding of our republic.”

The misgivings that Sessions harbors about secularists and nonbelievers — those who “don’t believe in a higher being” — is no mere eccentricity of a senator from the Bible Belt.

As a scholar who has worked for some years now on the history of atheism and secularism in the United States, I find his suspicions deeply familiar. In my book, “Village Atheists: How America’s Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation,” I have examined attitudes toward atheists.

Distrust of the irreligious runs deep in American history. Read more...


No, MMS did not cure 154 people in Uganda!….for a second time!


by Myles Power

This is going to be my final blog post on the subject of the unethical “clinical trials” that took place in Uganda back in 2012. I have previously discussed how I came to find out about the “trials”, my attempt to get more information from the people involved, and how exactly they fooled people into thinking MMS can cure malaria. In this final blog, I would like to talk more about what physically happened in these “trials” and how the tests they performed still do not prove that they cured people of malaria.

I have to admit that, at first, I was really struggling to understand what exactly was happening back in 2012. This was because the only information I had to go on was what was presented in the video “LEAKED: Proof the Red Cross Cured 154 Malaria Cases with MMS”. This in itself is very suspicious because, if indeed these people had stumbled upon this novel cure for malaria that goes against everything we know about reality, then why would they not share one scrap of hard data with the public? The video and those who promote it would have you believe the reason is that this “research” is being suppressed by the powers that be, but in reality this “trial” was privately funded by a man named Klaas Proesmans, and he is one of two people preventing more information from being released. The second person is Leo Koehof who stole footage from Klaas of the first “trial” and uploaded it to YouTube. Leo, who has translated several books by the man who coined the term ‘MMS’, Jim Humble, unequivocally believes in the power of MMS and has no reason to hold back data other than the fear that if he were to release it, it would most likely be torn to shreds by people like myself.

Leo would later go on to perform at least one other pseudo-clinical trial in Uganda, which is practically identical to the first one by Klaas right down to it being recorded on video and uploaded onto YouTube. The only difference is that there is a lot more information about what was involved in these “trials” in the published video. Read more...


The problem with Intersectional Feminism

by Helen Pluckrose/Areo Magazine

Those of us committed to social justice are accustomed to being told that intersectional feminism with its focus on critical race theory, queer theory and anti-ableism is the key. Only intersectionality, we are assertively informed, really listens to the experiences and needs of women of color, LGBTS, disabled people and other marginalized groups. Is this true? If we all embraced intersectionality, would we find that we are better supporting a diverse range of people from marginalized groups? Or would we find that we are supporting only the adherents to a very narrow political ideology of the far-Left and disregarding the majority of women, people of color, LGBTs and disabled people?

The concept of intersectionality was introduced into academic theory and social justice activism in the late 1980s by Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia Law School and founder of Critical Race Theory. It gradually became the dominant social justice framework. Crenshaw opposed the mainstream liberalism of the time for its aim to look past categories of race, gender and sexuality, thereby levelling the playing field and enabling all people to succeed by their own abilities. She felt this neglected identity and identity politics which she argued to be personally and politically empowering. That “mainstream” form of liberalism is now commonly known as “universal liberalism”, “classical liberalism” or sometimes “Enlightenment liberalism” because it focused on universal human rights, but also on the individual’s freedom to pursue their own path. To Crenshaw, this form of liberalism neglected categories like race and gender around which were built structures of power which needed to be addressed, and failed to consider the way in which multiple layers of identity could complicate the problem. 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. 








This Week in History

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


23rd February, 1954: Mass innoculation begins as Salk’s polio vaccine is given to children for first time

In the midst of the contentious debate between anti-vaxxers and those who side with mainstream science, it can be hard to imagine a time when Americans almost universally embraced vaccination.

That time was the 1950s, when the very real, utterly devastating effects of polio overshadowed any hypothetical questions of vaccine safety. In 1952, the worst polio outbreak in American history infected 58,000 people, killing more than 3,000 and paralyzing 21,000 — the majority of them children. As TIME reported, “Parents were haunted by the stories of children stricken suddenly by the telltale cramps and fever. Public swimming pools were deserted for fear of contagion. And year after year polio delivered thousands of people into hospitals and wheelchairs, or into the nightmarish canisters called iron lungs."
When Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine debuted its first mass inoculation against polio on this day, Feb. 23, in 1954, the only fear most parents felt was that it wouldn’t become widely available fast enough to save their kids. Read more...

The Polio Story - The Vaccine That Changed the World

Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine




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


22nd February, 1903: Frank P. Ramsey (d.19 January 1930)

British philosopher, mathematician and economist who died at the age of 26. He was a close friend of Ludwig Wittgenstein and was instrumental in translating Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus into English, as well as persuading Wittgenstein to return to philosophy and Cambridge. Like Wittgenstein, he was a member of the Cambridge Apostles, the intellectual secret society, from 1921. Read more...

The Life & Work of Frank P. Ramsey

Ramsey & Pragmatism: Truth, Ethics, & Aesthetics

The Legacy Of A 26-Year-Old Economist


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