The UN will question Ireland this week  - Secular Sunday #549 || 3 July, 2022


The UN will question Ireland this week

The United Nations Human Rights Committee will be examining Ireland’s human rights record this Monday and Tuesday under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Human Rights Committee is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors this treaty.

Atheist Ireland has made a submission about freedom of conscience, religion, and belief. You can read our submission here on our website or here on the United Nations website. 

The issues that we have raised are as follows:

• Education (Admission to Schools) Act
• No secular or non-denominational schools
• The right of parents to freedom of conscience
• The right to a neutral studying environment
• Religious Oaths in the Constitution
• Section 37(1) of the Employment Equality Act 1998

You can watch the sessions in which Ireland will be questioned on the UN’s WebTV service. They will be streamed on Monday 4 July from 2pm and on Tuesday 5 July from 9am  

Also, in the last few weeks parents of children who are starting school this September are attending meetings in schools, where information about the school and the procedures is conveyed.

Unfortunately most schools give no information on the right to not attend religious instruction at these meetings or in their Admission policies, despite schools having a legal obligation to include these details in their Admission policies. Please let us know if you face this problem. 

As always, you can help us to continue our work by joining Atheist Ireland as a member, or by asking anybody who you think may be interested in joining us to do so. We are an entirely voluntary body with no paid staff, and we depend on our members to continue our work. You can join Atheist Ireland here.

- Secular Sunday Editorial Team


Éire Aindiach

Éire Aindiach

Chun ár gcuid feachtais a leathnú agus a neartú, tá sé beartaithe ag Éire Aindiach níos mó úsáid a bhaint as an Ghaeilge.
Ba mhaith linn meitheal a eagrú, chun cuidiú le:
  • Polasaithe agus feachtais Éire Aindiach a phlé ar an raidió nó ar an teilifís
  • Cuidiú le doiciméid ghaeilge a scríobh
  • Bualadh le polaiteoirí chun stocaireacht a dhéanamh
Táimid i mbun aistriúcháin a dhéanamh ar dhoiciméid polasaí faoi láthair, agus teastaíonn cabhair uainn le aistriúchán agus profáil.  Más maith leat bheith páirteach san iarracht seo, cur ríomhphost chugainn ag
English translation:

To broaden and strengthen our campaigns, Atheist Ireland have undertaken to make more use of the Irish language.
We are looking to assemble a group of volunteers, to help with:
  • Discussing our policies and campaigns on radio or tv
  • Helping to write documents in Irish
  • Meeting with politicians to lobby them
We are in the process of translating policy documents at the moment, and we need some help with translating and proofreading.  If you would like to assist with this effort, please email us at

Atheist Ireland News


Schools ignore legal duty to publish arrangements for children who do not attend religious instruction

In the last few weeks parents of children who are starting school this September are attending meetings in schools where information about the school and the procedures is conveyed.
Unfortunately no information is given on the right to not attend religious instruction at these meetings or in the Admission policies of the schools.
This is contrary to Section 62.7(n) Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018, under which School Admission policies are supposed to inform parents of the arrangements for children who exercise their right to not attend religious instruction .
Schools cannot even comply with a simple legal requirement to inform parents of the arrangements of the right to not attend religious instruction, which is a condition of state funding.
The Minister for Education, Norma Foley and the Department of Education is aware that this is happening and will do nothing about it.
In 2020 Atheist Ireland wrote to the Minister and also the Oireachtas Education Committee. We compiled a Report of 100 Admission Policies. To date nothing has changed and it seems that church and state are doing all they can to ensure that parents do not exercise their constitutional rights in relation to the education of their children. They want to make things as hard as they can for parents and their children who do not suport the ethos of the school.
Under Article 44.2.4 the state funding of schools is conditional on the right of students to attend the school and not attend religious instruction, yet this is given no practical application on the ground.
Church and State are afraid to give practical application to the right to not attend religious instruction and to enforce it because they know that the numbers of students not attending religious instruction will increase significantly.
If they were at all committed to the Constitutional rights of parents they would ensure that the right to not attend religious instruction was given practical application on the ground and is enforced. Giving lip service to the right doesn’t work. It must be enforced.
Section 62.7(n) of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 states that:
“62.7 An Admission Policy shall…
(n) provide details of the school’s arrangements in respect of any student, where the parent
of that student, or in the case of a student who has reached the age of 18 years, the
student, has requested that the student attend the school without attending religious
instruction at the school (which arrangements shall not result in a reduction in the school
day in respect of the student concerned)”
It is the Board of Management of schools that make policy, not the Principal of the School or the teachers. This means that when the Admission policy is published (a legal requirement) the school Principal and teachers should already be aware of the arrangements for students who exercise their right to not attend religious instruction. This means that a decision has been taken by the Board of management not to put those arrangements in their Admission Policies notwithstanding the fact that they are legally obliged to do so.
The purpose of the legal requirement to put the arrangements for students not attending religious instructions was to ensure transparency.
The majority of Admission policies tell parents to come into the school and discuss the issue at a meeting. That is not the purpose of Section 62-7(n) of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018.
This refusal to put the arrangements into Admission policy comes from the Patron bodies and its purpose is to stem the flow of students exercising their right to not attend religious instruction. At primary level the main Patron body is the Catholic Church.
Here are some quotes about this Section of the Act from the then Minister for Education Richard Bruton during the Oireachtas debate on the issue: Read more...

Should hospitals have religious symbols? Michael Nugent discussed this with Father Joe McDonald on Virgin Media's Ireland AM this morning


Calling concerned teachers

If you are a teacher and concerned about unwanted religious influence contact Chris at


List of Atheist Ireland Submissions



Buy this book "Is My Family Odd About Gods?"

**Schools Special Offer**
Atheist Ireland are offering the book ‘Is my family odd about godsfree (excluding postage and packaging).  This means that you can get this book for the total price of 10 euro. This offer is aimed at families with school going children, who would like to read this book. This offer is limited to one book per family unit and for postage within Ireland only. Read more...

Have you noticed that your school and your teachers may tell you one thing about religion, while some of your friends and family may have different ideas about god?
If you think that this is a little odd, then this book is for you. Buy this book here.

Lessons about Atheism

Atheist Ireland has published a set of free lesson plans about atheism for children aged 8 and up. We welcome feedback, which we will use to develop the lessons. You can download the lesson plans



Be Good without Gods

Atheist Ireland 'Good Without Gods' Kiva team members have made loans of  $37,050 to 1291 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 1927 symbolic defections. Many share their reasons for making a public symbolic defection which you can read here


Petition on Schools Equality PACT 

Atheist Ireland currently runs one petition - The Schools Equality PACT. This seeks to reform religious discrimination in state-funded schools. Currently this stands at 4,112 Help us reach it's target of 5000. Please sign and share this petition if you haven't already done so. Thank you.


Tell us what you think

Have you any feedback that you would like to give us on the Secular Sunday newsletter. What are we getting right? What could we improve on? Is there something you would like to see included? Drop us an email at


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, €10 unwaged/student and €40 for family membership. Please consider becoming a member. Membership means:
  • You can help to build an ethical and secular Ireland.
  • You have a say in determining policy and electing officers.
  • 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


Opinion and Media

Material on atheism, secularism, human rights,politics,science etc. collected from media and the blogosphere from Ireland and beyond; used without permission, compensation, liability, guarantee or implied endorsement. We aim to include a variety of diverse opinions and viewpoints.

Blogs & Opinions




New US Ambassador lost her faith for years after church abuse horror


By Irish Central Staff

Claire Cronin, 63, the new US ambassador to Ireland, has revealed how she stopped going to mass for three years after the church pedophile scandals and talked about her role in negotiating settlements on behalf of victims as part of her law practice.
In an interview with The Irish Times, Cronin said the scandals "did shake her faith", causing her to stop going to mass for three years.
”Being a Catholic, it was very hard to come to grips with how this happened within our church. It did shake my faith. For three years, I did not attend Mass,” she says.
Cronin took part in some of those settlements as a lawyer representing victims of the Boston archdiocese.
She told The Times, “It was important to know that the victims were believed and the harm they suffered was recognized. And for me, if I could have in my role as arbitrator provided some compassion and empathy for them, that was important to me. The money will never change what happened, but I have comfort in knowing that the process was as good as it could be,” she says.
She switched careers, sought to become a state representative, and went into politics rising to become Majority Leader in the Massachusetts State House. Soon, another group of victims, gun violence sufferers, took much of her attention
She told The Times the killing of 19 children and two teachers at the Robb Elementary School school in Uvalde, Texas, by an 18-year-old on May 24th was a reminder for Cronin of the radical change still required to tackle gun violence in the US.
“I just shake my head and say how can this happen again and again and again and have no action. At what point will the safety and security of our children and the people that live in our community come before the gun lobby in the United States. It has been a source of frustration for me,” she says. Read more...





“Census 2021 data shows Australians are less religious and more culturally diverse than ever”


By Markus Mannheim

Australians are increasingly unlikely to worship a god and more likely to come from immigrant families.

Key points:
  • The latest census results will be released in part today
  • The Australian population reached 25.4 million last year
  • For the first time, fewer than half of Australians say they are Christian
The 2021 census has revealed a growing nation — more than 25 million people — that is more diverse than ever.
It also depicts a country undergoing significant cultural changes.
For the first time, fewer than half of Australians identified as Christian, though Christianity remained the nation's most common religion (declared by 43.9 per cent of the population).
Meanwhile, the number of Australians who said they had no religion rose to 38.9 per cent (from 30.1 per cent in 2016).
The data also shows almost half of Australians had a parent born overseas, and more than a quarter were themselves born overseas.
The census — a national household questionnaire carried out every five years — took place in August last year amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
The nation's two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, were in lockdown and residents of regional New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT were about to join them.
Yet Australian Statistician David Gruen said the census was a success despite this challenge, with the household response rate rising to 96.1 per cent from 95.1 per cent five years earlier.
About four in five households submitted their answers online.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will begin publishing census results today and release more data in coming months.
The information helps governments improve their services, and helps researchers and businesses better understand the community. Read more...


The US supreme court is letting prayer back in public schools. This is unsettling


By Moira Donegan

The court’s rightwing majority was extremely receptive to a case this week that would weaken the separation of church and state
On Monday, the United States supreme court overturned decades of precedent governing the separation of church and state, and achieved one of the most long-standing goals of the Christian right: the return of official Christian prayer to public schools. Kennedy v Bremerton School District had a strange path to the supreme court. Initially filed in 2015, the case concerns Joseph Kennedy, formerly a public high school football coach from a Seattle suburb, who sued the community that used to employ him for religious discrimination after the school objected to his habit of making public, ostentatious Christian prayers on the 50 yard line at football games, surrounded by young athletes. Kennedy has lost at the district and circuit levels; he moved to Florida in 2019, which technically should have rendered his case moot. But the supreme court agreed to hear his case anyway. This week, they ruled in his favor, 6-3.
The facts of what happened with Coach Kennedy at the school district are contested, but only because Kennedy himself keeps revising them. In allowing Coach Kennedy to pray publicly at school, while conducting his official duties as a public official, Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority, characterized the prayers this way: “Mr. Kennedy prayed during a period when school employees were free to speak with a friend, call for a reservation at a restaurant, check email, or attend to other personal matters. He offered his prayers quietly while his students were otherwise occupied.”
Sam Alito, in his concurrence, claimed that Kennedy “acted in a purely private capacity.” That’s Kennedy’s version of events. But evidence suggests things looked different. In her dissent, Justice Sonya Sotomayor cast doubt on the idea that the coach offered his prayers “quietly, while his students were otherwise occupied.” She included a photograph of Coach Kennedy at one of his game night prayers. In the picture, he stands surrounded by a dense group of dozens of high school football players, uniformed and kneeling at his feet. Kennedy is speaking with a football helmet in his hand, stretched high above his head in what looks like a gesture of command. Spectators can be seen in the background, looking on from the stands. Quiet and private this was not.
The court held that the school was required to allow this: that in attempting to maintain separation of church and state – as is required by the first amendment’s establishment clause – they were actually infringing on Coach Kennedy’s free exercise rights. Thus, the court allowed the free exercise clause to effectively moot the establishment clause, denying Americans like Coach Kennedy’s students the freedom from religion that the church-state divide had previously granted them. It should not escape us that in issuing this ruling, and overturning a decades-old test for establishing the efficacy of church-state separation measures, the court relied on a version of the facts that is blatantly, demonstrably false. Read more...


Atheist worker fired after refusing to attend company’s Christian prayer in NC, feds say


By Julia Marnin

A home repair company’s mandatory daily Christian prayer sessions for its employees were becoming “less tolerable” for an atheist construction manager who refused to continue attending — resulting in his firing in North Carolina, federal officials said in a lawsuit. His boss told him “he did not have to believe in God, and he did not have to like the prayer meetings, but he had to participate” before the worker was fired in the fall of 2020, according to a complaint filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Greensboro-based business. This came after his pay was cut in half. The worker was asked to lead a prayer session on one occasion, despite making his beliefs known, prior to losing his job with Aurora Pro Services, the EEOC said. Now the company is being sued for religious discrimination and is accused of punishing workers who did not want to attend the meetings, which also involved Bible readings and roll call, the agency said in a Tuesday, June 28, news release. The meetings were mandatory from at least June 2020. This comes after another worker, a customer service representative, was fired in January 2021 after she felt the meetings, which went on for nearly an hour, were becoming “cult-like” and stopped attending due to her agnostic beliefs, according to the lawsuit. An agnostic individual does not commit to any view regarding the existence of a higher religious power. McClatchy News contacted the company for comment on June 28 and was awaiting a response. On its website, the Aurora Pro Services states, “We’ll never hire rude people, and we will get rid of anybody not using their best manners.”  Read more...


Alarm as US supreme court takes a hatchet to church-state separation


By David Smith

A series of court decisions has raised fears that the conservative majority are forcing religion back into the US political system. When America’s highest court ended the constitutional right to abortion after half a century, Jeff Landry, the attorney general of Louisiana, knew whom he wanted to thank.
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad,” he said in an official statement. “Today, along with millions across Louisiana and America, I rejoice with my departed mom and the unborn children with her in Heaven!”
The southern state’s top law enforcement official was not the only Republican to reference God while taking a victory lap. Nor was he alone in rooting for the supreme court to continue a pattern of forcing religion back into the US political system and tearing down the wall that separates church from state.
The court – said to be more pro-religion than at any time since the 1950s – wrapped up one of its most consequential and divisive terms this week. Critics lamented a string of decisions that they say undermine legal traditions that prevent government officials from promoting any particular faith.
In May the conservative majority ruled in favor of a Christian group that wanted to fly a flag emblazoned with a cross at Boston city hall under a programme aimed at promoting diversity and tolerance among the city’s various communities.
Last month they endorsed taxpayer money paying for students to attend religious schools under a Maine tuition assistance programme in rural areas lacking nearby public high schools.
Then they backed an American football coach at a Washington state public high school who was suspended by a local school district for refusing to stop leading Christian prayers with players on the field after games. This ruling cast aside a 1971 precedent, known as the Lemon test, which took into account factors such as whether the challenged government practice has a secular purpose.
In all three cases, the court decided against government officials whose policies and actions were taken to avoid violating the constitution’s first amendment prohibition on government endorsement of religion, known as the “establishment clause”. Read more...


State funded theology colleges “can be exempt” from free speech duty


By The National Secular Society

Publicly funded theological colleges may be exempt from duties on universities to promote free speech, a minister has said.
The National Secular Society raised concerns that some theological colleges registered with the Office for Students (OfS), which can therefore access public funds including student loans, have policies that restrict academic freedom and freedom of speech.
This is despite OfS conditions of registration requiring higher education providers to uphold these freedoms, the NSS said in a letter to the minister of state for higher and further education Michelle Donelan.
The OfS's conditions of registration state that higher education providers must allow staff and students to "question and test received wisdom" and "put forward new ideas and controversial and unpopular opinions".
One of the theological colleges identified by the NSS as potentially in breach of these conditions is Moorlands College, which says activities including teaching and research "shall be carried on in strict accordance with the doctrinal basis set out".
Regents Theological College requires staff and students to adhere to the statement: "We believe the Bible, as originally given, to be without error".
The NSS has reported the theological colleges with the most egregious restrictions on speech and academic freedom to the OfS.
The NSS said requiring students and academics to adhere to "binding and unquestionable" statements of faith is "incompatible with academic freedom, and necessarily restricts their freedom of speech".
But in response, Michelle Donelan said some of the rules imposed by colleges "can be exempt from free speech duties on the grounds of religion or belief", due to exemptions in the Equality Act 2010. Read more...


Afghanistan: Humanists International condemns systematic erasure of women and girls from public life


By Humanists International

The UN Human Rights Council has convened today to hold an urgent debate on the widespread and systematic violations of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. Humanists International’s Director of Advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, intervened during the urgent debate. Her statement condemned the systemic erasure of women from public life in Afghanistan and invoked the sweeping roll-back of women’s rights and freedoms by the Taliban, including decrees which have banned women from traveling long distances unaccompanied by a male guardian, mandated full face coverings in public spaces, and denied women employment, access to healthcare and services.
Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi delivers a statement during the debate
Afghanistan is now the only country in the world to ban girls from access to a secondary education. This decision, contrary to the Taliban’s earlier assurances, has effectively denied millions of girls “a fundamental means of realizing their…rights to freedom of thought and self-identity”, O’Casey said.
She called on the Council not to lose its sense of urgency with regards to the situation of Afghan women and girls, and urged States not to accept “religious” or “cultural particularities” cited by the Taliban and its sympathizers as an excuse for undermining their rights.
Since 15 August 2021, Humanists International has received 128 requests for assistance from Afghan individuals through its humanists at risk casework programme. 18% of such requests have come from women. Read more...


Nigeria: Court inefficiencies delay appeal process in case of Mubarak Bala


By Humanists International

Humanists International urges the Nigerian authorities to facilitate the release of court documents so that the appeals process in the case of Mubarak Bala may proceed unhindered. On 5 April 2022, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala was sentenced to 24 years in prison having pled guilty to charges of ‘conducting himself in a manner likely to cause breach of public peace’ in connection with a series of Facebook posts deemed ‘blasphemous’ by some. Humanists International understands that Bala was subjected to pressure in order to secure a guilty plea.
According to court documents reviewed by Humanists International, Bala has instructed his lawyers to appeal on four grounds:
  1. Lack of jurisdiction of the Kano State High Court;
  2. The Judge’s predisposition to convict as indicated in the delivery of his ruling;
  3. Failure to accord Bala the benefits of a guilty plea;
  4. Misapplication of law in sentencing Bala to consecutive terms.
Bala’s Notice and Grounds of Appeal was filed on 30 May 2022. A key part of the appeals process is the transferral of the records of proceedings in Bala’s case from the Kano High Court to the Appellate Court; by the Court of Appeal rules, the trial Court has 60 days from the date the Notice of Appeal was filed to transmit the records, however, private records may be filed after 30 days.
As a result of the failure of the Kano State High Court to transfer the files to date, Bala’s representatives have begun the process of compiling private records, for which they will consult with the Kano State Ministry of Justice. Humanists International is concerned that the delay in the transferral of Bala’s court records will unduly prolong his quest for justice. Read more...

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Freethought Radio - Requiem for the Supreme Court
The Friendly Atheist Podcast - Roe-verturned

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