Secular Sunday #476 – Protecting democracy from big money

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Protecting democracy from big money


This week the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Local Government discussed a Bill to establish an Electoral Commission. Atheist Ireland has written to members of this Committee about the regulation of funding for political purposes.

Last October some Senators wanted to allow groups to unaccountably raise money for political purposes, as long as they did so between elections. Atheist Ireland lobbied against that change, as most political influence is sought between elections.

The existing law helps small civil society groups like Atheist Ireland by making politics a battle of ideas not bank accounts. It does not prevent us from raising money. We just have to raise it in small donations from the many, not large donations from the few.

This law should be strengthened, not weakened. It should cover politically active religions and international social media campaigns. The trigger for having to declare funders should be political spending, not donations.

Atheist Ireland will continue to lobby to protect democracy from big money. As a voluntary group, we depend on our members to continue our work. Please become a member and help us to bring about an ethical secular State sooner. You can join 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


Dying with Dignity Bill – Atheist Ireland submission to Justice Committee

The Oireachtas Justice Committee is scrutinising the Dying with Dignity Bill 2020. This is a submission from Atheist Ireland responding to questions raised by the Committee.
Define the problem/the policy issue which the Bill is designed to address; to what extent is it an issue requiring attention?
The Bill has the potential to relieve the extreme pain, suffering and anxiety of terminally ill patients by giving them control over their own bodies.
It can increase the quality of life for terminally ill people, as they have the peace of mind of knowing that they can die peacefully when the time comes.
In addition, for those who decide to avail of this option, the ability to say goodbye properly and at a set chosen time has the potential to be of great psychological relief – for patients and loved ones alike.
We see no tension between palliative care and assisted dying. Both, we believe, are compatible with each other and can serve the interests of terminally ill people.
Indeed, assisted dying can become a natural part of a holistic palliative care process that respects the rights of terminally ill people who want to live as long as they can and those who want to die at a time of their choosing.
It can regulate a practice that is happening anyway, and will continue to happen regardless of the Bill. In reality, terminally ill people have their own ethical priorities and their own autonomy.
It can put an end to tragic cases of terminally ill patients trying to take their own lives in a painful or inhumane manner which might result in further injury and severe psychological repercussions for loved ones.
If the Bill is passed, such people would have access to reliable information, as well as psychological counselling that might result in them changing their mind.
In the wider context, a society where voluntary assisted dying is possible would be one containing less pain and suffering. In fact, it is often the case that patients who received assurances from doctors that they will assist them to die if their suffering becomes unbearable have an enhanced sense of well-being.
Conversely, the thought of their lives becoming unnecessarily drawn out seems to add an extra sense of fear, dread, and anxiety. The mere availability of voluntary assisted dying can by itself bring solace without the practice having to be provided.
What is the current policy and legislative context? Have there been previous attempts to address the issue via legislation?
Suicide was de-criminalised in 1993 but assisted suicide and euthanasia are both still illegal under Irish law, and anyone who deliberately provides assistance to someone else could potentially face a 14-year prison term on conviction.
In 2012, laws around assisted suicide were challenged by the right-to-die campaigner Marie Fleming, who was in the final stages of multiple sclerosis. She argued that the ban on assisted suicide disproportionately infringed her constitutional rights and discriminated against her, as a disabled person, under the European Convention on Human Rights. Both the High Court and the Supreme Court rejected her claim. Read more…

The right to Education

In Ireland the majority of schools are publicly funded private schools. Minorities leave their human rights at the school gate.
Here is a video on privatisation and the right to education.
“The third video is out – privatisation and the right to education.
This week’s short video on the Abidjan Principles deals with the issue of privatisation in education, one of the major contemporary dynamics that the text seeks to address. In less than 5’, you’ll find an overview of the main stakes, and how the Abidjan Principles can help States and other actors to use human rights to respond to the growing involvement of private actors in education, with some unique footages from the adoption conference and the experts and stakeholders involved.”

*|YOUTUBE: [$vid=r73H4rC95to]|*

This is from October 2020…

The Constitutional Right to leave the classroom during Religious Instruction

Most Irish schools insist that children, whose parents do not want them to attend religious instruction, must sit at the back of the class while religion is being taught. This is unconstitutional. Such children have the right to physically leave the classroom while religion is being taught.
The inalienable rights of parents
The rights of parents in relation to the Education of their Children can be found in Article 42.1 of the Constitution. It is described as an inalienable right. The Constitution uses the word inalienable sparingly. It only describes rights as inalienable in three places.

  • Article 1 refers to the inalienable right of the Irish Nation to choose its own form of Government. Inalienable means not subject to being taken away from or given away by the possessor.
  • Article 41.1 refers to the Family as having inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent to and superior to all positive law. Imprescriptible means they are not subject to being taken away.
  • Article 42.1 refers to one of these inalienable rights of the Family, which is the inalienable right of parents to provide for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.

It is not up to church or state to decide what is or is not against the conscience of parents or to decide that any particular type of religious teaching is suitable for their children.
Article 42.1 states that:

 The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.

Article 44.2.4 of the Irish Constitution which is essentially about state funding for denominational schools was also meant to protect the rights of minorities in publicly funded schools. The Supreme Court has already linked together Article 42.1 and Article 44.2.4.
The right to not attend religious instruction
Article 44.2.4 states that:

Legislation providing State aid for schools shall not discriminate between schools under the management of different religious denominations, nor be such as to affect prejudicially the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at that school.

This Article refers to students not attending religious instruction. That is different from not participating in religious instruction. It means that you have a right to physically leave the classroom. The right of students to not attend religious instruction is a condition of the funding of schools.
In addition, the Irish version of the Constitution which takes precedence over the English version refers to students not attending religious teaching as opposed to religious instruction. Under the Education Act 1998, all subjects are referred to as instruction. Students have a right to not attend any religious teaching.
The Irish version of Article 44.2.4 states that:-

Reachtaíocht lena gcuirtear cúnamh stáit ar fáil do scoileanna ní cead idirdhealú a dhéanamh inti idir scoileanna atá faoi bhainistí aicmí creidimh seachas a chéile ná í do dhéanamh dochair do cheart aon linbh chun scoil a gheibheann airgead poiblí a fhreastal gan teagasc creidimh sa scoil sin a fhreastal.

The Rules for National Schools
The next place that recognises the right of parents to ensure that their children do not attend religious instruction is in Rule 69- 2 (a) of the Rules for National Schools. This states that: Read more…

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**

As Covid continues and schools start back online, 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 during their online school term. 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 here



Be Good without Gods


Atheist Ireland ‘Good Without Gods’ Kiva team members have made loans of  $30,800 to 1069 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 1802 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 4,043 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



Take Action

Pakistan: Persecution of Ahmadis must end as authorities attempt shutdown of US website


By Amnesty International


The Pakistani authorities must end their ongoing persecution of the Ahmadiyya religious minority, which is now extending across borders, said Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), following an attempt by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to shut down the website of the Ahmadis’ US-based community.
On 24 December 2020, the PTA sent a legal notice to the administrators of, stating that the site was in violation of Pakistan’s Constitution, and warning they could be charged with blasphemy – a charge potentially carrying the death penalty – for referring to themselves as Muslims. The site’s administrators have also been threatened with a fine of 500 million PKR (US$3.1 million) if they fail to take the website down. Read more…

Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka held its 5th General Assembly despite threats


By Humanists Internatonal

On 31 January, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka (CEMSL) held its fifth Annual General Assembly, with a restricted number of members and in a climate of tension and fear due to growing threats against the non-religious community in Sri Lanka. The Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka was founded in 2016 by a handful of brave activists. The only public figure of the organization is Rishvin Ismath, CEMSL’s Co-founder and present Spokesperson.
In November 2020, Humanists International expressed its deep concerns for the safety and well-being of Rishvin Ismath, who is currently facing serious threats against his life as a result of his non-belief and advocacy for humanist values.
The discrimination against humanist, atheists and the non-religious in general is very harsh in the country, as the case of Sri Lankan rationalist Shakthika Sathkumara testifies. Read more…

Legal team seek relocation of Mubarak Bala to neutral territory


By Humanists International

On 27th January 2021, the legal team representing detained humanist, Mubarak Bala, filed a petition seeking his relocation to Abuja in order to ensure a fair trial.
The move follows the welcome ruling by Honourable Justice I. E. Ekwo presiding over proceedings before the Federal High Court in Abuja, which confirmed that Bala’s ongoing detention violates his rights to personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of movement enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Read more…

Raise awarness on blasphemy law abuse


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



‘I was told I would burn in hell if I wrote with my left hand’


By Kitty Holland


The daily beatings that a Galway man says he endured in school for being left-handed continue to be a source of trauma for him more than 50 years later.
Gerry Kavanagh (60) says he is “devastated” that the Sisters of Mercy, whose nuns taught him at the then Scoil Íosagáin in Galway city in 1965 and 1966, will neither acknowledge what happened nor apologise. Read more…


Ireland’s mother and baby homes scandal shows the necessity of separating church and state


By Keith Porteous Wood


The misery which women and children faced for decades highlights the damage that can be done when states leave religious authority unchecked, says NSS president Keith Porteous Wood. “The chance of survival of an illegitimate infant born in the slums and placed with a foster-mother in the slums a few days after birth is greater than that of an infant born in one of our special homes for unmarried mothers. Read more…


Chair of mother and baby home commission declines invitation to appear before Children’s Committee


By Órla Ryan


THE CHAIRPERSON OF the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has declined an invitation from the Oireachtas Children’s Committee to appear before it. The committee last week wrote to former judge Yvonne Murphy seeking her attendance at a meeting on 16 February to discuss the commission’s final report, as well as the destruction of audio recordings of witness testimony .Read more…




Challenging World Hijab Day, 1 February


By The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain


Women Leaving Islam, a new film by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, premieres on 1 February at 6pm UK time as a challenge to #WorldHijabDay and religious modesty rules. You can watch the film here. In this powerful film, six ex-Muslim women activists share their moving stories of growing up in Muslim families and Muslim-majority countries and the violence, loss and shunning they faced because of their apostasy. Read more

Polish opposition leader sets out plan to end “corrupting” links between church and state


By Maria Wilczek


Polish opposition leader Szymon Hołownia – a devout Catholic who once began training to become a priest – has presented a plan to ensure the separation of church and state in Poland. He says he aims to “end the corruption of the church by those in power”. Read more…

How One Supreme Court Decision Increased Discrimination Against LGBTQ Couples


By Netta Barak-Corren


Over the past few years, the Supreme Court has been sketching the outline of a broad compromise on LGBTQ rights. Civil-rights protections will shield people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. At the same time, religious objectors will have their own set of robust rights. For example, the Court recently clarified that Title IX, the federal antidiscrimination employment law, covers LGBTQ employees. Read more…

Private faith school allowed to repeatedly fail Ofsted safeguarding inspections for five years


By Humanists UK


A private Muslim faith school in East London has been allowed to repeatedly fail Ofsted inspections of its safeguarding for five years. Humanists UK – which campaigns for tighter regulation of private religious schools – has expressed alarm at the fact that the school has been able to take so little action to address these failings for so long. Read more…

New AP report details ongoing abuse of PPP funds by Catholic Church


By The Freedom From Religion Foundation


Another new bombshell report by the Associated Press shows once again that churches are stealing from the American taxpayer: “As the pandemic began to unfold, AP reveals today, “scores of Catholic dioceses across the U.S. received aid through the Paycheck Protection Program while sitting on well over $10 billion in cash, short-term investments or other available funds, an Associated Press investigation has found. And despite the broad economic downturn, these assets have grown in many dioceses. Read more…


Polish region loses millions in Norway grants due to anti-LGBT resolution


By Ben Koschalka


A Polish region has lost 7.6 million zloty (€1.7 million) in grants from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein after passing a resolution declaring opposition to “LGBT ideology”. The decision by officials of the EEA and Norway Grants programme to pull out of funding a major natural heritage project in the Carpathian mountains was made in autumn last year, but came to light this week after an LGBT activist published letters which have now been confirmed as genuine. Read more…

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

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.


*|YOUTUBE: [$vid=ojpGBz9OxPM]|*

Freethought Radio – Investigate the Church – Philip Appleman

Media Watch

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




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