Secular Sunday #478 – Statutory Guidelines on Religion in Schools

This week’s Secular Sunday. To avoid missing out, sign up here to receive Secular Sunday by email



Statutory Guidelines on Religion in Schools


The State needs to rebalance Constitutional rights regarding religion in schools in order to guarantee the Constitutional and Human Rights of minorities.

Under Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution, children have a right to not attend religious instruction classes. Under Article 42.3.2 all children have a right to a basic moral education that is not delivered through religion.

Atheist Ireland this week published a draft letter that you can send to your TDs asking them to support statutory guidelines to vindicate these rights. It includes links to our legal opinion on this matter and to a timeline of religious discrimination in Irish schools.

We are also working on a submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council on these issues, as part of Ireland being questioned this year under the UN’s Universal Periodic Review of our human rights record.

Atheist Ireland is a voluntary group, and we depend on our membership to keep up our advocacy work. Please join Atheist Ireland as a member, and support our campaign for an ethical secular State that respects everybody equally.

– 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


Draft letter for parents to send to TDs seeking Statutory Guidelines on religion in schools

Here is a draft letter to send to your TDs seeking Statutory Guidelines on religion in schools. You can copy and paste the text and add in any information that you want about your own circumstances. The letter explains why this is topical at the moment. If you get a response from your local TD, please contact us at and let us know.
From: xxxxxxx
Date: xxxxxxx
Dear (name of TD or Senator)
I am writing to you to ask that you support the introduction of Statutory Guidelines on religion in schools in order to guarantee the Constitutional and Human Rights of minorities in the Education system. There is a need to rebalance Constitutional rights regarding religion in schools.
These Statutory Guidelines should include practical solutions to the following rights:
The right to not attend religious instruction (Article 44.2.4)
The right to a basic moral education without religious influence (Article 42.3.2)
The right to objective sex education
The right to access secular subjects without religious influence and
The right to not have religion integrated into the time allocated for secular subjects during preparation for religious ceremonies.
Here is a link to a Legal Opinion obtained by Atheist Ireland on the right to not attend religious instruction under Article 44.2.4 of the Irish Constitution.

Legal opinion on the Constitutional right to not attend religious instruction

Here is a link to some background information on key issues in the education system.

How unintended religious discrimination in Irish schools has evolved since 1965

Under Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution, children have a right to not attend religious instruction classes. This includes the right at a minimum to being supervised outside of the classroom with s decent legal argument for the right to another timetabled subject.
Under Article 42.3.2 of the Constitution all children have a right to a basic moral education. Children who exercise their Constitutional Right to not attend religion class have no access to a basic moral education.
The 1999 Framework on the Primary school curriculum is now being updated by the NCCA. There is an opportunity here to ensure that religion is no longer integrated into curriculum subjects and particularly Relationship and Sexuality Education.
The Programme for Government (p 95-96) includes an objective curriculum on ERB and ethics, as recommended by the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in 2011. It aims to develop inclusive and age appropriate RSE and SPHE and to make appropriate legislative changes. It also supports a Constitutional Assembly on Education and access to the teaching profession for minorities.
Parents have absolute rights under the Constitution, and putting in place Statutory Guidelines on religion in schools would give practical application to the Constitutional and Human Rights of all families in the education system. I look forward to hearing your response to this request.
Read online…


Where are the guidelines?

In 1996 it was decided to put in place guidelines on religion in schools in order to ensure that the Constitutional rights of minorities were protected. That never happened and to date there are still no guidelines, statutory or otherwise, to ensure the Constitutional right of students to not attend religious instruction are guaranteed and given practical application on the ground.

Read the history timeline here

The Supreme Court in Ireland has never sanctioned integrating religion into secular subjects. The courts referred to a religious ethos as being part of the general atmosphere of a school.

The Court said that a ‘religious ethos’ could influence students ‘to some degree’ if students choose to go to that school. Many students have no choice but to attend schools with a religious ethos. A school’s Religious ethos is forced on minority families.

Schools and teachers decide for themselves how they will balance the rights of families when they reflect their ethos in the general atmosphere of the school. There are no guidelines or training.

Teachers and schools also integrate religion into secular subjects notwithstanding the fact that the Supreme court never sanctioned this and only referred to ethos in relation to the general atmosphere of the school.

There is no balance of rights in the Irish Education, just indoctrination. Anything goes as long as the Catholic Church can hold on to their power and control.

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  $30,850 to 1071 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 1808 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 4,044 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: Worsening Crackdown on Dissent


By Human Rights Watch


(New York) – Pakistan’s government intensified its crackdown on the media, political opponents, and civil society in 2020, while failing to stem violence against women and minorities, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2021.

Pakistani authorities harassed, and at times, prosecuted human rights defenders and journalists for criticizing government policies. They deployed the National Accountability Bureau, Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog, to detain political opponents and critics of the government, including the Jang group editor Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, who was held without bail for six months.

“Pakistan’s continuing assault on political opponents and free expression put the country on an increasingly dangerous course,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Threatening opposition leaders, activists, and journalists who criticize the government is a hallmark of authoritarian rule, not a democracy.”

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



Destruction of Mother and Baby Home tapes represents ‘an imbalance of power’, Dáil hears


By Rónán Duffy


TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said the audio recordings of testimony destroyed by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission “may be retrieved in some form” but that there are “limitations to what the government can do”. Read more…

Deadline nears for mother-and-baby home burial submissions


By Ailbhe Conneely


This week is the deadline for submissions to the Oireachtas committee that will scrutinise proposed legislation allowing excavations, exhumations and re-interment of remains at former mother-and-baby home institutions. Read more…

Irish academic calls for transnational inquiry into forced adoptions


By Lorna Siggins


A “transnational” inquiry should be carried out into forced adoptions experienced by Irish women who travelled abroad to give birth, an academic has said. Lorraine Grimes, a postdoctoral researcher at NUI Galway, said that the fate of thousands of Irish unmarried mothers in Britain and other countries who were pressurised into signing adoption papers for their children needs to be explored. Read more…


FFRF secures state/church victory in Mich. school

By Freedom From Religion Foundation

A public school basketball coach in Michigan has been asked to stop praying with his team after the Freedom From Religion Foundation contacted his school district.
A district parent informed FFRF that a Wyandot Middle School basketball coach had been leading his students in prayer before basketball games. Read online…

Poland launches state-funded research centre to “counter Christianophobia”

By Daniel Tilles

A new academic centre researching religious freedom has been launched in Poland, with the education minister hailing its role in tackling what he says is the growth of “Christianophobia” in Europe. The opening of the Centre for Research on Religious Freedom at Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University (UKSW) took place in Warsaw this week. Read more…

Widow of Slain Atheist Avijit Roy Says Executing His Killers Won’t “Bring Peace”

By Hemant Mehta

Five men were sentenced to death today in Bangladesh for the murder of Dr. Avijit Roy, the atheist author who was hacked to death in February of 2015 as he and his wife were returning home from a book fair in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (She survived.) That murder was the first in a series of attacks against people who criticized religion or assisted with the publication of such material. Read more…

Link between religion and unethical behaviour

By Scott Bellows

I personally noticed since 2017 when WhatsApp launched its status feature that nearly all former colleagues from over many professional years who were terminated for fraud, corruption, or other general malfeasance tended to post dramatically more scripture verses, church events, and religious imagery on their social media then other current and former colleagues from across the educational, NGO, and banking industries of my past and present career. Read more…

FFRF: Biden should abolish ‘faith-based office,’ not perpetuate it

By Freedom From Religion Foundation

The Biden Administration should abolish, not resurrect the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, as it has with this week’s executive order. The Freedom From Religion Foundation was the most vociferous critic of President George W. Bush’s egregious action to establish a “faith-based initiative,” which has created so much bad precedent to entangle religion and government.As FFRF noted at the time, 9/11 was “a faith-based initiative” — and so was Jan. 6. Read more…


Can You Ever Completely Give Up Your Religion?

By David Ludden

I like to joke that I gave up religion for Lent one year and just never went back to it. But in reality, my separation from the Catholic Church was a more gradual process.
As a child, I accepted with blind faith everything the priests and nuns taught me in parochial school. In high school, however, the logical inconsistencies of the Catholic faith and the moral inconsistencies of Catholics’ behavior began to trouble me. Read more…

Metal musician Nergal convicted in Poland for “offending religious feelings” but contests ruling


By Daniel Tilles


Musician Adam Darski – best known by his stage name “Nergal” as lead singer of Polish extreme metal band Behemoth – has been convicted for offending religious feelings by a court in Warsaw. It ordered him to pay a fine of 15,000 złoty (€3,340) and court costs of almost 3,500 zloty. Read more…

Over 80% of Polish women aged under 40 oppose new abortion restrictions, finds poll


By Maria Wilczek


Among women in Poland aged 18 to 40, only 2% say they support the recent near-total ban on abortion, while 7% want a complete ban, according to a new poll. By contrast, the largest proportion (44%) want abortion to be available on demand.
Meanwhile, after much pressure to take a stance on this issue, Poland’s main opposition party, the centrist Civic Platform (PO), has today issued a new position on abortion
. Read more…

UK quizzed over collective worship law by UN


By The National Secular Society


The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has questioned laws which require collective worship in UK schools after the National Secular Society raised the issue.
The CRC asked what steps the UK is taking to repeal laws requiring daily acts of worship in schools, as part of its periodic examination of children’s human rights in the UK.
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.

RTE Player – Redress: Breaking The Silence – Part 2 Using the personal testimonies of survivors of residential abuse who sought redress, this two-part series examines the Irish state’s response to those survivors.


Freethought Radio – Anointed with Oil – Darren Dochuk

Media Watch

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




Please consider joining Atheist Ireland and support our continued work









Secular Sunday