Secular Sunday #483 – Submission to the UN under the Universal Periodic Review

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Submission to the UN under the Universal Periodic Review


This week Atheist Ireland along with the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community have sent a Submission to the UN under the Universal Periodic Review. Ireland is due up before the UN under the UPR later this year.

Irish Atheists, Evangelicals and Ahmadiyya Muslims are united in a campaign for Secularism and Human Rights. We have very different world views, but we all agree that each person should be treated with respect, our right to hold our beliefs should be treated with respect, and States should treat us all equally before the law by remaining neutral between religious and non-religious beliefs.
Our Submission  concentrates on the education system, religious oaths for office and the plight of asylum seekers and the failure of the Irish State to protect the right to freedom on conscience, religion and beliefs of minorities.

We also raise that issue regarding the right to not attend religious instruction. In Ireland most children if they do manage to opt out of religion are left sitting in the religion class and no other subject is offered. Many students are by default enrolled in religion classes that are not neutral or objective, and if their parents object they are falsely told that the course is suitable for all religions and none. Religion is also integrated into other curriculum subjects and the general atmosphere of the school, with no opt out possible, as parents are not aware of how and when this happens.
You can read our submission 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


Atheist Ireland, Evangelical Alliance, and Ahmadiyya Muslims ask UN to strengthen secularism in Ireland


Ireland will be questioned this year by the United Nations Human Rights Council under a process called the Universal Periodic Review. Atheist Ireland, the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland, and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Ireland, have made this joint submission to UN on freedom of religion and belief in Ireland.
1. Introduction
2. Recommendations
3. The Irish education system
3.1 Balancing of rights
3.2 Recent court case upholds rights of parents
3.3 Religion integrated into the curriculum
3.4 Education & Training Board schools
3.5 The Catholic Church’s position
3.6 No non-denominational schools or secular education
3.7 Junior Infants starting school this year
3.8 This system cannot respect everybody’s rights
3.9 The policy of parental choice is illusory
3.10 Admission to Schools without religious discrimination
3.11 Arrangements for pupils who do not attend religious instruction
3.12 Statutory Guidelines on the right to not attend religion classes
3.13 Religious ceremonies and prayers in schools
3.14 Types of religion classes
3.15 Education & Training Board schools at second level
3.16 Discrimination against minority teachers
4. Remove the obligatory religious oaths in the Constitution
5. Respect the right of asylum seekers to freedom of religion or belief
1. Introduction
1.1 Irish Atheists, Evangelicals and Ahmadiyya Muslims are united in a campaign for Secularism and Human Rights. We have very different world views, most notably in Ireland on issues such as abortion, but we all agree that each person should be treated with respect, our right to hold our beliefs should be treated with respect, and States should treat us all equally before the law by remaining neutral between religious and nonreligious beliefs.
1.2 Parts of our campaign are:
  • We promote the fundamental human rights of freedom of conscience, religion and belief, equality before the law, and freedom from discrimination for all.
  • We promote these human rights within Irish society and Irish political institutions, and at the United Nations, the Council of Europe and other international human rights bodies.
1.3 All points in this joint submission are made on behalf of our three groups unless otherwise stated. We previously made a joint submission and attended the UN Human Rights Committee when it was examining Pakistan under the ICCPR.
1.4 Atheist Ireland regularly takes part in sessions of UN Committees, and has successfully had human rights based recommendations made. In 2016 Atheist Ireland addressed the Human Rights Council at Ireland’s UPR, and raised three issues: the laws against blasphemy and abortion, obligatory religious oaths for high office, and religious discrimination in Irish schools.
1.5 Since then, Ireland has held referendums to end the laws against blasphemy and abortion. However, there have been only superficial plans to reduce religious discrimination in schools, no progress in removing obligatory religious oaths for high office, and an increasing problem with regard to respecting the freedom of religion or belief of asylum seekers.
2. Recommendations
2.1 Provide Access to non-denominational schools and secular education, consistently with the accepted recommendations 135.138 to 135.140 from UPR 2016, and with repeated recommendations from the UN Human Rights Committee.
2.2 Put in place human rights based Statutory Guidelines on the right to not attend religion classes which are not neutral and objective, and religion that is integrated in to other curriculum subjects, and offer an alternative timetabled subject, consistently with the linked legal opinion obtained by Atheist Ireland on this issue, and with recommendation 36 (CRC/c/IRL/co/3-4) 2016 of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
2.3 Hold a referendum to remove the obligatory religious oaths in the Constitution for President, Judges, and members of the Council of State which includes the Taoiseach and Tanaiste, and replace them with a single declaration that makes no reference to the person’s religion or beliefs, consistently with repeated recommendations from the UN Human Rights Committee.
2.4 Respect the right of asylum seekers to self determination on the basis of religion or belief, and ensure that asylum seekers have access to welfare and housing support as the Direct Provision centres are not suitable places for those fleeing persecution.
3. The Irish education system
3.1 The Irish Education system is unique. The State funds education mainly through private religious bodies known as Patrons. The State shows deference to the Catholic Church and its mission to evangelise through running schools. In theory, atheist or minority faith families have absolute rights but in practice we are discriminated against on the ground of religion with no effective remedy.
3.2 Under Article 42.1 of the Irish Constitution all parents have inalienable rights in relation to the education of their children. Under Article 44.2.4 the State must uphold the right of students to not attend religious teaching if that is against the wishes of their parents. This is a condition of the State funding of schools. Also the State must respect all parents’ convictions.
3.3 It is hard for parents to go to court in relation to the evangelising/discrimination of their children in schools, because of (a) prohibitive costs, (b) their children would have left school before the case made its way through the courts, and (c) Parents fear their child will be alienated and singled out as a trouble maker. This is even harder if you are an immigrant.
3.4 It is not possible to hold the Department of Education responsible under the Equal Status Act for their failure to put in place guidelines or balancing rights. Nor is it possible to take a case to the Ombudsman for children in relation to the content of religion classes or the integrated curriculum. Read more…


Respect Our Rights

The Court of Appeal has said in the recent Burke case that one of the effects of Article 41 and Article 42 of the constitution was to give primacy to parental choice concerning the education of their children.

Despite this Church and State have decided that curriculum religion at second level is suitable for non religious families. They don’t have any right to decide this given the primacy of parents in relation to the education of their children.

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  $31,325 to 1086 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 1826 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 4,052 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


Historic consensus on freedoms of religion and expression at risk, say UN experts


By United Nations human rights experts


GENEVA (23 March 2021) – United Nations human rights experts said today digitalisation and the COVID-19 pandemic had facilitated a new wave of stigma, racism, xenophobia and hate targeting minorities and those considered “others”, often promoted by authorities themselves, either directly or indirectly. Recalling the consensus achieved since the 24 March 2011 adoption of a Human Rights Council resolution on combating intolerance, they said in the following statement that States must ensure pluralism and stamp out negative stereotyping:
“On the 10th anniversary of Resolution 16/18, we welcome the Human Rights Council consensus around the issue of fostering freedom of religion or belief, reaffirming freedom of opinion and expression and combating advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. Read more…


Raise awarness on blasphemy law abuse



World Atheist Day

#AtheistDay Tuesday March 23


Tuesday March 23, is International #AtheistDay. Protect your rights if you live in a secular State, and speak up for atheists who are persecuted in authoritarian theocracies.

Join Atheist Ireland and help us to promote reason, separation of church and state, secular schools, and ethical laws.

Join Atheist Ireland and help us to campaign for secular schools that teach, don’t preach.

Support the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which campaigns to protect separation of church and state in USA.


Support the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, which campaigns for universal rights and equal citizenship for all.

Support the Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation, which campaigns for secularism in Poland.

Support the Atheist Freethinkers of Canada, a bilingual campaign group for critical thought and secularism.

Join Atheist Ireland and help us to campaign to end the religious oaths for President, Judges, and Taoiseach.

Support Faithless Hijabi, a support group for women who are questioning or leaving Islam.

Support the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

Join Atheist Ireland and help us to campaign to end religious discrimination against teachers.

Join Atheist Ireland and help us to promote reason, separation of church and state, secular schools, and ethical laws.

Support Humanists International, who produce the annual Freedom of Thought Report.

Join Atheist Ireland and help us to campaign for secular schools.

Support Rationalist International, which promotes scientific inquiry and a humane value system



April 2021

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



UN urged to intervene in mother and baby homes scandal


By Elaine Loughlin and Aoife Moore


The United Nations (UN) has been urged to intervene in the Government’s handling of Bessborough and other former mother and baby home sites. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has written to Fabian Salvioli, the UN’s special rapporteur on truth, justice and reparations to raise concerns about the mother and baby homes commission report and a proposed Burials Bill that would allow for the exhumation of remains at Tuam and other sites. Read more…

State must clarify its stance on relationships and sexual education in schools


By Colm O’Connor


Last week’s decision by the Vatican that “The Church cannot bless same-sex unions” should convince the Department of Education of the urgent need to take full control of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme in State-funded schools. Read more…

Church’s view on same-sex marriage could damage progress we’ve made


By Richard Hogan


It is “impossible” for God to “bless sin”. This is the latest utterance from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) on same-sex marriage. French philosopher Michel Foucault said: “People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what they do does.”  Read more…

Why Won’t AAI and IAA Be Truthful?


By the Freethought Prophet


Howard Burman is the current President of Atheist Alliance International. Gail Miller is the current President of the new International Association of Atheists organisation (and a former President of AAI). Bill Flavell is the current Vice President of AAI. These three people were part of a small cabal of individuals who during 2018, destroyed the democratic structure of organised international atheism. This remains important today, since AAI is still the only atheist group that has Special Consultative Status at the United Nations and Participatory Status at the Council of Europe. Read more..



Islamic homophobia is empowered by leftist silence


By Jimmy Bangash


In Muslim communities, homosexuality is intrinsically linked to anxiety, intimidation, violence, and, in some cases, death. For many, it involves living a closeted existence for fear of being ostracised or disowned. Islamic theological teachings, disseminated by religious institutions and espoused by community leaders, range from preaching for our execution to advising us to live a life of celibacy. Read more…

Pagan Employee Sues Panera Bread Citing Religious Discrimination by Her Managers


By Hemant Mehta


When I read that a Panera Bread employee was allegedly discriminated against because of her religious beliefs, I assumed it meant someone needed certain religious holidays off and her manager wouldn’t give it to her. Nope. It’s so much worse than that. Read more…

After Exposing a Proselytizing Teacher, an Atheist and His Child Are on the Run


By Hemant Mehta


I posted last week about a disturbing recording that a West Virginia middle school student had made of her health teacher. The teacher told kids they should avoid sex before marriage because the Bible said so, that students needed to believe in God, that God would help them “make better decisions” about how to handle their hormones, etc. Read more…

Gavin Williamson enters row over cartoon of Prophet Muhammad


By Charlotte Wace


Gavin Williamson has condemned parents’ protests against children being shown a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in class as “completely unacceptable”. Batley Grammar School has closed and parents have gathered outside for a second day to complain about the image, which parents said was from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Read more…

To live in a diverse society means to live with debate. Bring it on


By Kenan Malik


No one has a right not to be offended. All of us have a duty to challenge bigotry. These two claims are not just compatible, they are often interconnected. Today, though, many view these as conflicting perspectives. To give offence to other cultures or faiths, they argue, is to foment racism; to challenge racism, one should refrain from giving offence. Read more…

Majority of public opposes places for bishops in Lords, poll finds


By the National Secular Society


A majority of the British public thinks the House of Lords should stop reserving places for Church of England bishops, a YouGov poll has found. Fifty-three per cent of respondents to a poll published this week said the Lords should not continue to have places for C of E bishops. Just 16% said it should, with 31% saying they didn’t know. Read more…

Archdiocese: RSE resource saying women are ‘receiver-responders’ in sexual relationships ‘authentically reflects Catholic teaching’


By Humanists UK


A faith-based RSE resource saying the contraceptive pill is dangerous, that gay and lesbian people cannot marry and must entirely abstain from sex, and that men were ‘created to initiate sexual relationships’ and women to be ‘receiver-responders’ has been defended by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cardiff on the grounds it ‘authentically reflects Catholic teaching’. 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.


Channel 4 News – Exclusive: church abuse victim waives his anonymity to speak out

Radio 4’s Sunday programme – Andrew Copson defends right to depict Mohammed in RE lessons

Freethought Radio – Leaving God – John Follis

Friendly Atheist Podcast – GOP Senator Opposes Sabbath-Day Voting

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








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