Secular Sunday #485 – Minister must respect parents rights after Burke case

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Minister must respect parents rights after Burke case


Atheist Ireland is writing this week to the Minister for Education and all of the political party Education spokespersons, to seek meetings to discuss the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in the Burke case (Burke v Minister for Education 9.3.21).

The Court of Appeal has upheld the Constitutional rights of home schooled children, in a way that also vindicates our Constitutional right to ensure that our children do not attend any type of religious instruction that is against the conscience of their parents.

These rights which are derived from the interwoven provision of the Constitution which makes a clear value judgement about the primacy of parental choice in education and the duty of the State to respect that choice, while also guaranteeing the right of the child to education.

There are no State Guidelines in place and schools just decide on these Constitutional issues themselves despite the duty of the state in these matters. We will be raising these issues with the Minister and all of the political party Education spokespersons.

We will continue to campaign for a secular education system, and in the short term for the right to not attend religious instruction and to be given an alternative timetabled subject. Please join Atheist Ireland as a member and help us to continue this important voluntary work.

– 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 asks Minister to respect parents’ rights in education system after Burke case


Atheist Ireland is writing this week to the Minister for Education and all of the political party Education spokespersons, to seek meetings to discuss the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in the Burke case (Burke v Minister for Education 9.3.21).
We believe that this case vindicates our Constitutional right to ensure that our children do not attend any type of religious instruction that is against the conscience of their parents.
We want to discuss this in the context of the following related matters:

  • The fact that the Supreme Court has found that Religious instruction under Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution must be read in conjunction with Article 42 (Religious Education) which contemplates children receiving religious education in schools in accordance with the wishes of parents (Page 25,26 Campaign to Separate Church & State case 1998).
  • The legal opinion that we sent to them on 12 August 2020 on the right to not attend religious instruction under Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution. This is a personal right protected under Article 40.3.1°. The State and individual schools must respect this right.
  • The report that we sent to them on 20 October 2020 showing that schools are refusing to comply with Section 62.7(n) of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018. This Section obliges schools to publish an Admission Policy which must include details of the school’s arrangements for students who do not want to attend religious instruction.

The Burke Case
In the recent Burke case the Court of Appeal has stated that the Campaign case in 1998 is binding authority (para 171). We believe that because there is explicit constitutional recognition of the right to not attend religious instruction which must be read in context with Article 42 (J. Barrington Campaign case, pages 25,26), appropriate consideration should be given in policy decisions by the Department of Education.
Our children are disadvantaged by our decision to exercise our Constitutional rights, and the fact that the Department continues to leave it up to each school how they implement the right, notwithstanding the fact that the Minister has a Constitutional duty to vindicate our rights.
If students do manage to exercise their right to not attend religious instruction they are left sitting in the class and no other subject is offered. They lose out on precious school time and at second level they cannot access an exam subject because their parents exercise their Constitutional rights (syllabus Religious Education).
We do not believe that it is possible to continue to insist that it is up to each individual school how they implement the Constitutional right to not attend religious instruction, given that the Court of Appeal in the Burke case did not accept the Minister’s argument for a limited view of the duties imposed on the State under Article 42 of the Constitution.
Nor do we believe that it is possible for the Minister to continue to claim that syllabus Religious Education is suitable for all religions and those with no religion, because clearly that decision belongs to parents under Article 42 and Article 41 in conjunction with Article 44.2.4 and not the Department of Education, the NCCA, Schools, TUI or Teachers. The Constitutional position is the opposite of what the Minister is claiming.
The Campaign Case
Justice Barrington in the Campaign case at the Supreme Court stated that it would be constitutionally impermissible for a Chaplain to instruct a child in a religion other than its own without the knowledge and consent of its parents. How is that different for Religion teachers and schools who enrol students into syllabus religious education classes by claiming that they are for all religions and none?
It is not reasonable for the Department to continue to state that religious instruction only applies to instruction according to the requirements of a particular religion, as clearly that is not the Constitutional position. Unfortunately that is what is happening on the ground in schools. Schools are claiming in their Admission policies that the Religious Education provided by the school is suitable for all religions and none. Some schools integrate the Guidelines for the Faith Formation and development of Catholic students into the State syllabus and never inform students or parents that they are doing this.
Schools just enrol students into religion courses without any consideration of their Constitutional rights. If Parents insist that their child not attend religion classes they are asked to a meeting in the school and many are asked reasons for opting out. Read more…

Respect Our Rights

In Irish schools balancing rights for all is given no practical application on the ground. Minorities are left dealing with Boards of Management, teachers and schools who have no idea about balancing rights and simply impose their ethos on them.

The Census

This year’s census is postponed because of Covid. In 2016 there were more Irish people with no religion than all minority religion members combined. How much higher will that figure be now?

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  $31,350 to 1087 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 1828 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



Peter McGuire, a journalist working with Noteworthy, the investigations unit at, is writing about religion in schools and the reasons why it is taking so long to provide non-denominational school options to parents around the country.

LOSING FAITH: Why is it taking so long to provide non-denominational school options to parents around the country?




With one in ten Irish people declaring they have no religion in the latest census, the provision of suitable education options is becoming ever more pressing.
To reflect the changing face of Ireland, the Department of Education has begun a divestment process to provide multi-denominational options for families.
Progress has however, been painfully slow.
In some areas, misinformation has been spread about what happens when schools divest suggesting Christmas, Easter, and St Patrick’s Day events would all effectively be ended.
Elsewhere, parents complain of a postcode lottery where catchment areas of new multi-denominational schools are set narrowly and their children must travel to distant neighbourhoods for their education.
We want to take a deeper look at the divestment process to try and discover why it is taking so long to deliver.
We want to explore some of the myths surrounding divestment and see what lobbying activity has been going on.
We would also like to look at other countries to see how they’ve managed to offer every family the education choices they want and need.
Have you a personal experience of problems caused by the slow delivery of school divestment; contact us at Read online…



Europe, reject fundamentalism. Protect our rights!


By The Polish Women’s Strike


Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and The Assembly’s Committee on the Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights
This petition is run by the Polish Women’s Strike

Petition text

We call on you to:
  • Firmly REJECT the Polish nomination of Aleksander Stępkowski as a preferred candidate for the European Court of Human Rights, even before an interview with the special Parliamentary Committee,
  • If he is nevertheless nominated,  to firmly REJECT Aleksander Stępkowski as the candidate for the judge during the voting in the plenary session of the Assembly.
Rejecting Stępkowski will be, on the part of the Assembly, a sign of solidarity with Polish women and minority groups and a gesture showing that the Assembly decidedly adheres to European values such as equality, non-discrimination and human rights.
Why is this important?
In April, the Parliamentary Assembly will choose new judges for the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Three candidates are nominated by each country respectively and one of them will be chosen for nine years. Sign here…


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




Up to 4,000 LGBT+ teachers ‘hiding their sexuality’ over discrimination fears


By Carl O’Brien


Thousands of LGBT teachers are “hiding their sexuality” due to fears of discrimination within schools, say primary teachers. Despite laws which provide for equal employment opportunities for all primary school teachers, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation’s (INTO) annual congress heard that some schools patron bodies believe their sexuality is “intrinsically disordered”. Read more…

Laws that allow schools to discriminate on religious grounds `must be scrapped’


By Simon Doyle


LAWS that allow schools to discriminate on the grounds of religion when appointing teachers must be scrapped, a conference will hear. The NASUWT will today call for changes to legislation at its annual national conference. Read more…

No sex education for a third of senior secondary school students


By Jess Casey


Young adults say they are not learning enough about sex or relationships during their senior years in school, with one in three students indicating they received no classes on the topics. Read more…

A Remedy For The AAI Cover Up


By John Hamill of theFreethoughtProphet


Since we at The Free Thought Prophet first made our allegations of very serious wrongdoing at Atheist Alliance International, the response of that organisation has been to make a series of demonstrably and verifiably untruthful statements. Those false statements have been easily exposed and they have been unable to cover up the wrongdoing by a cabal within the AAI Board … but there is a remedy that is available. Here we propose a way out, which would allow AAI to restore its legitimacy. Read more…



Listen to These Australians Explain Why They Walked Away from Faith


By Hemant Mehta


The Australian network ABC has an audio podcast called Earshot and yesterday’s episode was all about life after religion. The hosts spoke with a handful of atheists about their journey into faith… and then out of it. Read online…

I tried to quit the Catholic church, but the Catholic church wouldn’t quit me. Now what?


By Monica Dux


Excommunication is harder than it seems. But if you don’t go to church, does it matter if the church still thinks you’re part of the flock? Like many lapsed Catholics, my relationship with the church has had some spectacular ups and downs, from the triumph of playing Jesus in my primary school Easter passion play, to the nadir of watching Cardinal George Pell acquitted. Read more…

Jewish museum condemns Catholic university for not disciplining professor over ritual murder claims


By Daniel Tilles


The director of Poland’s leading Jewish museum has criticised the country’s foremost Catholic university for failing to take disciplinary action against a priest-professor who claimed that Jews have been guilty of carrying out ritual murder against Christians.Zygmunt Stępiński, director of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, likened the priest’s words to “Nazi or Stalinist propaganda”, as well as to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an infamous antisemitic text. Read more…

TN GOP Will Fix Statewide Ban on Priests in Government (But Atheist Ban Remains)


By Hemant Mehta


The Tennessee State Constitution has a section in it that specifically lists who’s not allowed to hold elected office. You may be familiar with that because here’s Article IX, Section 2. Read more…

Trapped in Religion


By Faith Beckmann


Religion is something that is very personal to a lot of people. It starts as a seed implemented into the minds of infants by their loving family. Then it blossoms into the core of human existence. From there on it becomes a defining aspect of them as a person. For the majority of the population that identifies as religious, the religion they partake in is one that they were brought up in from early childhood. I was one of these people. Read more…

Beware religious impositions on women’s health, NSS tells government


By The National Secular Society


The National Secular Society has urged the government to ensure women’s health is prioritised over religious concerns in response to a consultation. The NSS has responded to a call for evidence from the Department of Health and Social Care on a proposed strategy for women’s health in England. Read more…

If Scotland wants to uphold children’s rights, its schools need to change


By Megan Manson


After the Scottish parliament’s decision to sign a charter for children’s rights into law, Megan Manson says parties in the upcoming election should challenge religious groups’ privileged influence over education policy. Read more…

There is nothing new about cartoons which mock religion


By Bob Forder


Religious leaders have long feared irreverent drawings that could challenge their authority. We should remember that amid the latest effort to prevent the use of Muhammad cartoons, says Bob Forder. In recent weeks there’s been another furious response to the use of Muhammad cartoons – this time in an educational setting, at Batley Grammar School in Yorkshire. 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.


The Guardian Podcast – The hypocrisy of the Christian right: Politics Weekly Extra
Freethought Radio – Unabashed Atheist – Liz Cavell; Ron Reagan

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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