Secular Sunday #500 – Halfway to Edition #1,000!

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



Secular Sunday #500 – Halfway to Edition #1,000!


This week sees the publication of the 500th edition of weekly newsletter Secular Sunday. To mark the occasion, here is a link to some extracts from editions number 1, 100, 200, 300, and 400. We’re now halfway to edition 1,000, which will be published to celebrate the achievement of a secular state in 2031!

More topically, Atheist Ireland sent a letter and briefing document this week to all TDs and Senators regarding the Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019 and the Constitutional right to ‘not attend’ religious instruction in publicly-funded schools.

We are asking them to amend this Bill to incorporate guidelines that would give practical application to this Fundamental Constitutional Right. As the legal opinion which we have previously circulated makes clear, this means the right to physically not be present in the classroom.

The Minister refuses to address this issue because she claims it is up to each school how they implement the right. But the recent Court of Appeal judgment in the case Burke v Minister for Education (March 2021) has added more detail to the duty of the State to vindicate this right.

Please consider joining Atheist Ireland if you are not already a member. We are a voluntary group with no paid staff, and we depend on our members to continue our lobbying and to produce the next 500 editions of Secular Sunday! 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


Celebrating 500 editions of Secular Sunday


This week sees the publication of the 500th edition of weekly newsletter Secular Sunday. To mark the occasion, here are some extracts from editions number 1, 100, 200, 300, and 400. We’re halfway to edition 1000, which will be published to celebrate the achievement of a secular state in 2031!

Secular Sunday #1 — 1 January 2012
Greetings, Fellow Atheists:
Happy New Year, and welcome to Secular Sunday, the new weekly newsletter of Atheist Ireland. It will include details of events, activities, news items and other relevant topics. This first issue is devoted to a review of our main activities during 2011 and  our plans for 2012.
In this issue:
1. Secular constitution and laws
2. Secular education system
3. Other activities
4. Our plans for 2012
Derek Walsh, Editor
1. Secular Constitution and Laws

  • We wrote to all candidates and parties in the General Election and Presidential Election asking their views on secular policy issues, and published the results to enable secular voters to take this into account when voting. We also published secular analyses of the manifestos of each political party.
  • We met with the Department of the Taoiseach to become a partner in the dialogue process with religious and philosophical groups, and specifically to discuss the impact of secular issues on laws and practices of the incoming coalition Government.
  • We made a policy submission to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review on Ireland’s human rights record with regard to secular issues. We also contributed to a joint submission made by several Irish human rights advocacy groups.
  • We attended the OSCE’s human rights implementation conference in Poland, where we spoke at the session on freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. Read Jane Donnelly’s report here.
  • We continued our campaign to have the Irish blasphemy law repealed. We welcome the commitment in the Programme for Government to include this in a review of future Constitutional changes. Read more.
  • The policy issues that we have raised generally with these various bodies include religious oaths for officeholders, religious oaths in court, the blasphemy law, legalised religious discrimination in employment and equality laws, and the right to a secular education based on international human rights law.

2. Secular education system

  • We made detailed policy submissions to, and we met with, the Department of Education’s forum on patronage and pluralism in the primary education system. This forum should by now have reported to the Minister for Education Ruari Quinn. Read more.
  • We launched a new campaign website Teach, Don’t Preach to coordinate our campaign for a secular Irish education system. This website includes information on how to opt your child out of religious education classes and other resources for parents.
  • We made comprehensive submissions on secular education to the Irish Human Rights Commission, the United Nations Committee for Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the United Nations Universal Periodic Review on Ireland’s human rights record.
  • We highlighted the issue of discrimination against nonreligious parents who cannot opt their child out of religious instruction in Catholic primary schools, with a high profile media campaign led by Jane Donnelly and Martijn Leenheer. See them both on TV3’s Morning Ireland here.
  • We lobbied the outgoing Government against proposals for new VEC primary schools that would include faith formation within school hours. We want these schools defined as ‘organs of the State’ so that parents can challenge a board of management which chose to operate the integrated curriculum based upon a religious ethos.

3. Other activities

  • We held the World Atheist Convention in Dublin in June. Speakers included Richard Dawkins, and the new Atheist Alliance International was launched. At the convention, we and other atheists from around the world launched the Dublin Declaration on Secularism and the Place of Religion in Public Life. This covers personal freedoms, secular democracy, secular education, and one law for all.
  • We hosted AC Grayling in the first of a series of Internet-streamed talks in Ireland by prominent international atheists.
  • We ran a campaign asking people to be honest about religion in the 2011 census. We asked people to answer based on their actual beliefs about religion now, not on the basis of their childhood religion.
  • Michael Nugent wrote a series of five articles for the Irish Times Rite and Reason column, on atheism and its relationship to reality, morality, faith and Jesus.
  • We have continued to take part in public debates, media interviews, etc. on issues relevant to Atheist Ireland and our agenda.

4. Our plans for 2012

  • During 2012 we plan to continue the work that we are already doing on all of the above issues.
  • We will be writing a New Year’s letter to every TD and Senator asking them to support the Dublin Declaration on Secularism, and to support a series of five steps to a secular Ireland that will include a secular constitution, education system, lawmaking, government and courts.
  • We will be campaigning to ensure that the new Government’s proposed constitutional convention takes place on schedule, and that it focuses on the need for a secular constitution without references to gods and religious oaths.
  • We will be strengthening Atheist Ireland organisationally, including through this Secular Sunday newsletter, regular members meetings and social events, and by setting up local Atheist Ireland groups around the country.
  • Please get involved and help us to build an ethical and secular Ireland. If you would like to volunteer to spend a few hours a week helping with the above campaigns or with local events in your area, please email Any feedback or suggestions about this newsletter or the organisation in general are welcome.

Read more…


The Student and Parent Charter Bill must protect the right to not attend religious instruction

Atheist Ireland has sent the following Letter and Briefing Document for TDs and Senators regarding the Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019 and the Constitutional right to ‘not attend’ religious instruction in publicly-funded schools
Dear TD/Senator,
The Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019 is making its way through the Oireachtas. There are no guidelines in the Bill that would give practical application to the Fundamental Constitutional Right under Article 44.2.4 to ‘not attend’ religious instruction in publicly funded schools.
In the Campaign to Separate Church and State case 1998 (Supreme Court), Justice Barrington stated that:

“These references appear to me to establish two facts. First the Constitution does not contemplate that the payment of monies to a denominational school for educational purposes is an “endowment” of religion within the meaning of Article 44 S.2 s.s.2 of the Constitution. Secondly, the Constitution contemplated that if a school was in receipt of public funds any child, no matter what his religion, would be entitled to attend it. But such a child was to have the right not to attend any course of religious instruction at the school.” (page 24 Supreme Court Campaign case 1998)

As the legal opinion which we have previously circulated makes clear, the Constitutional right to ‘not attend’ religious instruction means the right to physically not be present in the classroom. It also encompasses the right at a minimum to be supervised outside the classroom, with a decent legal argument on the grounds of non-discrimination to be given an alternative subject.
Atheist Ireland has presented the Minister with evidence that the right to ‘not attend’ religious instruction is not being implemented by schools (our legal opinion on the Constitutional Right and our analysis of Admission Policies).
The Minister refuses to address this issue because the Minister claims it is up to each school how they implement the right. This argument may have some validity if the right was being implemented, and there was a dispute over how it was being implemented. However the problem is not how it is implemented, but the fact that it is not being implemented.
The recent Court of Appeal judgment in the case Burke v Minister for Education (March 2021) has added more detail to the duty of the State to vindicate this right. In that case the Minister had argued for a limited view of the duties imposed on the State in Article 42 but the Court judgment concluded that:

“190. We consider that the structure of the Constitution, including the fact that Article 41 relating to the family is immediately followed by Article 42 relating to education, together with the express wording of those Articles, place the family at the heart of the provision of education. Parental duty to provide for education is paramount and parental choice in how that is provided is guaranteed. Furthermore, the right to education and the right of a child to realise his or her full potential, has been recognised as part of the natural rights guaranteed by Article 40.3. The State, pursuant to Article 41.1.2, also guarantees to protect the family in its constitution and authority.”
“191 This Court considers that the case law demonstrates that the relationship between parents, the State and the child as envisaged by Articles 40, 41 and 42, is a trifecta not just of the participants but of the rules under which constitutional engagement on education must take place; namely rights, duties and powers. It is only through understanding the interwoven nature of those relationships, that clarity can be brought to the complex constitutional provisions on education….”

The Supreme Court (Campaign to Separate Church and State 1998) has said that Article 42 (on education, which includes 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) must be read in conjunction with Article 44.2.4 (the right to not attend religious instruction in publicly funded schools). There is no valid Constitutional reason for the Minister to refuse to vindicate the right to not attend religious instruction.
This is not an issue about balancing rights, as the Constitution envisages minorities not attending religious instruction without that interfering with the Constitutional rights of religious bodies, or parents and children with specific religious convictions. The purpose of Article 44.2.4 is to protect the rights of minorities in publicly funded schools.
Please amend this Bill, or another opportunity will be lost for the State to vindicate and protect the Constitutional right of minorities in publicly funded schools, and to stop discriminating against minorities on the grounds of religion. 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**
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 here

Be Good without Gods

Atheist Ireland ‘Good Without Gods’ Kiva team members have made loans of  $33,250 to 1155 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 1862 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 4,076 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



Special committee may examine issue of assisted suicide

By Sean Defoe and Jack Quann


A new Special Oireachtas Committee may be set up to examine the issue of assisted suicide. It comes after the Justice Committee decided the proposed Dying with Dignity Bill is not workable in its current form. Read online…

State has dismal record on historical abuse


By The Irish Examiner View

While approval on Wednesday of a revised redress scheme for victims of sexual abuse in schools is welcome, its late and partial nature highlights — yet again — the State’s dismal record in acknowledging and compensating for historical abuses. Read more…

State to reopen redress scheme for school abuse victims

By Colin Gleeson


The Government is to reopen a revised scheme for victims of sexual abuse in schools following pressure from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. The commission complained to the Council of Europe in recent weeks that the State was withholding redress from alleged victims of sexual abuse in schools seven years after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgment won by campaigner Louise O’Keeffe. Read online…


Department of Education accused of trying to limit compensation for sexual abuse

By Vivienne Clarke


The special rapporteur on child protection, Professor Conor O’Mahony has accused the Department of Education of trying to limit the number of people eligible for compensation for sexual abuse suffered in primary schools. Prof O’Mahony, who is also director of the child law clinic at UCC, told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, that since the original O’Keeffe ruling seven years ago, the Department of Education had gone to “considerable lengths” to try to limit the number of people who would be eligible for compensation in various ways Read more…

Why mother and baby homes report findings cannot be let stand

By Mairead Enright


A rewriting the executive summary of the mother and baby homes report cannot take the place of the report or of a full independent review of its processes and outcomes, but it is an effective way to show that alternative findings were possible.
Our main technique is to analyse the evidence already contained in the report itself using the constitutional and human rights law in force during the period under examination
. Read more…

Secondary school pupils to learn about Magdalene laundries and mother and baby home abuses

By Elaine Loughlin


Secondary school pupils will be taught about the human rights violations suffered in industrial schools, Magdalene laundries, and mother and baby institutions under a new national pilot programme. NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights has published secondary school teaching materials on Ireland’s institutional abuses, which have been created with survivors and school teachers, pupils, activists and artists. Read more…


Soaring numbers are quitting Catholic Church in Poland, say activists

By Richard Good


In Poland, there’s been anger at the Catholic Church over its support for a law effectively banning abortion. Now more and more people are taking the step of preparing formal paperwork in order to leave the church, campaigners claim. One such person is Ola Gosk, who is preparing to join a growing movement of apostasy. She’s going to see a priest for final confirmation that she is no longer part of the church. Read online…


Survivors tell of horrors behind mass child graves that shame Canada

By Charlie Mitchell


It was beside a rickety staircase outside the gymnasium of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, enclosed by jagged mountains, that Harvey McLeod lost his faith in God. Then a student at the school, McLeod, now 67, had just been abused — and not for the first time. “I told God, you leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone,” he said to The Times on that same patch of dry grass. “And I’ll be better off.”  Read more…

Meet the humanists: ‘You don’t have to be Christian to think of yourself as a good person’

By Amy Fallon


When Heidi Nicholl moved to Australia five years ago, she remembers thinking: “Where is it – where is humanism?” The British-born Nicholl had been drawn to humanism, a secular, values-based movement, in her 20s. In her work as a hospital ethicist she was never far from considering questions about life, death, and the reality of being human. Read more…

Schools aren’t there to save the Church

By Stephen Evans


The Church of England’s new evangelical missional strategy should lead us to question its entitlement to proselytise in schools, argues Stephen Evans. In a bid to reverse the precipitous decline in Anglican affiliation, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell has come up with a plan to “revitalise” the ailing Church of England. Read more…

Polish government picks Catholic universities to train teachers for compulsory school ethics classes

By Daniel Tilles


As Poland’s government prepares to make it compulsory for all children who choose not to take Catholic catechism classes in school to instead study ethics, the education ministry has chosen a number of Catholic universities to train more teachers in the latter subject. Read more…

Ofsted blasts faith school for book saying gay people should be put to death

By Humanists UK


A private Muslim school has received a damning report from Ofsted after a book saying gay and lesbian people should be ‘put to death’ was found in the school library. Humanists UK has described the discovery as ‘deeply alarming’. It said the case demonstrates the urgent need for better regulation of private faith schools. Read more…

New research maps global assisted dying laws for the first time

By Humanists UK


A new study into worldwide laws on assisted dying has found that more than 250 million people have gained the right to die since MPs last debated proposals on changing the law. The research, carried out by Humanists UK, has been launched in map form, the first ever map of its kind, and demonstrates how far the UK’s laws are now out of kilter with the rest of the western world.  Read more…

FFRF celebrates New York’s ban on child marriage

By The Freedom From Religion Foundation


The Freedom From Religion Foundation is delighted that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a measure that raises the minimum marriage age statewide to 18 and eliminates all exceptions to this requirement. 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.



Freethought Radio – Rationality – Steven Pinker
National Secular Society – The Catholic Church and Canada’s residential schools
The Friendly Atheist Podcast – The Shocking Lawsuit Against Liberty U.

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