Secular Sunday #502 – One Oath for All

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



One Oath for All


The Irish Government is disgracefully arguing at the European Court of Human Rights that the religious oaths for President and members of the Council of State are “necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.

This is simply not true, and the Government knows it is not true. Successive governments have added a secular alternative to religious oaths in courts, have removed all religious oaths from swearing affidavits, and have told the United Nations Human Rights Committee that it is considering a referendum to remove the religious oaths in the Constitution.

It is embarrassing that the Government of a republic is now actively promoting religious discrimination against atheists and secular citizens. Why are Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party, openly undermining the rights to freedom of conscience and equality before the law?

Atheist Ireland runs a One Oath for All campaign. We want a referendum to replace the religious oaths for President, judges, and members of the Council of state, which includes Taoiseach and Tanaiste. We want a single secular declaration that makes no reference to the religious or nonreligious beliefs of those taking office.

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 on this and other issues including secular education and healthcare. 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

The article below was also published in the Irish Times letters page.

Irish Government says religious oaths are “necessary in a democratic society”

It is disgraceful that the Irish Government is arguing at the European Court of Human Rights that the religious oath for President and members of the Council of State are “necessary in a democratic society.”
The Government is contesting a legal challenge to the religious oath by Roisin Shortall TD, John Brady TD, Senator David Norris, Fergus Finlay, and David McConnell.
The Taoiseach and Tanaiste have to swear this oath, as they are member of the Council of State, so Micheal Martin and Leo Varadkar are now trying to legally prevent conscientious atheists from occupying the positions that they themselves now hold.
Shockingly, the Government is actually arguing that these oaths are “necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
Is this how the Government of a Republic treats its citizens? How does this vindicate the right to freedom of conscience, and equality before the law? How can Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, and the Green Party actively promote overt religious discrimination?
Atheist Ireland runs a One Oath for All Campaign. We believe that holders of public office should make a declaration to uphold the Constitution, with no reference to their personal religious or nonreligious beliefs.
Atheist Ireland raised this issue with the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2014, and the Human Rights Committee concluded that:

“The State Party should take concrete steps to amend articles 12, 31 and 34 of the Constitution that require religious oaths to take up senior public office positions, taking into account the Committee’s general comment No. 22 (1993) concerning the right not to be compelled to reveal one’s thoughts or adherence to a religion or belief in public.”

As recently as last October, the UN Human Rights Committee told Ireland:

“Please report on the measures taken to ensure that the right to freedom of conscience and religious belief is fully respected, in law and in practice, on a non-discriminatory basis… Please indicate whether there have been any changes to the constitutional provisions requiring persons who take up certain senior public positions to take religious oaths.”

The European Court of Human Rights has consistently found that the right to freedom of religion and belief is one of the foundations of a democratic society. The court has also held that the right to manifest your religion or belief has a negative aspect.
This means that the State cannot oblige you to disclose your religion or beliefs. Nor can it oblige you to act in such a way that it is possible to conclude that you hold, or do not hold, religious beliefs. That is intervening in the sphere of your freedom of conscience.
We have removed the law against blasphemy. That is one step towards a secular State that respects equally everybody’s right to freedom of conscience. Removing these anachronistic religious oaths from our Constitution is the next step.
Further Information:
Atheist Ireland One Oath for All Campaign
Atheist Ireland article in Irish Times about religious oaths
Read more…

*|YOUTUBE: [$vid=MjAP90urUUU]|*

*|YOUTUBE: [$vid=rZ2RtZPXYhw]|*

The Constitutional right to not attend religious instruction (explicitly) and other subjects (implicitly)

Under the Irish Constitution, parents have the explicit right for their children to ‘not attend’ religious instruction in publicly funded schools, and the implicit right for their children to ‘not attend’ instruction in any subject that is against their conscience.
Article 44.2.4
Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution explicitly gives parents the right to ensure that their children do ‘not attend’ religious instruction in publicly funded schools.
It also makes this right to ‘not attend’ a condition of the state funding of schools. Article 44.2.4 is a sub section of the Constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religion.
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.”

The constitutional right to ‘not attend’ religious instruction is a specific right under the Constitution and the fact that it is a condition of the state funding of schools increases its significance.
Article 42.1
Article 42.1 of the Constitution does not explicitly state that children can ‘not attend’ instruction in any subject. It 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.”

However, because the Constitution recognises that parents are the primary educators of their children, the State recognises the right of parents for their children to ‘not attend’ any subject that is against their conscience, notwithstanding the fact that Article 42.1 does not explicitly mention this.
This is reflected in Section 30.2(e) of the Education Act, which states that

“The Minister… shall not require any student to attend instruction in any subject which is contrary to the conscience of the parent of the student or in the case of a student who has reached the age of 18 years, the student.”

An example of this is that parents can opt their children out of sex education classes, and some Muslim parents opt their children out of physical education on the basis of conscience. This right is belong to parents and it is not up to Church or State to decide what is or is not against the conscience of parents. It is the duty of the State to vindicate this Constitutional right.
Article 44.2.4 is stronger
The Department of Education and publicly funded schools treat the right to ‘not attend’ religious instruction under Article 44.2.4 as if it was the same as ‘not attending’ under Article 42.1 of the Constitution.
They ignore that the wording of Article 44.2.4 explicitly refers to ‘not attending’ ‘religious instruction,’ and the fact that there would be no need for religious instruction to be explicitly mentioned in the Constitution if it was meant to be treated the exact same as the implicit right under Article 42.1.

Here is an Irish Times article from last year by Atheist Ireland’s human rights officer Jane Donnelly

Religious oaths must be removed from State activities


In Ireland high public office is only for the religious, and our court system ignores the rights of atheists, despite the fact that we pride ourselves on our human rights record and promote freedom of religion and belief around the world.
I recently had to make an affidavit, and the solicitor asked me which religious book I wanted. I had to tell her, in a public office, that I did not want any religious book as I was an atheist.
I was annoyed and she was embarrassed when I told her that she was breaching my right to freedom of religion and belief, by putting me in a position where I had to declare my atheism.
Thankfully this particular problem is about to end. The Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020 will allow us to make affidavits without revealing our personal beliefs.
t this only a half step towards removing all religious oaths from State activities. Witnesses in court must still swear on the Bible or publicly refuse to do so. As well as having their rights breached, they could also be victims of bias.
This discrimination is so widespread that it goes unnoticed. The Electoral Act obliges those who are challenged while voting to swear on a Bible or publicly refuse to do so. It also spreads beyond individual incidents into affecting the careers of public office holders.

Imagine the outcry if any public office holder had to swear that there was no god?

Eamon Gilmore became tánaiste in 2011. Despite being on record as not believing in a god, he had to swear a religious oath against his conscience or resign. As tánaiste he was constitutionally obliged to be a member of the Council of State, and to swear this religious oath.
Constitutional obligation
The taoiseach, tánaiste, chair of the Dáil and Seanad, and attorney general, are all members of the Council of State. This means that a conscientious atheist cannot take these positions. Judges and the president are also constitutionally obliged to swear a religious oath.
Imagine the outcry if any public office holder had to swear that there was no god? Everybody would realise that this would be a breach of their rights. But there is a blind spot when the discrimination is the other way around.
Atheist Ireland has raised this issue at the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The UN has asked Ireland to hold a referendum. But our State delegation never responds to the UN about this, and the recent programme for government includes no commitment.
The European Court of Human Rights has consistently found that the right to freedom of religion and belief is one of the foundations of a democratic society. The court has also held that the right to manifest your religion or belief has a negative aspect.
This means that the State cannot oblige you to disclose your religion or beliefs. Nor can it oblige you to act in such a way that it is possible to conclude that you hold, or do not hold, religious beliefs. That is intervening in the sphere of your freedom of conscience.
Religious beliefs
The last census showed one in 10 Irish people had no religious beliefs. And that was despite a leading question that artificially increased the number of religious people. Why do our politicians not care about protecting the rights of this substantial minority? Read more…


Know your rights


Religious Formation comes under Article 42.4 of the Constitution. The courts in Ireland have linked Religious Formation (Article 42.4) with Religious Education under Article 42.1.

Students have a constitutional right to ‘not attend’ religious instruction under Article 44.2.4. Religious instruction is simply any formal teaching in religion, it doesn’t matter what type of religious teaching it is. Schools that claim the Constitution right to ‘not attend’ does not apply to curriculum religion are breaching Constitutional rights.

The Rules for National Schools stipulate that children should not ‘be present’ at formal religious instruction if their parents object. This rule is a reflection of Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution, the right to ‘not attend’ religious instruction.

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 1868 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 4,081 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




Ireland argues religious oaths are ‘necessary for public safety’

By Barry Duke


IN a blistering letter to The Irish Times, Atheist Ireland has described as “ridiculous” the government’s insistence that religious oaths are “necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”. AI’s Chairman Michael Nugent, above, and its Human Rights Officer Jane Donnelly said in the letter published this week that the “public safety” card was played by the government in response to a challenge mounted against such oaths at the European Court of Human Rights, and they asked: Read more…


Religious oaths set to remain a thorny issue for public figures

By Arthur Beesley


Three months ago, President Michael D Higgins said he believed the religious oath he swore on his inauguration should be removed and replaced with an affirmation.
Mr Higgins’s remarks in a BBC interview turn on a question that is before the European Court of Human Rights in a case against the State by Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall and four other people prominent in public life
. Read more…

Academics urge Government to halt Churchs new primary school sex-education resources

By Jess Casey


New sex-education resources for Catholic primary schools could form and shape negative views among children towards some sexualities and identities, and in some cases towards themselves, academics have warned. A group of university staff from across the country have called for a halt to the introduction of ‘Flourish’, relationships and sexuality education (RSE) resources developed by the Irish Bishops’ Conference for Catholic primary schools. Read more…

Church is overdoing the righteousness amid Communions row

By Diarmaid Ferriter


The leadership of the Irish Catholic Church has been exhibiting a passive aggressiveness in recent years as it comes to grips with transition. It is aware of its dramatic loss of standing and the consequences of its historic arrogance and periodically uses the language of atonement, yet it also finds solace in the considerable bedrock of faith that endures and its ability to tap into strong public feeling about Communion days in particular. Read more…

The Irish Times view on the religious oath: time for change

By the Irish Times Editorial


The State’s vigorous defence of the religious oath shows what can happen when matters of public policy end up in the hands of lawyers. Róisín Shortall, the Social Democrats co-leader, and four other public figures have gone to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the constitutional requirement that the president of Ireland and members of the Council of State, a body that advises the president, must swear an oath “in the presence of Almighty God” when taking up their roles. Read online…


71% in Northern Ireland want end to faith-segregated schools

By Humanists UK


71% of people in Northern Ireland want to see an end to religiously segregated schools, according to the latest polling data from LucidTalk. Northern Ireland Humanists has said the data should give ministers confidence to press ahead with a reformed single education system, and that the time has come to leave behind the divisions of Northern Ireland’s past. Read more…

The Sunday Times view on Christian oath: Put God aside — a declaration of loyalty is all that is needed

By The Sunday Times view


Many of the recent obituaries of Des O’Malley, the founder of the Progressive Democrats, recalled the time the party “tried to take God out of the constitution”. In 1988 the PDs published a proposed Constitution for a New Republic, a rewrite of the 1937 original, which dropped clauses such as the ban on divorce and the territorial claim to Northern Ireland. Read online…




Poles becoming more socially liberal, with growing support for LGBT rights and abortion: pol

By Daniel Tilles


Poles are becoming more socially liberal and opposed to the privileged status the Catholic church enjoys in relations with the state, according to the latest findings from long-term polling by CBOS, a state research agency. Support for legal access to abortion has reached 41% – a rise of 12 percentage points since 2019 and the highest figure since 1999. Read more…

70 years ago Walter Plywaski fought for atheists’ right to become citizens – here’s why his story is worth remembering

By Kristina M. Lee


Walter Plywaski’s death earlier this year from complications related to COVID-19 went largely unnoticed by national media.Only an invitation by his family to donate to the civil liberties group ACLU in Plywaski’s memory gave hint to his legacy in the fight for religious freedom. Almost 70 years ago, Plywaski fought for the right of atheists to become U.S. citizens – and won. Read more…

People are less tolerant of atheists expressing their beliefs at work compared to Christians, Muslims, or Jews

By Beth Ellwood


According to a study published in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, people discriminate against atheists when it comes to the expression of beliefs in the workplace. Across three studies, people were consistently less likely to say they would allow an atheist — compared to a Christian, Muslim, or Jew — to sport a symbol of their beliefs in the workplace. Read more…

Nigeria: Kano State High Court brings formal charges against Mubarak Bala

By Humanists International

On 3 August 2021, formal charges were brought against President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala, before the Kano State High Court. Bala, who was not present in court, was formally charged with causing a public disturbance under Sections 210 and 114 of the Penal Code of Kano State, respectively. Read online…


Religious privilege causing injustice, NSS tells Law Commission

By the National Secular Society


The National Secular Society has argued that religious privilege creates inconsistencies and unfairness in laws on education, charity, health and animal welfare in response to a consultation. The NSS has submitted evidence on these issues to the Law Commission, which has sought views on what should be included in its latest programme of recommended legal reforms. Read more…

UN adopts landmark resolution condemning witchcraft accusations

By Humanists International


The UN Human Rights Council has passed a resolution condemning human rights violations associated with witchcraft accusations. The resolution is the first of its kind to address witchcraft-related human rights abuses at the UN. It was built upon years of sustained advocacy by a cross-section of civil society organizations, in particular the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN), who in 2017 organised a UN expert workshop on the issue. Read more…

Lying AAI Liars Admit Their Lies

By John Hamill at TheFreethoughtProphet


The current leadership on the Board of Atheist Alliance International, illegitimately and dishonestly took personal control of the organisation from its Member groups. They continue to behave in an unethical and anti-democratic manner in order to preserve their illicit control of AAI assets. 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=-rT4fyaNEac]|*

*|YOUTUBE: [$vid=BWaxHSzBr1k]|*

Freethought Radio – Death and Disbelief
The Friendly Atheist Podcast – Kent Hovind Was Arrested

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