International funding of political campaigns
Millions of euros in international funding, including from America and Russia, are spent within European countries to campaign politically against sexual and reproductive rights. Some of this money is used for political purposes in Ireland.
Today we highlight two reports from the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights. One is about the source and use of this international funding. The other is about a detailed discussion document circulated within the Agenda Europe network whose members advocate for laws against sodomy, divorce, gay propaganda, abortion, contraceptives, IVF, stem cell research, euthanasia, and anti-discrimination laws
Atheist Ireland is lobbying to strengthen the SIPO laws to bring churches and religious bodies within the regulation of political donations, while others are lobbying to weaken the SIPO laws to allow an unregulated free-for-all of political donations between elections. That would be bad for secularism and for democracy.
We have a busy time in the coming weeks, including making various submissions to government Departments and working to help parents whose schools are unlawfully telling them that their children have to attend religion class. Please contact us if you are in this situation.
If you would like help us in this important work, please join Atheist Ireland as a member. We are a voluntary group with no paid staff and we depend on members to continue our work. You can join here.
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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
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- 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 email@example.com.
Atheist Ireland News
International funding of political campaigns against sexual and reproductive rights
This article covers:
Part 1 — Funding of Political Campaigns of Religious Bodies
Part 2 — EPF Report on International Funding of Religious Bodies
Part 3 — EPF Report on Agenda Europe Discussion Document
Part 4 — Protecting Democracy from Big Money Between Elections
Part 1 — Funding of Political Campaigns of Religious Bodies
Millions of euros in international funding, including from America and Russia, are spent within European countries to campaign politically against sexual and reproductive rights. Some of this money is used for political purposes in Ireland. The Irish SIPO laws should be strengthened to prevent this from happening here, and not weakened to allow an unregulated free-for-all of political donations between elections.
In Ireland, churches and religious charities can take unlimited donations, from Ireland or internationally, and use that money for political purposes. Secular NGOs can also take donations to use for political purposes, but we have to get a lot of small donations rather than a small number of large donations. This is good for democracy, because it helps to make politics a battle of ideas not a battle of bank accounts.
Atheist Ireland is lobbying to strengthen the SIPO laws so that churches and religious charities have to comply with these requirements. Unfortunately other groups, including ICCL and Amnesty, are lobbying to weaken the SIPO laws, to allow anybody to take any political donations in between elections. That would be bad for secularism, and bad for democracy, as most political influence is sought and granted between elections, not during election campaigns.
This article highlights two reports from the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights. One is about the source and use of this international funding. The other is about a detailed discussion document circulated within the Agenda Europe network whose members advocate for laws against sodomy, divorce, gay propaganda, abortion, contraceptives, IVF, stem cell research, euthanasia, and anti-discrimination laws.
The Oireachtas All-Party Group on Sexual and Reproductive Rights is affiliated to the European Parliamentary Forum that produced these reports. The IFPA acts as its secretariat. The group is co-chaired by Senator Annie Hoey (Labour), Holly Cairns TD (Social Democrats), and Senator Lorraine Clifford Lee (Fianna Fáil). Senator Alice Mary Higgins sits on the Executive Committee of the European Parliamentary Forum.
Part 2 — EPF Report on International Funding of Religious Bodies
The European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights recently published a report called Tip of the Iceberg, about the funding of conservative religious advocacy groups that oppose sexual and reproductive rights in Europe. The report concludes that in the ten years from 2009-2018, such groups received over $700 million, of which $270 million came from Russia and the United States.
The report says that American-based groups Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Acton Institute donate funds to European groups, with ADF spending €4.3 million in Europe during 2018 alone. One of the recipients is the Agenda Europe network of over a hundred members and groups in thirty countries that describe themselves as pro-life and pro-family.
The report says that Agenda Europe’s central organisers are Catholic activists and groups with direct links to the Vatican hierarchy, including Gudrun Kugler and Terrence McKeegan. In Ireland, Senator Ronan Mullen, Irish family and Life, and the Iona Institute have links to the Agenda Europe network. The Agenda Europe network holds private annual summits. In 2015 it held its summit in Ireland.
The report also says that the Milan-based Novae Terrae foundation gave €2.3 million of funds originating in Russia-Azerbaijan to various European groups between 2012-2015. It says these groups included Citizen Go in Madrid, Dignitas Humanae in Rome, Mum Dad & Kids in Brussels, and the Iona Institute in Ireland. It does not say how much each group received.
The report also refers to a transnational conservative Catholic body called Tradition, Family and Property which strongly opposes abortion and LGBT rights. Its main European political focus is in Poland. Its Irish affiliate, the Irish Society for Christian Civilisation, is a registered charity with the aim of advancing religion. It had income of €390,000 in 2019.
You do not have to attend religious education, however the school describes it
Many schools are telling parents that curriculum Religious Education is not Religious Instruction and therefore the right to not attend does not arise. The Department of Education claims that Religious Instruction is ‘instruction in the rites of one particular religion.’ This argument has no legal basis. It is just a made-up argument to coerce students into curriculum Religious Education.
The Irish courts have found that Religious Formation (under Article 42.4 of the Constitution) is familiarising a child with doctrine and religious practice. Religious Formation is also part of Article 42.1 (the inalienable right of parents in relation to the Religious and Moral education of their children). The courts said that Religious Formation is an extra dimension to the Religious Education of children.
The courts have also found that Religious Education (under Article 42.1) includes doctrine, apologetics, comparative religions and religious history. The courts said that Religious Instruction (which you do not have to attend under article 44.2.4) is a narrower concept because Religious Education can also take place in the general atmosphere of the school.
But any form of religious teaching is Religious Instruction, under both the Constitution and the Education Act. The Irish version of the Constitution takes precedence over the English version, and the Irish phrase in Article 44.2.4 translates directly into ‘religious teaching’ not ‘religious instruction’.
Reachtaíocht lena gcuirtear cúnamh stáit ar fáil do scoileanna ní cead idirdhealú a dhéanamh inti idir scoileanna atá faoi bhainistí aicmí creidimh seachas a chéile ná í do dhéanamh dochair do cheart aon linbh chun scoil a gheibheann airgead poiblí a fhreastal gan teagasc creidimh sa scoil sin a fhreastal.
The courts could hardly recognise the right to not attend Religious Instruction without also recognising the right to not attend Religious Formation (Art 42.4) which is part of Religious Education (Art 42.1). They have said that Article 42.1 must be read in conjunction with Article 44.2.4.
The Department of Education, schools and teachers are simply coercing students into curriculum Religious Education with made up arguments about the Constitutional rights of parents and their children. This breaches the Constitution and the findings of the courts. Read more…
The updated 2019 curriculum Religious Education course undermines the rights of non religious parents. It is not an objective course about religion and beliefs. You have a constitutional right to ensure that your child does not attend this course.
Read our article from 2019 below
New Junior Cycle Religious Education course still breaches constitutional and human rights
The new specification for the Junior Cycle Religious Education curriculum, due to be introduced in schools in September 2019, disrespects the rights of parents who seek secular education for their children based on human rights.
The new course reflects the disrespect that the State has for non-religious parents and their children. It is not an Education about Religions, Beliefs and Ethics delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner, but one that pursues an aim of indoctrination.
Parents who seek secular education for their children could legitimately consider that this course is liable to create a conflict of allegiance for their children between the school and their own values, as was found by the European Court in the case of Mansur Yalcin & Others v Turkey in 2015.
It is important to note that this is not a curriculum for the private religious patrons of schools. This new course is part of the State curriculum, devised by the NCCA, and is supposed to be for all students regardless of the school they are in.
- The NCCA Religious Education Development Group
- The Title of the Course
- The Aim of the Course
- The Rationale of the Course
- The Learning Outcomes of the Course
- The Course must be in Conformity with Parents’ Convictions
- The Course Disrespects the Rights of Parents
- Human Rights Protect People, Not their Beliefs
- The Rights of Non-Religious Parents in Irish Schools
- The Right to Opt out of Religious Teaching
- Students who Opt Out should be given a Different Subject
1. The NCCA Religious Education Development Group
The NCCA’s Religious Education Development Group is composed of representatives of mostly religious patron bodies, teachers unions, and the Department of Education.
These include the Council for Catechetics of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Church of Ireland Board of Education, Methodist Board of Education, Joint Managerial Body of voluntary schools (mostly Catholic), ETBI (whose schools have a religious influence), Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools, Religion Teachers’ Association of Ireland, Department of Education, State Examinations Commission, TUI and ASTI.
The Group is chaired by Fr. Gareth Byrne, the Director and Head of Religious Education at the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education at DCU. He is also a member of the National Faith Development Team of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, of the Episcopal Council for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development, of the Episcopal Council for Catechetics and of the National Training Authority for the Dublin Diocesan Board of Formation in Ministry.
2. The title of the Course
The problems begin with the title of the course. By describing the course as a ‘Religious Education’ course, the content is not framed in an inclusive way in accordance with human rights principles.
The State curriculum should teach about religions and beliefs, in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner, and this course should be renamed ‘Education about Religions and Beliefs” or perhaps ‘Education about Religions, Beliefs, and Ethics’.
The NCCA has already tried to develop such a course for primary level, but it was blocked by the Catholic Bishops who are patrons of most Irish schools. The Catholic Church believes that you cannot teach objectively about religion, and the Catholic Bishops have told the NCCA that a pluralist approach to teaching religion goes against the philosophical basis of Catholic religious education.
3. The Aim of the Course
The aim of the new Religious Education course is to:
“develop knowledge, understanding, skills, attitudes and values to enable young people to come to an understanding of religion and its relevance to life, relationships, society and the wider world. It aims to develop the students’ ability to examine questions of meaning, purpose and relationships, to help students understand, respect and appreciate people’s expression of beliefs, and to facilitate dialogue and reflection on the diversity of beliefs and values that inform responsible decision-making and ways of living.”
Can you imagine the reaction if any State curriculum had, as the first sentence of its aim, to “enable young people to come to an understanding of atheism and it’s relevance to life, relationships, society and the wider world”?
If such an aim was ever proposed, the Minister for Education Joe McHugh would instinctively understand that this would be indoctrination, and would not respect the right of religious parents to ensure that the teaching of their children is in conformity with their convictions.
We would be hearing comments from various religious bodies and organisations about the totalitarian State undermining the rights of religious parents and their children. They would ask why is the State telling children that atheism is more relevant than religion to life, relationships, society and the wider world?
But when it comes to respecting the right of non-religious parents to ensure that the teaching of their children is in conformity with their convictions, the State has a blind spot. That blind spot is a reflection of Catholic church teaching on the rights of parents and the right to freedom of religion and belief.
4. The Rationale of the Course
The Rationale of the course treats religious beliefs differently to non-religious beliefs. It states that:
“Religious Education has a critical role to play in the curriculum in providing opportunities for them to consider the variety of religious beliefs found in Ireland and elsewhere, become aware of different understandings of the Divine, and examine other interpretations of life.”
This treats religious and nonreligious beliefs differently in two ways.
Firstly, the course seeks to enable students to become aware of different understandings of “the Divine,” but it doesn’t seek to enable students to become aware of different understandings of atheism, or secularism, or any non-religious philosophical conviction. Read more…
Know your rights
The courts have found that Religious Formation (Art 42.4) is familiarising a child with doctrine and religious practice. Religious Formation is part of Art 42.1 the right of parents in relation to the Religious and Moral education of their children. Religious Formation is an extra dimension to the Religious Education of children.
The courts have said that Religious Education under Article 42.1 is doctrine, apologetics, comparative religions and religious history.
The courts have also found that Religious Instruction under article 44.2.4 (the opt out) is a narrower concept. The courts could hardly recognise the right to not attend religious instruction and not recognise the right to not attend Religious Formation (Art 42.4) which is part of Religious Education Art 42.1). They have said that Article 42.1 must be read in conjunction with Article 44.2.4.
Claiming that curriculum Religious Education is not Religious Instruction and therefore the right to opt out does not apply makes no legal sense and is just made up nonsense. Schools and teachers are simply forcing students into curriculum Religious Education. This breaches the Constitution and the findings of the courts.
The Catholic Church objects to teaching about religions and beliefs objectively. They told the NCCA that a pluralist approach to religion goes against the Catholic philosophy of education. This is the reason that curriculum religion at second level is not objective and neither is the GMGY course in Community National Schools.
These courses are indoctrination and you have a constitutional right to ensure that your children do not attend.
Curriculum RE at second level is indoctrination into a religious understanding of the world. Students have to examine and appreciate the religious learning outcome, while they only have to discuss the significance of the non-religious one. You have a Constitutional right to ensure your child does not attend this course.
This is Section 30-2(e) of the Education Act 1998. You can opt your child out of any subject that is against your ‘conscience’ and that includes any type of religion classes. The Act refers to ‘conscience’ not ‘religious instruction’. It is not up to schools or teachers to decide what is or is not against your conscience. If they claim that you cannot opt your child out of curriculum Religious Education because it is not Religious Instruction then they are in breach of the Education Act 1998. They cannot interrogate you in relation to your reasons because of GDPR. The law is on your side, so you can insist that your child does not take curriculum religious education.
Circular Letter 0062/2018 issued by the Dept of Education directly contradicts the findings of the Supreme Court in relation to Religious Education. The Constitutional right of parents in relation to the religious and moral education of their children means that it not up to the Dept of Education to decide if the need to withdraw arises. Art 42.1 must be read in the context of Art 44.2.4 the right to not attend Religious instruction.
Calling concerned teachers
If you are a teacher and concerned about unwanted religious influence contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 gods‘ free (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 $33,825 to 1178 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 ‘notme.ie‘ is a place where people can publicly renounce the religion of their childhood. Currently there are 1873 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 4,084 Help us reach it’s target of 5000. Please sign and share this petition if you haven’t already done so. Thank you.
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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:
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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
Catholic Church is irrelevant in modern Ireland, claims Normal People author Sally Rooney
By Harry Brent
NORMAL PEOPLE author Sally Rooney says that the Catholic Church is no longer relevant in present-day Ireland. Speaking to German publication Der Spiegel, Rooney said that because of the deep historical connection between the Church and Irish society, abuse within Catholic institutions was largely kept under wraps. Read more…
Why are there so few migrant teachers in Ireland?
By Peter McGuire
In all the misery that the pandemic heaped onto schools, post-primary principals have been struggling to recruit the right teachers for the right roles. Despite this, migrant teachers say they have had issues securing jobs in Irish schools and so, this year, there’s been a big focus on removing red tape for out-of-State teachers. But is it moving fast enough to address the supply issues? Read more…
Mary McAleese calls on Church to remove ‘padlock’ on members’ human rights
By Sarah Mac Donald
Former President Mary McAleese has called on the Catholic Church to remove the “padlock” on its members’ human rights. Speaking from Rome to the lay-led Root & Branch Synod in Bristol, England, the former head of state said Church law must acknowledge intellectual rights such as equality and freedom of thought. Read more…
Connolly presses for unconditional access for adoptees to their birth certs
By Marie O’Halloran
Adopted persons should have unconditional access to their birth certificates and adoption information, Independent TD Catherine Connolly has said. She was speaking as she introduced the Adoption (Information) Bill in the Dáil to give adoptees automatic right to their birth certificates. It is the latest in a series of Bills which aim to give such rights to adopted people. Read more…
Taking Communion out of school system will sort the believers from the non-believers
By Kat O’ Connor
“How people send children into church knowing all we know is astounding.” When I think back to when I made my First Holy Communion, I remember the early morning trip to the hairdressers, the mountain of sandwiches my Nanny made for guests, and the pointless white umbrella I had to carry around all day. Read more..
Why can’t charity regulators tackle child abuse in faith groups?
By Megan Manson
An inquiry’s report has highlighted the barriers which regulators face in dealing with child abuse in religious charities. Megan Manson says this should prompt reforms – including in how charity law deals with religion. Religions have a privileged place in charity law. ‘The advancement of religion’ is a recognised charitable purpose under the Charities Act 2011, which means an organisation can effortlessly become a registered charity by virtue of promoting religion. Read more…
The Supreme Courts right-wing Catholics are destroying true religious freedom
By Phil Zuckerman – Andrew L. Seidel
“The government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion.” What forthright American declared such words? Bill Maher? Christopher Hitchens? Emma Goldman? No. They come from the Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated under George Washington, approved unanimously by the U.S. Senate and signed by President John Adams in 1797. Read more…
Why Australia needs to become a secular republic
By Max Wallace
IN A LETTER to The Age, 2 September 1988, George Pell, then Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, said:
‘All Australian Christians believe in the separation of church and state [and] believe in the free cooperation of church and state in certain activities… we do not want to endanger this by going down the North American path, where such cooperation is rare and regularly challenged in the courts.’
But I say that if citizens cannot easily challenge in the courts that a compulsory Protestant prayer in the Australian Senate, as discussed below, is unconstitutional, if that is not simply a statement of fact, that is tantamount to saying the foundations of Australian law are theocratic. The legal cases discussed below provide evidence for this argument. Read more…
Religious Education as Small ‘i’ Indoctrination: How European Countries Struggle with a Secular Approach to Religion in Schools
By Wanda Alberts
This article critically reviews the European religious education landscape and argues that a religious notion of religion prevails in most models, not only in confessional RE but also in integrative models and even in so-called alternative subjects that are compulsory for pupils who do not take part in confessional RE. Read the article here…
Doctors’ union drops opposition to assisted dying
By The National Secular Society
A doctors’ union has dropped its opposition to assisted dying in a historic vote.
The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents about 150,000 medics, today voted to adopt a position of neutrality on physician-assisted dying at its annual representative meeting. Read more…
Schools should be liberated from the compulsion of worship
By Stephen Evans
As a bill to reform collective worship progresses in parliament, Stephen Evans argues that the time has come for lawmakers to recognise that laws mandating worship have no place in modern Britain. It was a tale of two bishops in the House of Lords last week when peers debated a bill to replace the duty on schools to hold acts of Christian worship with a requirement to provide inclusive assemblies. Read more…
New domestic abuse guidance must protect apostates, says Faith to Faithless
By Humanists UK
Faith to Faithless has welcomed new draft statutory guidance on recognising and preventing domestic abuse. But has called for apostates to be specifically included as a group particularly vulnerable to abuse. In 2019, Humanists UK and Faith to Faithless called on the Government to take action against abuse based upon religious doctrines by including spiritual abuse as a category of domestic abuse under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. Read more…
Nigeria: Grant Mubarak Bala access to all necessary medical care
By Humanists International
Humanists International is deeply concerned to learn of the deteriorating health of Nigerian humanist, Mubarak Bala. According to his legal team, Bala has been complaining of high blood pressure and pain in his left side. Despite reporting his ailments to guards at the prison facility in which he is being held, Bala has reportedly been denied access to medical care by the prison authorities, contrary to international norms. To learn more about his case, see:
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