Parents’ rights and secular morality
In August Atheist Ireland wrote to the Oireachtas Education Committee regarding an anti-abortion video that was shows to students during syllabus Religious Education classes. We also raised the constitutional rights of parents for their children to not attend religious instruction in State-funded schools.
The Oireachtas Education Committee asked the Department of Education to respond to us directly, and to copy them in the response. In November the Department of Education responded to Atheist Ireland, and we have now responded to the Department’s response. You can read the full exchange on our Teach Don’t preach website.
Also this week, Michael Nugent was on RTE Radio 1 programme The Leap of Faith, discussing where we get our morality in a secular world. The other guests were Professor Linda Hogan, Chair of Ecumenics at TCD, and Dr Christopher Cowley, Associate Professor of Philosophy at UCD. You can listen to this programme on RTE playback or our YouTube channel.
With a week to Christmas, we hope you take care in these strange times and have a happy celebration of the turn of the season with all of its secular community associations. As always, please consider becoming a member of Atheist Ireland as a gift to yourself! You can join here.
– Secular Sunday Editorial Team
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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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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Atheist Ireland News
Atheist Ireland response to Department of Education on parents’ rights and anti-abortion video
In August 2021 Atheist Ireland wrote to the Oireachtas Education Committee regarding an anti-abortion video that was shows to students during syllabus Religious Education classes. We also raised the constitutional rights of parents for their children to not attend religious instruction in State-funded schools. You can read our letter to the Oireachtas Committee here.
The Oireachtas Education Committee asked the Department of Education to respond to us directly, and to copy them in the response. In November the Department of Education responded to Atheist Ireland by email. You can read the Department of Education’s response to us here.
Here is our letter in response to the Department. We will be sending this Letter to the Oireachtas Education Committee as well, and asking them to look at this issue alongside our Legal Opinion on the right to not attend religious instruction.
Response to Department
Thank you for your email dated 26 November 2021, in response to our letter to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education on 21 August 2021, about which the Oireachtas Education Committee requested the Department to respond directly to us and copy them in on your response.
Your response addresses various issues, and we will respond here to several of these.
1. Department’s Definitions of Religious Instruction and Education
Your response begins with:
“At the outset, it is important to distinguish between Religious Education as an educational activity that deepens young people’s understanding of religions, whatever their background or beliefs, and Religious Instruction, understood as initiating or nurturing young people into a particular religious way of life (sometimes also referred to as faith formation or catechesis). It is not the aim of Religious Education to facilitate Religious Instruction or a type of learning that has as its aim nurturing into a particular religious tradition or set of beliefs.”
But these distinctions (from which the remainder of your analysis flows) are not based on what the Courts in Ireland have defined as Religious Education (Article 42.1), Religious Formation (Article 42.4) and Religious Instruction (Article 44.2.4).
Your response also states that:
“Currently at Primary level, Religious Education is one of 12 subjects in the 1999 Primary School Curriculum. It holds a unique position in that the responsibility for providing a programme of Religious Education rests with the patron bodies of individual schools and not the State. There are a number of patrons’ programmes within the primary school system reflecting the diversity of patronage. Some of these are denominational or religious in nature, emphasising the place of children’s faith, spiritual and moral development in their lives. Other patrons’ programmes are ethical in nature and emphasise fostering children’s understanding of ethics and values.”
This adds another level of confusion to the Department’s definitions of ‘Religious Education’ and ‘Religious Instruction’. You are saying here that at primary level ‘Religious Education’ is delivered through patrons’ programmes that are “denominational or religious in nature, emphasising the place of children’s faith, spiritual and moral development in their lives.”
This contradicts your “at the outset” paragraph, which states that ‘Religious Education’ is not denominational or religious in nature, but is “an educational activity that deepens young people’s understanding of religions, whatever their background or beliefs.”
None of the Department’s contradictory definitions are based on the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Campaign to Separate Church and State v. Minister for Education in 1998, which the Court of Appeal in the recent Burke case has said is binding authority:
“171 The decision of the Supreme Court in the Campaign to Separate Church and State v. Minister for Education is binding authority.”
Justice Barrington in the Supreme Court said that the rights of parents under Article 42 and Article 42.2 of the Constitution must be read in the context of Article 44.2.4 (pages 25, 26). The finding of the Supreme Court must have an impact on the Department’s understanding of religious education, religious formation and religious instruction under the Constitution.
Therefore our request to have the Oireachtas Education Committee look at the issue alongside our Legal Opinion remains, as our request is based on the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Campaign to Separate Church and State v. Minister for Education.
2. “A particular religious way of life”
Your response defines ‘religious instruction’ as:
“initiating or nurturing young people into a particular religious way of life.”
.It is worth noting here that the Irish language version of the Constitution (Article 44.2.4), which takes legal precedence, uses the phrase ‘teagasc creidimh’, which mean ‘religious teaching’ in the place where the English version refers to ‘religious instruction’. It does not refer to ‘denominational’ teaching, or to teaching in ‘a particular religious tradition’, but to religious teaching in general. That is what we have a Constitutional right to not attend.
But Article 44.2.4 does not state that ‘Religious Instruction’ is confined to instruction that initiates or nurtures students into a particular religious way of life. You also say that the NCCA Syllabus ‘Religious Education’ courses “do not provide religious instruction in any particular religious or faith tradition.” Read more..
Leap of Faith RTE Radio 1
The full programme can be found below
Calling concerned teachers
If you are a teacher and concerned about unwanted religious influence contact Chris at email@example.com
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 $34,950 to 1212 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 1889 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 4,102 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
Mother and Baby Homes: Philomena Lee and Mary Harney cases back before High Court today
By Órla Ryan
TWO TEST CASES being taken by survivors of mother and baby homes against the Irish Government are due back before the High Court today. Philomena Lee and Mary Harney are two of several survivors of the institutions who are seeking to have certain elements of the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes quashed. Read more…
‘Weve been totally vindicated: State admits rights of Mother & Baby Home survivors were breached
By Órla Ryan
THE STATE HAS acknowledged the rights of mother and baby home survivors were breached when they were not given a draft of the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes prior to its publication in January. Read more…
Change in attitude must follow States concession in mother and baby homes case
By Ann O’Loughlin
The State has acknowledged in the High Court that the rights of nine former residents of mother and baby homes were breached by the failure to provide them with a draft copy of the report by the Commission of Investigation into the homes prior to is publication.The court had heard the actions of Philomena Lee and Mary Harney, who were chosen as test cases to address a core claim in nine similar actions. Read more…
Christian lobby groups’ doublespeak is a distortion of human rights
By Stephen Evans
Evangelical activists’ insistence that equality amounts to discrimination is a narcissistic approach to human rights, argues Stephen Evans. The UK is one of the ‘most intolerant’ countries in Europe towards Christians. That’s the extraordinary claim of a report published this week by Observatory of Intolerance Against Christians in Europe (OIACE). Read more…
Atheism and agnosticism: The last closet
By David Ramsey
In 1996, John Updike released his 17th novel, In the Beauty of the Lilies, a story about a Presbyterian minister, Clarence Wilmot, who loses his faith, leaves the ministry and becomes an encyclopedia salesman. In a strange case of art imitating life, Updike was narrating my story. I was a Baptist minister who had slowly been losing my faith. That same year, I left the ministry and embarked on a second career in technology sales.Read more…
More Americans are shifting away from religious affiliation, new study finds.
By Maya Yang
About 30% of American adults say they do not have a religious affiliation, according to a new study exploring the growing secularization in American society. In 2007, only 16% of American adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center identified themselves as religious “nones” – people who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” when asked about their religious identity. That figure is now 29%, according to a new Pew research released on Tuesday. Read online…
Losing our religion: Christians poised to become a minority
By Kaya Burgess
The number of Christians in England and Wales is close to falling below half of the population for the first time, with a large increase in the number who have no religious faith, figures show. The 2011 census found that 59.3 per cent of the English and Welsh population were Christian, but by 2019 this figure had fallen to 51 per cent, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Less than half of men, at just 47.4 per cent, reported their religion as Christian, with 54.9 per cent of women declaring themselves to be Christians. Read more…
Nigeria: Successive delays in proceedings against Mubarak Bala make a mockery of the Nigerian justice system
By Humanists International
Humanists International is deeply disappointed to learn of the postponement of yet another hearing in the case of Mubarak Bala, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria. Bala, an active member of the humanist community, was arrested from his home in Kaduna State on 28 April 2020. Bala was subsequently transferred into the custody of officials in neighboring Kano State, where he is due to stand trial on 10 counts of causing a public disturbance in connection with Facebook posts he is alleged to have made that some deem to be “blasphemous”. Read online…
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Podcasts, Videos and Interviews
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Freethought Radio – The Trouble With Christmas
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