Secular Sunday #532 -Secular Education, Women’s Rights, and Prayers

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Secular Education, Women’s Rights, and Prayers


Atheist Ireland attended events this week organised by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the National Women’s Council of Ireland. We also made a submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality, and Michael Nugent was on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence this morning to discuss the efficacy of prayer.

The NCCA event marked the conclusion of a consultation on the new draft Primary curriculum framework. We spoke to Minister for Education Norma Foley about the recent Burke case at the Supreme Court, which confirmed the duty of the Department of Education to respect the constitutional rights of parents in the education system.

The NWCI event was a rally outside the Oireachtas to mark the coming International Women’s Day. There is a huge historic overlap in Ireland between discrimination against women and the influence of the Catholic Church. One important current issue is the need for the new National Maternity Hospital to be publicly owned and secular.

The Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality is now examining how to implement the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly. We made a submission highlighting the Constitution; online harassment; the school curriculum including RSE; domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence; and the Influence of the Catholic Church.

As always, you can help us to continue this work by joining Atheist Ireland as a member, or by asking anybody who you think may be interested in joining us to do so. We are an entirely voluntary body with no paid staff, and we depend on our members to continue our work. You can join Atheist Ireland 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

Ireland is a pluralist country with outdated privileges for Catholics

By Jane Donnelly Atheist Ireland’s Human Rights Officer



The recent report of the Commission on the Defence Forces has recommended change in the chaplaincy service to reflect the religious and non-religious beliefs of modern Ireland. It also wants an end to exclusionary religious practices such as convening Masses during induction.
If implemented, these changes would show respect for personnel of minority faiths or with non-religious philosophical convictions.
There is similar religious discrimination in our equality laws, which the Department of Justice is now reviewing, and in the religious oaths in our Constitution for the president, judges, and the Council of State, which includes the taoiseach and tánaiste.
Ireland is no longer a Catholic country. We are now a pluralist country with outdated privileges for Catholics.
Atheist Ireland, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Ireland, and the Evangelical Alliance Ireland, made a joint submission to the commission seeking change in its Catholic culture that discriminates against all of us.
While the three groups have very different world views and policy emphases, we campaign together for secularism and human rights. Every person should be treated with respect, as should our right to hold our beliefs, and the State should treat us all equally before the law by remaining neutral between religions and beliefs.
The Defence Forces is a microcosm of society and should have a clear neutral policy on religion and belief. It should not promote any particular religious or atheistic belief, or oblige personnel to participate in religious rites as part of military events.
The Irish Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and religion. The State is forbidden to discriminate between religions, or between religions and those with no religion. Despite this, Catholicism has always been part of the culture of our Defence Forces.
About 9 per cent of Defence Forces personnel are non-Christian or have no religion, yet 15 of its 16 chaplains are Roman Catholic and full-time, and the other is Church of Ireland and part-time.

Catholic chaplains are responsible to Catholic bishops of their dioceses and provincials of their orders for religious ministrations and promoting the spiritual and moral welfare of all members of the Defence Forces under their spiritual care.
They must also co-operate with the head chaplain and the commanding officer in promoting the social and recreational welfare of such personnel. The duties are therefore seen as both sacramental and pastoral.
This means all full-time Defence Forces chaplains are responsible to a Roman Catholic bishop for promoting the spiritual and moral welfare of all members of the Defence Forces under their spiritual care, while merely co-operating with the commanding officer.
Does this mean Roman Catholic chaplains are responsible for the spiritual and moral welfare of Evangelicals, Ahmadiyya Muslims and members of other religious minorities, as well as atheists, humanists, and secularists in the Defence Forces?
Or does it mean that only Roman Catholic personnel have this privilege? Neither of these options is satisfactory. Over the years Defence Forces personnel have had to attend mandatory Masses, participate in ceremonial duties in churches and be generally deferential to Catholicism.
There are no rules or guidelines to ensure that personnel need not participate on the grounds of conscience in religious rituals.
While there have been some reforms, the commission has identified the chaplaincy and Masses during induction as outdated practices that must change or end. It also wants an end to other discriminatory practices, including the treatment of pregnancy and childbirth as an irregular absence from duty, and not permitting certain facial hair including beards.
The rights of minorities to freedom of conscience and religion cannot be reconciled with fully State-funded employees of the Defence Forces being appointed by Catholic bishops, or by forcing personnel to participate in religious practices.
It is time for the Defence Forces to embrace pluralism and equality in relation to religion or belief. The phrase “religion or belief” is important here. While it is obvious to most that the conscience of Evangelicals and Ahmadi Muslims should be protected, the Venice Commission has stressed that the “belief” aspect of this phrase includes deeply held conscientious beliefs that are fundamental about the human condition and the world, including atheism.

The Department of Justice is now reviewing our equality laws. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has recommended that the “religion” ground in the Acts should be amended to “religion and belief”, to bring it in line with EU law.
This would help us move to a more inclusive culture based on human rights.
Atheist Ireland, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Evangelical Alliance Ireland welcome the report of the Commission on the Defence Forces, and we look forward to a time when all State bodies recognise and include all minorities. Read online…


New Draft Primary Curriculum must respect rights of atheists as decided by the courts

See our submission to the NCCA here

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  $35,775 to 1244 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 1909 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 4,108 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


Faces and Places

Jane and Michael with Minister for Education Norma Foley at the NCCA event in Croke Park regarding the new draft primary school curriculum framework.

Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland at an NCCA event in Croke Park regarding the new draft primary school curriculum framework.

Atheist Ireland is attending an NCCA event in Croke Park regarding the new draft primary school curriculum framework.

Make the National Maternity Hospital publicly owned and secular – Waiting for the NWCI rally to start outside the Dail.

Census 2022

Four weeks to the Census on Sunday 3 April. If you’re not religious, mark ‘No Religion’.

29 days to the Census on Sunday 3 April. If you’re not religious, mark ‘No Religion’.

30 days to the Census on Sunday 3 April. If you’re not religious, mark ‘No Religion’.

One month to the Census on Sunday 3 April. If you’re not religious, mark ‘No Religion’.


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




Nuns who ran Magdalene laundries have not contributed to redress for women


By Patsy McGarry


All four religious congregations involved in running Ireland’s 10 Magdalene laundries, who feature in an RTÉ documentary later this evening, have refused to contribute to a State fund to compensate the women who worked in them. A total of €32.8million has so far been paid by the State in awards under a redress scheme created in December 2013 which has given awards since of up to €100,000 to 814 survivors. Read online…


Catholic church yet to discuss mother and baby homes redress


By Justine McCarthy


The children’s minister Roderic O’Gorman has held discussions with the Church of Ireland about what contributions it intends making to the state’s €1 billion redress scheme for survivors of mother and baby homes, but has yet to meet Eamon Martin, the Catholic primate. Read more…


Brandon Lewis: we must end school segregation in Northern Ireland


By Lisa O’Carroll


Ministers are to launch a campaign of “nudging and cajoling” to combat religious segregation in education in Northern Ireland, after figures revealed just 7% of schools officially offered integrated education. The Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, said he wanted to see an acceleration in the number of schools opting for integrated status, believing it was an important part of the post-conflict journey of healing. Read more…

Don’t let religion enable violence against women in NI, NSS says


By the National Secular Society


The National Secular Society has warned the Northern Ireland Executive that conservative religious teachings may play a role in abuse and violence against women and girls. The NSS has responded to the Executive Office’s call for views on strategies to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG), as well as domestic and sexual abuse. Read more…



In LA, ‘Atheist Pirates’ remove religious signs from public streets and overpasses


By Alejandra Molina


LOS ANGELES (RNS) — Standing atop an approximately 8-foot-high ladder, Evan Clark tugged at a sign tightly nailed to a utility pole on the intersection of Echo Park and Bellevue avenues, just beyond the 101 freeway ramps. The sign quoted John 14:6, and as Clark spun and pulled it to loosen it from the pole, a man in a car shouted, “The way. The truth. The life!,” quoting the words from the Bible verse emblazoned on the placard Clark was trying to take down. Read more…

Ontario government faces legal challenge for funding Catholic schools


By Bobby Hristova


A Hamilton high school teacher is one of two plaintiffs who submitted a legal application against the Ontario government, arguing its publicly funded Catholic school boards are unconstitutional. “My ideal outcome is that we would amalgamate the public and Catholic school boards,” said 39-year-old Adrienne Havercroft. Read more…

Italy: UAAR condemns unfair treatment of non-religious and clerical child abuse


By Humanists International


The Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics has drawn attention to the unfair and unequal treatment of non-religious people in Italy as a result of the concordat signed between the Italian state and the Vatican (Holy See) by the fascist dictator Mussolini in 1921 and renewed by Bettino Craxi in 1984. Read online…


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.

RTE Player Ireland’s Dirty Laundry:  Part one of two. Survivors of the Magdalene Laundries system share their experiences during and since their incarceration, and reveal how they are still fighting for redress


Freethought Radio – Katherine Stewart
The Friendly Atheist Podcast – How Many Atheists Are in Prison?

Media Watch

News and views from Ireland and around the world. Sharing is not an endorsement. 


Please consider joining Atheist Ireland and support our continued work








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