Secular Sunday #541 – Discrimination against atheist teachers

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Discrimination against atheist teachers


A new cross-border research survey has confirmed that non-religious teachers are hiding or suppressing their beliefs in schools with a religious ethos for fear of the impact on their careers. The study is by Dr Catherine Stapleton of Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, and Dr James Nelson of Queen’s University Belfast.

The teachers interviewed for the report teach a variety of secular subjects, which means their jobs do not have religious belief as a genuine occupational requirement. However, the teachers report that religion or belief is undoubtedly a factor in appointments and promotions at their schools, including denominational and ETB schools.

This report strengthens Atheist Ireland’s arguments for ending the exemptions in our equality laws that allow schools with a religious ethos to discriminate against atheist teachers. We continue to lobby on this issue, alongside the other areas in which religions have undue influence in our education system.

As always, you can help Atheist Ireland to continue our work on secular issues 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

New research report confirms discrimination against atheist teachers


A new cross-border research survey supports the argument that Atheist Ireland has made for years: that non-religious teachers are hiding or suppressing their beliefs in schools with a religious ethos for fear of the impact on their careers.
Chris Hind, Atheist Ireland Teachers Officer, says:

“This discrimination against atheist teachers places us in a conflict of conscience between our personal beliefs, our desire to uphold the constitutional rights of all students and their parents, and our legal duty to uphold the religious ethos of their school.
This report strengthens the case for ending the exemptions in our equality laws that allow schools with a religious ethos to discriminate against atheist teachers.”

The study is by Dr Catherine Stapleton of Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, and Dr James Nelson of Queen’s University Belfast.
Atheist Ireland spoke last week in Mary Immaculate College at the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, where we raised religious discrimination against atheists in Irish schools.
The teachers interviewed for the report teach a variety of subjects: English, Maths, History, Modern Languages, Physics, Music, SPHE, Technology & Design, Computer Programming, IT, and Business Studies. Only one teaches Religion (along with Maths).
This means their jobs do not have religious belief as a genuine occupational requirement, which is part of the test of proportionality under European Council Directive 2000 on when employers can take religious beliefs into account.
However, the teachers in this study report that religion or belief is undoubtedly a factor in appointments and promotions at their schools, most explicitly in Catholic schools, but also in schools run by the State through ETBs.
This causes a conflict of identity for teachers, with most feeling unable to express their non-religious identity. This hinders not only their careers directly, but also their relationships with peers, students and senior staff. Read online…


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

Be Good without Gods

Atheist Ireland ‘Good Without Gods’ Kiva team members have made loans of  $36,420 to 1270 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 1920 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 4,112 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


Our Maternity Hospital Group – Campaign Against Church Ownership of Women’s Healthcare are having a protest rally at the Dáil on Saturday, 14th May, at 2pm, to send a message to our government that we will not tolerate a new National Maternity Hospital which is anything less than public and secular.

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




Urgent need for impartial sex education from primary school upwards, says Harris


By Carl O’Brien


The ethos of schools must not be allowed to prevent pupils’ access to impartial education on sex and relationships, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has said. Under the Education Act (1998), schools are free to determine what they consider to be appropriate sex education in line with the “characteristic spirit of the school”. Read more…


Protesters call for State to take over new maternity hospital site


By Simon Carswell


Deirdre Fitzgerald wants the site of the new National Maternity Hospital to be bought by the State in a compulsory purchase or for the new hospital to be moved to Tallaght instead of the St Vincent’s Hospital site. Standing next to her daughter Mia, Ms Fitzgerald was one of more than 30 demonstrators outside the current site of the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin city centre on Thursday who are angry at the relocation of the new hospital to the Dublin 4 site. Read more…


Non-religious teachers ‘hide’ beliefs for job opportunities – study


By Carl O’Brien


Non-religious teachers are hiding or suppressing their beliefs over fears it could affect their employment or promotion prospects in schools with a religious ethos, according to research. The findings are contained in a cross-Border study by Dr Catherine Stapleton of Mary Immaculate College and Dr James Nelson of Queen’s University Belfast. Read more…


Taking the church out of Irish primary schools


By Jennifer Horgan


For more than a century parents in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, have had little choice but to send their children to religious-run primary schools. That is all about to change next September. St Mary’s Boys Junior School, a Catholic school founded in 1913, will reopen as Nenagh Community National SchoolRead more…


Boylan: Government cant guarantee Catholic ethos wont govern new National Maternity Hospital


By Noel Baker


The former master of the National Maternity Hospital has insisted questions still need to be answered about the relocation of the hospital and the involvement of any Catholic ethos. Dr Peter Boylan has written to Taoiseach Micheál Martin about his serious concerns following the announcement by the Religious Sisters of Charity that they have transferred their shareholding in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group to St Vincent’s Holdings. Read more…


Concerns over new NMH are understandable given Irish history




This year marks the 50th anniversary of the removal of article 44.2.1 from the Irish Constitution, which recognised the “special position” of the Catholic Church “as the guardian of the faith professed by the great majority of citizens”. There was much political consensus about this change and little opposition from church leaders. Read online…


The St Vincent’s Papers


By Marie O’Connor


The British Virgin Islands   have just made the news with the arrest of their Premier in Miami on Thursday on charges of money laundering and drug trafficking. The territory features sporadically in the Panama Papers, and the territory is now facing direct rule from London following a year-long UK inquiry into government malpractice. Read more…


The Maternity Hospital’s Difficult Birth


By Simon McGarr


After a busy day urging active citizens to call their TDs to register their unhappiness with the plan to transfer ownership and control of a €1bn new National Maternity Hospital, the whole thing ended with the Cabinet getting spooked and telling the Minister for Health to publish his plan and come back in a fortnight. Read more…



Secularists at serious risk in Bangladesh, UK government says


By National Secular Society


Secularists and atheists in Bangladesh are at “serious” risk of persecution, new UK government guidance says. Home Office guidance for assessing refugee, asylum and human rights claims says those who openly express atheist beliefs are likely to be subject to discrimination by the state or societal violence that amounts to “persecution or serious harm”. Read more…


Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade published by Politico




In a stunning breach of Supreme Court confidentiality and secrecy, Politico has obtained what it calls a draft of a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito that would strike down Roe v. WadeThe draft was circulated in early February, according to Politico. The final opinion has not been released and votes and language can change before opinions are formally released. The opinion in this case is not expected to be published until late June. Read more…


Biden’s Day of Prayer proclamation a craven ‘Declaration of Dependence’


By the Freedom From Religion Foundation


The annual unconstitutional presidential proclamation of a “Day of Prayer” is a degrading “Declaration of Dependence” by a nation predicated on the Declaration of Independence and a godless secular Constitution. President Biden’s dutiful 2022 proclamation also erases the very existence of nonreligious Americans, as all previous presidential Day of Prayer proclamations have done.Read more…

Take action now over imminent overturn of Roe v. Wade




In light of the leaked draft of an expected Supreme Court decision that appears to overrule Roe v. Wade, and the widespread panic it has sparked, the Freedom From Religion Foundation urges five constructive acts of resistance. The first: to demand that the U.S. Senate finally pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify and protect the rights in Roe v. Wade no matter what the high court does. 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.

Newstalk – NMH plan would see ownership under private, Vatican-approved company – Boylan


Freethought Radio – Profusely Illustrated
The Friendly Atheist Podcast – Overturning Roe Might Backfire on Christians

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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