Secular Sunday #553 – UN tells Ireland to provide secular schools

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UN tells Ireland to provide secular schools


This week the UN Human Rights Committee again told Ireland to provide secular education by establishing non-denominational schools, to bar all forms of discrimination against teachers and medical workers, and to remove the religious oaths in the constitution for people who take up senior public office positions.Atheist Ireland has repeatedly raised these issues with the UN, including before and during this session. They are fundamental breaches of human rights. The Irish state has repeatedly told the UN that it will address them, but the government never carries through on these commitments.

This week, Atheist Ireland chairperson Michael Nugent did a lengthy podcast interview with Conor Faughnan of Senior Times. Michael discussed his childhood as well as his adult life promoting democracy, secularism, and atheism, and how much Ireland has changed over recent decades.

We have published more documents from our correspondence about the constitutional right to not attend religious instruction in schools, with the Department of Education, the NCCA, the Oireachtas Education and Public Accounts Committees, and the Comptroller and Auditor General.

We are publishing these gradually so that you can follow how the arguments have evolved. Please let us know if you would like to to help us with this lobbying campaign after the Oireachtas summer break.

You can also help us to continue all of our 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

UN again tells Ireland to provide secular schools and remove religious oaths

Atheist Ireland welcomes today’s concluding observations of the UN Human Rights Committee, which again tell Ireland to provide secular education by establishing non-denominational schools, and to further amend the Employment Equality Act to bar all forms of discrimination against teachers and medical workers.
The UN Committee has also told Ireland to remove the religious oaths in the constitution for people who take up senior public office positions, taking into account the right not to be compelled to reveal one’s thoughts or adherence to a religion or belief in public.
Atheist Ireland raised these three issues with the UN Committee, both in our submissions to the recent session and during the session, in which the UN questioned Ireland about its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
We have repeatedly raised these issues with the UN, and the Irish state has repeatedly told the UN that it will address them, but the government never carries through on these commitments.
Indeed, Ireland misled the UN Committee this year by saying the government’s objective is to have 400 ‘multi-denominational or non-denominational schools’. But this is not true. The programme for government refers only to ‘multi-denominational’ schools.
What the UN has repeatedly asked for is secular or non-denominational schools, which they explicitly refer to in this week’s concluding observations.
Atheist Ireland continues to promote these three fundamental human rights: the right to secular education through nondenominational schools, the right to teach and work in hospitals without religious discrimination, and the right to be President, a judge, Taoiseach, or Tanaiste, without swearing a religious oath that a conscientious atheist could not take.
Here are the relevant extracts from the UN’s concluding observations:

Freedom of religion
41. The Committee welcomes the adoption of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018 to prohibit the use of religion as a selection criterion in primary school admissions, and the measures taken towards the establishment of multi-denominational schools. However, recalling its previous concerns, the Committee regrets the lack of information regarding the access to secular education through the establishment of non-denominational schools.
The Committee is concerned the provisions of the Act relating to the prohibition of religions as a selection criteria only applies to primary education and about reports that over half of secondary schools are under religious patronage and operate with a religious ethos.
It is also concerned at the slow progress in amending the provisions of the Constitution that oblige individuals wishing to take up senior public office positions to take religious oaths.
Furthermore, the Committee reiterates its previous concern that under section 37(1) of the Employment Equality Acts, religious-owned institutions, including in the fields of education and health, can discriminate against employees or prospective employees to protect the religious ethos of the institution (arts. 2, 18 and 26).
42. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendations that the State party should:
(a) Consider taking concrete steps to amending 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) on freedom of thought, conscience and religion, concerning the right not to be compelled to reveal one’s thoughts or adherence to a religion or belief in public;
(b) Take the appropriate measures to provide secular education through the establishment of non-denominational schools and ensure the further amendment of section 37 (1) of the Employment Equality Act in a way that bars all forms of discrimination in employment in the fields of education and health.
50. In accordance with rule 75, paragraph 1, of the Committee’s rules of procedure, the State party is requested to provide, by 28 July 2025, information on the implementation of the recommendations made by the Committee in paragraphs 12 (Accountability for past human rights violations), 18 (Non-discrimination, hate speech and hate crime) and 42 (Freedom of religion) above.

Read online…

Senior Times Podcast Interview

Michael Nugent had a chat with Conor Faughnan on his Senior Times podcast about his childhood and his adult life promoting democracy and atheism. It’s online now here.

UN Human Rights Committee

UN Human Rights Committee again tells Ireland to remove religious oaths in the constitution for president, judges, and Taoiseach

UN Human Rights Committee again tells Ireland to provide secular education through non-denominational schools


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  $37,250 to 1299 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 1934 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

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




Victims’ families from 1972 IRA bomb in case against Catholic Church over priest’s alleged involvement


By Press Association


A number of families who were bereaved in the IRA’s bombing of Claudy are continuing legal action against the Catholic Church. Nine people were killed on 31 August 1972 when three car bombs devastated the Derry village. Read more…

Religious discrimination claim over college ‘Jesus’ email is rejected.


By Stephen Bourke


A Dublin university lecturer and Buddhist priest has lost his discrimination claim over getting an email about Lent from the college’s chaplaincy service. The email from the Technical University of Dublin (TU Dublin) chaplaincy service on the occasion of Lent had asked: “Who is Jesus?” Read more…

Memorial unveiled dedicated to all incarcerated in Magdalene laundries


By Olivia Kelly

A monument dedicated to those who were incarcerated in Magdalene laundries, mother and baby homes and other residential institutions, has been installed at the Little Museum of Dublin at St Stephen’s Green Read online… 



Mubarak Bala: Atheist Activism And Liberation From Religious Oppression In Nigeria


By Leo Igwe


The case of Nigerian humanist, Mubarak Bala has made it necessary to reflect on the situation of atheism in Nigeria. It is imperative to examine how religious minds have demonized atheism and tyrannized the lives of nonbelievers. Irreligiosity is not a phenomenon that is often linked to the African continent. But in recent times things have started to change. Read more…


Taxing churches: Religious institutions in Iqaluit no longer exempt from property tax


By Jeff Semple


Following the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential school sites and ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Nunavut’s capital on Friday, the City of Iqaluit has passed a bylaw that could require churches to begin paying property taxes Read more…

Without action, sorry is a meaningless word


By David A. Robertson


My father was born and raised in Norway House Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba, a Christianized reserve since its inception in the late 19th century. He was working for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Rossville, the centre of the community, when he got to know people in the United Church. Read more…

Humanists call on the Europe’s Asylum Agency to consider experience of the non-religious


By Humanists International


This week, AHA Luxembourg – a Member Organization of Humanists International – has called on its representatives at the European Parliament and Commission to ensure that the European Union Agency for Asylum takes into account the experiences of non-religious people in its guidelines. 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.



Freethought Radio – Combatting the threats
The Friendly Atheist Podcast – Who’s the Real Hate-Preacher?

Media Watch

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




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