Secular Sunday #554 – Why the State pays chaplains in ETB schools

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Why the State pays chaplains in ETB schools


The State pays chaplains in ETB schools, who are mostly Catholic, to help parents with the religious education and religious formation of their children. This costs the state approximately €10 million per year.This happens in ETB schools, which the Department of Education presents as the alternative to denominational schools. Why is the State allowed to fund this? A case in 1996 challenged these payments in ETB schools, on the grounds that it was an endowment of religion, which the Constitution forbids.

The Supreme Court found that parents are responsible for the religious education and formation of their children, but that the State could help the parents do that by funding chaplains. This means that the purpose of school chaplains is religious. They are not, as some people think, merely an inclusive resource for the whole school community.

That role could be filled, and should be filled, by a counsellor appointed under a fair recruitment process. Instead, the local Bishop decides who will be a school chaplain. Can you imagine if the State paid ETB schools to employ an atheist, to help parents with the atheistic education of their children? We would never hear the end of it.

Atheist Ireland will continue to highlight this religious privilege towards Catholic parents in ETB schools. 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

The state pays €10m a year for Catholic school chaplains to help Catholic parents


The State pays Catholic and Church of Ireland Chaplains to help parents with the religious education and religious formation of their children. This funding costs the state approximately €10 million per year.
This is the purpose of the funding of Chaplains in ETB Community and Comprehensive Schools and designated Community Colleges. Most Chaplains are Catholic but some are Church of Ireland.
The Deeds of Trust for Community Colleges, and the Model Agreement for designated Community Colleges, state that the Chaplain must be nominated by the relevant religious authority. In the vast majority of cases that is the Catholic Church.
In 1996 a case was take to the courts regarding this funding. It was claimed that the funding of Chaplains was an endowment of religion, forbidden by the Constitution. The case went to the Supreme Court and in 1998 they found that this funding wasn’t an endowment of religion, because the State was helping parents with the religious education and religious formation of their children under Article 42.1, 42.4 and Article 44 of the Constitution.
The courts said that Community and Comprehensive schools were denominational in nature. They are either Catholic or Church of Ireland. They were open to all members of the community. The Catholic Church told the court that if the State didn’t fund Catholic Chaplains’ then they would be obliged to pay for them.
The Supreme Court recognised that teachers in Community schools were mostly lay teachers, and therefore it wasn’t practical to combine religious and academic education the way that a religious order might have done in the past.
The court found that, regardless of this, parents had the same right to have a religious education provided for their children, and they were not obliged to settle just for the religious instruction class.
This is the reason why Chaplains are funded by the State. Their very purpose is to assist Catholic and Church of Ireland parents with the religious education and faith formation of their children.
Justice Barrington went on to say that, if minority parents chose to send their children to Community or Comprehensive schools, they can expect them to be influenced to some degree by the religious ethos of these schools.
Community and Comprehensive schools, as well as designated Community Colleges, are presented as the alternative to denominational schools by the Department of Education.
So where does all this leave minorities in ETB schools and also in denominational schools?  Most parents have no choice where they send their children to school.
We are told that all parents have absolute Constitutional rights with regard to the education of their children, and that all schools are inclusive and promote diversity and pluralism.
We are asked to accept that inclusion, diversity and pluralism mean that our children can be influenced by a religious ethos in the general atmosphere of a school.
If religion is combined with academic subjects, this will be another avenue of religious influence, as well as our children being left in the religion class, because no supervision is provided outside the class.
Can you imagine if the State paid schools to employ an atheist, to assist parents with the atheistic education of their children, or to promote atheism in the general atmosphere of the school?
If that happened (which of course it shouldn’t), we would never hear the end of it. It would be seen as religious discrimination and undermining the rights of religious parents. It is the same when the State pays schools to employ a Catholic Chaplain to assist parents with the Catholic education of their children. Read online…

*|YOUTUBE: [$vid=XGLwj5QBYMA]|*

This week Atheist Ireland had a letter published in the Irish Times

Religious oaths and secular education – Atheist Ireland has repeatedly raised these issues with the UN

Sir, — The UN Human Rights Committee has again told 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 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 has repeatedly raised these three 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 this year by saying the Government’s objective is to have 400 “multidenominational or non-denominational schools”. But this is not true. The programme for Government refers only to “multidenominational” schools.
What the UN has 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 non-denominational schools; the right to teach in schools and work in hospitals without religious discrimination, and the right to be president, a judge, taoiseach, or tánaiste, without swearing a religious oath that a conscientious atheist could not take. — Yours, etc, 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  $37,275 to 1300 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 1935 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.
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  • 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




Warning by Archbishop on future of Catholic Church in Ireland


By Patsy McGarry


Where the Catholic Church in Ireland is concerned “the one certainty is the ongoing and sustained decline both in the numbers who practice and in the numbers of those who answer the Lord’s call to priesthood and religious life,” Archbishop of Tuam Francis Duffy has said. Read more…

New Irish adoption law opens wounds as 900 register to trace birth families


By Lisa O’Carroll


Octogenarian and child of five among adopted children or parents applying for unrestricted access to early years data. An 81-year-old, adopted as a child, and a 74-year-old mother who gave up her baby for adoption, are among 900 people who have registered to trace their parents or children after landmark legislation was passed in Ireland. Read more…

Letter to the Irish Times – Abolishing religious oaths A better solution

By Alan Tuffery


Sir, – Nora Gorey’s (Letters, August 4th) proposes a “simple solution” to the problem of compulsory religious oaths by offering a choice between a religious and a secular oath. Alas, it is not that simple. There may be many reasons why an individual may prefer not to reveal their religious or other affiliation Read online…



Shelby County teacher proselytized students, says Freedom From Religion Foundation


By Alabama Political Reporter Staff


Shelby County teacher has been warned against promoting Christianity at Calera High School after school officials were alerted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation about his activities.FFRF, a watchdog organization that seeks to prevent any promotion of religion within the government, says a concerned parent notified them that a Calera teacher had sent home Christian literature with students and signed a student’s yearbook with a religious message. Read online…


Kansas voters protect abortion rights in post-Roe v Wade referendum


By Press Association


VOTERS IN THE US state of Kansas have protected abortion rights by rejecting a measure that would have allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature to tighten abortion restrictions or ban it outright. Read more…

Rev Richard Coles and Richard Dawkins dine across the divide: ‘The problem is he’s not swayed by evidence but by feeling’


By Sam Wollaston


In our celebrity Dining across the divide special, the cleric meets the atheist biologist. Can they find any understanding on the value of faith? Read more…

Over 70% Brits don’t think it’s important for PM to be Christian


By The National Secular Society


The National Secular Society has called for separation of church and state as figures show Britons don’t think the prime minister must be Christian. Seventy-one per cent of British people said it was “not at all important” (49%) or “not very important” (22%) for a British prime minister to be a Christian, according to figures collected by Deltapoll last month 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.



Freethought Radio – Creationism USA
The Friendly Atheist Podcast – The Plight of Conservative Christian Furries
Humanists UK Podcast  – What I Believe – Frank Turner

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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