Atheist Ireland at the United Nations
Following our recent visit to the UN at Geneva, where we promoted the rights of children to education without religious discrimination, Atheist Ireland made a submission this week to a coming UN report on combating intolerance based on religion or belief.
We want the UN to always use the full phrase ‘freedom of religion or belief’, and not simply use the phrase ‘freedom of religion’, in order to emphasise that human rights law gives the same protection to people with nonreligious philosophical convictions including atheism.
We want states to protect freedom of religion or belief in schools and the workplace, particularly in Ireland, where schools and hospitals can discriminate on the ground of religion, and where conscientious atheists cannot become president, a judge, or Taoiseach because we would have to swear a religious oath.
We want states to balance the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, by tackling prejudice against groups through education, and tackling prejudice-motivated crime through the law, while protecting the right to freedom of expression, based on human rights principles and standards.
You can help us to campaign on these and other 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
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Atheist Ireland News
Atheist Ireland submission to UN on combating intolerance based on religion or belief
Atheist Ireland has made the following submission to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights who is preparing report on combating intolerance against persons based on religion or belief.
1. Background to Atheist Ireland
2. Our recommendations
3. The UN and States should use the phrase ‘religion or belief’ consistently
4. The right to freedom of religion or belief in schools
5. The right to freedom of religion or belief in the workplace
6. The balance between freedom of expression and of religion or belief
1. Background to Atheist Ireland
Atheist Ireland is a voluntary advocacy group based in Ireland. We promote atheism, reason, and ethical secularism by political lobbying and human rights interventions including at the United Nations. We also work with atheist and secular advocacy groups in other countries.
When promoting secularism, we explicitly say that we would be as opposed to the state promoting atheism as we are to the state promoting religion. We campaign on secular issues in alliance with the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Ireland.
We have previously made submissions to, and have participated in, UN Human Rights sessions about Ireland under the UPR, ICCPR, ICESCR, CERD, CEDAW, and Rights of the Child, as well as to the Council of Europe and the OSCE.
When the UN was questioning Pakistan under the ICCPR in 2017, we made a joint submission and sent a joint delegation to Geneva, from Atheist Ireland, the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland, and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Ireland.
2. Our recommendations
(a) In order to remove discrimination based on ‘religion or belief’ from within the resolution itself, the Report should recommend that the the resolution be amended to always use the full phrase ‘religion or belief’ and not to simply use the words ‘religion’ or ‘religious’. The same should apply to all UN documents addressing freedom of religion or belief, including the Report that this submission forms an input to.
(b) With regard to the right to freedom of religion or belief in schools, the Report should recommend that the Irish State in particular, as well as other States, should:
- Commit to ensuring that every child has the right to access a local publicly funded school without religious discrimination or being threatened with refusal of access if they don’t uphold the schools ethos.
- Establish secular or non-denominational schools at primary and second level, and not merely denominational or multi-denominational schools.
- Provide statutory guidelines to ensure that publicly funded schools respect and vindicate (a) the positive rights of minorities to freedom of conscience and respect for their religious or nonreligious philosophical convictions; and (b) the rights of children who exercise their constitutional right to not attend religious instruction to physically leave the classroom and get supervision or an alternative curriculum subject.
- Provide a neutral studying environment, outside the confines of religious instruction classes that students can choose to not attend.
(c) With regard to the right to freedom of religion or belief in the workplace, the Report should recommend that the Irish State in particular, as well as other States, should:
- Amend the category of ‘religion’ under employment equality laws (and any other relevant Acts) to ‘religion or belief’, and clarify that beliefs include positive philosophical convictions that are not based on religion.
- Amend any laws that prevent conscientious atheists, secularists and religious minorities being employed in the teaching and healthcare professions. In Ireland, such minorities are effectively barred from accessing the teaching profession, because they cannot get a job teaching consistently with their religious or philosophical convictions.
- Remove religious oaths for people taking up high public office (which in Ireland includes Judges, the President, and members of the Council of State (which includes the Taoiseach, and Tanaiste). These public office-holders should make a single declaration of loyalty to the Irish Constitution, State, and people, that does not reveal anything about the person’s religious or nonreligious beliefs.
(d) With regard to the balance between freedom of expression and of religion or belief, laws should be accurate, understandable, and enforceable. Laws based on ambiguous or emotive words such as ‘hate’ cannot do this. The Report should recommend that the Irish State in particular, as well as other States, should:
- Use the phrase ‘prejudice-motivated crime’ not ‘hate crime’,
- tackle prejudice against groups through education,
- and tackle prejudice-motivated crime through the law,
- while protecting the right to freedom of expression,
- based on human rights principles and standards.
3. The UN and States should use the phrase ‘religion or belief’ consistently
The title of resolution 76/157 of 16 December 2021 acknowledges that the characteristic to be protected is unjust behaviour against persons based on ‘religion or belief’.
The ‘belief’ aspect of that phrase refers to nonreligious philosophical convictions worthy of respect in a democratic society, which includes atheism as a positive belief and not merely the absence of a religious belief.
Atheist Ireland published an an article last year outlining where this positive right is articulated in international human rights law.
CCPR General Comment No. 22 on Article 18 states:
“2. Article 18 protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The terms “belief” and “religion” are to be broadly construed…”
In the Venice Commission Guidelines for Legislative Reviews of Laws Affecting Religion or Belief, it states that:
“3. International standards do not speak of religion in an isolated sense, but of “religion or belief.” The “belief” aspect typically pertains to deeply held conscientious beliefs that are fundamental about the human condition and the world. Thus atheism and agnosticism, for example, are generally held to be equally entitled to protection to religious beliefs. It is very common for legislation not to protect adequately (or to not refer at all) to rights of non-believers. Although not all beliefs are entitled to equal protection, legislation should be reviewed for discrimination against non-believers.”
The title of resolution 76/157 acknowledges this. However, the paragraphs within the resolution do not follow through consistently on the purpose described in the title. Read more…
Atheist Ireland, Evangelical Alliance, and Ahmadi Muslims update the UN on rights of children
Atheist Ireland, the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland, and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Ireland, made a joint submission to the UN Children’s Rights Committee as it prepares to question Ireland next January. You can read that submission here.
We also met with the UN Committee last week in Geneva, along with other Irish human rights and civil society groups. Before that meeting we sent the Committee this update on recent developments.
Written Statement to UN Committee on Children’s Rights from Atheist Ireland, the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland, and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Ireland
1. Our Recommendations
The State has not initiated any new developments regarding the recommendations in our submission of August 2022. These recommendations remain:
- The State should commit to ensuring that every child has the right to access a local publicly funded school without religious discrimination or being threatened with refusal of access if they don’t uphold the schools ethos.
- The State should ensure that schools and patron bodies comply with Section 62(7)(n) of the Education (Admissions to schools) Act 2018 by actually writing the details of the arrangements into their admission policies, and not by saying parents have to meet with the school principal.
- The State should commit to establishing secular or non-denominational schools at primary and second level, and not merely multi-denominational schools.
- The State should legally and clearly define the terms denominational, multi-denominational, interdenominational, and non-denominational, as per the Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission Report ‘Religion & Education; A human Rights Perspective’.
- The State should provide statutory guidelines to ensure that publicly funded schools: respect and vindicate the positive rights of minorities to freedom of conscience and respect for their religious or nonreligious philosophical convictions; respect and vindicate the right of children who exercise their constitutional right to not attend religious instruction; and provide such children with supervision or an alternative curriculum subject.
- The State should provide a neutral studying environment, outside the confines of religious instruction classes that students can choose to not attend.
2. Update on schools by patron type
This is the most up-to-date data on Irish schools by patron type that is listed on the Department of Education website for school year 2020/2021
Primary Schools Mainstream
171 Church of Ireland
142 MultiDenominational (96 Educate Together / 46 ETB)
1 each Jewish, Methodist, Quaker
Primary Schools Special
Second Level Schools
210 MultiDenominational (189 ETB / 21 Educate Together)
22 Church of Ireland
1 each Jewish, Methodist, Presbyterian
3. Update regarding Divestment of Schools
In March 2022 the Government announced plans to discuss divesting more schools from Catholic to multi-denominational patrons in eight pilot areas. As outlined in our submission, even the maximum proposed divestments would not provide alternatives for secular and minority faith parents in the many areas where there is only one school which would remain Catholic.
The government plans only to divest to multi-denominational patrons, and not to secular or non-denominational patrons. The Department has published the following meanings, which they describe as for information purposes and not as legal definitions.
- Denominational patronage – under the patronage of a single religious community.
- Inter-denominational patronage – under the patronage or trusteeship of more than one religious faith community.
- Multi-denominational patronage – under the patronage of a multi-denominational patron.
This definition of ‘multi-denominational’ is circular and adds no information. However, if a ‘denomination’ refers to a religious faith community, then it follows that ‘multi-denominational’ also has religious connotations, and is not the same as secular or non-denominational. Read more…
Burke v Minister for Education
Here are the judgements at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court in relation to the Burke v Minister for Education which deals with Constitutional rights in relation to education. Read online or Download the judgements
The Irish language version of Constitution
The Irish language version of Constitution takes legal precedence over the English version. This is relevant as Dept of Education claims that NCCA Religious Education course does not come under Art 44.2.4 – the right to not attend religious instruction. This is simply made up nonsense and it’s purpose is to stem the flow of students that seek to exercise their right to not attend religious instruction. You will find this nonsense written into most second level Admission policies.
The Supreme Court has said that the rights of parents under Art 42.1 of the Constitution must be read in the context of Art 44.2.4 – the right to not attend religious teaching. This means the parents have a constitution right to remove their children from any type of religious teaching. It is not up to the Dept of Education, the NCCA, Patron bodies, schools or teachers to decide for parents what is, or is not, suitable religious instruction for their children.
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
Be Good without Gods
Atheist Ireland ‘Good Without Gods’ Kiva team members have made loans of $37,880 to 1325 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 1952 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 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: Some consequences – like testimonies – are more important than others
By Órla Ryan
HOW MUCH REDRESS should a person who spent less than six months in a mother and baby home as a child get? How many Commissioners will appear before the Oireachtas? How many official reports with disputed findings should be repudiated? How many independent reviews will take place? The answer to all these questions is none, evidently. Read more…
Teacher warns Irish teens turning to porn to learn about sex
A teacher has made a passionate plea for proper relationship and sexuality education in schools and has given a vivid and shocking account of how pornography is warping the sexuality of teens across the country.
European Court rules Polish blasphemy charge violated human rights
By Humanists UK
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that a charge of blasphemy in Poland 10 years ago against singer Dorota Rabczewska violated her human rights. Polish authorities have been ordered to pay damages to her amounting to €10,000. Read more….
Abolish bishops’ bench, NSS urges commission reviewing HoL
By The National Secular Society
The National Secular Society has told a commission on political reform that bishops should no longer have automatic seats in parliament. The Commission on Political Power, which was established to examine potential legislative and structural reform of the UK political system, is consulting on reforming the House of Lords. Read more…
FFRF launches ‘We’re atheists and we vote’ national campaign
By The Freedom From Religion Foundation
A provocative new national secular voter campaign emphasizes that 75 million nonreligious adult Americans (nearly one-third of the population) are dedicated to the separation of state and religion — and are voting that way. Read more…
“Insulting or ridiculing church” to be jailable crime under bill supported by Polish justice minister
By Daniel Tilles
Anyone who “publicly insults or ridicules the church” could be jailed for up to two years under a proposed law submitted to parliament by one of the parties in Poland’s national-conservative ruling coalition. The measure has been supported by almost 400,000 signatures gathered from the public in less than three months. 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 email@example.com
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.
News and views from Ireland and around the world. Sharing is not an endorsement.