AI Taoiseach 2Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan said yesterday that she was particularly motivated to protect LGBT teachers from discrimination, when some LGBT teachers were afraid to have their photographs taken with the President for fear that action would be taken against them in their schools.

But last February, at a meeting with Atheist Ireland, an atheist student and an atheist teacher had to stand out of a similar photograph, this time with Minister O’Sullivan herself and Taoiseach Enda Kenny, for that very same reason. That photo is published above.

Minister O’Sullivan rightly said yesterday of the LGBT teachers who had to stand out of the photograph with the President: “In a republic, no citizen should be made to feel this way because of their identity, and this legislation will finally put this situation right.”

Yet she is now supporting a Bill that will remove these fears from LGBT teachers, but will retain the right of religious schools to discriminate against atheist teachers, including the teacher who had to stand out of a photograph with her and the Taoiseach just a few months ago.

This Bill will not, as she suggests, “finally put this situation right” for atheist teachers. It will make things worse, by reinforcing and further institutionalising the right to discriminate against atheists, as long as you don’t also discriminate against people on other grounds.

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Labour JOSThe Labour Party seems to have forgotten the pledge in the Programme for Government to protect non-faith and minority faith teachers along with publicly out LGBT teachers, despite the Labour Party claiming political ownership of that particular Government commitment.

A Labour Party press release today is now selectively recasting it as a pledge to protect teachers “on the basis of their sexual orientation or family status,” without any indication that this is a different commitment to the one in the Programme for Government.

Atheist Ireland is asking both Labour and Fine Gael to reconsider this change, and to amend the current Section 37 Bill next Tuesday to remove all religious discrimination in employment in our schools and hospitals.

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Averil Power SeanadThe Bill to amend Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act – that allows religious schools and hospitals to discriminate on the ground of religion – was discussed in the Seanad this afternoon.

Senators Katherine Zappone and Averil Power made strong contributions on the importance of any sanctions being related to specific work-related conduct that is an occupational requirement of the specific job, and on privately-funded bodies being held to the same standards of non-discrimination as publicly-funded bodies would be.

Senator David Norris endorsed the UN Human Rights Committee’s call that Ireland should amend this law in a way that bars all forms of discrimination in employment in the fields of education and health.

Minister Aodhan O Riordan said that the Government will be proposing its own amendments to the Bill, which it says will strengthen the protection of employees, and those amendments will be discussed at the next stage of the Bill, Report Stage, next Tuesday.

However, based on his contribution today, these proposals would still make a distinction between a person’s status on the religion ground, for example as an atheist, and a person’s status on any of the other non-discrimination grounds. We can examine this in more detail when the Government publishes its amendments.

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endakennyFive TDs, including three Party Leaders, today asked the Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dail to report on his recent meeting with Atheist Ireland – Socialists and independents Ruth Coppinger, Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett; Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail; and Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein.

Here are the relevant extracts about the Taoiseach’s meeting with Atheist Ireland, and about matters discussed at that meeting, including follow-up questions from Deputies Coppinger, Martin and Adams about school patronage, the blasphemy referendum, Mother and Baby Homes, and the Angelus.

Atheist Ireland thanks the Deputies who raised these questions, and we will continue to communicate with the Taoiseach to clarify some of the issues in his responses. For comparison, here is Atheist Ireland’s report of the meeting with the Taoiseach.

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Atheist Ireland and the Angelus – my interview with George Hook on Newstalk

June 26, 2015

I discussed Atheist Ireland’s current complaint to RTE, about RTE’s plans to include atheists as part of the daily Angelus broadcast, with George Hook on Newstalk Radio yesterday.

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RTE tells Atheist Ireland it will reconsider the title of the Angelus

June 25, 2015

RTE’s Head of Broadcast Compliance has written to Atheist Ireland in response our complaints about the Angelus. We thank RTE for its comprehensive reply, and we welcome that RTE is to reconsider whether the title ‘The Angelus’ remains the best one for modern Ireland. We believe that changing the title would be an important first […]

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Another UN Committee tells Ireland to end all religious discrimination in education

June 22, 2015

A major UN Human Rights Committee today told Ireland to stop breaching the human rights of atheists and minority faith citizens in the education system, as well as in abortion law and the ability to vindicate human rights in practice. The UN report vindicates the complaints raised by Atheist Ireland in Geneva two weeks ago […]

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Several TDs call for full separation of church and State during Dail debate on religious discrimination

June 20, 2015

Several TDs (Members of Parliament) called for full separation of church and State during a Dail debate this week. The Bill being debated aims to repeal Section 37 of our employment equality law, which permits religious discrimination against LGBT, atheist and other employees in schools and hospitals. The Bill was proposed by Paul Murphy and […]

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Should schools have public worship? My debate on BBC Radio Ulster

June 17, 2015

I debated whether schools should have public worship at assemblies, on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback on Monday.

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Atheist Ireland supports new Section 37 Bill to remove religious discrimination in schools and hospitals

June 17, 2015

I spoke yesterday at the launch of a new Bill, proposed by the Anti-Austerity Alliance, to amend the Employment Equality Act to stop religious schools and hospitals from discriminating against LGBTQ and atheist teachers and other staff. The Bill has the support of a wide number of groups, including the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, […]

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