Atheist Ireland is financing, developing, designing and piloting Ireland’s first ever primary school course about atheism. We are working with Educate Together to coordinate this project, with information provided by us and developed into lessons by professionals.
This project has caught imaginations around the world. Time and The Guardian are among many international publications covering the story, and educators and parents are contacting us to see how they can help. Atheist Alliance International is helping to promote the project.
Here is a discussion about the issue on CKNW News Talk AM 980 Radio in Vancouver in Canada.
Why is this course so important?
The Irish State discriminates against secular parents and their children. They take no positive steps to protect secular parents and their children from religious discrimination in the education system. There are no secular, non-denominational public schools in Ireland. Only a small but growing number of Educate Together schools provide education about religion without faith formation, and up to now there has been no course content about atheism.
The Irish education system is funded by the Irish state, but the state effectively franchises the running of schools to private bodies called patrons. The patrons employ teachers and set the ethos of the school, and the state funds the maintenance of the schools and pays the teachers’ wages. Over 90 per cent of patrons are Roman Catholic Bishops. Most of the rest are clerics from other churches.
Religious schools can legally give preference to co-religionists in order to uphold their religious ethos. Parents are required to produce a Catholic Baptismal Certificate when enrolling their children at the only local school. Schools can also legally dismiss a teacher if they do not uphold the religious ethos of the school. This religious discrimination is not confined to the school environment but also involves the private life of the teacher.
Catholic Schools in Ireland operate a religious integrated curriculum. Religion is integrated into the curriculum and the daily life of the school. The UN Human Rights Committee has raised concern regarding the religious integrated curriculum in Irish schools as it denied parents access to a secular education for their children. They said that it was discrimination, and breached the right to freedom of conscience, the rights if the child and the right to equality before the law.
How will the lessons be developed?
Our lessons about atheism will be taught in an objective, critical and pluralist manner. They will teach about atheism, not teach atheism.
They will be based on international human rights law that protects and respects the religious and nonreligious philosophical convictions of all parents and their children.
These human rights are reflected in the Toledo guiding principles on teaching about religion and beliefs, compiled by the OSCE.
The lessons will be 30-40 minutes in length. Professionals will be employed to write lessons, and a co-ordinator will be employed to manage the project.
The lessons will be piloted in Educate Together schools. Feedback will be gathered and the lessons amended accordingly. The lessons will then be formally launched and promoted throughout the Educate Together network.
We also hope to make course material available for parents whose children are in denominational schools, and who want material for their child to study while they are opted out of the Religious Education / Faith Formation classes.
How much money do we need to raise?
The initial phase of the project will involve a set of ten lessons for one age grouping, to be decided (either Junior and Senior Infants; or 1st/2nd class; or 3rd/4th class; or 5th/6th class).
For the initial phase of the project, we need to raise €10,000.
We have already raised €2,000 of this, so we only need to raise another €8,000.
Ultimately we would like to develop it into four sets of ten lessons, one for each of those four age groups, as well as making the course widely available to parents in the public.
The entire project could cost up to €50,000.
How you can contribute to this historic project
You can help to make this historic project happen by contributing any amount, no matter how large or small, to Atheist Ireland’s Education Fund.
1. You can contribute online
Click on the DONATE button on the top of the right-hand column of any page on the Atheist Ireland website or the Teach Don’t Preach website.
2. You can lodge money directly to
Atheist Ireland Number 2 Account
Bank of Ireland, Market Square,
Navan, County Meath
Sort Code 90-35-09
Account Number 44995-484
If you do this, please also let us know that you have done so.
3. You can post contributions to
The Finance Officer
18 Rockfield Close,
Please make cheques etc payable to Atheist Ireland Number 2 Account
Thank you for your contribution
Thank you for helping us to make this historic project happen by contributing any amount, no matter how large or small, to Atheist Ireland’s Education Fund.
Any donations, whether small or large, are very welcome.
If you have any questions about this project, please contact
Education and Human Rights Officer
education [at] atheist [dot] ie