A Secular State Protects a Pluralist Society

I gave this talk this weekend at the Rationalist International Conference in Cambridge, UK

On a recent Saturday afternoon in Dublin, Atheist Ireland held our usual monthly information table, where we promote atheism and reason as more reliable world views than faith and dogma.

We discussed the improbability of gods with atheists, doubters, and religious evangelists. And we discussed the importance of separation of Church and State, both to protect the right to freedom of belief, and to minimise the harm that religion can cause, particularly in our State-funded schools.

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Minimalist change to census question on religion

The minimalist change to the religion question in the 2021 Irish census will mask, but not stop, the relentless increase in the number of nonreligious people in Ireland.

Some change to the religion question was inevitable, as the results were increasingly not reflecting reality, but this is the smallest improvement to the question that could have been made.

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Remembering Grania Spingies Part 2

Grania Spingies died on Sunday 16 June 2019, a week before her 49th birthday. She was a founding member and first secretary of Atheist Ireland, and a contributor to Jerry Coyne’s website Why Evolution is True. Her family and friends gathered to remember her in Glanmire, Cork, on Thursday 27 June.

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Remembering Grania Spingies Part 1

We at Atheist Ireland were shocked to hear of the untimely death of our friend Grania Spingies, who died on Sunday 16 June 2019, a week before her 49th birthday. She was one of the founders and the first Secretary of Atheist Ireland, and one of the moderators of the online forum out of which Atheist Ireland evolved.

She died suddenly in Cork while visiting the doctor to discuss a stomach ailment, and we will not know what caused her death until we get the results of an autopsy. I would like to thank her friend Kathryn Moffat for letting us know the sad news.

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The Dublin European Election count

The Dublin European Election count was adjourned last night after a dispute about how the third and fourth seats should be filled.

I’ve checked to see what the election law says about this, and it seems that an additional set of transfers, beyond the normal range of transfers, is needed.

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Who should an Irish secularist vote for?

This Friday, 24th May, we will elect Local Councillors, who will also be members of Education and Training Boards and the Boards of Management of ETB Schools.

Three weeks ago, Atheist Ireland wrote to all political parties, asking them to support the right of students to attend ETB schools without attending religion classes, and for students who do not attend religion classes to be given an alternative timetabled subject.

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Donegal ETB coerces students into religion class

Atheist Ireland has obtained under the Freedom of Information Act an email and letter from last September, from Donegal Education and Training Board, in the Minister for Education’s constituency.

In that internal exchange, the ETB’s Director of Schools advised Moville Community College to “write to the parents of the opt out students and get them back into the Religion class.” This was despite the fact that Donegal ETB had already officially recognised, in a press release last April, that ETB schools must respect the right to opt out of those religion classes.

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Atheist Ireland protests at TUI Congress

Atheist Ireland is today holding a protest outside the Teachers Union of Ireland National Congress in the INEC Centre in Killarney, Kerry, to coincide with the Minister for Education, Joe McHugh, addressing the conference.

We are highlighting two things:

  1. The Teachers Union of Ireland refused to implement a lawful directive from the Department, that gave students opting out of religion class in ETB schools the right to an alternative timetabled subject. Instead of protecting the rights of minorities, the TUI successfully lobbied along with the Catholic Church and the ETBs to have the directive reversed.
  2. Now ETB schools are using the reversal of the directive to unlawfully coerce students into not even being able to opt out of religion class at all. We have obtained under the FOI Act an internal email in which Donegal ETB, in the Minister for Education’s own constituency, tells a school to write to parents of opted out students and “get them back into the Religion class.”

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Atheist of the Year Awards 2019

Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland was given the Atheist and Feminist of the Year award at the 2019 International Days of Atheism conference in Warsaw, Poland, this weekend. Armin Navabi, founder of Atheist Republic, was named individual Atheist of the Year, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation in USA got the group award.

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The Campaign Against the Irish Blasphemy Law

I gave this speech today, Friday 29 March 2019, at the Days of Atheism Conference in Warsaw, Poland.

When Atheist Ireland was founded ten years ago, our first task was simply to normalise the use of the words atheism and secularism in public debate.

We have come a long way since then. The Catholic Church no longer controls the Irish people. Our task now is getting the State to catch up with that reality.

That is a slow process. The Church still runs 90 per cent of our State-funded primary schools. But campaigns by civil society groups have succeeded in removing our laws against same-sex marriage and abortion.

I am pleased to say that, since I spoke to you here last year, we have also removed the medieval crime of blasphemy from our Constitution.

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