Protecting the human rights of atheists – Michael Nugent at the annual OSCE human rights meeting in Poland this week

This is video and text of Michael Nugent’s contributions to the annual OSCE human rights meeting in Warsaw, Poland, earlier this week.

Contribution to Session on Discrimination

The OSCE Guidelines for reviewing laws about freedom of religion or belief, stress the ‘or belief’ part of that phrase. That’s the part that protects us as atheists.

In July, the United Nations Human Rights Committee told Ireland to stop breaching the human rights of atheists.

Our rights are being breached in education, employment, healthcare, politics and law.

We do not have freedom of conscience, equality before the law or freedom from discrimination.

The United Nations Committee chairperson said that a common factor in this discrimination is the institutional belief system that has predominated in Ireland, by which he meant the Roman Catholic Church.

I was pleased to hear the Holy See refer earlier to the intrinsic value of every person.

That’s certainly an advance from a few years ago, when Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor told the BBC that atheists are not fully human.

I will end by asking you for a measurable outcome.

The OSCE has already hosted events to specifically quantify and combat discrimination against Muslims, Jews, Christians and members of other religions.

Please host a similar event to specifically quantify and combat discrimination against atheists.

Contribution to Session on Freedom of Religion or Belief

In July the United Nations Human Rights Committee told Ireland to stop breaching the human rights of atheists.

The Catholic Church runs 90% of our State-funded primary schools, and can lawfully discriminate against atheist families and teachers.

Two new Government Bills – one on schools admissions and one on jobs – will actually reinforce that discrimination.

Our President, Prime Minister and Judges must swear religious oaths to take office. Can you imagine telling a Christian or Muslim to swear that there is no god before they took office?

Pregnant women have had their pelvises broken without their consent, in order to avoid Cesarean sections that might have led to a demand for contraception or sterilisation.

Women are denied an abortion on health grounds, despite the United Nations telling Ireland that majority votes cannot be used to deny human rights.

A new law on secular marriage discriminates against atheists openly, and creates a State monopoly for private entrepreneurs to sell ceremonies.

The Government said in Parliament that the reason for discriminating against atheists was to avoid Elvis impersonators solemnising marriages.

We are finally planning to remove our new blasphemy law – the one that Pakistan praised us for passing.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has told Ireland, very sternly, to stop breaching the human rights of atheists and indeed of minority faiths.

We ask the OSCE to repeat and reinforce that call, and to treat Ireland like any other State that defies its human rights obligations.

Religious States promote religion. Atheist States promote atheism.

We want a secular State that promotes neither, that respects equally the human rights of all of its citizens.

We want freedom of conscience, religion and belief; equality before the law; and freedom from discrimination.

Only a secular State can provide that.


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