Five Steps to Civil Rights in a Secular Ireland
These are five steps to civil rights in a secular Ireland. Atheist Ireland is lobbying to promote these proposals on an ongoing basis. We welcome any feedback before we send the final version of this list to all TDs and Senators.
Atheist Ireland wants a secular Irish State, where we each have the right to our religious or nonreligious philosophical beliefs, and where the State remains neutral on these beliefs. Religious States promote religion, atheist States promote atheism, and secular States promote neither. A secular state is the only way to protect equally the rights of religious and nonreligious people.
Step 1: Secular Constitution
- Remove the requirement for the President, judges and Council of State to swear a religious oath in the presence of Almighty God (Arts 12, 31, 34), and for the President and judges to ask God to direct and sustain them (12, 34), and replace these with a single neutral declaration that does not reveal any information about the person’s religious beliefs.
- Remove the references to all authority coming from the Holy Trinity and our obligations to our divine Lord Jesus Christ (preamble); powers of government deriving under God from the people (6); blasphemy being a crime (40); the homage of public worship being due to Almighty God and the state holding his name in reverence (44); and the glory of God (closing line).
- Amend Article 44, on Religion, to explicitly give equal protection to religious and nonreligious philosophical believers. Examine and amend other Articles that are unduly influenced by the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Step 2: Secular Education
- Establish a secular State education system, that makes no distinction between children based on religious beliefs, and ensure that secular primary schools are widely available.
- Ensure that all schools convey all parts of the curriculum, including religious education, in an ‘objective, critical and pluralistic manner’, as ruled by the European Court of Human Rights and recommended to the Irish Government by the Irish Human Rights Commission.
- Provide effective remedies for parents to vindicate, in practice and law, their human right to ensure that their children’s education is in conformity with their convictions.
Step 3: Secular Lawmaking
- End the prayer that starts each parliamentary day which asks the Christian God to direct the actions and every word and work of our parliamentarians, through Christ Our Lord.
- Examine all existing and future laws to ensure that there is one law for all, based on human and civil rights and not on religious beliefs.
- Remove the law against blasphemy from the Defamation Act 2009;
- Repeal Section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000 and Sections 12 and 37 of the Employment Equality Act 1998, which allow schools, teacher training colleges and hospitals to discriminate on religious grounds.
- Amend the Charities Act 2009, which includes the advancement of religion as a charitable purpose, and tax religious organizations on income that is not for genuine charitable purposes.
Step 4: Secular Government
- Ensure that neither the Government, nor any institutions of the State, give preferential treatment or access to any organization on the basis of their religious or nonreligious beliefs.
- Until this ideal is reached, ensure that nonreligious philosophical organizations are given the same treatment and access as are religious organizations.
Step 5: Secular Courts
- Remove the requirement for judges to swear a religious oath, and replace it with a single neutral declaration that does not reveal any information about the judge’s religious beliefs.
- Remove the requirement for defendants, witnesses and jurors to choose between a religious or nonreligious oath, and replace these with a single neutral declaration (or a question asked by the judge) that does not reveal any information about the person’s religious beliefs.