Atheist Ireland asks Govt to include secularism and human rights on Constitutional Convention agenda
Atheist Ireland has written today to the Taoiseach and Tanaiste, asking them to include secularism and human rights on the agenda of the proposed constitutional convention. We have also asked them to seek wider public consultation about the format and agenda of the convention. Here is the letter:
Dear Taoiseach and Tanaiste,
We wrote to you in April seeking wider public consultation about the format and agenda of the proposed Constitutional Convention. With regard to the format, we now again ask you to to extend the consultation period, and to seek input from civil society groups and the wider public. With regard to the agenda, we now ask you to explicitly include secularism and human rights under item 7 of the agenda, which is “other relevant constitutional amendments”.
The Irish Constitution is heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism, starting from the first line which states that all authority comes from the Holy Trinity, and permeating other articles related to private morality and education. There are also religious oaths that prevent conscientious atheists and agnostics from becoming President, a judge or a member of the Council of State. This is clearly inappropriate. The only way to equally protect everybody’s religious or nonreligious rights is for the state to remain neutral on theological questions. To do this, we need a secular constitution for a pluralist people. We ask you to empower the Convention to address how best to do this.
We also ask you remove the blasphemy issue from the agenda, and treat it instead as one of the urgent constitutional reforms that you are addressing outside of the Convention. As you know, our recent blasphemy law is causing problems internationally, and there is no need to discuss it for a year before asking the people to remove this anachronism from our Constitution.
Protecting human rights should be central to any Constitution. We ask you to empower the Convention to comprehensively discuss protecting all human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, with such rights to be exercised on the basis of equality before the law without discrimination. In this context, we are also signatories to a letter organised by Amnesty International that specifically asks for social, economic and cultural rights to be included. The Convention should also consider whether international agreements should automatically become part of our domestic law, which is not currently the case.
The Programme for Government says that the Convention will “consider comprehensive constitutional reform” that will help to ensure that “Ireland will be a transformed country”. Putting these items on the agenda will enable the Convention to focus on the type of truly comprehensive and transformational changes that are needed to reflect a modern pluralist republic.