We must strengthen the SIPO law to cover political activities by religions
Atheist Ireland yesterday published this Report on the issue of strengthening the SIPO law on donations to Third Parties for political purposes.
We have now sent our Report to all TDs and Senators, and to the SIPO Commission. We have also written to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, to seek a meeting to discuss our proposals.
The SIPO law exists to ensure that good arguments can be heard because of their merits, and not get drowned out by those who happen to have the wealthiest supporters. It should be supported by everyone who wants our democracy to be a battle of ideas than a battle of bank accounts.
Making religions accountable
From Atheist Ireland’s perspective, the main improvement that the law needs is to enable it to make religions accountable for their political funding when they are lobbying to maintain Catholic influence in our schools, hospitals, and the eighth amendment.
The Catholic Church can spend any amount of money on political purposes, while simply claiming that it only seeks donations for religious and not political purposes. Some secular groups have made similar implausible claims.
This loophole could be removed by setting a different trigger for when a body must declare their funders. This now happens when a body gets certain donations that are described as being for a political purpose.
Instead, it should happen when a body spends a certain amount on political purposes. The SIPO Commission itself has recommended this change, and has suggested €5,000 as the amount of spending that would trigger accountability under the Act.
Atheist Ireland continues to campaign actively and robustly to separate church and state, and to repeal the eighth amendment, while complying with the SIPO law.