Conscientious atheists again excluded from new Irish Council of State

President Michael D Higgins has today appointed seven citizens to the Council of State, which advises the President on various issues. Again, these appointments have excluded conscientious atheists as candidates.

This is because, in order to take office as members of the Council of State (or President, or a Judge) we would have to swear a religious oath that would force us to dissemble about our beliefs, and breach our human right to freedom of conscience and belief.

Atheist Ireland has launched a ‘One Oath For All’ campaign, in which we are calling for a referendum to replace these religiously discriminatory oaths in our Constitution, so that all citizens of our Republic can be treated equally regardless of their religious or nonreligious beliefs.

These public office-holders should instead make a single declaration of loyalty to the Irish Constitution, State, and people, that does not reveal anything about the person’s religious or nonreligious beliefs.

The Council of State also includes the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal, President of the High Court, Ceann Comhairle (Chair of the lower house of parliament), Cathaoirleach of the Seanad (Chair of the upper house of parliament), Attorney General, and previous holders of the posts of President, Taoiseach, and Chief Justice.

In 2014, after Atheist Ireland met with the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva, the Committee told Ireland to replace the religious oaths for public office, and to remove the law against blasphemy. We have removed the law against blasphemy, and we should now replace the religious oaths.

The UN Human Rights Committee concluded, regarding the religious oaths:

“Religious Oaths: The Human Rights Committee is concerned at the slow pace of progress in amending the Constitutional provisions that oblige individuals wishing to take up senior public office positions such as President, members of the Council of State and members of the judiciary to take religious oaths.

Ireland should amend articles 12, 31 and 34 of the Constitution that require religious oaths to take up senior public office positions, taking into account the Committee’s general comment No. 22 (1993) concerning the right not to be compelled to reveal one’s thoughts or adherence to a religion or belief in public.”

Atheist Ireland