Civil Registration Amendment Act discriminates on religious grounds

The Civil Registration Amendment Act 2012 is the most overtly discriminatory law that has been passed since Atheist Ireland was founded.

Atheist Ireland has raised the religious discrimination in the Civil Registration Amendment Act 2012 in our Submission to the UN Human Rights committee. Ireland is up before the Committee in October under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In our Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee we have requested that the Committee ask the Irish state to remove the discrimnatory requirements for secular bodies in the Act.

You can find our Submission here.

This is the section of our Submission on the Civil Registration Amendment Act 2012:-

4. Article 2, Article 26 — Civil Registration Amendment Act 2012

Question: Will the State Party amend the Civil Registration Amendment Act 2012 to remove the discriminatory requirements for secular bodies?

The Civil Registration Amendment Act 2012 is the most overtly discriminatory law that has been passed in Ireland since Atheist Ireland was founded. For arbitrary reasons, it applies different legal standards for religious and secular groups who can solemnise marriages.

Among these different legal standards are that a secular group that solemnises marriages must be a charity, must be established for five years, must have a minimum number of members, must be ethical, and may not promote a political cause.

These restrictions do not apply to religious groups that want to solemnise marriages. This places religious groups at a particular advantage over secular groups in the public sphere. In particular, despite the Catholic Church’s record on child abuse and its cover-up, it is not required to be ethical but secular groups are.

Along with the Charities Act the Civil Registration Amendment Act 2012 puts secular bodies at a particular disadvantage with regard to promoting a political cause as they cannot campaign politically to amend the elements of our Constitution and laws that are religiously inspired if they want to solemnise marriages.

The Act also discriminates between different secular bodies, creating a three-level hierarchy of religious discrimination. This is because the original Bill was intended to facilitate specifically the Humanist Association of Ireland, rather than secular bodies generally.

The State claims that this discrimination has a legitimate aim, which is to ensure that the institution of marriage is protected, so we have tried to find out if there a reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the aim sought to be realised.

What we have found is that the State has just brought in a new law that directly discriminates against the non-religious and undermines our human rights without any ratio of proportionality to its stated aim of protecting marriage. We used the FOI Act to try and get access to documentation that would outline a proportionality test that resulted in the discrimination. There were no documents available.

Atheist Ireland

1 Comment

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    John Hamill September 06, 2020

    In addition to this, the Registrar General has interpreted the Act as assigning him the role of distinguishing ‘positive beliefs’ from ‘negative beliefs’. The Minister has supported the Registrar General in that interpretation. As such, Satanism and Witchcraft are currently not considered to be religions in Ireland for the purposes of the Act, as the Registrar General believes that these are ‘negative beliefs’. In contrast, the Roman Catholic Catechism that describes why god wants humanity to discriminate against women and gay people, is considered to describe ‘positive beliefs’. The Irish State is literally making lists of what things citizens are allowed to believe, if they wish to enjoy beneficial treatment under the terms of this Act.

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