Religious oaths in the Irish Constitution

In Ireland atheists, humanists and the non-religious cannot take high office because of the requirement to take a religious oath in our Constitution.

Atheist Ireland runs a ‘One Oath For All’ campaign, to enable conscientious atheists to hold the office of President, Judge, Taoiseach, or other members of the Council of State. All of these offices are out of reach of conscientious atheists.

This is because, in order to take office, we would have to swear a religious oath, the wording of which is in the Constitution, that would force us to deny our philosophical convictions, and breach our human right to freedom of conscience and belief. This also contradicts our right to freedom of conscience under Article 44.2.1 of the Constitution and effectively renders us second-class citizens.

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

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.

In October 2020 the UN Human Rights Committee have again raised this issue with Ireland. They asked:

Please report on the measures taken to ensure that the right to freedom of conscience and religious belief is fully respected, in law and in practice, on a non-discriminatory basis. In this regard, and bearing in mind the Committee’s previous recommendation (CCPR/C/IRL/CO/4, para. 21)… (b) indicate whether there have been any changes to the constitutional provisions requiring persons who take up certain senior public positions to take religious oaths

To date the Irish State has done nothing to ensure the right to freedom of conscience of the non-religious. It is simply not an issue for them. If religious people were obliged to affirm that there was no god in order to take high office in Ireland, then everybody would realise that this was a breach of the right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief.

Atheist ireland will continue to campaign for the separation of Church and State.

Atheist Ireland