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The Presidency of Ireland – Atheists Need Not Apply

Article 12, Paragraph 8 of the Irish Constitution states;

The President shall enter upon his office by taking and subscribing publicly, in the presence of members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, of Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Court, and other public personages, the following declaration:

“In the presence of Almighty God I    ,do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will maintain the Constitution of Ireland and uphold its laws, that I will fulfil my duties faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and that I will dedicate my abilities to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland. May God direct and sustain me.”

This clearly contradicts Article 44, Paragraph 2, Section 3 which states;

The State shall not impose any disabilities or make any discrimination on the ground of religious profession, belief or status.

It also effectively bars atheists and others who aren’t monotheists from holding the office of President.

This seems wrong to me and I’d like to suggest a way we can bring this issue to the notice of the mainstream. Any time you interact with the campaigns of the prospective candidates ask them to refuse to swear this oath if they are elected. Explain that the issue here isn’t their personal religious view but rather the wider question of whether it is correct that there is a religious qualification for the Presidency. People could also email, tweet, or write to the candidates and ask them to refuse to swear this discriminatory oath.

So far Sen. David Norris (Ind) and Mairead McGuinness MEP (FG) are the only declared candidates but there are likely to be others who’ll declare as the election gets closer.


4 Responses

  1. @Pat N I’m sorry if you thought my post was hysterical. My point isn’t that an atheist will be barred from taking office, the current declared candidates are all at least nominally Christian. My point is that this is a discriminatory clause and despite several cross party recommendations the Irish people haven’t been given the chance to remove it.

    As we only have an election every seven (or fourteen) years I think we need to make people aware of this now and start a debate about all the religious references in the constitution. That is a debate which secularists may lose but it’s still worth having. If the President-elect refused the oath on principle it would be a dramatic way to start that debate.

    @Keith I agree with Pat N, I have no desire to discriminate against religious people. I think the best strategy is to try to engage in a non-emotional way. Otherwise people just put up barriers and no debate or understanding is likely.

    @Donnacha I posted the question here http://www.norrisforpresident.ie/?page_id=430 and am hoping he will answer.

  2. This part of the declaration should be removed, and steps should be taken to address it during the impending campaign.

    I’m sure if an atheist wins the election he/she wont be forced to say it, or be prevented from taking office should they refuse. Lets not get hysterical folks. Lets leave the ‘everyone’s out to get us’ nonsense to the Iona Institute.

    I wish a certain wing of Irish atheism would please tone it down. Keith (above) wants to deny the office of President to the majority of the Irish population because they don’t share his belief system. A. That’s not likely. B. It’s offensive & intolerant. C. It’s silly and counterproductive.

    Atheism doesn’t necessitate being rude or disrespectful to people whose faith we don’t share. We’re supposed to be emerging from an era of small-minded intolerance, not just turning the tables.

  3. I’d contact Senator Norris, he’s very likely to be sympathetic and easy to contact via his website: http://www.senatordavidnorris.ie/

  4. I think there should be a religious requirement; if you’re religious – you’re not qualified. Do we really want society led by people who believe in fairy tales? Who talk to imaginary entities, and expect answers? Isn’t this where we want honest, intelligent and rational people? I think it is. No Fundies for Office.

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