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August 2015 meeting

The meeting on 19 August 2015 supported the petition by Paddy Monahan that no baptismal certificate be required of a child on entry to school.

The meeting considered how to further publicise the information that the Leases of National Schools are very secular, and how to make use of the recent great publicity about the unfairness or requiring a child to be baptised in order to get a place in the local school.

July 2015 meeting

The meeting on 15 July 2015 supported the campaign by Atheist Ireland for every person to visit the TDs in your constituency to ask that they vote for the Private Members Bill amending section 37 (1) of the Employment Equality Act 1998. This is NOT to support the amending Bill that the Government has promised, which intends to remove discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or identity, but also intends to keep discrimination on the grounds of religion or lack of religion.

The meeting considered as much allying with other secular groups as is possible, in the campaign to make people aware that the Leases of National Schools are very secular, and thus to forestall the leases being changed by the Minister for Education signing Deeds of Variation.

Mid West Humanists send a submission to the Constitutional Convention on Declarations of Office

This is connected with the Council of State’s meeting in July 2013.

The Mid West Humanists have sent a submission to the Constitutional Convention on the declaration that the constitution says you must make on starting as President, or as a judge, or as a member of the Council of State.

This is our third submission to the Convention. In May 2013 we sent a submission on the Blasphemy law in the Constitution, because the Dail and Senate and the Government had sent this subject to the convention. At the same time we sent a submission on all the parts of the Constitution that have religious features and thus are not secular. This submission included asking to remove the Blasphemy law, but we sent the two separately because it was not fixed that the Convention would discuss making the Constitution secular.

In the Secular submission we noted that the Constitution tells a person (on starting the job) promising to do the job faithfully as President, as a judge, and as a member of the Council of State, that he or she must say she or he is doing this “in the presence of Almighty God“. The President and a judge must also add at the end “May God direct and sustain me

In the submission in May 2013 we had to speculate about judges who have no religion or do not believe in a god making these declarations, and so being dishonest; where honesty is one of the main features needed in a judge.

This was because we knew of no example of a person, publicly known to have no religion who had to deal with one of these declarations.

We sent the recent submission because in July 2013 President Higgins summoned the Council of State to meet with him to advise him over whether or not to refer the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill (the Bill to legislate for the 1992 X case on abortion) to the Supreme Court. (He decided not to refer it, but to immediately sign it into law).

At this meeting of the Council of State, an instance of the problems arising from the religious content of these declarations became public.

The Constitution says that the Tánaiste is automatically (“ex officio”) a member of the Council of State. Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore had said well before his election in 2011 that he does not have a definite belief in a god. Newspapers said in July 2013 that he got legal advice that he had a duty to go to the meeting of the Council of State, and that he should make the declaration including mentioning God.

This appears to mean that Article 31 of the Constitution has just directed or strongly encouraged the second in command of the executive branch of our government to speak dishonestly in public.

This part of the Constitution appears to encourage people to think is is okay for government ministers to be less than fully honest with the people:  this is likely to reduce people’s faith in the institutions of state and destabilise the democratic form of our government.

The Mid West Humanists’ submission on Secular Declarations of Office gives the above account and argues strongly that the religious parts of the declarations for a President, a judge, and a member of the Council of State must be removed.

Meetings summer 2012 on the Constitution

The June 2012 meeting looked at features of the Constitution of Ireland that have religious content and are incompatible with a secular state. These articles discriminate against people who have no religion.
The meeting voted that many parts of articles would be best removed.
At the next meeting on 18 July 2012, the meeting is to examine further articles.
When the list of articles that should be changed in order to make the Constitution fully secular is complete, some of the Mid West Humanists will visit the TDs in the region to put the case for these amendments to the Constitution.

An Interview with David Norris

I submitted a question about the religious oath required of the President, Norris’ answer is around the 23 min mark. I thought his answer was disappointing and revealed a lack of understanding of the viewpoint of secularists.

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.

Response to Our Candidate Questions from Alan Kelly

Please see the below answers which we received today from Alan Kelly who’s standing in Tipperary North for the Labour Party.

Thanks for your recent email. I set out a response to each of your questions which I trust will be of interest to you.

* Do you favour a secular education system fully under state control?

– Labour wants to reform our education system so that it is more democratic, and recognises the diversity of ethos within modern Irish society.

* Do you believe blasphemy should be a crime?

– At last year’s Labour Party Conference, the conference called on the Labour Party, that as part of its programme for Government it should promise to hold a referendum proposing to delete the word ‘blasphemous’ from Article 4.1.6 of the Constitution and to repeal any legislation that made reference to blasphemy as a form of defamation. This motion was passed at conference.

* Do you favour removing the constitutional requirement that judges and the President swear a religious oath upon entering office?

– Any alteration to the constitution would require a constitutional referendum on the issue, at present Labour does not foresee such a referendum taking place.

* In light of the recent ECHR ruling, do you favour the introduction of legislation to regulate abortion?

– The Labour Party policy on the question of Abortion is that we support the removal of the eighth amendment to the constitution and its replacement with modern legislation providing for abortion in defined circumstances. There are in the Labour Party as in all political parties, members who have deep conscientious reservations about abortion. Nevertheless a strong majority support the policy decided at our national conference in 2001 and confirmed in 2003. It is entirely in keeping with the legacy of Dr. Noel Browne that the Labour Party should take a stand against those who would seek to dictate a particular religious dogma, whatever its provenance as state legislation, and which puts the well-being of women at risk.

* Do you favour the removal of funding for religious chaplains in state funded institutions?

– The state is constitutionally (Article 44.2.2) obliged to remain secular and not to fund any one religion.Religion is a matter of personal conviction, it should be noted that it should not be publicly funded, especially given the more multi-ethnic nature of today’s Ireland and the potential for exclusion for citizens of the state.