It is beyond time to separate Church and State. Here’s how you can help to make it happen

by Michael Nugent on March 10, 2017

church-state

With wave after wave of scandals continuing to wash over Ireland, arising from decades of religious influence on our laws and government, it is beyond time that we looked at the bigger picture. We need to go beyond addressing each individual scandal. We need to fully separate Church and State.

Atheist Ireland will be intensifying our campaign for this aim in the coming weeks and months. We will be increasing our lobbying and holding meetings to coordinate the important work that will be needed. If you would like to help in any way, please email us at secretary-at-atheist-dot-ie for more details.

We fully support the human right to freedom of conscience, religion, and belief, for both religious people and atheists. The only way for the State to protect equally that right for everybody, is for the State to remain neutral between religious and nonreligious beliefs and to focus on running the country for everybody based on human rights.

Here are the five steps that we need to take to fully separate church and State:

1. Secular Constitution

  • Remove the requirement for the President, judges, and Council of State to swear a religious oath, including asking God to direct and sustain them (12, 31, 34), and replace these with a single neutral declaration that reveals no information about the person’s religious beliefs.
  • Remove the references to all authority coming from the Holy Trinity and ‘our’ obligations to ‘our’ divine Lord Jesus Christ (preamble); powers of government deriving under God from the people (6.1); the homage of public worship being due to Almighty God and the State holding his name in reverence (44.1); and the glory of God (last line).
  • Amend the clause on equality before the law to include the principle of non-discrimination (40.1).
  • Remove the offence of blasphemy (40.6).
  • Rewrite the Article on education to explicitly provide for State secular education, and remove the duty of parents to provide for religious education of their children (42).
  • Rewrite the Article on religion to cover freedom of thought, conscience and religion (44).
  • Rewrite or remove other Articles influenced by Roman Catholicism e.g. right to life of ‘the unborn’ (40.3) and women and mothers having a life and duties in the home (41.2).

2. Secular Parliament and Laws

  • End the prayer that starts each parliamentary day which asks the Christian God to direct every action, word and work of our parliamentarians.
  • Examine all existing and future laws to ensure that there is one law for all, based on rights and compassion and not religious doctrine.
  • Amend the Defamation Act 2009 to remove the crime of blasphemy.
  • Amend the Employment Equality Act 1998 and Equal Status Act 2000, which allow churches, schools and hospitals and training colleges to discriminate on the grounds of religion.
  • Amend the Charities Act 2009, which includes the advancement of religion as a charitable purpose; and presumes that a gift for the advancement of religion is of public benefit.
  • Amend the Civil Registration Act 2004, so that both religious and nonreligious bodies are treated equally when nominating solemnisers.
  • Amend the Juries Act 1976, which exempts priests and religious ministers from jury duty.

3. Secular Government

  • Ensure that neither the Government, nor any State institutions, nor any State-funded bodies, give preferential treatment or access to any person or organisation or category of people, on the basis of their religious beliefs.
    Ensure that all aspects of Government are conducted consistently with the State’s international obligations on human and civil and other personal rights.
  • Stop treating the Holy See/Vatican as a State. It is the headquarters of a world religion, and it does not have the legal attributes of a real State.
  • Stop State payments to chaplains in schools, hospitals, the army and other institutions.
  • Remove the requirement for persons in court to choose between a religious or nonreligious oath, and replace these with a single neutral declaration that reveals no information about the person’s religious beliefs.

4. Secular Education

  • Establish a secular State education system and ensure, as raised by the UN Human Rights Committee, that nondenominational primary schools are widely available.
  • Tackle the four areas of our Schools Equality PACT (Patronage, Access, Curriculum and Teaching) at the same time. Just tackling any of these on its own will only make the problem worse, as all four are inter-related.
  • Ensure that all schools convey all parts of the curriculum, including religious education, in an ‘objective, critical and pluralistic manner’, as ruled by the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Provide effective remedies for parents to vindicate, in practice and law, their human right to ensure that their children’s education is not counter to their convictions.
  • Respect the European Court of Human Rights ruling that the State cannot absolve itself from responsibility for human rights violations by delegating its responsibilities to private bodies.

5. Secular Healthcare

  • Establish a secular State healthcare system where decisions are based on compassion, human rights and the medical needs of patients, and not on religious ethics.
  • Ensure that no religious values or activities or environments are imposed on patients who do not share those religious beliefs.
  • Remove the traditional privileges that religious bodies have in healthcare service provision and decision-making.

Please help to make this happen

Atheist Ireland is voluntary organisation. We receive no State funding and employ no paid staff. We rely entirely on membership fees and donations to continue campaigning for ethical secularism, the rights of atheists and the separation of church and state.

Please join Atheist Ireland and help to finally separate Church and State in Ireland, and build an ethical secular society based on reason, compassion and human rights.

If you have any questions about our campaign, please email us today at secretary-at-atheist-dot-ie.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Emmanuel March 12, 2017 at 6:38 pm

Michael, the ‘separation of Church and State’ works both ways. Like Mr. Harris trying to influence people and leaders to put pressure on the Pope to make payment on a already agreed to sum of monies. I look forward to your list on the States obligation in this matter.

2 Michael Nugent March 12, 2017 at 7:26 pm

Emmanuel, separation of church and state does not mean that there are two bodies of equal civic authority. The Catholic Church, like all bodies within the State, is subject to the law of the land, and the Government is subject to the Constitution.

Though it has not yet been challenged, the deal to indemnify the Catholic Church may well be an unconstitutional endowment of religion, a position supported by Fianna Fails argument at the time that the deal was made to prevent the Church from being bankrupted.

While there have been many false dawns, I hope that we are near to the time when the State finally faces down the horrific criminality of the Catholic Church in Ireland, and its absolute brass neck in evading criminal or moral responsibility for its actions.

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