Let’s be quite clear our government has known for decades that the continuance of the constitutional requirement for taking a stated religious oath for high office (President, judges of superior courts and membership of Council of State) is an abnegation of human rights.
The UN Human Rights Committee has been calling for urgent action by government to move a constitutional amendment to do the right thing by citizens.
Here is what the latest UN HRC said in its report issued on 19 August last.
UN Human Rights Committee
Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Ireland
Freedom of religion
“21. The Committee is concerned at the slow pace of progress in amending the provisions of the Constitution that oblige individuals wishing to take up senior public office positions, such as President, members of the Council of State and members of the judiciary, to take religious oaths. It is also concerned about the slow progress in increasing access to secular education through the establishment of non-denominational schools, divestment of the patronage of schools and the phasing out of integrated religious curricula in schools accommodating minority faith or non-faith children. It expresses further concern that under section 37 (1) of the Employment Equality Acts, religious-owned institutions, including in the fields of education and health, can discriminate against employees or prospective employees to protect the religious ethos of the institution (arts. 2, 18, 25 and 27).
The State party should take concrete steps to amend articles 12, 31 and 34 of the Constitution that require religious oaths to take up senior public office positions, taking into account the Committee’s general comment No. 22 (1993) on freedom of thought, conscience and religion, concerning the right not to be compelled to reveal one’s thoughts or adherence to a religion or belief in public. It should also introduce legislation to prohibit discrimination in access to schools on the grounds of religion, belief or other status, and ensure that there are diverse school types and curriculum options available throughout the State party to meet the needs of minority faith or non-faith children. It should further amend section 37 (1) of the Employment Equality Act in a way that bars all forms of discrimination in employment in the fields of education and health”.
So CSCS asks why the proposed referendums to be conducted in 2015 are not addressing this issue?
The Sunday Times’ Behaviour and Attitudes Poll on voting intentions was published yesterday.
“In the second referendum planned for 22 May – 55% of those surveyed were opposed to lowering the age of presidential candidates, 40% were in favour and 5% were in the ‘don’t know’ category”.
[That’s the 35th Amendment poll]
The poll surveyed 959 people over ten days up to last Wednesday night.
Citizens to Separate Church and State is now calling for a No vote in the 35th Amendment referendum since government has not responded to its plea to stall the referendum pending the fixing of the religious oath requirement for installation of a president.
Interesting thought from Dr. Martin (RC archbishop of Dublin) about the fact ‘that many Christians today lived “a sort of de-facto atheism”.
Their faith “remains personal and important for them, but it does not bring them to the point of public witness to the truth of Jesus’ life and message”.
So why are we continuing with maintaining the absolute requirement for the swearing of a religious oath during the installation of a president-elect [Article 12.8] and for the appointment of judges of the superior courts [Article 34.5.1]?
Government – why the collective silence on this issue? You know that the UN HRC as well as constitutional review reports have called for a parallel ‘affirmation’.
It is so easy to propose a Bill to enable another referendum this year to address this human rights issue at the same time as the 35th Amendment is taken.
Why are you continuing with this human rights abnegation? What are you protecting by refusing to act? The centenary of the 1916 Rising looms so time to do the right thing by the republic.
Citizens to Separate Church and State wrote to the various Faith Bodies operating on the Island of Ireland asking each to support CSCS’s plea to government to stall the proposal to hold the 35th Amendment to our Constitution until such time as there is a parallel ‘Affirmation’ inserted into our Constitution to deal with the religious oath required of the President-elect at the time of his/her installation. Referendum-Letter to religious leaders-PressRelease-01-03-15
Citizens to Separate Church and State (CSCS) wrote to government on 24 February pleading for the 35th Amendment Bill to be shelved until such time as the right to make an ‘Affirmation’ was inserted into our Constitution to deal with the religious oath that the President-elect has to swear at installation. LetterCabinet-v2-Logo-20-02-15