Equality for Humanist Chaplains


Submission to: The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

From: The Humanist Association of Ireland

1 October 2015

This submission seeks equality of accommodation of Humanist chaplains with other chaplains

funded by the state.

The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) is an organisation whose aims are the promotion of the

ideals of Humanism and the assurance of equality of rights and parity of esteem for those citizens of

Ireland who do not subscribe to a religion. Humanism is a positive ethical philosophy of life based on

concern for humanity in general and for individuals in particular. It is a view of life for those people

who base their understanding of existence on the evidence of the natural word and its evolution,

and which combines reason with compassion and empathy.

The rapidly changing diversity of Irish society, in particular in matters of religion and society’s secular

outlook, is a reality. Although the majority of its citizens identify themselves with a religion, if only

culturally or nominally, the percentage of those of no religion has increased significantly. Based on

the 2011 census over 269,000 respondents to the religion question answered, ‘No Religion’. (An

additional 73,000 did not respond to the question.) This is the largest category under Religion other

than Roman Catholic. The HAI speaks on behalf of this largest minority in Ireland.

Our concern in the present submission pertains to the lack of equal accommodation of Humanist

Chaplains with those departments funded by the state. The government departments in which such

religious chaplains are found include the HSE, Universities/Colleges, Defense Forces, Prisons to name

a few.

Currently several government departments have in place a national agreement only with the

Catholic chaplains for the delivery of chaplaincy services. The practice whereby some religious

chaplains are paid by the HSE has been in place for a considerable period of time. An extension of

these practices in a multi-cultural society requires the various government departments to enter

into similar agreements with each sending body for the delivery of chaplaincy services.

We accept the argument that chaplaincy services play a positive role in the well-being of those who

request such services. Chaplaincy users typically seek confidential counsel with someone ‘on their

side’ or ‘someone who understand them’. A policy whereby Humanist Chaplains are equally

accommodated in all government departments where state-funded chaplains currently serve will

assure that all citizens, religious and non-religious, will be able to avail of the chaplaincy services of

their choice.

Respectfully submitted,

Nicolas Johnson, Director Chaplaincy Services

Humanist Association of Ireland

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