Amending the Constitution
The Humanist Association of Ireland believe that any modern secular Republic’s Constitution should allow all citizens, whether religious or non-religious, to live together as equals with the State being completely neutral on matters of faith and belief.
However the 1937 Constitution ‘Bunreacht na hEireann’, often described as De Valera’s Constitution, sets a highly religious tone in its introductory Preamble:
“In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Eire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,………….Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.”
This preamble states that all authority of the State comes from, and all actions of the State must be referred to, the Most Holy Trinity. Furthermore, you cannot become President or a Judge unless you swear a religious oath requesting God to direct and sustain your work.
The Constitution also contains many other references to God and to religion generally.
Dail Eireann also reflects this religious culture by starting each day’s business with a prayer explicitly asking the Christian God to direct all of its actions.
The HAI would like the following articles either removed entirely or edited to reflect a new more modern and inclusive secular Republic:
Re-write the Preamble removing any references to a religious deity, that is, ‘Most Holy Trinity’ and ‘our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ.’
1.2 Derivation of Powers
Article 6 states that all powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive “under God” from the people. This is another example of non-inclusive wording which is unnecessary in a civil constitution.
1.3 Religious Oaths
Article 12 (section 8) provides that the President, on taking office, make a declaration which opens as follows:
“In the presence of Almighty God I, ,do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare….”
The declaration ends with the words: “May God direct and sustain me.”
Article 31 (section 4)
requires a new member of the Council of State to make a declaration which begins as follows:
“In the presence of Almighty God, I do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare….”
Article 34 (section 6)
requires every person appointed as a judge to make a declaration which begins with the words:
“In the presence of Almighty God, I do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare....” and ends with the words “May God direct and sustain me.”
1.4 State Endorsement of Religion
Article 44 (section 1) states:
“The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion.”
These articles constitute direct discrimination on the grounds of belief as no non-religious person or persons of other faiths could, with honesty, take up the post of President, member of the Council of State or be appointed a judge.
Consequently, this means that these public positions are denied to a large number of citizens of the State. Such discrimination should have no place in the constitution of a 21st century democratic republic.
For a more detailed understanding of the challenges facing Humanists please go to: Equalities for the Non-Religious