Irish Atheists for a Modern Constitution

Discuss church-state separation issues that are relevant in Ireland.
dj357
Posts: 169
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 12:05 pm
Location: Limerick

Irish Atheists for a Modern Constitution

Post by dj357 » Fri May 16, 2008 1:31 pm

My name is Darragh J, I am 21, a firm Atheist (of the strong persuasion), and I come from Ireland.

Since I realised the error of my religious ways in 2003, and devoted my time and mental faculties to freethought and intelligent discourse, I seem to have been mainly ineffective in attempting to get others to see past the pearly clouds of religion and embrace reason and logic, and while everyday I see the effect and transformation that people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and many other learned people can bring about, I wish to do more than I am doing.

It is for this reason I am contacting you. I recently discovered that firmly set in the Irish Constitution, since it's enactment in 1932, lies a passage in an article that would make public disavowal of Jesus Christ or Catholicism, Unconstitutional and punishable by law.

The actual text of the article goes like this:
Article 40, Subparagraph 6, Section I:
"The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law."
It is my fervent wish to remove the word "blasphemous" from this article. While I have very little tolerance for religion, I certainly would not condone open words of hate allowed in public forums, and this is not my intent. I merely want to make sure that if I wish to publicly state at ANY time that I firmly disavow Jesus Christ, the Lord Almighty, Allah, Shiva or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster, if I so please, it will not be Unconstitutional or against the law. Freedom of Speech (the section the above article falls under) should protect intellectually fueled derision of ridiculous belief systems, especially when it comes to Religion.

There are also many more references to religion, especially in the Opening Preamble and I want to get ALL of these removed.
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 Éire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,
Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,
And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,
Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.
When I first came across the idea to remove this 'blasphemous' portion from the Constitution, that was my only concern, but since posting similar topics on richarddawkins.net forums, other people advised me that it would be MUCH more effective to attack ANY religious references contained within, and that is now my intention.

In the year 2008, an article in a country's Constitution condemning intellectual ridicule of religion as 'blasphemy' harkens back to the days of witch-hunts and ex-communications, and I feel very strongly that such an outlawing of intelligent commentary has no place in the Constitution of the country I call my home. And the blatant catholic ass-kissing in the Opening Preamble clearly has no legal merit or place in the founding laws of our country.

And so, to this end, I have contacted you, as while I may have the drive and motivation to attempt to bring such a thing to pass, I'm not sure about how I should attempt it, or what I even need to do to get the ball rolling. I am currently out of the country for a few months, but at which time I return I will most likely begin by speaking to local goverment representatives about the issue, and also speaking to legal representatives regarding the issue, but I would be extremely grateful for ANY assistance you guys could throw at me!

All relevant comments are appreciated.

One thing I need to add also, is that I realise, as will any fellow irishmen/women, that while this law seems to exist, it is barely enforced in Ireland, but even though one could say these things and get away with them, trust me, it would not be long before the fanatics, who probably already know about this cute little piece of text, will be at your door, so my aim is to remove this before it can cause any damage.

Most of this post comes from the post on richarddawkins.net, but below I'm going to include all the offending passages I have subsequently found in the Constitution.

Article 6 under the heading "The State":
1. All powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people, whose right it is to designate the rulers of the State and, in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good.
Section 8 of Article 12, under the heading “The President”:
8. 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."
Section 4 of Article 31 under the heading “The Council Of State”:
4. Every member of the Council of State shall at the first meeting thereof which he attends as a member take and subscribe a declaration in the following form:
"In the presence of Almighty God I, do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfil my duties as a member of the Council of State."
Section 5, Subparagraph 1, of Article 34 under the heading “The Courts”:
5. 1° Every person appointed a judge under this Constitution shall make and subscribe the following declaration:
"In the presence of Almighty God I, do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will duly and faithfully and to the best of my knowledge and power execute the office of Chief Justice (or as the case may be) without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any man, and that I will uphold the Constitution and the laws. May God direct and sustain me."
Section 6, Subparagraph 1, of Article 40 under the heading “Fundamental Rights”:
6. 1° The State guarantees liberty for the exercise of the following rights, subject to public order and morality:
i. The right of the citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions. The education of public opinion being, however, a matter of such grave import to the common good, the State shall endeavour to ensure that organs of public opinion, such as the radio, the press, the cinema, while preserving their rightful liberty of expression, including criticism of Government policy, shall not be used to undermine public order or morality or the authority of the State.

The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.
Section 1 of Article 44, under the heading “Religion”:
1. 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.
Ending Lines:
Dochum Glóire Dé agus Onóra na hÉireann”
(Dedicated to the Glory of God and Honour of Ireland)
So there we have it, 8 seperate pieces of this legal document make express reference to the Abrahamic God of Catholicism, protect it from 'blasphemous' commentary or force our Legal officials to swear oaths under this God.

I recently found an article from 2006 on IndyMedia.ie that spreads the message I am trying to spread from a different perspective, trying to convince us to remove the Angelus (which I personally don't care about since I don't watch Irish TV often enough to come into contact with it)
https://www.indymedia.ie/article/75214

As I said previously, I have topics on richarddawkins.net:
http://www.richarddawkins.net/forum/vie ... 17&t=44133
And I also have set up a Bebo Group: (either one should work)
http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=6624101836
http://www.bebo.com/true-freedom

So if, like me, you have an immediate passion to change the Constitution of OUR country (a country that should now be free from the years of unwarranted respect for religion) then please, respond to this post.

Lend me your support or give me advice on how to get this done, all suggestions are welcome, but without the numbers and the drive, we will never get this done.

Thanks for your time,

Darragh J.[/url]
lostexpectation
Posts: 1993
Joined: Wed Feb 07, 2007 11:28 pm

Post by lostexpectation » Fri May 16, 2008 2:49 pm

have a read of this, http://www.atheist.ie/phpBB2/viewtopic. ... =blasphemy

in that you see that the law courts don't think blasphemy is really that important, that not defined and should eventually fade away, although it needs somebody to finish it off.

see if you can get your hands on the the legal report, and also their is a constitutional review going on at the mo, so you should be able to look up and see what the oireachtas committee says i meant to look it up myself.

i think it be interesting for you to look into what happened in the 70's to get the special position removed then, i think at that time too there was well overude change needed so much so that even the top establishment politicians wanted it changed, they were sick of the church interfering, i don't know if thats a case now, it be hard to get any sort of constitutional referendum without the backing of the then taoiseach, (maybe possible only ever a labour one at that).

there discussions of this all over the place here and there but i think it needs to put in one place

i started wiki for just that. you could create and account and place those bits of the constitution on the page
http://secularireland.pbwiki.com/

you could use a bit of internet power to get it going
http://thatsireland.com/2008/01/30/the- ... stitution/
test
CelticAtheist
Posts: 284
Joined: Sat Apr 26, 2008 10:55 pm

Post by CelticAtheist » Fri May 16, 2008 8:57 pm

If you want the constitution changed, get into politics.
dj357
Posts: 169
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 12:05 pm
Location: Limerick

Post by dj357 » Fri May 16, 2008 9:40 pm

CelticAtheist wrote:If you want the constitution changed, get into politics.
While a good point, not entirely helpful if you know what I mean, and politics is the last thing I want to do with my life.
CelticAtheist
Posts: 284
Joined: Sat Apr 26, 2008 10:55 pm

Post by CelticAtheist » Fri May 16, 2008 9:44 pm

I mean, get involved.

Saying "Oh, wouldn't it be great if they added real church-state separation" while sitting on your arse is all well and good, but getting involved deeply is the only way you can change anything.
lostexpectation
Posts: 1993
Joined: Wed Feb 07, 2007 11:28 pm

Post by lostexpectation » Sat May 17, 2008 2:02 am

CelticAtheist wrote:I mean, get involved.

Saying "Oh, wouldn't it be great if they added real church-state separation" while sitting on your arse is all well and good, but getting involved deeply is the only way you can change anything.
you don't need to get involved in politics, you could take them to court as a citizen, i say becoming a lawyer is your first step.
test
dj357
Posts: 169
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 12:05 pm
Location: Limerick

Post by dj357 » Sat May 17, 2008 7:45 am

lostexpectation wrote:
CelticAtheist wrote:I mean, get involved.

Saying "Oh, wouldn't it be great if they added real church-state separation" while sitting on your arse is all well and good, but getting involved deeply is the only way you can change anything.
you don't need to get involved in politics, you could take them to court as a citizen, i say becoming a lawyer is your first step.
I understand where you both are coming from, but I aready know what I want to do with my life and becoming a lawyer or getting into politics are not on the agenda, that's why I'm reaching out to others on this subject who may actually be in a position to help bring this to fruition.

And, to be frank, sitting on my arse is the last thing I'm doing. I've set up a bebo page on the topic, I've contacted people on different forums, I'm planning on a myspace page, I have researched the topic in depth and I'm engaging in an active dialogue with people who share my views. Since I'm in germany until september, do you truly consider this 'sitting on my arse'?
mkaobrih
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Post by mkaobrih » Sat May 17, 2008 12:10 pm

The Humanists are working on this with the government at the moment.
lostexpectation
Posts: 1993
Joined: Wed Feb 07, 2007 11:28 pm

Post by lostexpectation » Sun May 18, 2008 2:13 am

mkaobrih wrote:The Humanists are working on this with the government at the moment.
have any details on that

when i finally got a reply there seemed only worried about getting humanist celebrants and nothing else.
test
mkaobrih
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Post by mkaobrih » Sun May 18, 2008 7:44 am

From their latest issue (which you can pick up at Easons for €3.50)
HAI and the State:
An Update
Brendan Sheeran


IN THE CONTEXT of the proposed structured dialogue announced by the Taoiseach, the HAI made a detailed submission in late 2005 on various aspects of the Constitution. laws and State practices which failed to treat non-religious people on an equal basis with others. We updated that submission in July 2007.

The formal launch of the dialogue process did not take place until February 2007 and we finally met in a bilateral meeting with the Taoiseach. 6 Ministers and senior civil servants in October 2007. At that meeting we emphasised concerns with the Constitution. education, health and marriage registration. We were received warmly and the Taoiseach stressed that we are entitled to parity of esteem and equality of respect with other groups in society. His department would facilitate detailed discussions with the relevant departments on the content of our submission.

After a long delay we finally started the third and perhaps the most important phase of this process — the detailed discussions with senior civil servants. Our first discussions were with the Department of Health and Children where we voiced our concerns' including aspects of State support for religious hospitals and the treatment of non-religious patients in such hospitals. The meeting was useful in terms of directing our further efforts. It became clear, however, that our main concerns are more in the realm of the Health Service Executive. Independently of the dialogue process we had contacted the HSE and have since met a representative who listened to us and promised a considered response.

The progress on detailed discussions has been disappointedly slow. Coming up to six months from the meeting with the Taoiseach and Ministers we have met one out of the eight departments with which we have issues. We have stressed that we need to meet with all departments relevant to the items in our submission in good time for this year's bilateral with the government.

We have also made a submission to the all-party parliamentary committee on the Constitution. The next work module of the committee concerns freedom of expression. We have concerns about the present blasphemy provision in the Constitution.


In parallel with this very slow dialogue process we have been making contact and discussing our concerns with other bodies concerned with the State. We received a good hearing from the Human Rights Commission and we hope to build on this. We have written to the opposition parties and arising from this we recently had a meeting with Deputies Ruairi Quinn, Michael D Higgins and Emmet Stagg and Senator Alex White of the Labour Party. These representatives were very supportive of our case for equality, in particular with the key areas of Constitution. health, education and marriage registration. We also discussed the question of remedying an inequality in charities legislation currently going through the parliamentary process.

We have been promised meetings with Sinn Fein and the Irish Council of Civil Liberties and have also requested a meeting with the Equality Authority.
It is too early yet to judge whether the dialogue process will produce results for us. So far, however, I feel that we are getting a respectful hearing from all concerned and I have no doubt about the tactical correctness of the decision to engage in the dialogue process while also working in parallel with other organisations outside it.
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