Humanists launch campaign against judicial religious oaths

Sat, Apr 4, 2009, 01:00

THE HUMANIST Association of Ireland has launched a poster campaign on Dart trains in the capital against the practice of judges and presidents of Ireland being obliged to take an oath.

The poster, headed “Unbelievable”, asks: “Did you know that you must take a religious oath in order to become a judge – or the president – in Ireland?”

It continues: “In effect, this rule disbars up to 250,000 Irish citizens who are non-believers. It’s discrimination. It’s unfair. And it has to end.”

The campaign will take place over a six-week period involving 132 Dart carriages and will cost approximately €7,000, made up of donations, membership fees and fees paid for the conduct of humanist ceremonies.

The move was inspired by an advertising campaign in London where atheists, including prominent academic Prof Richard Dawkins, arranged for the city’s buses to carry the slogan: “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Speaking at the launch of the “Unbelievable” campaign and accompanying document Equality for the Non-Religious in Dublin yesterday, humanist association vice-chairman Dick Spicer said it was “time to give the ethical view of the non-religious community in Ireland on elements in the Constitution and in legislation which make it incumbent on us to seek change’’.

He said that “today is a first step in what will be the lengthy process of a referendum campaign’’. He had “two key concerns: that a judge must make a religious declaration which is as near as can be to an oath ([efore he or she can assume office], and the lack of choice and discrimination in religious-run schools”.

He said the requirement that judges, the president, and members of the Council of State must make a religious declaration before assuming office meant “no one from the non-religious community can be a judge, president, or member of the Council of State without violating his/her conscience or through hypocrisy’’.

He also said the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution acknowledged, where education was concerned, that there was a conflict between the rights of non-religious parents and those guarantees parents belonging to a religious denomination in the Constitution had. The committee had also said it would require a referendum to deal with the issue of judges’ oaths, he said.

The association want the preamble to the Constitution dropped, including its reference to “the Most Holy Trinity’’. It also wants Articles 12, 31, and 34, dealing with various oaths, dropped, as it does Article 40, which deals with blasphemy, and Article 44, which endorses religion. Details at