Religious oaths in Ireland ‘respect tradition’, Christian think tank says

Group makes submission to European Court of Human Rights to preserve religious oaths

The reason for preserving religious oaths is to “respect the tradition” that had a big part in shaping the legal order, according to Christian think tank the Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture. File photograph: iStock

The reason for preserving religious oaths is to “respect the tradition” that had a big part in shaping the legal order, according to Christian think tank the Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture. File photograph: iStock

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A conservative Christian think tank in Poland has made a third-party submission on the Irish oaths case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), saying the reason for preserving religious oaths is to “respect the tradition” that had a big part in shaping the legal order.

The Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture said states should be granted a certain margin of appreciation in regulating official oaths, including invocations to God. The group, which has made written observations in several ECHR cases, is known for its opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage rights.

“Religious invocation in official oaths should be perceived in context of the European history, the part of which is Christianity, a religion that co-shaped western legal tradition for millennia,” it said.

“The purpose of [an] obligation to swear an oath on God is not to violate religious freedom, but to remind about the basic values that had a significant impact on the emergence and formation of a given state.”

A conservative Christian think tank in Poland has made a third-party submission on the Irish oaths case to the European Court of Human Rights. File photograph: Andia/Universal Images Group/Getty
A conservative Christian think tank in Poland has made a third-party submission on the Irish oaths case to the European Court of Human Rights. File photograph: Andia/Universal Images Group/Getty

It went on to cite a Belgian court ruling of 1867 that said an oath was an act of people choosing God as a witness to the truth or sincerity of their promise.

The litigants responded that the explanation of a religious oath was an “excellent description of what makes subscribing to them offensive to so many individuals in this 21st century”.

Ordo Iuris said “the Christian religion played a key role in shaping the European legal culture in ancient, medieval and modern times, inspiring many of the fundamental legal principles [such as the obligation to respect the dignity of the poor and sick, prohibition of expropriation without just cause, the right to defend or the right to life] as well as guaranteeing respect for the applicable legal order”.

Without disputing the role of western Christianity in European legal tradition, the litigants replied that Roman Law, Orthodox Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Greek philosophy also professed the values referred to.