Time is right for secular reforms - Bacik


THE TIME is right to mount a campaign for a secular constitution that represents the State’s pluralist society, Labour Party Senator Ivana Bacik has said.

Speaking at the agm of Atheist Ireland at the weekend Ms Bacik said there was now an appetite for constitutional reform in a country which was no longer dominated by Catholicism.

The fundamental rights elements of the Constitution, regarding the role of mothers in the home, rights of the father, protection of children and church involvement in education, should no longer be inspired by religious doctrine, she added.

Ms Bacik, herself an atheist, said there was a good deal of support among members of the Oireachtas to separate the church from the State and that, even though many might not publicly admit it, there were a number of atheists among the parliamentary ranks. She said there was still considerable anger about blasphemy legislation introduced by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern last January and that she felt many in Mr Ahern’s Fianna Fáil party were troubled by the measures.

Atheist Ireland chairman Michael Nugent welcomed a commitment from Mr Ahern to hold a referendum to repeal the legislation, which makes blasphemy a crime punishable with a fine of up to €25,000.

The group, which earlier this year published 25 blasphemous statements on the internet to challenge the law, said it would continue to campaign against the legislation. Mr Nugent said the law was being used as an example in Islamic states such as Indonesia to make blasphemy a crime internationally.

Atheist Ireland has this year decided to campaign for the removal of religious oaths from the courts. It said witnesses could now ask to take a secular oath but that this could cause a jury to take a prejudiced view of them.

Mr Nugent said a neutral affirmation not revealing religion should be brought in so people could swear as equals.

The group will also campaign for the removal of religious symbols from schools and hospitals, and for an education system in which children of non-religious people are not indoctrinated in religious teachings in school. It will also oppose the Oireachtas starting each day with a prayer asking God to guide the work of parliamentarians.

About 100 people attended the meeting at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin on Saturday where Dr Darrel Ray, a US psychologist and author of the book The God Virus, was keynote speaker.

Dr Ray compared religion to a virus which infected people at times when they were vulnerable and incapable of seeing its ills, such as in early childhood, at times of illness or great stress.

Dr Ray said religion was instilled in people through channels such as guilt and inferiority.