Religious oaths and affirmations
Sir, – Simeon Burke (Letters, July 31st) claims the existing provision for a secular affirmation is sufficient to protect the rights of those who do not wish to make a religious oath.
However, this is simply not true. As his own letter points out, the affirmation option is available only to those who either have no religion or whose religion does not permit them to swear an oath. A person who has a religion but does not wish to declare this on an affidavit – a public record – currently has no choice but to do so.
Furthermore, under current legislation, the person administering the affirmation cannot do so unless the deponent has given their reason for refusing to swear the oath.
It is therefore impossible under current law for a person to give evidence without declaring their religion or lack thereof. Quite apart from being objectionable as a matter of principle to many of us who make and administer oaths and affirmations on a regular basis, it is undoubtedly in breach of article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which the State is obliged to uphold.
Incidentally, I do not read the proposed new legislation as preventing anyone from swearing a religious affidavit if they choose to do so. The Bill states that a Statement of Truth “may” be made in place of an affidavit, not that it must be. – Yours, etc,
WENDY LYON (Solicitor),