A Secular Constitution for a Pluralist People – Atheist Ireland Submission to Constitutional Convention


Atheist Ireland has today made this submission to the Constitutional Convention.

1. Executive Summary

1.1 Atheist Ireland is an advocacy group for atheism, reason and ethical secularism. We are the only advocacy group in Ireland that promotes the political cause of separation of church and state as a primary aim. We are participants in the dialogue process between the Government and religious and philosophical bodies. We participate in events organised by international bodies such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Council of Europe and the OSCE. We work with other advocacy groups who are seeking to bring about an ethical society.

1.2 One of the most striking features of the Irish Constitution is its overt theistic, religious, Christian and Roman Catholic character. This is a result of the political personnel and culture of the Ireland of the 1930s, and it is entirely inappropriate for the Ireland of the 21st century. If the Convention is to make serious substantive proposals for change, it must address this issue and the problems that it has caused over the decades. We ask you to add secularisation and separation of church and state as one of the additional items on your agenda.

1.3 Atheist Ireland wants a secular Irish Constitution, which respects equally the right of every citizen to our religious or nonreligious philosophical beliefs, with the State remaining neutral on these beliefs. Religious States promote religion, atheist States promote atheism, and secular States promote neither, but respect equally the right of each citizen to hold and manifest their personal beliefs. In a pluralist democratic society such as Ireland, a secular Constitution is the only way to protect equally the rights of religious and nonreligious people.

1.4 We recommend the following three categories of amendments:

(a) Remove specific references to God, such as all authority coming from the Holy Trinity and our obligations to our divine Lord Jesus Christ (Preamble); powers of government deriving under God from the people (6); blasphemy being an offence (40); the homage of public worship being due to Almighty God and the state holding his name in reverence (44); and the glory of God (Closing Line).


Additional Reading

Our Collection about Separation of Mosque-Church and State

35 replies

  1. Preamble

    The Preamble states:

    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.

    Now, I believe that Triune God does not exist, so, as far as the Muslims, Jews, Unitarian Christians and agnostics are concerned the constitution starts on the wrong foot.

  2. Freedom of speech and Blasphemy Laws:

    Subject to “public order and morality”, a qualified right of freedom of speech is guaranteed by Article 40.6.1°. However, “the State shall endeavour to ensure that organs of public opinion” (such as the news media) “shall not be used to undermine public order or morality or the authority of the State”. Furthermore, “the publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter” is specifically stated to be a criminal offence. In Corway v. Independent Newspapers (1999), the Supreme Court dismissed an attempt to bring a prosecution for blasphemy on the basis that, amongst other things, no coherent definition of the offence was provided by law. Such a definition is now provided by the Defamation Act 2009 which defines it as the publication of matter ‘grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby [intentionally] causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents.

    Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Ireland

  3. quran is clear that the authorities should rule and judge by the quran. as mentioned in chapter 5.

    secularism is against the objectives of caliphate as secularism completely disregards the Quran in terms of politics, education, moral values in public, judicial and legislative branch.

    the so called slogan of secularists that claim that quran has no role in public life in muslim countries is wrong and contradicts the essence of Islam.

    wht do they mean by Allah’s revelations not applicable in public? do they imply that the quran has not got solutions for the public and that its not good enough for the authorities to abide by??

  4. Secularism is the vision of the Quran, as it stresses equality, universal brotherhood and religious freedom for every one.

    Unfortunately, the proponents of Shariah want to obsess over one or two verses, like the one that suggests cutting of hands of thieves etc.

    They choose to ignore scores of verses about justice, compassion, wisdom and being conscious of the results of our actions.

    Additionally, if we should first focus on the cutting of hands, even then the most deserving for this punishment would be those who want to rob the country of freedom and security and push Shariah law by hook or crook.

  5. same goes for those who push secularism in muslim countries by hook or by crook; causing bloodshed and disrespect the laws of Allah.

  6. Islam does not seek political power nor it prescribes a system of government. Muslim history shows this clearly. For example, Mughals ruled India for three hundred years without any reference to Sharia law. They were Muslims, had an empire and most of their subjects were non Muslims.
    The frenzy of Sharia law is recent and based upon misguided understanding of religion of Islam.

  7. prophet Muhammad (saw) ruled madina by islamic shariah.

    the 4 rightly guided caliphs also ruled by the islamic shariah.

    and when imam mahdi comes then he will also judge by quran and sunnah.

  8. If anyone was not conviced completely about the paramount need for Separation of Mosque-Church and State, this video clip should do the trick for him or her. In this interview Munawar Hasan the leader of the largest religio-political party in Pakistan is perfectly comfortable in denying rape victims any forensic evidence and keeping them in jail, if they are unable to produce four eye witnesses. Such concrete thinking and lack of insight and empathy should send shivers down the spine of every sensitive human! My apologies to the English readers, for the video clip is in Urdu. You will need to find an Urdu translator.

    Munawar Hasan is also completely unable to conceptualize that he may not have the correct interpretation of the Holy Quran:

    The non-Muslims should, however, recognize that Islam and Muslims are not monolithic and there are moderate and reasonable voices in Islam as well.

  9. dont know how the above video can be used as argument to disregard the laws of Allah and abrogate the relevant verses about executive, judicial and legislative branch

  10. This video shows that the religious zealots have childish and concrete thinking, they neither have worldly wisdom nor do they understand the word of God.

    They merely have an obsession with their misunderstandings of the Quran and Sunnah.

    God save the nation who lets medieval minded Mullahs lead them!

  11. Parvez, you are right as far as your comments suggest that the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, was the political leader in Madinah.

    But, you conveniently forget that he ruled according to the Covenant of Madinah, rather than Shariah, among different groups.

    You also conveniently forget that he did not prescribe a political system and each of the four righteous Khulafa came to office, through some what different procedures.

    You also forget that God did not choose to preserve the Muslim political system and it soon degenerated into kingship.

    You also conveniently forget that the Prophet rode on camels and did not travel by train or by air.

    You also conveniently forget that the Prophet never wrote in his life time, yet the Muslims are not only writing but have the audacity to type their comments in blogs.

    You conveniently forget that the Prophet himself said to acquire knowledge, even if one has to go to China.

    Just like science has progressed in the last 1400 years, so has the understanding of political, judicial and financial systems.

    Just like the Muslims cannot afford to throw away science and technology, all the other human learning of the last 1400 years cannot be thrown away in a zeal to pursue Islam.

    The Holy Quran is certainly the literal word of God and the Holy Prophet is certainly the last Law bringing Prophet.

    But, we have to understand and interpret their teachings in the present day context and not in the context of seventh century Arabia.

    We now live in a Global village with its varied considerations.

    In this day and age the Quranic perspective and the judgment of the Khalifa of Imam Mahdi is that Separation of Mosque-Church and State is the only recipe for peace and security. This is wisdom and Islam rest is being penny wise and pound foolish or living in fool’s paradise.

    Choice is yours.

    Peace and Salam

  12. of course the ahmadis will accept secularism in muslim countries and not islamic shariah since their founder failed to be caliph and rule by quran and sunnah.

    the promised prophetic sign of imam mahdi is yet to be seen. the true imam mahdi will be caliph and guide the muslim ummah according to quran and sunnah.

  13. @ zia

    dont know wht u trying to get at when u mention about the prophet (saw) riding on camels??

    there are ahmadis that i met in bangladesh that dont understand wht is the islamic shariah, and they also say that quran should have no role in the public spere of life.

  14. Parvez the reason why I mentioned camels is to show that context is important.

    Additionally, as we cannot throw away technology, we cannot throw away any genuine learning and even the failed social experiments, so we do not repeat them.

    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

  15. Another question could be: ‘wht u trying to get at when u mention about the prophet (saw)’ the Prophet never wrote in his life time?.

  16. See, the point I was making is that we do not follow the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, blindly, we have to make distinctions.

    We do not follow, what was specific to his time and place in the seventh century Arabia or what was specific to him because of his circumstances.

    Once in a passing remark the Holy Prophet, questioned palm farmers, who were polinizing the fruits. The farmers thought that he was prohibiting them and next year they did not do that procedure, the details escape me right now. As a result next year there was no fruit. The farmers complained to the prophet and he told them that it was a casual remark, in their worldly affairs, they knew better.

    The Prophet himself said to seek knowledge, even if you have to go to China so that is what we follow.

  17. where the quran and sunnah is silent about then we can do ijtihad.

    yes islam proclaims to study science and use God given gift of intellect, but there are very few established laws in the quran that should not be abrogated.

  18. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (عليه السلام), is the one who categorically declares that there are no Nasikh wa Mansookh (abrogating and abrogated) verses in the Holy Qura’an.

  19. well the ahmadis in sylhet division – bangladesh dont want the laws of the quran and say the punishment laws and legislation in the quran is abrogated

  20. Why would you mean to say that the Ahmadis in Sylhet Division, Bangladesh, say that the verses in the Holy Qura’an are abrogated?

  21. I have one question for Parvez. Please tell us what system of government Islam proposes and in the history of Islam where was it implemented in last 1400 years?

  22. i’m not mentioning about a particular system but rather the principle that changes happen but it should be regulated by the Quran.

  23. Islam is a religion. It presents a complete code of moral values. Its mission is to produce people of highest moral character. If it had to depend on political power, it would never succeed. Every Muslim is free to implement Sharia in his own life. Secularism means stop implementation of Sharia in other peoples lives. That is it.

  24. There are no “laws” in Sharia. There are moral principals in Sharia. These principals are flexible. They are applied to ones own self. They also take into account the context. If Muslims live in a country where there is secular, or any other form of government, there is no obligation to pursue penalties mentioned in the Quran. Even when Muslims are in majority in a country, no laws can be made without consultation and will of the people. (as Quran says, your matters should be decided with mutual consultation). Also penalties mentioned in the Quran are not the only punishments for these crimes. All sorts of other punishments are also permitted for these crimes as evidenced by the history of Islamic governments.

  25. Dear Parvez sahib. It can be quite confusing until we develop some wisdom and knowledge to see the TRUE SPIRIT and its context behind a verse and a hadith.
    Let me give a practical example. According to Riyad-us-Saliheen a Sahih Bukhari Hadith says, “He who keeps a Horse for Jihad purposes, having faith in Allah,….will find that its fodder, drink, droppings and urine will all be credited to him…on the Day of Resurrection”
    I too believe in this Hadith with my heart both literally as well its spirit. That Hadith was ‘literally’ valid for hundreds of years after the Holy Prophet until the invention of steam engine, internal combustion engine, nuclear powered craft, jet engines, tanks, jeeps, trucks, planes, etc. which are today’s equivalent of a horse. So the Hadith is still valid but we can learn from its spirit and develop all the modern machines to help us win that Jihad when/if it happens. If a concrete-brain Mullah still insists today that horse in the Hadith is still meant only as a horse and Muslims must not learn or develop its modern equivalent then you can see we are not likely to win any Jihad against those who use the modern machines! (Perhaps that explains why Muslims have not invented any practical thing for a 1000 years! No wonder we are in a hole which we have dug ourselves.)
    Of course when we run out of fuel and solar power then we can go back to the horse days…

  26. Secularism believes that reason and logic combined with proper moral education of the masses will ultimately lead to justice in a society. Blind-faith based political power has a fundamental flaw. It doesn’t like anyone disagreeing with its faith-based laws, considering them God-sent even though their interpretation was hotly debated by varous schools of thought, and has only one avenue, that of forceful supression of such disagreement. Hence various Blasphemy and Anti-Ahmadiyya laws in Pakistan. IF TRUTH WAS VISIBLY EVIDENT why would you need a law to stop people from genuine research and to find out for themselves? In no Public or university library in Pakistan would you find any books by any Ahmadiyya writer. But in the main Ahmadiyya library in Rabwah you would also find all the books written by the strongest opponents of the Ahamdiyya thought. Obviously Ahmadis are free to think for themselves and make up their mind. That is true secularism! How long would a government keep on treating its grownups as lame brains?

  27. I read the various posts of parvez sahib. I found the following reply as most suited to his love for the imposition of Shariah laws: See verse 4:59.

    Verily, Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between people, you judge with justice. And surely excellent is that with which Allah admonishes you! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.
    [Verse 4:59]

    It says “when you judge between people, you judge with justice.” Arabic words are “Un takhkumoo bi al Adl”. That means rule with justice.” It does not say “Takhkumoo bi al Shariah” i.e. rule with Shariah.

    In the beginning of the verse is also some kind of secular view point of voting for the best persons. i.e. give the trust to those who are most deserving.
    Also, the word “Al Naas” is used in this verse (please see the Quran). That means people, not Muslims. That means all type of people.

    So the secular system without any religious matter is proved.

    It is advised in the Quran to follow its best interpretation [39:56], not to find a bad meaning to practice. Any law and every law advises people to take the best meaning of the words of law.

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