UN Covenant on Civil & Political Rights. Initial recommendations of Atheist Ireland

10th February 2012

Obligations of the State under the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The obligations of the Covenant in general and Article 2 in particular are binding on every State Party as a whole.  Non-discrimination under Article 2 of the Covenant together with equality before the law and equal protection of the law without any discrimination, constitute a basic and general principle relating to the protection of human rights.  Article 26 of the Covenant provides that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law without discrimination, and that the law shall guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any of the enumerated grounds.

While Article 2 limits the scope of the rights to be protected against discrimination to those provided for in the Covenant, Article 26 does not specify such limitations. Article 26 provides that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law without discrimination, and that the law shall guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any of the enumerated grounds. Article 26 does not merely duplicate the guarantee already provided for in Article 2 but provides in itself an autonomous right. It prohibits discrimination in law or in fact in any field regulated and protected by public authorities.

  • Ensure that all rights protected by the Covenant are given full effect in domestic law.
  • Ensure an effective right in practice and in law to all the rights guaranteed under the Covenant.
  • Irish Constitution: Remove the requirement for the President, judges and Council of State to swear a religious oath in the presence of Almighty God (Arts 12, 31, 34), and for the President and judges to ask God to direct and sustain them (12, 34), and replace these with a single neutral declaration that does not reveal any information about the person’s religious beliefs.
  • Irish Constitution: Remove the references to 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); 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).
  • Irish Constitution: Amend Article 40.6.1 to remove the offence of blasphemy.
  • Irish Constitution: Amend Article 44, on Religion, to explicitly give equal protection to religious and nonreligious philosophical believers. Examine and amend other Articles that are unduly influenced by the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Irish Constitution: Amend Article 40.1 on equality before the law with the principle of non-discrimination as set out in articles 2 and 3 of the Covenant.
  • Amend Section 15 of the Education Act 1998 to ensure that the curriculum in all schools is delivered in an objective and neutral manner. Ensure that the rights of those parents seeking secular education for their children are recognised therein.
  • Remove Section 7 3 (c) of the Equal Status Act 2000 to ensure that children have a guaranteed access to educational establishments without discrimination of any kind.
  • Remove Section 12.4 and 37.1 of the Equality Acts which permit schools and hospitals to discriminate on the grounds of religion.
  • Ensure that all children have equal access to a basic moral, intellectual and social education in schools (Article 42.3.2) and not one just permeated by religious values.
  • Remove Section 36 and 37 of the Defamation Act 2009 (blasphemy offence).
  • Remove Section 3.1(c) and 3.4 of the Charities Act 2009, which privileges the advancement of religion over non-religious life stances.
  • Enact legislation to bring the rights under Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution in line with the rights guaranteed under the Covenant.

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