I read an article in yesterday’s Irish times about Eamon Gilmore getting legal advise on swearing a religious oath at the up coming Council of State meeting. The article quoted a press release from Atheist Ireland:
Atheist Ireland has today written to Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, to remind him that next Monday, as a member of the Council of State, he will become the first Irish person to be asked to swear a Constitutional oath in the presence of a god that he is publicly on record as not believing in. It is an oath that a conscientious agnostic cannot honestly make.
Whatever he does will create a precedent. Either he will be seen as a politician of principle who will literally go down in the history books of Irish Constitutional law on the issue of freedom of belief and conscience in Irish politics, or else he will perpetuate the idea that swearing an oath means nothing in Ireland as you can do it with a metaphorical wink, and nobody really cares.
This kind of drivel pisses me off. It appears Eamon Gilmore will handle this as I would and as most right thinking people would – swear the oath and get on with the business at hand. The oath is contained in article 31.4 of the Irish Constitution and reads:
Every member of the Council of State shall at the first meeting thereof which he attends as a member take and subscribe a declaration in the following form:
“In the presence of Almighty God I, , do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfil my duties as a member of the Council of State.”
It is, quite simply, a matter of law and a constitutional requirement that Gilmore will rightly perform without issue. The only way to change it is through a referendum and we have much bigger fish to fry in the country than holding a referendum on the wording of an oath.
Gilmore – like I and others – who have sworn oaths and made pledges of a non-secular nature, can separate the religion from the oath. This is how conscientious agnostics make oaths – our word is our bond. After all, an atheist has no deity to swear to or swear in the presence of.
The notion that by refusing to swear this oath, Gilmore will literally go down in the history books of Irish Constitutional law on the issue of freedom of belief and conscience is laughable and ridiculous. By refusing to swear the oath, both believers in Christ and agnostics will simply consider him a fool. A fool making a mountain of a molehill.
Atheist Ireland has lost the plot here – and all I know is what little I knew of them before the Irish Times published the ridiculous article, I only want to know less of them now.