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Dublin Declaration on Religion in Public Life By Michael Nugent

Published: June 1, 2011

This weekend, June 3-5, the World Atheist Convention will take place in Dublin.

On Sunday we will discuss and adopt the Dublin Declaration on Religion in Public Life. This will be a follow-up to the Copenhagen Declaration that was adopted at last year’s convention in Denmark. We will discuss two alternative formats for the Dublin Declaration.

The first is an adaptation of the Copenhagen Declaration that addresses some ambiguities that existed within it, and the second is a rewrite from scratch proposed by Richard Green of Atheism UK. Whether or not you are attending the Convention, we would be happy to hear your opinions on this, including suggestions for improving either version. If you comment on this post, we will try to incorporate your comments into the discussion of the Declaration.

Draft Declaration

A 1. Personal Freedoms

(a) Freedom of conscience, religion and belief are unlimited. Freedom to practice religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.

(b) All people should be free to participate equally in public life, and should be treated equally before the law and in the democratic process.

(c) Freedom of expression should be limited only as prescribed in international law. All blasphemy laws should be repealed.

2. Secular Democracy

(a) Society should be based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Public policy should be formed by applying reason to evidence.

(b) Government should be secular. The state should be strictly neutral in matters of religion, favoring none and discriminating against none.

(c) Religions should have no special financial consideration in public life, such as tax-free status for religious activities, or grants to promote religion or run faith schools.

3. Secular Education

(a) State education should be secular. Children should be taught about the diversity of religious beliefs in an objective manner, with no faith formation in school hours.

(b) Children should be educated in critical thinking and the distinction between faith and reason as a guide to knowledge. Science should be taught free from religious interference.

4. One Law For All

(a) There should be one law for all, democratically decided and evenly enforced, with no jurisdiction for religious courts to settle civil matters or family disputes.

(b) The law should not criminalize private conduct that respects the rights of others because the doctrine of any religion deems such conduct to be immoral.

(c) Employers or social service providers with religious beliefs should not be allowed to discriminate on any grounds not essential to the job in question.

Draft Declaration B

1. No Divine Right The sovereignty of the State is not derived from any God.

2. Secular State

(1) The Constitution must not contain any direct or indirect reference to any God, Faith or Religion.

(2) The Constitution and/or State Action must neither require nor prohibit Faith, Religion or the Manifestation of Religion.

(3) State Institutions must not include members of any Religion because of their membership of it.

(4) State Action must not be based upon any God, Faith or Religion.

(5) State Money must not be applied, directly or indirectly, to support, further, promote or advocate any Religion or the Manifestation of Religion as such.

(6) Faith or the Manifestation of Religion must not form any part of the Law.

(7) The Law must neither grant nor refuse any right, privilege, power or immunity, on the basis of Faith or Religion or the lack of either.

3. Education

(1) The Law must not require a State School to provide Religious Education.

(2) If a State School provides Religious Education, it must be Balanced Religious Education.

(3) A State School must not provide the Manifestation of Religion.

4. Blasphemy The Law must not prohibit the denial (in whatever manner) of Faith or of the Manifestation of Religion.

5. Religious Codes The Law must not recognise and State Institutions must not enforce any Religious Code.

6. Definitions In this Declaration:- “Balanced Religious Education” means Religious Education:-

(1) the subject matter of which is:-

(a) God, Faith or Religion in general; and

(b) the lack of Faith and Religion;

(2) which includes specific Gods or Religions only by way of example;

(3) which does not promote one God or Religion over another;

(4) which does not promote Faith or Religion over the lack of either. “Constitution” means a State’s constitution, whether codified or not, and includes:-

(1) the constitutions of State Institutions;

(2) provisions as to the relationship between:-

(a) State Institutions;

(b) a State Institution and an individual, including provisions for State Actions; “Faith” means belief that God exists; “God” means a super-empirical object or process; “Law” means the law embodied in:-

(1) the Constitution;

(2) primary and secondary legislative acts; and

(3) judicial decisions; “Manifestation of Religion” means the worship, teaching, practice or observance of any Religion; “Religion” means a social system the members of which exhibit Faith; “Religious Education” means education (whether by way of a discrete subject or as part of any other subject), the subject matter of which is God, Faith or Religion. “Religious Code” means any code of which Faith or the Manifestation of Religion forms part; “State” includes a supra-national organization; “State Actions” includes:-

(1) primary and secondary legislative acts;

(2) judicial decisions; and

(3) administrative acts; “State Institution” means the institutions comprising the State, including:-

(1) the head of state;

(2) the judiciary;

(3) the legislature;

(4) the executive; and

(5) institutions within or under them; “State Money” means money which is the subject of the revenue and expenditure of the State; “State School” means any school which is:-

(1) a State Institution;

(2) maintained by the State; or

(3) otherwise funded, wholly or partly, by State Money.


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