A speech by Eamon Gilmore (pictured) calling for the removal of faith from politics has been described as, “an attack on religious freedom,” by the Iona Institute.
The speech, made on Sunday to Labour’s Tom Johnson Summer School, suggested that, “the separation of Church and state,” means that the Government is obliged to legislate for same-sex marriage and embryonic stem cell research.
Commenting on the speech, Dr John Murray of The Iona Institute said today, “Religious freedom has to include the freedom to fully participate in the public and political life of the country as religious believers. It does not mean that religious believers must put their religion to one side when they enter the public square. That is the opposite of religious freedom.”
Referring to Mr Gilmore acknowledgement of the good done by people of faith, especially in Africa, Dr Murray said, “It is good that the Tánaiste recognises the contribution of religion to society, but religious freedom means very little if religious believers are barred from being able to persuade their law-makers and fellow voters by democratic means of the value to society and the law of their beliefs.
“Why should religious believers, alone of all citizens, be barred from influencing the laws of our country with their values, as the Tánaiste seems to imply, when he speaks of 'Church/State separation'? This amounts to the privatisation of religious belief and a truncation of religious freedom.”
Speaking of the changes that had occurred in Irish life in the past two decades, Mr Gilmore said, “Faith and belief are now far more personal matters, and the traditional relationship between Church and State has altered immensely.” He suggested that the issue of same-sex marriage is one of the issues, “which lie on the frontier of that old relationship,” between Church and State.
Mr Gilmore said, “It is not the role of the State to pass judgement on who a person falls in love with, or who they want to spend their life with. That is why one of the reforms for consideration by the Constitutional Convention is a provision for same-sex marriage. I believe in gay marriage. The right of gay couples to marry is, quite simply, the civil rights issue of this generation, and, in my opinion, its time has come.”
However Dr Murray said that it should, “be borne in mind that most religious values can be defended using reason alone. For example, the traditional definition of marriage can be defended without any reference to religion at all.
“The reason it would be wrong to permit same-sex marriage is because doing so is a denial of the importance of sexual complementarity and of the need of a child for a mother and a father.” He concluded “The Tánaiste has in fact outlined a very secular view of society, one which most religious believers will strongly reject.”