Scientology wedding rite powers queried

The Irish Times/November 11, 2011

Seanad Report: Seanad Deputy leader Ivana Bacik (Lab) said she thought it was almost certain that the Church of Scientology would qualify under existing legislation as a body whose members could perform marriage ceremonies in this country. She would have to check if it had sought registration for solemnising purposes.

Ms Bacik was moving a Labour Bill to enable members of the Humanist Association of Ireland to perform civil wedding ceremonies, having received ministerial designation to do so.

The Labour-sponsored Bill passed the second stage unopposed. Ms Bacik said it was a proud week for humanism in Ireland. She understood that for the first time an element would be included in the presidential inauguration today. Humanism was an ethical philosophy of life based on concern for humanity which combined reason with compassion. She understood that the association had 500 members. It had become the voice for the non-religious in Ireland who, according to Central Statistics Office figures, comprised the largest group in the country after Roman Catholics.

Responding to concerns voiced by Paschal Mooney (FF), who wondered if too wide a power was being given to any ministerial incumbent in terms of designating bodies, Ms Bacik acknowledged that this would have to be teased out in the committee stage debate.

David Norris (Ind) said the Church of Scientology was a church or a group about which serious concerns had been raised in European legal forums concerning whether or not it was a religious body. "I wonder is it accepted that it is a body about which many people have reservations, not because of any wish to discriminate on the basis of religious belief, but because of their belief that this is, in fact, a cult." Cait Keane (FG) said that while it was important that we had an inclusive, pluralist society, it was essential that the powers of designation be spelt out clearly before the proposed change to existing legislation was made.

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