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The illusion of state neutrality in a secularising Ireland

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Ireland is frequently cited as a case of church-state separation and state religious neutrality, but an examination of the 1937 constitution, and efforts to amend it, indicates that the Irish state has never been neutral when it comes to religion. On the other hand, if neutrality can be construed as the state regulating the affairs of different religious communities in an evenhanded way, recent trends suggest that the Irish state is moving towards a position of 'religious neutrality', even if this falls far short of what liberals would demand. Indeed neutrality as practised in the Irish context precludes any separation of church and state and actually reinforces the position of the Catholic Church. As such there seems to be a weak relationship between the wider process of secularisation and Irish state policy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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