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Opinions contained in The Iona Blog are not necessarily those of The Iona Institute. The Iona Blog is open to anyone who broadly shares the views of The Iona Institute. If you wish to post a comment on a relevant topic please email 200 – 400 words to [email protected] and it will be considered for inclusion in the blog.

Religion and politics in same boat [David Quinn]

The '23rd Report on British Social Attitudes' came out a fortnight ago. It reports, among many other things, a decline in membership of political parties and trades unions.

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Mixed race families and gay adoption [David Quinn]

Here is something new. White couples from Europe and elsewhere are travelling to India to be impregnated via fertility clinics with the embryos of Indian women.

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Individualisation: Fine Gael hedging its bets? [David Quinn]

To its great credit, the Labour party has unambiguously declared that the current system of tax individualisation discriminates against single-income married couples in favour of dual-income married couples.

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Archbishop hits the mark on marriage [Tom O'Gorman]

It is all too rare to see a respected public figure put forward the case for marriage in a cogent, comprehensive and unapologetic fashion. That's why it was refreshing to read yesterday's speech by Archbishop Rowan Williams on the subject.

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Iona Institute Poll Summarised [Tony Allwright]

As we know, the Iona Institute kicked itself off last month with a poll regarding family arrangements which sought, from a cross-section of 950 people across Ireland, their agreement/disagreement with seven statements (ref).

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Gay Adoption in the UK [Tony Allwright]

Britain's' Equality Act of 2006 is a piece of legislation pushed into being under EU pressure. Its laudable aim is to outlaw discrimination towards people on grounds of - listed in this order - age, disability, gender, sex-change, race, religion, belief or sexual orientation. (The order is interesting. Is there an implied hierarchy that values my aged transgenderism over your one-legged voodoo?).

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Fukayama and State-funded schools [David Quinn]

Francis Fukayama made his name with the book 'The End of History'. This postulated that the age-old struggle to find the best way of ordering our political life together had ended with the defeat of communism and the victory of liberal democracy.

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Affluenza or secularism? [David Quinn]

The psychologist Oliver James, who made his name with 'Britain on the Couch', has a new book out called 'Affluenza'. It's not his term, it been around for a few years, but basically it amounts to an extreme bout of consumerism, the idea that we are what we own, that we are fulfilled by what we own, and that we can't be happy unless we're keeping up, and passing out, the Joneses.

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Do children need a mother and father? [David Quinn]

The fierce debate taking place in England over whether or not Church adoption agencies should be forced to consider homosexual couples as prospective parents rages around three issues, namely the principle of non-discrimination, religious freedom and the rights of children.

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Church unity on gay adoption welcome [Tom O'Gorman]

The news that Anglican leaders in the UK have lent their voices to Catholic opposition to New Labour's plan to force religious adoption agencies to consider homosexual couples for adoption is welcome. Quite apart from the political significance of the statement from Archbishop Rowan Williams and Archbishop John Sentamu backing Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, it is of profound significance from an ecumenical point of view.

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Our commentators' blind spot [David Quinn]

The importance of religious freedom is one of the themes of the Iona Institute. Religious freedom belongs roughly in same the category as freedom of conscience, that is, it is part of the freedom to act in accordance with your beliefs. In a liberal society, of course, that means doing so in a way that doesn't do harm to others. (Although we can argue all day about what exactly constitutes harms to others.)

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Government sharp practice on referendum? [Tom O'Gorman]

According to reports (see news), the Government is planning to lump together a series of proposals concerning children's rights in their proposed referendum in March or April. Reports suggest that the proposed wording may impact upon three seperate articles of the Constitution.

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Politically incorrect remarks not always political folly [Tom O'Gorman]

Drink driving is on the agenda again. This time, however, the story appears to have taken something of a surreal twist. Rural politicians, always on the look out for a way to shore up a few more votes, seem to have zeroed in on the issue.

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Cohabitation and marriage [David Quinn]

A new study says that when the State creates civil partnerships (so-called 'marriage-lite') marriage rates are not affected. (Read more). The fear of some individuals has been that by making civil partnerships an alternative to marriage, the number of people getting married would drop as a direct result. According to this study at any rate, this has not happened.

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Questions on the family [Tom Carew]

I write as a citizen increasingly concerned with multiple social breakdown in Irish and other Western Societies, and with the frequent absence of rational ethical or social policy debate in the media, along with the substitution of emotion and "compassion" for reasons, reasoning, comparative research, and hard evidence.

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What makes us happy [Tom O'Gorman]

A new report commissioned by the British Government sets out to discover what makes us happy. (See news). It turns out that having time to spend with other people is one of the big drivers of human happiness. Hardly a surprise.

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Attention Pat Rabbitte [David Quinn]

If he hasn't already seen it, here's something that might interest Pat Rabbitte. In Australia the new leader of the Labor party, Kevin Rudd, is trying to re-orientate the industrial relations debate. Instead of focusing in purely on issues like pay and conditions, Rudd is trying to highlight the effect of work practices on our relationships. (Read more).

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Introducing ‘plural marriage’ [David Quinn]

To you and me it’s called polygamy but the new and more polite name for it is ‘plural marriage’ and in America the move is on to have it legalised.

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Referendum on children still poses uncomfortable questions [Tom O'Gorman]

Yesterday's Irish Times front page story appeared to be good news for the many people concerned about Government proposals to change the definition of the family to give rights to children. But certain questions remain. In the wake of the High Court decision to release a paedophile from prison on the basis that the law under which he was arrested had been deemed unconstitutional, Bertie Ahern had used the eve of his party's Ard Fheis to announce that the Government would be putting a referendum before the people to ensure that children's welfare was the primary concern under the Constitution. The reason that a referendum would be needed, it was claimed, was that, under the Constitution, family rights trumped children's rights.

Political caution, however, seems to have cooled Bertie's ardour for this change. It was felt that opposition from those anxious about the implications of the law for the Constitutional status of the family, might be too strong.

However, it is still envisioned that a referendum to enshrine children's rights will be held before the next general election. And the rights of parents may yet be infringed upon. One of the proposed changes involves "lowering the threshold for the State to intervene in cases where the welfare of a child is under threat by amending Article 42.5". Article 42.5 reads "In exceptional cases, where the parents for physical or moral reasons fail in their duty towards their children, the State as guardian of the common good, by appropriate means shall endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child."

So it already gives the State the right to intervene in circumstances where it feels that children's welfare is at risk. It will be interesting to know how the Government proposes to "lower the threshold". Already, since 1987, many constitutional scholars feel that the Courts have shifted the emphasis when interpreting this article from parents' rights to children's rights.

Irrespective of the exact proposal, the assumption behind the changes is the same. It is the notion that children's rights are in conflict with those of parent. In this context it is interesting to note the ruling of Supreme Court judge Adrian Hardiman in the recent "Baby Ann" case. He utterly rejected the oft-repeated assertion that the Irish Constitution "puts the rights of parents first and those of children second". Justice Hardiman went on to observe that the Constitution "fully recognises the 'natural and imprescriptible rights' of children, but that it recognises "the inescapable fact that a young child cannot exercise his or her own rights". Rather than preferring parents to children, Justice Hardiman pointed out the real preference of the Constitution, "it prefers parents to third parties, official or private, priest or social worker, as the enablers and guardians of the child’s rights". Such clarity of thinking is welcome. It would be even more welcome if it were prevalent in the upper reaches of Government.


Guardian poll on religion [David Quinn]

The headline in the Guardian over Christmas read: “Religion does more harm than good”. The sub-head read: “82pc say faith causes tension in country where two thirds are not religious”.

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Institute for Marriage and Public Policy

First Things

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"If I were asked to design a system for making sure that children's basic needs were met, we would probably come up with something quite similar to the two-parent ideal...The fact that both parents have a biological connection to the child would increase the likelihood that the parents would identify with the child and be willing to sacrifice for that child, and it would reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child.."

Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, "Growing up with a single parent: What hurts, what helps."