Constitutional Reforms for a Secular Sri Lanka - Proposed Amendment

Bookmark and Share 


Following is a Work-In-Progress Proposal to secularize “Chapter II” of the current Sri Lankan constitution.  We are currently developing the proposed amendments to remove/amend Chapter II, and also amend Chapter III to clarify and define the Sri Lankan citizens' Right from Religion and distinct separation of religion and state. Intention of this project is to communicate with the country's law makers, Constitutional Reforms Committees and the general public to initiate a dialogue with the political stage with our demands and recommendations.

You can join us and become a part of this development process for a proposal to be presented to the Constitution Reforms Committees and the general public.  We are looking for legal experts, ex-judges and legal writers to develop this document.  This project shall eventually expand into a lobbying branch in the Sri Lanka parliament.  We need talented people to join us in fund raising and activism to promote and enhance the understanding of Secularization in the general public through popular media etc.  Legal experts and local grass-root activists, community organizers are also needed to cultivate this thought process and vision.  Please contact us and let us know how you can become a part of this campaign, help and contribute for the development of this proposed amendment, which is a central document for this campaign and our readers.


Introduction to the Proposed Amendment:

What is a Secular State?  ... Wikipedia article on Secular State.

First, let us study the relevant sections of the existing Constitution of Sri Lanka that provides unfair preferences and protection to one religion in a multi-religious society.   Our current Constitution states:

CHAPTER II - BUDDHISM

Buddhism.

9. The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1)(e).


Such classification of a 'foremost place' for one religion over others provide a second class citizenship for the minorities of Sri Lanka, and it is the responsibility of our majority that the necessary amendment is made in a way such that no minorities feel or treated as second class citizens.  Constitution of a nation shall be an article that all citizens can feel proud of regardless their religion or ethnicity.

Let's also visit Articles 10 and 14 in entirety and examine the underlying issues.

CHAPTER III - FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

 

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

10. Every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.


This should specifically provide a written provision for 'Freedom from Religion' as a part of this Freedom of thought.  Current establishment of laws with mandatory religious education in public school curriculum, for example, violates the rights of non-religious and non-believers.  Law makers shall be prohibited from establishing laws mandating practice of religion and mandatory religious education in public schools.

Freedom of Speech, assembly, association, movement, &c.

14. (1) Every citizen is entitled to -

(a) the freedom of speech and expression including publication;

(b) the freedom of peaceful assembly;

(c) the freedom of association;

(d) the freedom to form and join a trade union;

(e) the freedom, either by himself or in association with others, and either in public or in private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice or teaching;

(f) the freedom by himself or in association with others to enjoy and promote his own culture and to use his own language;

(g) the freedom to engage by himself or in association with others in any lawful occupation, profession, trade, business or enterprise;

(h)  the freedom of movement and of choosing his residence within Sri Lanka; and

(i) the freedom to return to Sri Lanka.

(2) A person who, not being a citizen of any other country, has been permanently and legally resident in Sri Lanka immediately prior to the commencement of the Constitution and continues to be so resident shall be entitled, for a period of ten years from the commencement of the Constitution, to the rights declared and recognized by paragraph (1) of this Article.

 Item 14. (e)  Religious freedom shall not provide an allowance to violate civil rights of the citizens.  Fundamental Rights of a citizen shall be given utmost priority and these civil rights shall not be restricted due to various religious beliefs. For example, women's rights shall not be restricted or violated due to certain religious rituals and customs.  Practice of religion in public places, indoctrination of children, child recruitment to monasteries, religious practices that involve cruelty to animals, humans and deceitful and dishonest promotion of religion by taking advantage of vulnerable targets need to be addressed.  Such restrictions shall only enhance fundamental civil rights and freedom.  However, freedom for individual belief of a religion shall not be restricted. Practice of religion may need restrictions to promote civil rights, but freedom for individual belief within a citizen's private space shall remain.

Restrictions on fundamental Rights.

15. (1) The exercise and operation of the fundamental rights declared and recognized by Articles 13 (5) and 13 (6) shall be subject only to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interests of national security. For the purposes of this paragraph �law� includes regulations made under the law for the time being relating to public security.

(2) The exercise and operation of the fundamental right declared and recognized by Article 14(1) (a) shall be subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interests of racial and religious harmony or in relation to parliamentary privilege, contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

(3) The exercise and operation of the fundamental right declared and recognized by Article 14(1) (b) shall be subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interests of racial and religious harmony.

(4) The exercise and operation of the fundamental right declared and recognized by Article 14(1) (c) shall be subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interests, of racial and religious harmony or national economy.

(5) The exercise and operation of the fundamental right declared and recognized by Article 14 (1) (g) shall be subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interests, of national economy or in relation to -

(a) the professional, technical, academic, financial and other qualifications necessary for practising any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade, business or enterprise, and the licensing and disciplinary control of the person entitled to such fundamental right, and

(b) the carrying on by the State, a State agency or a public corporation of any trade, business,, industry, service or enterprise whether to the exclusion, complete or partial, of citizens or otherwise.

(6) The exercise and operation of the fundamental right declared and recognized by Article 14 (1) (h) shall be subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interests of national economy.

(7) The exercise and operation of all the fundamental rights declared and recognized by Articles 12, 13(1), 13(2) and 14 shall be subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interests of national security, public order and the protection of public health or morality, or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others, or of meeting the just requirements of the general welfare of a democratic society. For the purposes of this paragraph " law " includes regulations made under the law for the time being relating to public security.

(8) The exercise and operation of the fundamental rights declared and recognized by Articles 12 (1), 13 and 14 shall, in their application to the members of the Armed Forces, Police Force and other Forces charged with the maintenance of public order, be subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interests of the proper discharge of their duties and the maintenance of discipline among them.



Our Closest Partners and Friends are Secular Nations:

India:

India's Secularization

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HERE BY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.


Secular India

The word secular was also inserted into the preamble by the Forty-second Amendment. It implies equality of all religions and religious tolerance. India, therefore does not have an official state religion. Every person has the right to preach, practice and propagate any religion they choose. The government must not favour or discriminate against any religion. It must treat all religions with equal respect. All citizens, irrespective of their religious beliefs are equal in the eyes of law. No religious instruction is imparted in government or government-aided schools. Nevertheless, general information about all established world religions is imparted as part of the course in Sociology, without giving any importance to any one religion or the others. The content presents the basic/fundamental information with regards to the fundamental beliefs, social values and main practices and festivals of each established world religions. The Supreme Court in S.R Bommai v. Union of India held that secularism was an integral part of the basic structure of the constitution.


Forty-second Amendment of Indian Constitution

On 18 December 1976, during the Emergency in India, the Indira Gandhi government pushed through several changes in the Forty-second Amendment of the constitution. A committee under the chairmanship of Sardar Swaran Singh recommended that this amendment be enacted after being constituted to study the question of amending the constitution in the light of past experience. Through this amendment the words "socialist" and "secular" were added between the words "sovereign" and "democratic" and the words "unity of the Nation" were changed to "unity and integrity of the Nation".

Full Document:  Official website  http://indiacode.nic.in/coiweb/coifiles/preamble.htm

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preamble_to_the_Constitution_of_India


Japan:


Secular Japan

Religion and law

Article 20 of the 1947 Constitution states, "Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority". Separation of religion and the state was mandated by the occupation of Japan due to the role of State Shinto in furthering Japan's military aggression in Asia before and during World War II.



Historically, there was no distinction between a scientific and a religious worldview. In early Japanese history, the ruling class was responsible for performing propitiatory rituals, which later came to be identified as Shinto, and for the introduction and support of Buddhism. Later, religious organization was used by regimes for political purposes, as when the Tokugawa government required each family to be registered as a member of a Buddhist temple for purposes of social control. In the late nineteenth century, rightists created State Shinto, requiring that each family belong to a shrine parish and that the concepts of emperor worship and a national Japanese "family" be taught in the schools.
[edit]


USA:
US Constitution:  First Amendment

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.




As a part of the solution to our own problem, we would need an amendment that would provide sufficient power and authority to the Supreme Court and other courts that would prevent establishment of laws which are religiously motivated.  Separation of Power is an important ingredient in this solution.  A simple statement to amend Chapter II is not sufficient as current court system does not have enough power to maintain Constitutional Rights of our citizens.


Jefferson's Wall of Separation Letter

Bookmark  and Share


Thomas Jefferson was a man of deep religious conviction - his conviction was that religion was a very personal matter, one which the government had no business getting involved in. He was vilified by his political opponents for his role in the passage of the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and for his criticism of such biblical truths as the Great Flood and the theological age of the Earth. As president, he discontinued the practice started by his predecessors George Washington and John Adams of proclaiming days of fasting and thanksgiving. He was a staunch believer in the separation of church and state.

Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 to answer a letter from them written in October 1801. A copy of the Danbury letter is available here. The Danbury Baptists were a religious minority in Connecticut, and they complained that in their state, the religious liberties they enjoyed were not seen as immutable rights, but as privileges granted by the legislature — as "favors granted." Jefferson's reply did not address their concerns about problems with state establishment of religion - only of establishment on the national level. The letter contains the phrase "wall of separation between church and state," which led to the short-hand for the Establishment Clause that we use today: "Separation of church and state."

The letter was the subject of intense scrutiny by Jefferson, and he consulted a couple of New England politicians to assure that his words would not offend while still conveying his message: it was not the place of the Congress or the Executive to do anything that might be misconstrued as the establishment of religion.

Note: The bracketed section in the second paragraph had been blocked off for deletion in the final draft of the letter sent to the Danbury Baptists, though it was not actually deleted in Jefferson's draft of the letter. It is included here for completeness. Reflecting upon his knowledge that the letter was far from a mere personal correspondence, Jefferson deleted the block, he noted in the margin, to avoid offending members of his party in the eastern states.

This is a transcript of the letter as stored online at the Library of Congress, and reflects Jefferson's spelling and punctuation.


Mr. President

To messers Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.

Gentlemen

The affectionate sentiments of esteem & approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful & zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more & more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from presenting even occasional performances of devotion presented indeed legally where an Executive is the legal head of a national church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

(signed) Thomas Jefferson
Jan.1.1802.


SelectionFile type iconFile nameDescriptionSizeRevisionTimeUser
Comments