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Minister for Education responds to our request for State Secular schools, and we reply

The Mid West Humanists met the Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan TD on 28 November 2014. We told her then that we seek a system of State secular schools to replace the present system of schools devolved to patrons. We put our detailed requests in writing also.

On 10 March the Minister responded to our request. We sent a reply to the Minister on 16 March. We show both of these here. You will see that the Minister and Department of Education and Skills are making some changes. Yet the need for a peaceful society is still for schools to be secular and not divided by religion, and the State should own the schools. The Minister’s letter does not mention this our main idea.

In our reply we noted to the Minister that at present, because 92% of primary schools are under the Roman Catholic patrons, those schools could feel some duty now to adapt to pupils who are not Roman Catholic. Recently the Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland wrote a report about this adaptation, and the publication alone shows that they feel under some such pressure. Our response to the Minister is about this pressure, and how even that pressure will disappear if the country’s schools come to contain a substantial minority of schools with patrons which treat all children in a secular, egalitarian manner. The RC schools would then be more like their own ethos than they are now, and children at those schools would hear little of the variety of cultures that exist in Ireland.
We are not endorsing the particular plans in the report, which Atheist Ireland has reviewed and found greatly wanting.

 

The Minister’s letter to the Mid West Humanists: –

10  March 2015

Dear Mr O’Hara,

 

I refer to your correspondence following our meeting in November 2014.  Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying to you. Continue reading

We campaign to remove Blasphemy from the Constitution, on the streets

The Mid West Humanists have been on the street in Limerick, giving leaflets to the public on why we should remove the sentence that makes blasphemy an offence, from the Constitution as soon as possible.

We have stood at the corner of Thomas Street and O’Connell Street in Limerick on 24 January 2015, and 2 further times. We displayed a map of the world showing the countries that have laws against blasphemy. We gave leaflets with the reasons to remove the law now, as outlined in January 2015 after the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris.

People could also sign a petition, which we will bring to TDs, when there are enough signatures, to ask for the referendum to remove this sentence from the constitution.

There is to a similar stand soon on the street in Ennis.

We should have a referendum in 2015 to remove the provision that makes Blasphemy an offence from Ireland’s Constitution. Sign a petition, or visit all your TDs to give your view.

March 2015 meeting

At the March 2015 meeting we decided to continue the Blasphemy law stands on the street in Limerick, which were there again on 21/02/2015 and 07/03/2015, and to begin the stand soon in Ennis.

The meeting decided at the next meeting to debate the way in which we run the meeting, the rules for speaking and chairing.

Dr Chris Exton is to give his talk on Ethics in a Secular Society a second time, at the Rowan Tree Cafe Bar, Harmony Row, Ennis on 26/03/2015 at 19:30. See the Next Meeting page.

February 2015 meeting

I forgot to post this right after the meeting.

At the February 2015 meeting we decided to report after each meeting any important decisions and plans made.

Two of the mid west humanists stood at the junction of Thomas Street and O’Connell Street in Limerick for 2 hours on 24/01/2015, giving leaflets to the public on the blasphemy law. People could also sign a petition to the TDs to ask for a referendum to remove the law.

The meeting decided to continue this campaign, including standing on the street also in Ennis.

After a very successful talk by Dr Chris Exton on Ethics in a Secular Society at The Stormy Teacup (off Foxes Bow, Limerick) on 12/02/2015, further talks are planned there.

The monthly meeting is continue in the Absolute Hotel.

Respect for persons; no respect for ideas; Limerick school was right to let Charlie Hebdo in the classroom

While I would like to vote in a referendum to remove the sentence from Ireland’s Constitution that makes blasphemy a crime, I am writing now to help distinguish between (1) respect for humans and their rights, and (2) culture and ideas (including religious culture and ideas) having no rights to respect. Instead, ideas should be open to criticism, and people have rights to make criticism and to live in a society where other people make criticisms too.

Especially when you are a child, but also throughout all of life, a really good society is one where various people are making criticisms of various ideas and elements of culture and society, with no long intervals between such criticisms both in the public news and in your private life. In so far as I have a right to have a good society in which to live, I have a right to such criticisms going on all the time.

 

The Limerick Leader reported on 05 February 2015

that a teacher at Limerick Educate Together School recently asked pupils to bring in matter relevant to the French Revolution of 1789 and freedom of speech; and a pupil took in a copy of the Charlie Hebdo of 14 01 2015, which the teacher showed to the pupils, and this offended a pupil who is Muslim;
and –
that a parent of this second pupil, as well as complaining to the school, gave the following view to the Limerick Leader – that the cover picture has caused great insult within the Islam community in Ireland and the world; and that the child was “subjected” to seeing the magazine; and that parents teach children to have respect for all peoples and for their cultures and for their religions, of which educators should be mindful. This read as if the magazine being shown in the class took away from such respect.

I agree fully with respect for all people, but disagree entirely with the idea of an obligation to have respect for any culture.

1. I favour respect for all persons and their legal, constitutional, and human rights, and the special rights of children: and special rights means, because they are growing up, that children need both protection from dangers AND open availability of information so that they can grow into good citizens, which includes understanding the cultures of the society in which they live.

Continue reading

Abolish All Blasphemy Laws! Humanists launch new campaign

The Mid West Humanists received this message recently from the European Humanist Federation. Atheist Ireland is one of the 200 supporting organisations.

It is good to see international support for our campaign to remove the law against Blasphemy from Ireland’s Constitution.

——————————————————————————–

The End Blasphemy Laws Campaign is thought to be the first campaign focusing solely on the issue of laws against “blasphemy” including “ridicule” and “insult” to religion or “hurting religious sentiments”.

The coalition behind the campaign, led by the European Humanist Federation (EHF), the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and various national partners, represents around 200 Humanist and secular organizations globally.

Campaign’s website: end-blasphemy-laws.org

Sonja Eggerickx, President of the IHEU, said, “In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings there have been renewed calls to abolish ‘blasphemy’ and related laws in almost every country where they still exist. Our organizations have worked for many years to protect this important right: to question, criticise, and yes even ridicule religion. Given this new impetus to challenge these anachronistic laws, we believe that we can work together across national boundaries to support local voices calling for the repeal of all such laws.

The idea that it is wrong to satirize religion, lends false legitimacy to those who murder in the name of being offended. The idea that it is taboo to question or to criticise religious authorities is one reason why sexual abuse in the Catholic Church persisted so long. The idea that “insult” to religion is a crime, is why humanists like Asif Mohiuddin are jailed in Bangladesh, is why secularists like Raif Badawi are being lashed in Saudi Arabia, is why atheists and religious minorities are persecuted in places like Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, and the list goes on!”

Pierre Galand, EHF President, explained: “Our campaign does not target laws against incitement to hatred, which are legitimate. What we are concerned about is laws which restrict freedom of expression about religion. As a first step, we want to see the remaining laws against blasphemy and religious insult in Europe repealed. There is an obvious double standard issue as the EU has taken a clear stand against blasphemy laws in the world. Now it must encourage its Members States to abolish existing blasphemy laws, as recommended by the Council of Europe.”

The campaign calls on transnational bodies and world leaders to look on “blasphemy” laws as they might look on law restricting press freedom: as a restriction on free expression and indicator of social harm.

Contact information:

EHF (European Humanist Federation): Pierre-Arnaud Perrouty (Executive Director): T +32 4 84 18 35 35, p-a.perrouty@laicite.net

IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union) : Bob Churchill (Director of Communications): T +44 7743971937, bob.churchill@iheu.org

 

EHF
Campus de la Plaine ULB
CP 236 1050 Brussels
Belgium

International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)
39 Moreland Street
London EC1V 8BB
United Kingdom

Blasphemy outlawed in the Constitution – why we should remove this urgently

Pakistan quotes Ireland’s law against blasphemy to defend against democratic countries urging them to abolish it. Laws do maintain culture within a society, and the culture in Pakistan against blasphemy has resulted in the murder of – people released from a blasphemy charge, a lawyer who defended an accused, a judge who did not make the popular decision, and a state governor who had spoken in public of the problems with this law and favoured repealing it.

These murders contribute to views that to kill people who blaspheme (and anyone who favours the “blasphemers”) is right and reasonable. This contribution probably extends, at least indirectly, to those who did the murders on 07 01 2015 in Paris.

To prohibit blasphemy does not add to freedom of religion; it reduces it

Religions have rules. There are usually rules about what you will think or believe, mostly about the god and related people or things. A second set of rules tell you to do some things, and also not to do some other things.

Freedom of religion in democratic societies means you are free to join a religion, and also free not to join a religion; to choose which religion; and to leave the religion at any time.

When you choose a religion you can agree to follow its rules (otherwise, you are not bound by such rules.) If a thousand million people thereby undertake not to draw pictures of Mohammed, that does not create a right for any of those people to stop the other six thousand million people on earth drawing and publishing what they choose. A law against blasphemy is not about freedom of religion: rather it lets some people stop other people exercising freedom of religion and some other freedoms.

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