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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.

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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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Support Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech

We are Charlie Hebdo

Nous sommes Charlie Hebdo

Is sinn Charlie Hebdo

I and I hope most Mid West Humanists support the right to life of 10 staff at Charlie Hebdo in Paris and of 2 officers of French police; and support their right to freedom of speech, and all people’s right to read any writing and any cartoon or other communication, whether or not it criticises or satirises any idea, whether religious, political, social, sporting, or scientific.

I praise Charlie Hebdo staff for publishing words and pictures without any respect for the ideas of several religions.

 

Are you powerless to do anything about some people murdering cartoonists and journalists who are doing their job (enabling you to read things that are prohibited in some countries)?

You are not powerless.

On TV I see that all the government of France and very many of the people support the right to speak, draw, and publish any matter, irrespective of any offence to any ideas.

France has a principle of secularism in the state (laicité) since 1905, now nearly half the time since the revolution in 1789. Ireland is weak in secularism, as the Constitution since 1937 states that blasphemy is an offence, and in 2009 our legislators continued a law to give effect to that article of the Constitution. Government and other people in Pakistan quote Ireland’s law to say that it is normal, including in Europe, for the law to prohibit criticism of religion. Our constitution and law fail to support the strong efforts of the constitution and law of France to maintain and defend freedom of speech. Today Thursday 08 January Dr Ali Salim of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin said on RTE Radio 1 lunchtime news that it is correct that outraging many adherents of a religion is prohibited by law, and he said that if such outrage comes to his attention he will consult his lawyer as to what to do.

In 2013 the Constitutional Convention voted to suggest to the Government that they hold a referendum to let us choose to remove the law against blasphemy from the Constitution. The Government promised that it would hold this referendum, but at the end of 2014 they said that they will not let us vote on this.

 

You have power as a voter.

Visit all of the TDs in your constituency soon, and tell them that you demand that the Dáil and Senate vote for a bill to let us vote in a referendum on removing the sentence making blasphemy an offence from our Constitution. And tell them NOT to include substituting any sentence in its place.

I feel I owe this support to Charlie Hebdo’s journalists and cartoonists, and to all publishing staff there and in other parts of the world, and to the police who have been trying to protect them, as they are defending my right to freedom of speech.

 

Vive la liberté!

 

We are Charlie Hebdo

Nous sommes Charlie Hebdo

Is sinn Charlie Hebdo

Media Release – Mid West Humanists meet Minister for Education and ask that Ireland have a State Secular system of schools

This is what we sent to the local press after the visit to the Minister for Education and Skills

Mid West Humanists

An Atheist Community in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary

www.midwesthumanists.com/                        info@midwesthumanists.com

www.facebook.com/groups/midwesthumanists/                        28 November 2014

MEDIA RELEASE

 

For Immediate Release

 

Mid-West Humanists meet Minister for Education and Skills and ask that Ireland have a State Secular system of schools

 

Members of the Mid-West Humanists (MWH) met Jan O’Sullivan TD Minister for Education and Skills on 28 November 2014 to ask that Ireland’s system of schools, primary and second-level, be changed to a state system of entirely secular schools.

The Mid West Humanists said to the Minister that the present education system discriminates against children who have no religion and breaches their human rights by denying them access to an education free from the teaching of religious beliefs as facts. These children have the same rights as those of any religion to be taught in an objective manner by the teachers, whom their parents also pay through their taxes. In the last census in 2011 there were 256,000 people who stated that they had no religion, though the true number is substantially more.

The present system – the Patronage system – is biased towards religion, and towards some few religions even more strongly.

There are 3200 primary schools in Ireland. For 94% of these schools, the Patron is a religious organisation, and for 90% the Patron is Roman Catholic. Of the 3200 schools, 1800 are each more than 10km from the nearest other primary school. These all have Roman Catholic patrons. These schools are smaller than average, and these districts cannot support 2 schools.
The changes that the Mid-West Humanists seek to Ireland’s education system, in addition to removing the bias and the discrimination, will make it easier for government to deal with the increasing variety of religions to which people in Ireland belong – including making it easier to provide education.

The secular system that we propose would also liberate teachers who are unhappily forced to teach values in which they no longer believe.

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Mid West Humanists tell Minister for Education that schools should be secular and in State ownership

A delegation from the Mid West Humanists met Ms Jan O’Sullivan T.D., Minister for Education and Skills at her office in Limerick on 28  November 2014.

We asked the Minister that Ireland’s education system change from the present system to a State system of entirely secular schools.

 

Here is the full text of the letter we gave to the Minister at the visit.

 

To Jan O’Sullivan TD, Minister for Education and Skills

A Secular and Child- centred Education system for Ireland

 

Dear Minister O’Sullivan

 

We are people with no religion, and there are between 10% and 15% of the population of Ireland who have no religion, perhaps more – the proportion is certainly growing.

While we note that the education system is biased towards religion (and towards some few religions even more strongly),
the changes that we seek to Ireland’s education system, in addition to removing this bias, will make it easier for government to deal with the increasing variety of religions to which people in Ireland belong – including making it easier to provide education.

The Mid West Humanists ask that the system of schools in Ireland, primary and second-level, become a system of entirely secular schools that the state operates itself. Several other changes in relevant law and in the curriculum would follow from this plan
We propose this change with rational arguments, and we aim to show that this would be the best for society in Ireland, with reasons that do not depend on the particular needs or requests of people with no religion, nor on the particular number or proportion of the population who hold any particular religious or non-religious view.

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April 2014, Secular Sunday Brunch in Ennis

What: A Secular Sunday Brunch meetup for Humanists, Atheists & Freethinkers

When: Sunday, April 6, 12 noon
Where: Rowan Tree Hostel, Ennis
Who:  Adults and children welcome
Check out our events page on Facebook
for more information and if you’d like to share a car to the event.  Hope to see you there!
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