Mid West Humanists visit their TDs

When the government announced in 2012 that they would set up a Constitutional Convention, as promised before the General Election in 2011, the Mid West Humanists decided to visit the TDs in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary to ask them to have the Convention discuss making the Constitution secular.

By the time the Convention was starting its work in early 2013, the Dáil and Senate had included the part of Article 40 that makes Blasphemy an offence in the list for the Convention’s discussions.

Making the Constitution secular has not been on the list, but the Convention is considering what issues to discuss at 2 weekend meetings in February 2014. You can increase the chances that they will discuss Secular Constitution by making a submission to the Convention’s Submissions page. Give your own views, as in another post here.

So the Mid West Humanists set the plan to visit the TDs for close to the time when the Convention would discuss the anti-blasphemy clause.

The Convention discussed the anti-blasphemy clause on Saturday 02 and Sunday 03 November 2013. They voted to remove the clause; unfortunately they also voted to put in a replacement clause to prohibit religious hate crime. These are recommendations, and any referendum depends on a vote in the Dáil and Senate.

Members of the Mid West Humanists have talked to 3 of the 4 TDs in Limerick City and 2 of the 3 TDs in North Tipperary. We expect to get to speak to the other TDs in this region in the next few weeks. The TDs have listened to our proposals, which are in other posts here [Blasphemy, Declarations, Secular] ;

and in our submissions to the Constitutional Convention [Blasphemy, Declarations, Secular].

We asked the TDs to vote for referenda to let the people decide on removing the Blasphemy offence from the Constitution and on making the Constitution secular. We do not yet know what the TDs or their political parties think about this.

Watch out for more news.

Anybody who is a humanist or atheist and lives in Kerry-Limerick West would be welcome to help with the visits to TDs: please email info@midwesthumanists.com

Tell the Constitutional Convention that you want the Constitution to be Secular

The Mid West Humanists have sent one submission to the Constitutional Convention that the Blasphemy offence should be deleted;

another submission that several items in the Constitution should be changed to make the constitution secular; both on 24 May 2013;

and on 19 September 2013 a third submission that repeats the part of the second one that deals with a President, a judge, and a member of the Council of State being obliged to declare on starting the post that they so declare “in the presence of Almighty God“. We sent this because the Tánaiste making that declaration at the Council of State in July 2013 illustrated the bad effects of the mention of a god.

We have aimed since the Convention was announced in 2011 to seek to have it consider a plan to make the Constitution secular.

I write now because it is not in any way guaranteed that the secular questions (other than blasphemy) will be discussed.

You can make it more likely that the main secular questions will be discussed, by sending in your individual submission, which need not be long or complicated. See further down for some ideas.

Blasphemy will definitely be considered – at the Convention’s meeting on Saturday 02 and Sunday 03 November 2013. The Dail and Senate in July 2012 listed blasphemy as one of the topics that the Convention is to consider. The Convention’s website now states that on 02 and 03 November there will also begin consideration of Other Amendments. Other Amendments will get more discussion at the Convention’s last listed meeting on Saturday 30 November and Sunday 01 December.

As I write the Convention’s website says it has 301 submissions in its “Submissions – Other” list. The three largest groups of submissions are on these subjects:-

Right to a home;

Environment to be protected in the constitution;

Economic, Social, and Cultural rights (ESC).

I have not counted these submissions, but these 3 groups have at least 50 submissions each. On the website you cannot filter those or any other groups in order to count them, nor can you separate the Secular submissions from the “Other” set.

As I write there are 27 submissions asking for a Secular Constitution. Some of these are about all the parts that need to be changed, and some are on single subjects, such as the Preamble, or the Declarations for President, Council of State, and Judges.

In order for the changes to make a Secular Constitution get discussed at the Convention, this subject must receive more submissions.

The Mid West Humanists recommend any person who thinks the Constitution should be secular to make her or his own submission. Here are what the Convention’s website will ask of you:

Name (will be shown on their website)
(some submitters have entered other than their true name, but their submissions are on the website)

County (will be shown on their website)

Title of your submission (will be shown on their website)

Address; email address – WILL NOT BE ON WEBSITE;

Telephone number (optional) WILL NOT BE ON WEBSITE;

Submission version 1 in a text box – maximum 1000 characters including spaces. (will be shown on their website)

Submission version 2, being a doc or pdf file that you create (optional). (will be shown on their website)

You can make quick reference to the main Articles of the Constitution that have too much religious content in the text box with 1000 characters. It is sufficient to count as a submission that you give a title that clearly shows the issue you intend. You will have shown enough substance in your submission if you put a few sentences about the issue in the text box.

For a submission in favour of a secular constitution we think it will be enough if you name some of these Articles and that you want them removed or made secular. There are already some submissions with arguments for these changes: not every submission needs to detail the arguments.

Mid West Humanists send a submission to the Constitutional Convention on Declarations of Office

This is connected with the Council of State’s meeting in July 2013.

The Mid West Humanists have sent a submission to the Constitutional Convention on the declaration that the constitution says you must make on starting as President, or as a judge, or as a member of the Council of State.

This is our third submission to the Convention. In May 2013 we sent a submission on the Blasphemy law in the Constitution, because the Dail and Senate and the Government had sent this subject to the convention. At the same time we sent a submission on all the parts of the Constitution that have religious features and thus are not secular. This submission included asking to remove the Blasphemy law, but we sent the two separately because it was not fixed that the Convention would discuss making the Constitution secular.

In the Secular submission we noted that the Constitution tells a person (on starting the job) promising to do the job faithfully as President, as a judge, and as a member of the Council of State, that he or she must say she or he is doing this “in the presence of Almighty God“. The President and a judge must also add at the end “May God direct and sustain me

In the submission in May 2013 we had to speculate about judges who have no religion or do not believe in a god making these declarations, and so being dishonest; where honesty is one of the main features needed in a judge.

This was because we knew of no example of a person, publicly known to have no religion who had to deal with one of these declarations.

We sent the recent submission because in July 2013 President Higgins summoned the Council of State to meet with him to advise him over whether or not to refer the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill (the Bill to legislate for the 1992 X case on abortion) to the Supreme Court. (He decided not to refer it, but to immediately sign it into law).

At this meeting of the Council of State, an instance of the problems arising from the religious content of these declarations became public.

The Constitution says that the Tánaiste is automatically (“ex officio”) a member of the Council of State. Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore had said well before his election in 2011 that he does not have a definite belief in a god. Newspapers said in July 2013 that he got legal advice that he had a duty to go to the meeting of the Council of State, and that he should make the declaration including mentioning God.

This appears to mean that Article 31 of the Constitution has just directed or strongly encouraged the second in command of the executive branch of our government to speak dishonestly in public.

This part of the Constitution appears to encourage people to think is is okay for government ministers to be less than fully honest with the people:  this is likely to reduce people’s faith in the institutions of state and destabilise the democratic form of our government.

The Mid West Humanists’ submission on Secular Declarations of Office gives the above account and argues strongly that the religious parts of the declarations for a President, a judge, and a member of the Council of State must be removed.

UL Law Society has invited Mid West Humanists to talk on their Submissions to the Constitutional Convention

Kevin Whooley who is President of the Law Society for students in the University of Limerick recently invited the Mid West Humanists to give a talk to the Society, with an account of their activities, and of their submissions to the Constitutional Convention on Blasphemy and on a Secular Constitution.

I understand from Kevin that the UL Law Society is for law students, but open to all students, and that they value having an instructional talk from an outside person or group each year or each semester. The talk to the Society is likely to be on a Wednesday, early in the afternoon, in October 2013.

It will be best if several members of the Mid West Humanists come to the Society’s meeting. As spokesperson for public occasions, I will go to the Society’s meeting if it is on a Wednesday or other afternoon. If some other MWHs can make such a time that will work well. Kevin told me that meetings may be in the early evening, but fewer students attend then than in the early afternoon.

We await further news about the date. Send any observations you have about the date to info@midwesthumanists.com.

UCD L+H Society have invited Mid West Humanist representative to speak on “This House would believe in a God”

On 06 August 2013 Valerie Tierney who is Debates Convenor for the Literary and Historical Society (L+H) of University College Dublin (UCD) invited the Mid West Humanists to send a representative to their debate on Wednesday 23 October 2013 on the motion -

“This House would believe in a God”.

I replied that we would send a representative to speak, against the motion.

The debate is sure to be in UCD, but we await instructions on the exact place, and on the time. The time is likely to be in the early evening. When we know we will post the time and place here.

Student debating societies are usually open to the public as well. So any Mid West Humanists can attend.

New twitter account @MWHumanists

Hi All,

We have started a Twitter page (http://twitter.com/MWHumanists) for the
Mid-West Humanists group.

We’ll be tweeting about Humanism, Atheism, Skepticism, FreeThinking and Secularism, plus info and reminders about our own group.

Please follow it, promote it on fb, RT (re-tweet) us on your own twitter, stick a link to it on your blog, send us links, or content, or comments, or suggestions.

If anyone has ideas for promoting the group, let us know.

Thanks and Regards,
Mid-West Humanists, an Irish Atheist and Humanist Community,
in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary


Secular weddings and the Humanist Association of Ireland

Marcus Brooks and Joni Spence commented on the report of the 19 June meeting discussion on the HAI EGM and the problem with their Celebrants being made state Solemnisers. Many visitors to our website would like to understand what this is about.

The criticism of the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) for accepting its Celebrants being legal Solemnisers of state marriages, under the Civil Registration Amendment Act 2012, is not that the HAI should not provide marriage and civil partnership ceremonies that are also the legal bond, but that accepting this generally admirable plan under this particular law will inhibit the HAI from secular campaigning. And Ireland needs a national body that will campaign vigorously (not weakly) for a secular state and a secular society.

Mid West Humanists’  views on secular marriages

People who have come to the Mid West Humanists’  (MWH) meetings have talked of secular marriage ceremonies many times. The commonest view has been about people who want a marriage, wanting to have the ceremony free of any religious matter. I think people who spoke also wanted not to be involved in the hypocrisy of using a church organisation for their wedding when they do not believe in a god, and have not and will not be attending the church for years before and after the marriage. People also wanted not to show hypocrisy by marrying in a church when they say to their relatives and friends that they have no religion. Some people who have come to MWH meetings have talked of the difficulty in getting people to believe that you do not have a religion.

In 2011 several meetings discussed whether we could do something to have the HSE improve the decor of the Registry Office in St Camillus’ Hospital Limerick, to a standard that two people and their few guests would feel good enough for the ceremony of a major new stage of their lives. We didn’t get around to doing anything.

New attenders and visitors to the website often ask how to contact a humanist celebrant, and we always give a contact for the Celebrants of the Humanist Association of Ireland. There is a link to this in the left sidebar.

I’ve never heard anyone speak in favour of having two procedures or events: but I can see a person wanting to have the legal start of his or her marriage being like any other formal signing of a contract, and thus being free to have the party run in any way they like – this person might want to have two events.

Humanist Association of Ireland and Marriages

The question within the Humanist Association of Ireland is not about the State registering marriages with the officiant or solemniser having no connection to a religion. Up to 2012 the only non-religious officiants have been the State’s registrars. Many Mid West Humanists (and others) were happy with this, and the limits were about the poor decor in the Limerick office (and elsewhere, I would suspect), and how the Registrar worked only on weekdays and it was quite hard to get the Registrar to officiate at places outside the Office. Many other people wanted the type of ceremony that the Humanist Celebrants organise, and saw no good reason to have to go to the Registry Office as well.

The people within the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI), and people who attend the Mid West Humanists, who see difficulty with the HAI and the Civil Registration Amendment Act 2012 (CRAA), have never spoken against pairs of people (who plan to marry or be civil partners) getting to have only one ceremony and it having no religious content. All the critics of the HAI’s stance see this aim as entirely reasonable.

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