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

Blog
@MWHumanists

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.

Continue reading

HAI’s EGM on 26 June 2013 – discussed at Mid West Humanists meeting 19 June 2013

The Mid West Humanists meeting on Wednesday 19 June 2013 discussed the forthcoming

Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI)

which is to be on

Wednesday 26 June 2013 at 19:00 in

Gandon Suite

O’Callaghan Davenport Hotel

Merrion Square

Dublin 2.

This meeting will be open only to members of the HAI.

The EGM is to do with HAI Celebrants being made State legal Solemnisers of marriages, and how that might inhibit the HAI from campaigning for political changes moving towards a secular society.

The HAI (founded 1993) has about 500 members in the Republic of Ireland and it enables humanists to meet and support each other, campaigns for state institutions to be secular (particularly including schools being fair to children with religion and without religion), and accredits celebrants so that people can have marriages, funerals, and naming their babies without any religious content to the ceremonies; and has further related aims and activities.

The HAI is a company limited by guarantee and so is subject to the Companies Acts.

The HAI has aims generally similar to the Mid West Humanists (MWH). The MWH benefit from the HAI giving notice about our meetings in their 2-monthly magazine, and a link on their website, and on occasion the HAI have sent someone to speak to the MWH. While there are not very close links between the two, people who attend the MWH know that there is a national humanist organisation that will help with major issues. The MWH website has links both to the HAI generally and to their Celebrants.

At the meeting on 19 June 2013 exactly half the attenders were members of HAI and the other half were not. Because HAI is a national organisation and because many new attenders at MWH meetings and new visitors to the website ask about humanist ceremonies (particularly marriages), even though less than half our attenders generally are members of HAI, the problems to be discussed at their Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) are of substantial interest to most Mid West humanists.

Problems leading to the EGM

Andrew Devine-Rattigan who is a member of HAI asked all HAI members to support a call for this EGM in April 2013, and at least 10% of members agreed, and that is sufficient to make the EGM happen.

Andrew wrote about the following problem. Continue reading

Mid West Humanists send submission to the Constitutional Convention on a Secular Constitution

At meetings in March, April, and May 2013 we have discussed a submission to go to the Constitutional Convention, on removing the parts of the Constitution that are biased  against people of no religion; and thereby making the Constitution secular.

The Constitutional Convention is due to discuss other aspects of the Constitution, which the Government did not put on its agenda, at its meeting on Saturday 30 November and Sunday 01 December 2013.

We are hoping that a Secular Constitution will be discussed then.

The Mid West Humanists have sent a submission, as detailed further below.

The more people who ask the Convention to discuss an issue, the more likely it will be that the Convention will deal with it.

So we suggest that every person who thinks the Constitution should  be secular should send their own personal submission to the Convention. You do not need to make a case with detailed arguments.

Go to the Constitutional Convention website, which has a button marked “Make a Submission” which will lead you to the submission page.

You can write “Secular Constitution” as the title of your submission. The site has a “Comment” box, in which you can write your views, up to 1000 characters (this 1000 includes the spaces between words). You can attach a file but you do not have to do so.

You will have to give your name, address, email, and phone number: but only your name and your County will be shown on the Convention’s website. Several submitters with titles that are clearly not real names have managed to get submissions in.

The Constitutional Convention website will lead you to the Mid West Humanists’  submission.

The page for an individual submission shows comment of not more than 9 lines, and a link to download the submission’s larger file. Our submission is in a Word file.

When you press that link the download box may say that the file is “AttachmentDownload.ashx” (rather than the name of our submission).
You can download the file – with the Save option (do not choose to open it immediately). When you see your own computer’s dialog box about where to save the file, you can rename this file. If your computer is not set up to open this dialog box, find where the saved file is and rename it.
Put any name you choose, but make its extension (suffix) .doc – “MidWestHumanistsSecular.doc”.
Microsoft Word will open the file – it remained a Word file but the Convention’s website renames it.

How the Mid West Humanists would like the various Articles of the Constitution to be after the changes is in a Meeting Report.

Here is what we sent to the Convention: -

from Mid West Humanists 22 May 2013

The Mid West Humanists are people with no religion (people meeting monthly since 2008), in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary.

To the Constitutional Convention

Making the Constitution of Ireland secular

Reason to make this Submission to the Convention

The Convention has already considered issues outside the list that the Government set. Accordingly the Mid West Humanists propose changes to make the Constitution secular, in addition to their proposal to delete the criminalisation of blasphemy.

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