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Mid-West Humanists ask Minister for Education not to entrench religious control of National Schools

A delegation from the Mid-West Humanists met Jan O’Sullivan T.D. Minister for Education and Skills on 24 April 2015, about the Leases of National Schools.

Our National Schools – origins and rules

Now most people believe that our National Schools are tied to principles of various religions (mostly the Roman Catholic religion).

Well, the popular awareness of the origin of National Schools is correct, that the United Kingdom government set them up from 1830 onwards. The government wanted Trustees for each school to include people of a mixture of religions. No such mixed Trustees volunteered, and only sets of clergy of a single religion became Trustees. From the religion of the Trustees, National Schools got called Roman Catholic schools, Church of Ireland schools, etc.

Historians have described the one-religion nature of every set of Trustees as the churches subverting the UK government’s plan. However the plan was subverted only in that the Trustees do not include a mixture of religions.

The Lease of each school vested the running of the school in Trustees, who thereby promised to run the school by the Lease and by the rules from the Minister for Education. From the beginning to the end, the Leases did not mention a religion.

The Leases write “…the object of the system of National Education is to afford Combined literary and moral, and Separate Religious Instruction to children of all persuasions, as far as possible in the same school, upon the fundamental principle that no attempt shall be made to interfere with the peculiar religious tenets of any pupil.”

This may be a surprise to readers, as our National Schools are indeed controlled by clergy of religions – and to most people this includes the idea that those clergy as Trustees run the schools in the style of that particular religion, and that they are entitled to run them in a religious manner. This is actually contrary to the statement in the Lease that we just mentioned. Continue reading

Mid-West Humanists’ letter to Minister for Education and Skills on National School Leases and the model Deed of Variation

The Mid-West Humanists met Jan O’Sullivan T.D. Minister for Education and Skills on 24 April 2015.

We asked the Minister not to change the Leases of National Schools via a 1997 model Deed of Variation.

In another post we explain about National School leases.

We show here the letter which we gave to the Minister, in which we explained our concerns.

 

—————————————————————-

24 April 2015

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

Deeds of Variation should not be applied to National School Leases

Dear Minister O’Sullivan

 

Summary

  1. We seek information on whether (and if so, when) the Department of Education and Skills plans to apply the Deeds of Variation to the leases of schools, Deeds that were first drafted about 1997.
  2. We ask that the Leases of Primary (National) Schools not be altered as in the model Deeds of Variation of 1997 or as in any similar model. The schools are now managed by persons or groups of persons who belong to particular religions, and, contrary to popular belief, their leases (which are their agreements with the Department) do not restrict the operation of the schools to fit with those religions, and are quite neutral about religion. (The Education Act 1998 requires a school to have a characteristic spirit, but this is not solely about religion, and the schools’ leases of which we know do not determine any aspect of the characteristic spirit.)

We seek that the leases not be changed according to the model Deed of Variation of 1997 or similar model, because the present leases would allow a school to be secular in many aspects, and the varied leases would make each school tied to the particular religion. Between 1997 and 2015 society in Ireland has become more secular; it has not become more religious. Continue reading

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.

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