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
O’Callaghan Davenport Hotel
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.
The HAI began to provide celebrants to do funerals from when it began in 1993. They soon after began to accredit celebrants to do weddings, funerals, and ceremonies to name a baby. Becoming accredited is by being apprenticed to an accredited celebrant. After performing sufficient cermonies to a sufficent standard the HAI Board of Directors would accredit the celebrant. The agreement on being accredited includes that the celebrant pays a fixed fee to the HAI for each ceremony they do.
Only the marriage ceremony could have any legal implication. The State has its own Registrars who perform legal marriages, and the State appoints people nominated by religious bodies as Solemnisers of marriages. The latest Act providing for these is the Civil Registration Act 2004.
The HAI marriage ceremonies were what the two people marrying wanted, that is, no religious content, and the two people could have the details of the ceremony as they wanted. However, to be legally married, they would have to also go the Registrar at the Registry Office.
The HAI had campaigned to the Government in 2003 that the Act which was to be passed soon would include making the Humanist Celebrants legal Solemnisers of marriage in the same way as religious ministers. This would enable the humanist marriage ceremony to include the legal making of the marriage, so the two people would not have to also go to the Registry Office.
The 2004 Act did not provide this. Since then the HAI has kept its aim of the State including the HAI celebrants as legal Solemnisers of marriages.
In 2011 there began some discussions between the HAI and government over an Amending Act to provide for non-religious celebrants to be State approved Solemnisers of marriage. The resulting Bill, which became an Act at the end of 2012, Civil Registration Amendment Act 2012, defines a “Secular Body” and provides how people that such a body nominates can become legal Solemnisers of marriages.
The HAI were very pleased that this had happenned, and if all aspects of the new Act were satisfactory, this would be reasonable.
Andrew Devine-Rattigan wrote to HAI members in April 2013 that among the exclusion criteria for the new Secular Body was that such a body could not promote a political cause. Andrew wrote that in connected communications the HAI board told him that the HAI does not promote a political cause though it does promote a social cause.
The problem is (or, may be) that by having its celebrants become legal Solemnisers of marriages the HAI would stop being able to campaign to the government or to any connected organisations to have the State or how it operates become more secular. The HAI board has claimed that it will not inhibit it in this way, but even if the State authorities never calls the HAI to task on this, the HAI may end up acting inhibited about pressing strongly to the State on any of the major issues – a secular constitution, schools not to be in the control of religious organisations, ending prayers at public functions, removing the anti-blasphemy law.
Andrew asked HAI members to take the opposite course, that is, that the HAI would continue to campaign to the State for secular constitution, laws, and administration (regularly, and whenever particular occasions would arise) – and the HAI would not try to have its celebrants be made legal Solemnisers of marriages.
The EGM has to consider 2 motions that would direct the HAI to cease appointing legal marriage Solemnisers and reiterate the HAI’s commitment to campaigning for secular values. There are 2 further motions on how the HAI regulates its celebrants. There is 1 motion to appoint 2 extra Directors to the Board of the HAI.
If the HAI did not try to have legal Solemnisers, it would be free to campaign on political matters, including campaigning to have the exclusion clause (about a political cause) removed from the Civil Registration Amendment Act 2012.
The Charities Act includes an exclusion clause on this subject, but the exclusion criterion for a charity is that such a body cannot promote a political cause other than a political cause that is part of the charitable organisation’s aims.
The HAI’s EGM on Wednesday 26 June 2013 is very important for many humanists and not solely for those who are members of the HAI.
For those attenders of the Mid West Humanist meetings and those visitors to MWH website who are members of the Humanist Association of Ireland, this notice is to emphasise the great importance of attending the EGM and giving your vote there.
Filed under: education, humanism, ireland, Meetings, political issues, social issues | Tagged: constitution of ireland, equal rights, extraordinary general meeting, humanism, humanist ceremonies, ireland, law, marriage, politics, society |