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Election Candidates’ intentions on Secular Constitution, Laws, Regulations

The General Election is to be on Friday 26 February 2016.

The Mid-West Humanists suggest that voters who favour a secular society ask General Election candidates if they support the following changes to enable a Secular Society.

You can download the Mid-West Humanists’ leaflets from our Aims and Media page, if you wish to give a leaflet to a candidate.

You can read the particular Acts mentioned, and the Constitution, on the Irish Statute Book online.

Top Priority Changes

Secular Education

Does the candidate agree to vote for the following new laws, or to support the Minister for Education changing the regulations: –

  1. Repeal Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act 2000. At present, this states that a school giving education in an environment that promotes religious values can prefer to take a child with a particular religion over others. If this section were repealed, Section 7(2) would prohibit discrimination in a school under the 9 grounds described in Section 2 of the Act. Religion or its absence is one of the 9 grounds.
  2. Amend Section 37(1) of the Employment Equality Act 1998. At present it allows an employer to prefer a job candidate over another candidate in a way similar to the Equal Status Act (above), if the employer is a religious, educational, or medical institution. Ask that “educational, or medical” be removed, and that “religious” as applied to an institution be defined strictly as when the institution’s only purpose is a religious purpose.
  3. Amend Section 15(2)(b) of the Education Act 1998 so that schools would not be required to have their own “characteristic spirit” (you may hear people speak of “ethos”), and that instead all schools would be required to respect the human rights of children.
  4. That the Minister for Education and Skills would send a circular letter to all National Schools, directing that Rule 69(b,c,d,e) in the Rules for National Schools 1965 is still in force, and thus that National Schools must follow the System of National Education (as each National School’s Lease directs). Rule 69 and the schools’ leases require that a pupil must not receive, nor be present at, any religious instruction of which the child’s parents or guardian have not approved; and that the timetable must make it easy for children to be absent from the school during such instruction.

Constitution

Does the candidate agree to vote for a referendum to let us the people decide the following: –

  1. Remove the sentence that makes Blasphemy an offence – Article 40.6.1.i, 3rd paragraph.
  2. Remove mention of a god from the declaration on starting work as a judge (Article 34.5.1), as President (Article 12.8), or one of the Council of State (Article 31.4). Tell the candidate that to give a judge a choice of a declaration with god and a declaration without god would be a mistake – judges would be marked as religious or not religious and some parties in court cases would see them as biased. Tell the candidate you seek one declaration with no mention of a god.

Other secular changes

Secular Health Services

Does the candidate agree to vote for new laws, or to support the Minister for Health changing regulations, so that all hospitals and professionals that receive public money to provide health services for people (which is generally without any reference to the religion of a patient) must provide all treatments that are within the law? This would stop hospitals, doctors, or pharmacists refusing to provide, for example, certain forms of birth control, by saying it is contrary to their ethics.

Constitution

Does the candidate agree to vote for a referendum to let us the people decide the following: –

  1. Remove Article 40.3.3 (the 8th Amendment, that prohibits nearly all terminations of pregnancy)
    This request, like the other requests for referenda, does not mean that either you as a voter or the candidate (if elected) would vote for removal on referendum day. In asking the candidate for a referendum, you are only asking for reasonable democracy.
  2. Remove the following words that involve god and religion
    1. Remove words about the Trinity and Jesus Christ from the Preamble.
    2. Remove power deriving under God from Article 6.
    3. Remove homage, worship, reverence, respect due to God, that is, remove Article 44.1.
    4. Remove the glory of god (glóire Dé) from the Epilogue.

You can read the particular Acts mentioned, and the Constitution, on the Irish Statute Book online.

You can download the Mid-West Humanists’ leaflets from our Aims and Media page, if you wish to give a leaflet to a candidate.

February meeting cancelled because of ROSA Limerick Election Candidates’ Debate

Special Notice on Cancellation of meeting 17 February 2016

We became aware only on 11 February of another meeting at exactly the same time, that would be of great interest to many Mid-West Humanists, connected with the General Election on 26 February. By Saturday 13 February we decided to cancel our meeting, so that Mid-West Humanists can attend-

General Election Candidates’ Debate (Limerick candidates for election to the Dáil) – organised by Rosa Limerick, who campaign for the reproductive health and other services for women.

Date                    :          Wednesday 17 February 2016

Time                   :          20:00

Place                   :          Pery Hotel, Glentworth Street, Limerick

One of Rosa Limerick’s 3 main subjects for the Dáil Candidates is about Public Services, “Do you think that in the areas of health and education the State should provide support to people of all faiths and none equally? How is that possible in the current system?”

This is an opportunity to put the case for secular education and health services to candidates for election to the Dáil. It is unfortunate for the Mid-West Humanists that this will not include candidates in Clare and Tipperary, but the message for secular services will receive some publicity.

Rosa Limerick have welcomed people such as the Mid-West Humanists to attend, people who would tell the candidates the value of secular education and health services, and people’s entitlement to these.

An Interview with David Norris

I submitted a question about the religious oath required of the President, Norris’ answer is around the 23 min mark. I thought his answer was disappointing and revealed a lack of understanding of the viewpoint of secularists.

The Presidency of Ireland – Atheists Need Not Apply

Article 12, Paragraph 8 of the Irish Constitution states;

The President shall enter upon his office by taking and subscribing publicly, in the presence of members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, of Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Court, and other public personages, the following declaration:

“In the presence of Almighty God I    ,do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will maintain the Constitution of Ireland and uphold its laws, that I will fulfil my duties faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and that I will dedicate my abilities to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland. May God direct and sustain me.”

This clearly contradicts Article 44, Paragraph 2, Section 3 which states;

The State shall not impose any disabilities or make any discrimination on the ground of religious profession, belief or status.

It also effectively bars atheists and others who aren’t monotheists from holding the office of President.

This seems wrong to me and I’d like to suggest a way we can bring this issue to the notice of the mainstream. Any time you interact with the campaigns of the prospective candidates ask them to refuse to swear this oath if they are elected. Explain that the issue here isn’t their personal religious view but rather the wider question of whether it is correct that there is a religious qualification for the Presidency. People could also email, tweet, or write to the candidates and ask them to refuse to swear this discriminatory oath.

So far Sen. David Norris (Ind) and Mairead McGuinness MEP (FG) are the only declared candidates but there are likely to be others who’ll declare as the election gets closer.

Response to Our Candidate Questions from Alan Kelly

Please see the below answers which we received today from Alan Kelly who’s standing in Tipperary North for the Labour Party.

Thanks for your recent email. I set out a response to each of your questions which I trust will be of interest to you.

* Do you favour a secular education system fully under state control?

– Labour wants to reform our education system so that it is more democratic, and recognises the diversity of ethos within modern Irish society.

* Do you believe blasphemy should be a crime?

– At last year’s Labour Party Conference, the conference called on the Labour Party, that as part of its programme for Government it should promise to hold a referendum proposing to delete the word ‘blasphemous’ from Article 4.1.6 of the Constitution and to repeal any legislation that made reference to blasphemy as a form of defamation. This motion was passed at conference.

* Do you favour removing the constitutional requirement that judges and the President swear a religious oath upon entering office?

– Any alteration to the constitution would require a constitutional referendum on the issue, at present Labour does not foresee such a referendum taking place.

* In light of the recent ECHR ruling, do you favour the introduction of legislation to regulate abortion?

– The Labour Party policy on the question of Abortion is that we support the removal of the eighth amendment to the constitution and its replacement with modern legislation providing for abortion in defined circumstances. There are in the Labour Party as in all political parties, members who have deep conscientious reservations about abortion. Nevertheless a strong majority support the policy decided at our national conference in 2001 and confirmed in 2003. It is entirely in keeping with the legacy of Dr. Noel Browne that the Labour Party should take a stand against those who would seek to dictate a particular religious dogma, whatever its provenance as state legislation, and which puts the well-being of women at risk.

* Do you favour the removal of funding for religious chaplains in state funded institutions?

– The state is constitutionally (Article 44.2.2) obliged to remain secular and not to fund any one religion.Religion is a matter of personal conviction, it should be noted that it should not be publicly funded, especially given the more multi-ethnic nature of today’s Ireland and the potential for exclusion for citizens of the state.

Response to Our Candidate Questions from Cian Prendiville

Please see the below answers which we received today from Cian Prendiville who’s standing in Limerick City for the Socialist Party/United Left Alliance.

* Do you favour a secular education system fully under state control?

Yes. The state cannot outsource it’s responsibility to education children. I think there have been enough examples that prove the need for public control over public education, and I believe that this should be fully democratic, with the schools run by elected representatives of staff, parents, the community and in the case of secondary schools, students.

* Do you believe blasphemy should be a crime?

No. It is an outrage.

* Do you favour removing the constitutional requirement that judges and the President swear a religious oath upon entering office?

Yes. I believe people of all religions and none should be equally able to take up public office.

* In light of the recent ECHR ruling, do you favour the introduction of legislation to regulate abortion?

Yes. There is no nice way out of a crisis pregnancy. No one is ‘pro-abortion ‘ as the religious right claim. In my view there is abortion for people in Ireland already, you just have the extra expense and stress of having to travel. I believe we should support and facilitate the decisions of women in crisis pregnancies.

* Do you favour the removal of funding for religious chaplains in state funded institutions?

Yes, I don’t believe the state should subsidise any church. The idea of non-denominational centres, for instance in hospitals, for people of all religion or none to go to relax and contemplate however is something I would support.

Election 2011

Knowing who to vote for isn’t easy.

Conor McGrath of Atheist Ireland has prepared a secular analysis of several of the parties manifestoes which I’ve linked to below –

You might also like to look at the responses to Athesit Ireland’s questions from candidates and parties here.

Below are the answers we received to the questions we sent to local candidates. As you can see we received only a small number of responses and I’d like to thank all those who took the time to respond.

Jim Connolly – Ind. – Clare
Hi Jason,
You are right on being busy — I am canvassing all day and have 30 emails to deal with. I believe in debate and never give sound bite opinions. In haste please see http://www.td4clare for evidence of my lifetime involvement with humanitarian / quality of life issues.
Regards,Jim
*******************************************************************************************************
Michael McNamara – Labour – Clare
In line with our Labour policy, here is my response.
* Do you favour a secular education system fully under state control? Yes
* Do you believe blasphemy should be a crime? No
* Do you favour removing the constitutional requirement that judges and the President swear a religious oath upon entering office? Yes
* In light of the recent ECHR ruling, do you favour the introduction of legislation to regulate abortion? Yes
* Do you favour the removal of funding for religious chaplains in state funded institutions? Yes
*******************************************************************************************************
Olwyn O’Malley – Green Party – Tipp North

Dear Jason
Thanks for corresponding with me.. unfortunately I don’t have much time or the resources to reply to the mountain of correspondence I am getting so please find my succinct replies below
*Do you favour a secular education system fully under state control? The green Party is in favour of a secular state education system
* Do you believe blasphemy should be a crime? No
* Do you favour removing the constitutional requirement that judges and the President swear a religious oath upon entering office? Yes
* In light of the recent ECHR ruling, do you favour the introduction of legislation to regulate abortion? Yes
* Do you favour the removal of funding for religious chaplains in state funded institutions? No if they are carrying out a necessary role within that institution such as counselling services but there should also be secular services available
Hope this addresses your queries
kind regards
*******************************************************************************************************
James Breen – Ind. – Clare

Dear Mr. Spratt,
While I understand that each of these issues is very important to you, I think that it is also important that we realize we are in a time of crisis in our country.  While each of us carries burning passions for issues (my own is healthcare in Clare), we must prioritize fixing our broken country.
In order to do this, I propose that we reform our government, go after the speculators and banks who put us in this position, kickstart our economy by setting up centers for innovation, investing in education and smaller class sizes, investing in top class healthcare for our citizens and reducing the cost of prescription drugs in line with other countries in the EU, tackling crime and protecting our environment and natural resources.
Once we have righted ourselves as a nation then we can tackle our other issues, but until that time, I promise you one thing; I am committed to doing whatever is in my power to creating a climate where the best solutions are brought forward and implemented by our government and the people of Claire are represented in Dail Eireann.
Thank you for your interest in my campaign,
*******************************************************************************************************
Kate Bopp – Ind. – Tipp. North

Dear Jason,
Thank you for your email.
Below are the answer previously given,
1) Yes, this is contained in my policies. I intend to campaign for a secular educational system with he removal of any religious preferences from publicly funded education
2) Again; Yes.
3) To quote from my own website: ” I will call for removal of references to religion in the constitution. Revision of the Defamation Act to ensure compliance with the Article 40.6.1 of the Irish Constitution ensuring Freedom of Speech.”
4) I will support and call for removal of any religious ethos from all publicly funded institutions including hospitals. However privately funded institutions should have the freedom to promote their own religious ethos
5) Yes.
6) Yes, although the implementation of this will need very specific & detailed study.
7) I am a strong supporter of freedom of religion as well as freedom of speech. This means that everyone should be free to believe in whatever they want to choose not to have any religion. However it also means that religion is a private matter and should in no way be part of public life or institution.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

*******************************************************************************************************

Hope all of this is some help in guiding your decision.