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Referendum 26 October 2018: remove “blasphemous” from Article 40 of the Constitution

Vote YES to remove the offence of blasphemy

Our leaflet contains the main reasons to vote YES. These reasons apply whether you have a religion or have no religion.
You can download or print the leaflet if you wish.

The Mid-West Humanists have campaigned against blasphemy laws from soon after we first met in 2008.

We wrote to the President and talked to the Limerick Post in 2009 as the Defamation Act 2009 was about to become law, whose Section 36 explains what amounts to the offence of blasphemy.

We wrote to and attended the Constitutional Convention in 2013 to say that the State’s obligation to have Blasphemy be an offence should be removed from Article 40 of Ireland’s constitution. Some of us went to most TDs in our region to ask that the Dáil and Senate vote for a bill to remove it, if the Convention so recommended.

After the murders in January 2015 of 10 of the staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, by people who were Muslim, because Charlie Hebdo had published many cartoons that satirised Mohammed, we went on the street in Limerick to seek people’s support for a Bill to remove the blasphemy offence from the Constitution.

The Referendum is on Friday 26 October 2018!

The 37th Amendment to the Constitution Bill 2018 proposes to change one word in Article 40.6.1.i.
It would remove “blasphemous,” from the sentence
“The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”
If a majority vote YES, the sentence will then be
“The publication or utterance of seditious or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

The Mid-West Humanists support every person who favours a secular society and state, and who favours freedom of expression, to vote YES in the Referendum on Friday 26 October 2018.
It is on the same day as the election for President of Ireland.

We ask any person who thinks it almost sure to receive a majority YES to make sure that you yourself vote. If a large number who favour removing the Blasphemy offence do not cast their vote, the majority could be a NO. Please go to the polling station on 26 October 2018 and vote YES.

If you want the referendum to pass, it needs your vote as well as all the other YES votes.

The Campaign for a YES vote

At present, we have the use of a simple portable table, on whose front can hang the IHEU map of the world’s blasphemy laws, and enough volunteers to have the table on the street and give leaflets to the public on 2 days per week until the day of the vote. The present volunteers are in Limerick city and have been out on 29 September and 06 October.

You can read the leaflet on our Aims and Media page, or at Vote to remove Blasphemy from the Constitution.
Print the leaflet if you wish to distribute it.

If any person wants to help the campaign to remove the Blasphemy offence from the Constitution, please email us at info@midwesthumanists.com.
A helper need not have recently attended the Mid-West Humanists.
Emails to suggest any other ideas to campaign are also welcome.

Go to vote on Friday 26 October and vote YES!

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Why the Mid-West Humanists favour Repealing the 8th Amendment

The Mid-West Humanists are campaigning to Repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. This includes printing a leaflet, for the public, that contains rational arguments for removing Article 40.3.3 (the 8th amendment) from the constitution. We welcome any comments on the leaflet and its arguments, particularly if there are any less rational elements in it.

The Mid-West Humanists’ meetings have discussed abortion and abortion law several times between 2013 and 2018. At the start there was not so much consensus on these, and it has been a difficult subject, but consensus has increased.

Secular Society

Like most humanists, the Mid-West Humanists believe that societies should be secular – that is, societies should not be tied to or biased towards religions, or to any other kind of group within society (where such a group seeks to have society close to what that group prefer). Mostly we pay attention to the models or plans for society that religious groups prefer.

These models, both in Ireland and in other countries and other parts of the world, reduce the freedom of people to do things that cause no harm. In the biased models of society, the proponents see advantages for the religion or religions that believe in the particular model. Often leaders of those religious groups (often unelected) say that a society like their model society will give greater benefit and freedom to people, meaning largely people who belong to that religion.

The religious models of society often do this by having State institutions or laws limit or prohibit acts (which cause no harm to other persons) that that religion prohibits.

As well as from people of no religion or of other religions, such a set of institutions and laws takes freedom from people who belong to the religion that chose this model. You can belong to a religion and still not agree with all of its ideas, especially the things that it likes to prohibit. The official leaders of the religion are usually not elected by the members.

Democracy includes that people have freedom of thought, and of action that does no harm. This includes freedom to join or not to join a religion. A society that includes people of many religions and of no religion must have no bias towards any religion. Except in prohibiting actions that really do harm other people, the society must also not have a bias against religion.

Secular Society, Humanism, and Abortion law

The Mid-West Humanists’ interest and actions, that societies should be secular, means looking at any restriction in society that is a bias towards religion, or towards any group or any idea of any kind, that reduces people’s freedom to do things that cause no harm.
Laws, that limit getting a pregnancy terminated, come from a bias from religious doctrines; and they also come from a bias towards people in society quite rigidly obeying rules in the society. This second bias is from a model of society in which social rules are counted as just as firmly fixed as the laws of physics and chemistry (sometimes this is called the tribal type of society).

The Mid-West Humanists have no reason to support either of these 2 biases, and a secular society should make its rules and laws by reason.
Humanism means that there is no value from gods or their revelations for choosing features of society or for choosing moral rules.
Humanists have compassion for human embryos and fetuses, not yet born, but when comparing that with their compassion for girls and women who have been independently alive for one or more decades, humanists use reason to reach a decision.

Many meetings of the Mid-West Humanists between 2013 and 2018 have discussed abortion and the law on abortion. We have not all agreed on all aspects of this – as humanists say humans can make moral rules, so a group of humanists do not all reach the same moral rule. Yet between 2013 and 2018 we have come much closer to a consensus.
The most salient balance that any of us have achieved when there is a conflict on compassion for humans and respect for their rights, between a human carrying a fetus and that human fetus, is that most of us have set the right of the person who is alive for decade(s) higher than that of the fetus. In this view, we don’t see it as right that society or the state would force a woman, once she is pregnant, to stay pregnant if she does not want to continue.

All of the Mid-West Humanists do not want any law that forces anyone to terminate her pregnancy. A law that lets a woman choose to end pregnancy must leave the decision with her.

How it makes sense to campaign for a Yes vote to repeal the 8th amendment to the Constitution

The context described above is a consensus among the regular attenders at the Mid-West Humanists that the nearly complete prohibition on abortion in the constitution is due to a bias from religion, and also due to a bias from the rigid tribal model of social rules; and a large majority of the Mid-West Humanists consider it should be removed, under the principles of humanism and secularism.

When the government is in this year 2018 going to let the people vote to remove the prohibition, I and the others in the large majority believe it is right to campaign to make people aware of the arguments to remove Article 40.3.3 (the 8th amendment) from the constitution. All the arguments in the leaflet for the public are rational; and if any of those arguments are not so rational, we welcome comments on this post, or on the related post that announced the campaign, or in the Facebook group.

Mid-West Humanists campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution

We should remove Article 40.3.3 from the Constitution of Ireland

We should bring Abortion Services home to Ireland

At their meeting in January 2018 the Mid-West Humanists decided that democracy means that the Dáil and Senate should let the people vote on removing Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution. (At this date, the Government has said there will be a Referendum on this in May 2018.)
We write about how the 8th Amendment (Article 40.3.3) was added to the Constitution in 1983, the social and political climate connected with this, and its later modification in 1992. We also show Article 40.3.3 (page 172 of the PDF version of the online Constitution).

The Mid-West Humanists composed a leaflet of information for voters, including reasons to vote Yes (to remove Article 40.3.3), at the meeting in February 2018. You can read Repeal the 8th Amendment on our Aims and Media page.

We have another post on why the Mid-West Humanists are campaigning publicly. We welcome comments there, or on this post, or in our Facebook group.

On the Streets

Some Mid-West Humanists have been on the streets, starting in Limerick city centre on Saturday 24 February2018, to give our leaflets to the public. We expect to be on the streets in Limerick again on Saturday 03 March 2018, when several other groups will also be campaigning for the repeal of the 8th amendment.
We hope to campaign on further dates in the same and in further places.

 

Constitution of Ireland 1937
Article 40.3.3

8th Amendment, 1983

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

Added 1992 (13th Amendment)

This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.

Added 1992 (14th Amendment)

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

History of Article 40.3.3

This subsection of Article 40 was added by Referendum in late 1983, after a small set of people pressed both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to do so, in the campaigns for the general elections in 1981, spring 1982, and autumn 1982. This set of people told the politicians that they feared the Supreme Court would declare termination of pregnancy a constitutional right, as the United States of America Supreme Court had declared in 1973; and that they feared that the Dáil and Senate would pass a law to permit abortion, as the United Kingdom Parliament had passed in 1967. Continue reading

Mid West Humanists’ Submission to Minister for Education and Skills on admission rules to National Schools

On 16 January 2017 the Department of Education sought submissions from interested persons and groups on the role of denominational religion in the school admissions process and possible approaches for making changes.

The Mid-West Humanists today 11 March 2017 have sent the following submission to the Department.

———————————————————————————————————————

Mid West Humanists                                                           March 2017

 

To Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Education and Skills

Contents

  1. The Mid-West Humanists make this submission
  2. Who the Mid-West Humanists are
  3. Mid-West Humanists’ reasons to meet includes the problems with education for those with no religion
  4. The plan we submit will benefit also people in religions with less numerous adherents, and will make governing the State and keeping peace easier
  5. Subjects that the Consultation Paper and the Minister mention, which this Submission uses
    5.1. Lower admission priority and the pressure to baptise are not fair to families and parents
    5.2. Ethos is a part of Approach 4(2) – so this Submission addresses ethos
    5.3. Understanding the different religions in the community and including all children with respect
    5.4. The Constitution of Ireland, parts relevant to education and State schools
  6. Principles of the Mid-West Humanists on which their view how to run National Schools is built
    6.1. A society fair to all people, and no rights for institutions
    6.2. Children’s rights,
    1) to develop intellectually, that adults and the State not blur their differentiation of ideas based on evidence and reason from ideas that people believe without evidence
    2) to know all the variety of people among whom they live/ will live, to feel at home in society
  7. The Mid-West Humanists’ view on the Paper’s 4 or 6 suggested approaches to admissions to schools
    7.1. General – all 4 or 6 approaches are unreasonable
    7.2. Approaches 1, 2, 3, 4(3)
    7.3. Approach 4(2) – pressure to agree to ethos is the same as pressure to baptise, unfair
    7.4. Approach 4(1) – children’s rights will be infringed after admission unless ethos is secular
  8. The Mid-West Humanists’ own view on the best admission rules, and the correct ethos
    8.1. Repeal the Equal Status Act 2000 Section 7.3(c) entirely
    8.2. Teachers must teach all the religions together to all children together, fairly and neutrally
    8.3. To not blur distinctions of basing on evidence, teachers not to state religious ideas as true
    8.4. The Constitution gives the teaching of religious doctrines to parents and not to the State
    8.5. The State makes children attend school, so it must be fair and make schools secular
  9. Replies to the 4 questions that the Consultation Paper asks about all approaches
    9.1. It is unfair that any religious group have State-funded schools
    9.2. The Constitution mandates the State removing religious influence in schools which it funds
    9.3. The legal support for National Schools and the Minister’s power to change how they run
    9.4. Unintended impacts of our approach are not a problem
  10. Additional ideas
    10.1. The value to society of all schools being secular, with no discrimination on admission
    10.2. Constitution and international conventions support secular ethos and no discrimination
    10.3. Misconceptions about National Schools’ legal status, and the real status
  11. Conclusion
    11.1. Changes needed and the power to make changes: the changes are constitutional
    11.2. Reasons for changes: children’s rights to development and to be at home in society

Continue reading

World Blasphemy Day 2016

30 September 2016, a Friday, is World Blasphemy Day.

The Center for Inquiry of Amherst, N.Y., U.S.A., proposed this annual special day in 2009.

It is a day for all people in all parts of the world who value free expression to draw attention to laws that make blasphemy an offence and thus limit your free expression of ideas – either protesting at such laws in your own country, or in other countries, or both.

The End Blasphemy Laws campaign was started in January 2015 by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, the European Humanist Federation, and Atheist Alliance International.

Mid-West Humanists at Thomas Street, Limerick for World Blasphemy Day

Several Mid-West Humanists will be at the corner of Thomas Street and O’Connell Street in Limerick on 30 September 2016 from about 12:00 until at least 14:00.

We will have a map of the world from the End Blasphemy Laws campaign, showing which countries have laws against blasphemy, coloured according to the penalty – death in some countries.

We will have pictures that could be offensive to adherents of some religions, all of them amusing (as long as humour is not contrary to your religion or to your non-religious life-stance).

Our interest is not in offending people, but in protesting at a Constitution and a law that prohibit free discussion on religion, whereas there is no law limiting public discussion on your cherished political party or sporting team (or any other idea which you hold dear).

We hope you will come by us, and we can give more information about laws against blasphemy, and the bad effects of such laws. We will give leaflets on the reasons to repeal the law and remove the relevant sentence from Article 40 of Ireland’s Constitution.

We hope this will be enjoyable for as many people as possible, including people with religion (many people with religion write their own jokes and satires about their religion).

September 2016 Meeting

The Mid-West Humanists meeting on Wednesday 21 September 2016 had a further discussion on abortion law in Ireland (that is, the Constitution, Article 40.3.3, added by the 8th amendment in 1983).

All those who attended gave views. There were several different views, all with supporting reasons.

As this is a very important matter, the whole of a future meeting will be devoted to abortion and the 8th Amendment to Ireland’s Constitution (1983).

The September meeting also resolved that several Mid-West Humanists will be on the street in Limerick on World Blasphemy Day 30 September 2016 – details here.

Mid-West Humanists send submission to Department of Education on strategy 2016-2018

The new government that formed in 2016 made a Program for Government. This includes chapter 10 (page 86) on Education.

The Department of Education and Skills asked people for submissions on the Program, to contribute to the Department’s strategy for 2016 to 2018. The strategy was online, but is not available since the date for receiving submissions. They published a survey form with their set of questions. They set Wednesday 08 June 2016 as the last day for submissions.

The Mid-West Humanists have sent a submission early on 08 June 2016.

Our submission concentrates on secular education, how this is more important than a greater variety or diversity of patrons for schools (that plan is in fact a mistake); and on how the Minister and Department of Education and Skills can make all National Schools fairly secular by instructing those schools to follow the System of National Education (as their leases oblige them), Rule 69 of the Rules for National Schools of 1965, and Article 44.2.4 of Ireland’s Constitution.

Submissions will be available on the Department’s website, but we also show our submission here.

Continue reading