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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.

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Mid-West Humanists say YES to Marriage Equality

On Friday 22 May 2015 is the Referendum on Marriage irrespective of gender.

Vote YES to Marriage Equality

Humanism means that people compose their own moral rules, and choose which rules to adopt. This means choosing rules by reason, and not by supposed revelation from a god.

There is no sensible reason that the State should not register and recognise every person’s partnership in life, whether the partner is of the other sex or the same sex as the first person. The idea that only a person of the other sex can be a marriage partner gets its largest and least rational support from sources that some people believe came from a god.

So the Mid-West Humanists say Vote YES to Marriage Equality on Friday 22 May 2015.

Mid-West Humanists say YES

Mid-West Humanists say YES

If you think the Referendum should be passed, then just as you are responsible for choosing moral rules, you have equal responsibility to each of the other 3 million voters. So go out on Friday and vote. If you want it to pass, but you don’t vote and it is defeated, you as well as any others who don’t vote will be responsible.

Please, if you want it to pass, go out and vote.

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.

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.

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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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Mid West Humanists send submission to the Constitutional Convention to remove the offence of Blasphemy from the Constitution

At meetings in March, April, and May 2013 we have discussed a submission to go to the Constitutional Convention, on removing the offence of Blasphemy.

The Constitutional Convention is due to discuss the section of the Constitution that makes blasphemy an offence (part of Article 40. 6. 1. i) at its meeting on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 October 2013.

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 – “MidWestHumanistsBlasphemy.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 Article 40 to be after the change 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

Removing the Blasphemy offence from the Constitution of Ireland

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The Atheist Experience – “Superiority of Secular Morality”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

A lecture by Matt Dillahunty of the Atheist Commumity of Austin