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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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August 2015 meeting

The meeting on 19 August 2015 supported the petition by Paddy Monahan that no baptismal certificate be required of a child on entry to school.

The meeting considered how to further publicise the information that the Leases of National Schools are very secular, and how to make use of the recent great publicity about the unfairness or requiring a child to be baptised in order to get a place in the local school.

July 2015 meeting

The meeting on 15 July 2015 supported the campaign by Atheist Ireland for every person to visit the TDs in your constituency to ask that they vote for the Private Members Bill amending section 37 (1) of the Employment Equality Act 1998. This is NOT to support the amending Bill that the Government has promised, which intends to remove discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or identity, but also intends to keep discrimination on the grounds of religion or lack of religion.

The meeting considered as much allying with other secular groups as is possible, in the campaign to make people aware that the Leases of National Schools are very secular, and thus to forestall the leases being changed by the Minister for Education signing Deeds of Variation.

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.

Meetings summer 2012 on the Constitution

The June 2012 meeting looked at features of the Constitution of Ireland that have religious content and are incompatible with a secular state. These articles discriminate against people who have no religion.
The meeting voted that many parts of articles would be best removed.
At the next meeting on 18 July 2012, the meeting is to examine further articles.
When the list of articles that should be changed in order to make the Constitution fully secular is complete, some of the Mid West Humanists will visit the TDs in the region to put the case for these amendments to the Constitution.

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.