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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

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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.

Mid-West Humanists thank Minister on Rule 68

The Mid-West Humanists met the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan T.D. on Friday 11 December 2015, to thank her for deciding to remove Rule 68 from the Rules for National Schools 1965.

Jack Little, Patricia Murray, Peter O'Hara at the Minister's clinic

Jack Little, Patricia Murray, Peter O’Hara at the Minister’s clinic

We show the text of Rule 68 at the end of this article.

From the meeting we learned that the Minister is considering whether to delete part 1 of Rule 69, as it favours asking the father rather than the mother about the religion of the child. Further, it is contrary to human rights conventions that parents should have to reveal their religion.

However, the Mid-West Humanists said to the Minister that the remainder of Rule 69, parts 2 to 5, should be retained, because these direct schools not to give to a child any religious instruction of which  the parents or guardians do not approve.

The Mid-West Humanists also said to the Minister that Rule 2 particularly should be retained. Rule 2 copies the guarantee, in almost identical words, of Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution, that a child has a right to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at that school.

The Minister said that on deleting Rule 68, in January 2016, she will send a circular letter to each of the 3200 National Schools to inform them of the change. The Mid-West Humanists asked the Minister to consider in that circular letter reminding all schools that they are obliged to obey particularly Rule 2 and Rule 69.

You can obtain the Rules for National Schools 1965, as

Rules 1 to 51- Part 1
Rules 52 to 111- Part 2,
Rules 112 to 165- Part 3, and
Schedules 1 to 18- Part 4.

The Rules mentioned now follow.

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Human Rights in Access to Education Meeting

The Mid-West Humanists held a public meeting in Limerick City Library at The Granary: –

“Human Rights in Access to Education”

on Friday 20 November 2015 at 19:45.

The meeting heard from –

John Suttle, of the Irish National Schools Trust;
Robert Bennett, of the Mid-West Humanists;
Jane Donnelly, Human Rights officer of Atheist Ireland.

Jane Donnelly, Robert Bennett, and John Suttle

Jane Donnelly, Robert Bennett, and John Suttle

The meeting added to the  public awareness that the present set of schools discriminates against some children (mostly, those of the smaller religious groups and those with no religion) – many schools with Roman Catholic trustees have refused to take children of a different religion or with no religion; and nearly all schools with Roman Catholic trustees infringe the rights of such children not to receive religious instruction while at those schools.

Here is some of what the speakers said about this discrimination.

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Human Rights in Access to Education

We have campaigned since 2014 for secular education in Ireland. We learned that the leases of National Schools are quite secular, so that only the religion of the Trustees of each school marks the school as connected to a religion.

On Friday 20 November 2015 we have organised a public meeting

“Human Rights in Access to Education”

City Library, The Granary, Michael Street, Limerick

at 19:45.

This meeting is to continue to make people aware that the present set of schools discriminates against some children (mostly, those of the smaller religious groups and those with no religion); and the segregated schools infringes the rights of all children to grow up knowing all the children in their district (and thus in their society), and in some cases makes it harder for them to understand certain other people with whom they did not mix while at school.

The meeting is open to all people.

Here is some of our campaign so far on secular education and abolishing segregation and discrimination.

Continue reading

World Blasphemy Day 2015 in Limerick

On Wednesday 30 September 2015, World Blasphemy Day, four Mid-West Humanists were in Cruises Street, Limerick, from about 13:00 until about 15:30.

IMG15186m IMG15183m IMG15172m

We had the map of the world with countries coloured by their laws against blasphemy, and a poster inviting people to hold up a picture that some people will see as blasphemous, just for 10 seconds only!

Here are the 4 blasphemous pictures.

Satire Christian 1 Islam Satire 3 Atheist Satire 6 Satire Judaism 1

Some people volunteered to hold up a picture. We hoped not to get arrested, so most of the time the pictures were covered. In our last half hour they were face up on the table.

 

Either, see you there next year, or

Happy World anti-Blasphemy-law-Free Day 2016!

World Blasphemy Day

On Wednesday 30 September 2015, which is World Blasphemy Day, some Mid-West Humanists will be on the street in Limerick.

We will probably be in Cruises Street, from close to 13:00…
hoping to stay there until 15:00 or so.

We will have the map of the world with countries coloured by their laws against blasphemy.

We will also show a poster inviting people to hold up a picture that some people will see as blasphemous, just for 10 seconds only!

We will have a choice of 4 blasphemous pictures for any volunteer to show – kept in a bag until someone volunteers to show one. We don’t want to offend all of the people all of the time.

Actually, we hope the pictures will make people laugh.

Of the pictures, 3 will blaspheme 3 different religions, and 1 tries to similarly offend people who have no religion.

See you there!

Happy World Blasphemy Day!