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Mid-West Humanists ask Minister for Education not to entrench religious control of National Schools

A delegation from the Mid-West Humanists met Jan O’Sullivan T.D. Minister for Education and Skills on 24 April 2015, about the Leases of National Schools.

Our National Schools – origins and rules

Now most people believe that our National Schools are tied to principles of various religions (mostly the Roman Catholic religion).

Well, the popular awareness of the origin of National Schools is correct, that the United Kingdom government set them up from 1830 onwards. The government wanted Trustees for each school to include people of a mixture of religions. No such mixed Trustees volunteered, and only sets of clergy of a single religion became Trustees. From the religion of the Trustees, National Schools got called Roman Catholic schools, Church of Ireland schools, etc.

Historians have described the one-religion nature of every set of Trustees as the churches subverting the UK government’s plan. However the plan was subverted only in that the Trustees do not include a mixture of religions.

The Lease of each school vested the running of the school in Trustees, who thereby promised to run the school by the Lease and by the rules from the Minister for Education. From the beginning to the end, the Leases did not mention a religion.

The Leases write “…the object of the system of National Education is to afford Combined literary and moral, and Separate Religious Instruction to children of all persuasions, as far as possible in the same school, upon the fundamental principle that no attempt shall be made to interfere with the peculiar religious tenets of any pupil.”

This may be a surprise to readers, as our National Schools are indeed controlled by clergy of religions – and to most people this includes the idea that those clergy as Trustees run the schools in the style of that particular religion, and that they are entitled to run them in a religious manner. This is actually contrary to the statement in the Lease that we just mentioned. Continue reading

Mid-West Humanists’ letter to Minister for Education and Skills on National School Leases and the model Deed of Variation

The Mid-West Humanists met Jan O’Sullivan T.D. Minister for Education and Skills on 24 April 2015.

We asked the Minister not to change the Leases of National Schools via a 1997 model Deed of Variation.

In another post we explain about National School leases.

We show here the letter which we gave to the Minister, in which we explained our concerns.

 

—————————————————————-

24 April 2015

To Jan O’Sullivan TD, Minister for Education and Skills

Deeds of Variation should not be applied to National School Leases

Dear Minister O’Sullivan

 

Summary

  1. We seek information on whether (and if so, when) the Department of Education and Skills plans to apply the Deeds of Variation to the leases of schools, Deeds that were first drafted about 1997.
  2. We ask that the Leases of Primary (National) Schools not be altered as in the model Deeds of Variation of 1997 or as in any similar model. The schools are now managed by persons or groups of persons who belong to particular religions, and, contrary to popular belief, their leases (which are their agreements with the Department) do not restrict the operation of the schools to fit with those religions, and are quite neutral about religion. (The Education Act 1998 requires a school to have a characteristic spirit, but this is not solely about religion, and the schools’ leases of which we know do not determine any aspect of the characteristic spirit.)

We seek that the leases not be changed according to the model Deed of Variation of 1997 or similar model, because the present leases would allow a school to be secular in many aspects, and the varied leases would make each school tied to the particular religion. Between 1997 and 2015 society in Ireland has become more secular; it has not become more religious. Continue reading

Respect for persons; no respect for ideas; Limerick school was right to let Charlie Hebdo in the classroom

While I would like to vote in a referendum to remove the sentence from Ireland’s Constitution that makes blasphemy a crime, I am writing now to help distinguish between (1) respect for humans and their rights, and (2) culture and ideas (including religious culture and ideas) having no rights to respect. Instead, ideas should be open to criticism, and people have rights to make criticism and to live in a society where other people make criticisms too.

Especially when you are a child, but also throughout all of life, a really good society is one where various people are making criticisms of various ideas and elements of culture and society, with no long intervals between such criticisms both in the public news and in your private life. In so far as I have a right to have a good society in which to live, I have a right to such criticisms going on all the time.

 

The Limerick Leader reported on 05 February 2015

that a teacher at Limerick Educate Together School recently asked pupils to bring in matter relevant to the French Revolution of 1789 and freedom of speech; and a pupil took in a copy of the Charlie Hebdo of 14 01 2015, which the teacher showed to the pupils, and this offended a pupil who is Muslim;
and –
that a parent of this second pupil, as well as complaining to the school, gave the following view to the Limerick Leader – that the cover picture has caused great insult within the Islam community in Ireland and the world; and that the child was “subjected” to seeing the magazine; and that parents teach children to have respect for all peoples and for their cultures and for their religions, of which educators should be mindful. This read as if the magazine being shown in the class took away from such respect.

I agree fully with respect for all people, but disagree entirely with the idea of an obligation to have respect for any culture.

1. I favour respect for all persons and their legal, constitutional, and human rights, and the special rights of children: and special rights means, because they are growing up, that children need both protection from dangers AND open availability of information so that they can grow into good citizens, which includes understanding the cultures of the society in which they live.

Continue reading

Abolish All Blasphemy Laws! Humanists launch new campaign

The Mid West Humanists received this message recently from the European Humanist Federation. Atheist Ireland is one of the 200 supporting organisations.

It is good to see international support for our campaign to remove the law against Blasphemy from Ireland’s Constitution.

——————————————————————————–

The End Blasphemy Laws Campaign is thought to be the first campaign focusing solely on the issue of laws against “blasphemy” including “ridicule” and “insult” to religion or “hurting religious sentiments”.

The coalition behind the campaign, led by the European Humanist Federation (EHF), the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and various national partners, represents around 200 Humanist and secular organizations globally.

Campaign’s website: end-blasphemy-laws.org

Sonja Eggerickx, President of the IHEU, said, “In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings there have been renewed calls to abolish ‘blasphemy’ and related laws in almost every country where they still exist. Our organizations have worked for many years to protect this important right: to question, criticise, and yes even ridicule religion. Given this new impetus to challenge these anachronistic laws, we believe that we can work together across national boundaries to support local voices calling for the repeal of all such laws.

The idea that it is wrong to satirize religion, lends false legitimacy to those who murder in the name of being offended. The idea that it is taboo to question or to criticise religious authorities is one reason why sexual abuse in the Catholic Church persisted so long. The idea that “insult” to religion is a crime, is why humanists like Asif Mohiuddin are jailed in Bangladesh, is why secularists like Raif Badawi are being lashed in Saudi Arabia, is why atheists and religious minorities are persecuted in places like Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, and the list goes on!”

Pierre Galand, EHF President, explained: “Our campaign does not target laws against incitement to hatred, which are legitimate. What we are concerned about is laws which restrict freedom of expression about religion. As a first step, we want to see the remaining laws against blasphemy and religious insult in Europe repealed. There is an obvious double standard issue as the EU has taken a clear stand against blasphemy laws in the world. Now it must encourage its Members States to abolish existing blasphemy laws, as recommended by the Council of Europe.”

The campaign calls on transnational bodies and world leaders to look on “blasphemy” laws as they might look on law restricting press freedom: as a restriction on free expression and indicator of social harm.

Contact information:

EHF (European Humanist Federation): Pierre-Arnaud Perrouty (Executive Director): T +32 4 84 18 35 35, p-a.perrouty@laicite.net

IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union) : Bob Churchill (Director of Communications): T +44 7743971937, bob.churchill@iheu.org

 

EHF
Campus de la Plaine ULB
CP 236 1050 Brussels
Belgium

International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)
39 Moreland Street
London EC1V 8BB
United Kingdom

Blasphemy outlawed in the Constitution – why we should remove this urgently

Pakistan quotes Ireland’s law against blasphemy to defend against democratic countries urging them to abolish it. Laws do maintain culture within a society, and the culture in Pakistan against blasphemy has resulted in the murder of – people released from a blasphemy charge, a lawyer who defended an accused, a judge who did not make the popular decision, and a state governor who had spoken in public of the problems with this law and favoured repealing it.

These murders contribute to views that to kill people who blaspheme (and anyone who favours the “blasphemers”) is right and reasonable. This contribution probably extends, at least indirectly, to those who did the murders on 07 01 2015 in Paris.

To prohibit blasphemy does not add to freedom of religion; it reduces it

Religions have rules. There are usually rules about what you will think or believe, mostly about the god and related people or things. A second set of rules tell you to do some things, and also not to do some other things.

Freedom of religion in democratic societies means you are free to join a religion, and also free not to join a religion; to choose which religion; and to leave the religion at any time.

When you choose a religion you can agree to follow its rules (otherwise, you are not bound by such rules.) If a thousand million people thereby undertake not to draw pictures of Mohammed, that does not create a right for any of those people to stop the other six thousand million people on earth drawing and publishing what they choose. A law against blasphemy is not about freedom of religion: rather it lets some people stop other people exercising freedom of religion and some other freedoms.

Continue reading

Support Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech

We are Charlie Hebdo

Nous sommes Charlie Hebdo

Is sinn Charlie Hebdo

I and I hope most Mid West Humanists support the right to life of 10 staff at Charlie Hebdo in Paris and of 2 officers of French police; and support their right to freedom of speech, and all people’s right to read any writing and any cartoon or other communication, whether or not it criticises or satirises any idea, whether religious, political, social, sporting, or scientific.

I praise Charlie Hebdo staff for publishing words and pictures without any respect for the ideas of several religions.

 

Are you powerless to do anything about some people murdering cartoonists and journalists who are doing their job (enabling you to read things that are prohibited in some countries)?

You are not powerless.

On TV I see that all the government of France and very many of the people support the right to speak, draw, and publish any matter, irrespective of any offence to any ideas.

France has a principle of secularism in the state (laicité) since 1905, now nearly half the time since the revolution in 1789. Ireland is weak in secularism, as the Constitution since 1937 states that blasphemy is an offence, and in 2009 our legislators continued a law to give effect to that article of the Constitution. Government and other people in Pakistan quote Ireland’s law to say that it is normal, including in Europe, for the law to prohibit criticism of religion. Our constitution and law fail to support the strong efforts of the constitution and law of France to maintain and defend freedom of speech. Today Thursday 08 January Dr Ali Salim of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin said on RTE Radio 1 lunchtime news that it is correct that outraging many adherents of a religion is prohibited by law, and he said that if such outrage comes to his attention he will consult his lawyer as to what to do.

In 2013 the Constitutional Convention voted to suggest to the Government that they hold a referendum to let us choose to remove the law against blasphemy from the Constitution. The Government promised that it would hold this referendum, but at the end of 2014 they said that they will not let us vote on this.

 

You have power as a voter.

Visit all of the TDs in your constituency soon, and tell them that you demand that the Dáil and Senate vote for a bill to let us vote in a referendum on removing the sentence making blasphemy an offence from our Constitution. And tell them NOT to include substituting any sentence in its place.

I feel I owe this support to Charlie Hebdo’s journalists and cartoonists, and to all publishing staff there and in other parts of the world, and to the police who have been trying to protect them, as they are defending my right to freedom of speech.

 

Vive la liberté!

 

We are Charlie Hebdo

Nous sommes Charlie Hebdo

Is sinn Charlie Hebdo

Media Release – Mid West Humanists meet Minister for Education and ask that Ireland have a State Secular system of schools

This is what we sent to the local press after the visit to the Minister for Education and Skills

Mid West Humanists

An Atheist Community in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary

www.midwesthumanists.com/                        info@midwesthumanists.com

www.facebook.com/groups/midwesthumanists/                        28 November 2014

MEDIA RELEASE

 

For Immediate Release

 

Mid-West Humanists meet Minister for Education and Skills and ask that Ireland have a State Secular system of schools

 

Members of the Mid-West Humanists (MWH) met Jan O’Sullivan TD Minister for Education and Skills on 28 November 2014 to ask that Ireland’s system of schools, primary and second-level, be changed to a state system of entirely secular schools.

The Mid West Humanists said to the Minister that the present education system discriminates against children who have no religion and breaches their human rights by denying them access to an education free from the teaching of religious beliefs as facts. These children have the same rights as those of any religion to be taught in an objective manner by the teachers, whom their parents also pay through their taxes. In the last census in 2011 there were 256,000 people who stated that they had no religion, though the true number is substantially more.

The present system – the Patronage system – is biased towards religion, and towards some few religions even more strongly.

There are 3200 primary schools in Ireland. For 94% of these schools, the Patron is a religious organisation, and for 90% the Patron is Roman Catholic. Of the 3200 schools, 1800 are each more than 10km from the nearest other primary school. These all have Roman Catholic patrons. These schools are smaller than average, and these districts cannot support 2 schools.
The changes that the Mid-West Humanists seek to Ireland’s education system, in addition to removing the bias and the discrimination, will make it easier for government to deal with the increasing variety of religions to which people in Ireland belong – including making it easier to provide education.

The secular system that we propose would also liberate teachers who are unhappily forced to teach values in which they no longer believe.

Continue reading

Constitutional Convention Deadline Wednesday 27 11 2013

Submissions to the Constitutional Convention will close on the Convention’s close of business on 27th November 2013

I regret that I posted previously, on 14 11 2013, that the Convention would cease taking submissions on 19 11 2013. I had thought that this news which I received was reliable.

On Monday 25 11 2013 the Convention’s website showed a new notice, that the Convention will accept its last submissions at its close of business on Wednesday 27 11 2013.

So you can still send a submission, and we ask all people without religion, and people with religion who want a secular society and a secular constitution, to make his or her own submission to that effect.

The Constitutional Convention is to hold its last 2 weekend meetings in February 2014. The subjects which they will discuss on those weekends are not settled, and the Convention’s members will vote in early December 2013 on what these will be.

The Convention’s members will use the list of subjects on which people made submissions to the Convention website. They have full discretion and are not bound by the number of submissions on a subject, but may be considering the quality of the submissions.

The website is going to stop taking submissions on 27 November 2013.

Any person who wants to make a submission to the Constitutional Convention needs to put the submission on the Convention website by 27 November 2013. After that date the Constitutional Convention will cease taking submissions on its website.

At present it is not in any way guaranteed that the secular questions (other than blasphemy) will be discussed.

You can make it more likely that the main secular questions will be discussed, by sending in your individual submission, which need not be long or complicated.

See the previous post for some ideas.

Blasphemy was discussed at the Convention’s meeting on Saturday 02 and Sunday 03 November 2013. The vote was to remove the anti-blasphemy clause.

At present the Convention’s website says it has 709 submissions in its “Submissions – Other” list. There are also at least 14 submissions for a Secular Constitution in the “Blasphemy” list. The three largest groups of submissions are on these subjects:-

Separate Church and State (Secular Constitution) – 188;

Environment to be protected in the constitution – 151;

We have heard from Convention officials that there may be several tens of submissions on the Environment waiting to be put up on the website.

Economic, Social, and Cultural rights (ESC) (includes a Home) – 140.

Of the 188 submissions asking for a Secular Constitution, some of these are about all the parts that need to be changed, and some are on single subjects, such as the Preamble, or the Declarations for President, Council of State, and Judges.

Send your submission now.

Constitutional Convention Deadline

Submissions to the Constitutional Convention will close on 19th November 2013

The Constitutional Convention is to hold its last 2 weekend meetings in February 2014. The subjects which they will discuss on those weekends are not settled, and the Convention’s members will vote in early December 2013 on what these will be.

The Convention’s members will use the list of subjects on which people made submissions to the Convention website. They have full discretion and are not bound by the number of submissions on a subject, but may be considering the quality of the submissions.

The website is going to stop taking submissions on 19 November 2013.

Any person who wants to make a submission to the Constitutional Convention needs to put the submission on the Convention website by 19 November 2013. After that date the Constitutional Convention will cease taking submissions on its website.

The Mid West Humanists have encouraged people of no religion, and also people with religion who would like a secular constitution, to put their own submission on the Convention’s website.

We have aimed since the Convention was announced in 2011 to seek to have it consider a plan to make the Constitution secular.

At present it is not in any way guaranteed that the secular questions (other than blasphemy) will be discussed.

You can make it more likely that the main secular questions will be discussed, by sending in your individual submission, which need not be long or complicated. See further down for some ideas.

Blasphemy was discussed at the Convention’s meeting on Saturday 02 and Sunday 03 November 2013. The vote was to remove the anti-blasphemy clause.

At present the Convention’s website says it has 620 submissions in its “Submissions – Other” list. There are also at least 14 submissions for a Secular Constitution in the “Blasphemy” list. The three largest groups of submissions are on these subjects:-

Separate Church and State (Secular Constitution) – 158;

Environment to be protected in the constitution – 137;

Economic, Social, and Cultural rights (ESC) (includes a Home) – 135.

Of the 158 submissions asking for a Secular Constitution, some of these are about all the parts that need to be changed, and some are on single subjects, such as the Preamble, or the Declarations for President, Council of State, and Judges.

In order for the changes to make a Secular Constitution get discussed at the Convention, this subject must receive as many individual submissions as possible, not form letters or emails. The Mid West Humanists have encouraged people to write their own submissions and not to copy another person’s submission. We hope this will mean more submissions of good quality, which we hear is more important than the number of submissions.

The Mid West Humanists recommend any person who thinks the Constitution should be secular to make her or his own submission. Here are what the Convention’s website will ask of you:

Name (will be shown on their website)
(some submitters have entered other than their true name, but their submissions are on the website)

County (will be shown on their website)

Title of your submission (will be shown on their website)

Address; email address – WILL NOT BE ON WEBSITE;

Telephone number (optional) WILL NOT BE ON WEBSITE;

Submission version 1 in a text box – maximum 1000 characters including spaces. (will be shown on their website)

Submission version 2, being a doc or pdf file that you create (optional). (will be shown on their website)

You can make quick reference to the main Articles of the Constitution that have too much religious content in the text box with 1000 characters. It is sufficient to count as a submission that you give a title that clearly shows the issue you intend. You will have shown enough substance in your submission if you put a few sentences about the issue in the text box.

For a submission in favour of a secular constitution we think it will be enough if you name some of these Articles and that you want them removed or made secular. There are already some submissions with arguments for these changes: not every submission needs to detail the arguments.

Mid West Humanists visit their TDs

When the government announced in 2012 that they would set up a Constitutional Convention, as promised before the General Election in 2011, the Mid West Humanists decided to visit the TDs in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary to ask them to have the Convention discuss making the Constitution secular.

By the time the Convention was starting its work in early 2013, the Dáil and Senate had included the part of Article 40 that makes Blasphemy an offence in the list for the Convention’s discussions.

Making the Constitution secular has not been on the list, but the Convention is considering what issues to discuss at 2 weekend meetings in February 2014. You can increase the chances that they will discuss Secular Constitution by making a submission to the Convention’s Submissions page. Give your own views, as in another post here.

So the Mid West Humanists set the plan to visit the TDs for close to the time when the Convention would discuss the anti-blasphemy clause.

The Convention discussed the anti-blasphemy clause on Saturday 02 and Sunday 03 November 2013. They voted to remove the clause; unfortunately they also voted to put in a replacement clause to prohibit religious hate crime. These are recommendations, and any referendum depends on a vote in the Dáil and Senate.

Members of the Mid West Humanists have talked to 3 of the 4 TDs in Limerick City and 2 of the 3 TDs in North Tipperary. We expect to get to speak to the other TDs in this region in the next few weeks. The TDs have listened to our proposals, which are in other posts here [Blasphemy, Declarations, Secular] ;

and in our submissions to the Constitutional Convention [Blasphemy, Declarations, Secular].

We asked the TDs to vote for referenda to let the people decide on removing the Blasphemy offence from the Constitution and on making the Constitution secular. We do not yet know what the TDs or their political parties think about this.

Watch out for more news.

Anybody who is a humanist or atheist and lives in Kerry-Limerick West would be welcome to help with the visits to TDs: please email info@midwesthumanists.com