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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 on Radio LCCR

Mid-West Humanists

Limerick City Community Radio (LCCR)

The Mid-West Humanists have broadcast their second radio program today Sunday 04 December 2016, at 15:00 in the afternoon – on Education.

You can listen to this again on LCCR at lccr.ie on Tuesday 06 December 2016 at 19:00.

If you view the LCCR Schedule for Sundays, our program is part of the Community Focus series at 15:00. If you view the schedule for Tuesdays, Community Focus at 19:00 is to be the program in that series already broadcast on the preceding weekend.

Limerick City Community Radio (LCCR) broadcasts on 99.9 megacycles per second on Saturdays and Sundays from 08:00 to 24:00 (midnight) – reception is only within a short distance of Limerick City – and on its website. On weekdays LCCR is only available on its website, for various hours (less than the weekend).

On weekdays the 99.9 megacycles per second channel in the frequency modulation (FM) service on Very High Frequency (VHF) band 2 (87.5 to 108 Mc/s) broadcasts Wired FM, which is the radio station of Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. Thus the radio data signal, on a radio that shows this, will display “Wired FM”, even on Saturdays and Sundays.

How Mid-West Humanists  came to be on the radio

Limerick City Community Radio ran 36 hours of sponsored programs by community groups on 31 October to 01 November 2016. LCCR accepted our live studio discussion program in that series.

Program 1.

Broadcast at 21:00 on 31 10 2016

Discussion on humanism, education, and the humanist vision of society – 3 Mid-West Humanists and one of us chairing, live in their studio.

On 01 11 2016 (the day after Program 1), LCCR asked us to make a program to be in the Community Focus series every month.

Program 2.

Broadcast at 15:00 on 04 12 2016

On education – recorded in advance in the LCCR studio.

We interviewed Maria Collins-Harper, who has been involved in securing the new secondary school to open in Limerick in 2018, followed by discussion with 2 Mid-West Humanist and Maria, on what Ireland needs in the education system so that people growing up can be truly educated and also integrated in the society in which people live.

Future Programs

Future programs will be at 15:00 on about every 4th Sunday. The precise Sunday for our next program is not settled yet.

Program 3 will be about the celebration and the celebrations of life.

Minister’s public meeting 22 January on Patronage of Mungret Second-level school

On Friday 22 01 2016 there was a meeting in the South Court Hotel, Raheen, Limerick, about the process of choosing what group will be Patron of the Second-level school in Mungret, due to be open for pupils in 2017.

Jan O’Sullivan T.D. Minister for Education and Skills described the process to decide who will be the Patron, and answered questions about this from the people who filled one of the large conference rooms in the hotel.

The meeting was NOT about hearing people’s choice about which patron group they want, but about telling us about the process.

Department of Education’s process to choose a Patron for a new Second-level school

The Department will choose a group of people who will be independent from them. Just how to choose them, and which sort of people, was not clear.

Collecting the views of parents is up to a group that wants to apply to be the patron, and so is the method of receiving parents’ views. They should check parents by the electoral register.

The aspiring patron group or organisation would put its case to the independent deciding group near the end of 2016. Some people said this might not let the school be ready to take children in September 2017, and the minister said she would see about making this nearer the middle of 2017.

The new school would be part of the common application system for secondary schools in the Limerick area, and so the parents whose views are to be sought are all parents in this area.

A person attached to Educate Together (ET) spoke, and said that they will hold a public meeting at the South Court Hotel on Thursday 04 02 2016 at 20:00, as their process of receiving the views of parents. They distributed a leaflet about this, which says to go to Limerick Educate Together Second Level and fill an Expression of Interest form.

A person connected to the Eduation and Training Board for Limerick and Clare (ETB; previously called Vocational Education Committee, VEC) said they collect parent’s views by visiting schools in turn. They have already done one visit.

The applicants to be patron are to tell the independent deciding group their model of how they will operate the school, with an ethos, admission policy, and other features; and the parents’ views that they obtained. It was not clear that there is a mechanism to ensure that this admission policy will be identical to the one they told to the parents.

The Department of Education and Skills is already negotiating with Limerick City and County Council about the roads and other services to enable the school to be built and to operate.

Parents’ comments on the process to choose a Patron for a new Second-level school

About 10 or more people present commented on the procedure taking the views of parents in the whole Limerick second-level application system. Several of these mentioned children travelling long distances to schools outside their own area, and if the new school is not what a parent or pupil in the south-west suburbs of Limerick would prefer, many children will still be travelling far. The minister did not offer to change this rule.

While there is a limit to the money an applicant to be Patron may spend in taking parents’ views (on the screen at the meeting a limit of €300 was shown) the meeting did not hear of any monitoring of the money they spend. The chosen  patron must pay a €50,000 maximum contribution to the intitial construction or fitting of the school.

At least 10 parents said that their child is at an Educate Together primary school, and they have no choice for second-level school when the child reaches that age. Near the end of the meeting a parent said that schools with Roman Catholic patrons accept children of all religions and races, and the community of such schools is not full of racists. The minister’s next reply was that the meeting is to give information; and that one of the criteria in deciding which group will be patron of the new school is how big will be the diversity of second-level school patrons after the decision.

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

Minister for Education responds to our request for State Secular schools, and we reply

The Mid West Humanists met the Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan TD on 28 November 2014. We told her then that we seek a system of State secular schools to replace the present system of schools devolved to patrons. We put our detailed requests in writing also.

On 10 March the Minister responded to our request. We sent a reply to the Minister on 16 March. We show both of these here. You will see that the Minister and Department of Education and Skills are making some changes. Yet the need for a peaceful society is still for schools to be secular and not divided by religion, and the State should own the schools. The Minister’s letter does not mention this our main idea.

In our reply we noted to the Minister that at present, because 92% of primary schools are under the Roman Catholic patrons, those schools could feel some duty now to adapt to pupils who are not Roman Catholic. Recently the Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland wrote a report about this adaptation, and the publication alone shows that they feel under some such pressure. Our response to the Minister is about this pressure, and how even that pressure will disappear if the country’s schools come to contain a substantial minority of schools with patrons which treat all children in a secular, egalitarian manner. The RC schools would then be more like their own ethos than they are now, and children at those schools would hear little of the variety of cultures that exist in Ireland.
We are not endorsing the particular plans in the report, which Atheist Ireland has reviewed and found greatly wanting.

 

The Minister’s letter to the Mid West Humanists: –

10  March 2015

Dear Mr O’Hara,

 

I refer to your correspondence following our meeting in November 2014.  Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying to you. 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

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