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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 campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution

We should remove Article 40.3.3 from the Constitution of Ireland

We should bring Abortion Services home to Ireland

At their meeting in January 2018 the Mid-West Humanists decided that democracy means that the Dáil and Senate should let the people vote on removing Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution. (At this date, the Government has said there will be a Referendum on this in May 2018.)
We write about how the 8th Amendment (Article 40.3.3) was added to the Constitution in 1983, the social and political climate connected with this, and its later modification in 1992. We also show Article 40.3.3 (page 172 of the PDF version of the online Constitution).

The Mid-West Humanists composed a leaflet of information for voters, including reasons to vote Yes (to remove Article 40.3.3), at the meeting in February 2018. You can read Repeal the 8th Amendment on our Aims and Media page.

We have another post on why the Mid-West Humanists are campaigning publicly. We welcome comments there, or on this post, or in our Facebook group.

On the Streets

Some Mid-West Humanists have been on the streets, starting in Limerick city centre on Saturday 24 February2018, to give our leaflets to the public. We expect to be on the streets in Limerick again on Saturday 03 March 2018, when several other groups will also be campaigning for the repeal of the 8th amendment.
We hope to campaign on further dates in the same and in further places.

 

Constitution of Ireland 1937
Article 40.3.3

8th Amendment, 1983

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

Added 1992 (13th Amendment)

This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.

Added 1992 (14th Amendment)

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

History of Article 40.3.3

This subsection of Article 40 was added by Referendum in late 1983, after a small set of people pressed both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to do so, in the campaigns for the general elections in 1981, spring 1982, and autumn 1982. This set of people told the politicians that they feared the Supreme Court would declare termination of pregnancy a constitutional right, as the United States of America Supreme Court had declared in 1973; and that they feared that the Dáil and Senate would pass a law to permit abortion, as the United Kingdom Parliament had passed in 1967. Continue reading

Mid-West Humanists tell the Minister for Health to keep National Maternity Hospital in State ownership

Today Monday 22 05 2017 the Mid-West Humanists have emailed and also written by registered post to the Minister for Health about why the new National Maternity Hospital in Dublin should be in an organisation that the State owns and can fully control.

 

We show here the text of our email and letter.

————————————————————–

Mid West Humanists

An Atheist Community in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary

 

To Simon Harris TD, Minister for Health

Contents

  1. The Mid-West Humanists (MWH) make this submission about the National Maternity Hospital
  2. Who the Mid-West Humanists are
  3. Mid-West Humanists’ reasons to meet includes the problems with state-funded hospitals not being under democratic control and thus not fair to the people
  4. To keep the new maternity hospital in State ownership is to make it possible for the people through the Oireachtas and Department of Health to fully control how the hospital will run. This will benefit all the people in the State, and will make governing the State easier both in running a hospital and during re-organisation of health services
  5. The historical ceding or divesting of hospitals and health services to religious organisations is no longer reasonable. While in the past people agreed with the religious leaders’ ideas how to run such services, a large part of the people now strongly disagree.
  6. Disquiet at past abuse of children has been a spur to people to speak to oppose giving the hospital to the Sisters of Charity, but the reason to have the State own it fully is about democratic control of health services
  7. Delay caused by seeking a plan to keep the new maternity hospital on land that the State will own may be regrettable, but people can wait a little more, and to keep the present plan will cause more trouble in the long run
  8. Conclusion
    It is the people’s health service, and it will be the best service if it is in control of State organisations

 

Dear Minister for Health Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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.

Mid-West Humanists send submission to Department of Education on strategy 2016-2018

The new government that formed in 2016 made a Program for Government. This includes chapter 10 (page 86) on Education.

The Department of Education and Skills asked people for submissions on the Program, to contribute to the Department’s strategy for 2016 to 2018. The strategy was online, but is not available since the date for receiving submissions. They published a survey form with their set of questions. They set Wednesday 08 June 2016 as the last day for submissions.

The Mid-West Humanists have sent a submission early on 08 June 2016.

Our submission concentrates on secular education, how this is more important than a greater variety or diversity of patrons for schools (that plan is in fact a mistake); and on how the Minister and Department of Education and Skills can make all National Schools fairly secular by instructing those schools to follow the System of National Education (as their leases oblige them), Rule 69 of the Rules for National Schools of 1965, and Article 44.2.4 of Ireland’s Constitution.

Submissions will be available on the Department’s website, but we also show our submission here.

Continue reading

The Census should have the None option as the first option

The Mid-West Humanists and similar groups and people note that the order of replies to questions in the Census causes bias in how people reply

This applies to the question about a person’s religion, and to some other questions also.

You can read the 2016 Census form on the Central Statistics Office website.

There are 4 questions (of 11 questions) about the household on page 2 of the Census form, that have between 5 and 9 optional answers, with one answer being “none” or a similar word – central heating fuel, source of piped water, destination of sewage, and cars (or vans). Question H6 Central Heating includes “No central heating” as option 1. In the other 3, “none” is the last option.

There are 4 questions (of 34 questions) about each person on later pages of the form, that have between 7 and 11 optional answers, with one answer being “none” or a similar word.

Of these, only in the religion question (Q12) is the “none” option last.

Q19 Mode of travel daily, Q20 Time leaving home in the morning daily, and Q25 Formal Education all have the “none” option first.

So, if your house or other residence has no central heating, or if you do not travel daily to work, school, or college, or if you have never been to any school, you do not have to pore over several irrelevant options before finding the right answer for you (or your residence) at the end.

How putting the “None” option last causes bias

If you glance through 4 to 10 options which are all wrong, and you are a little bothered by filling the form, you may mark a box that is not true.

You may notice so much about the various options, that you do not notice the content of the last option. You may behave as if the set of answers forces you to pick one of the first few options, even though they are not true about you.

On seeing that of these 8 questions, the Central Statistics Office has put the “none” option first in 4 and last in the other 4, I wonder if the CSO thinks that there may sometimes be bias in having a particular option at either the start or the end.

I notice the confusion caused by having to read 4 to 10 options that do not fit yourself, so that you are not concentrating when your eyes reach the last option (which is the right one for you).

How non-religious groups and people have thought that the Census question of the last decades causes bias, and how to improve it

Atheist and humanist organisations have in recent decades said that the presence of several religions as the first few optional replies to the religion question leads to people thinking of a religion to which they subscribed in the past, and marking the box for that.

They have proposed splitting the religion question into 2 parts. First, Do you have a religion? (yes/ no). Second (if you wrote Yes), What is your religion?

It has been difficult to get the CSO to consider changing the question.

If the question does not become divided into 2 parts, to put the “none” option as the first option would a good step. The CSO are clearly not opposed to a “none” option being the first option in a census question.

When the census is complete, the Mid-West Humanists intend to write to the CSO to seek to have the religion question improved.