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World Blasphemy Day 2016

30 September 2016, a Friday, is World Blasphemy Day.

The Center for Inquiry of Amherst, N.Y., U.S.A., proposed this annual special day in 2009.

It is a day for all people in all parts of the world who value free expression to draw attention to laws that make blasphemy an offence and thus limit your free expression of ideas – either protesting at such laws in your own country, or in other countries, or both.

The End Blasphemy Laws campaign was started in January 2015 by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, the European Humanist Federation, and Atheist Alliance International.

Mid-West Humanists at Thomas Street, Limerick for World Blasphemy Day

Several Mid-West Humanists will be at the corner of Thomas Street and O’Connell Street in Limerick on 30 September 2016 from about 12:00 until at least 14:00.

We will have a map of the world from the End Blasphemy Laws campaign, showing which countries have laws against blasphemy, coloured according to the penalty – death in some countries.

We will have pictures that could be offensive to adherents of some religions, all of them amusing (as long as humour is not contrary to your religion or to your non-religious life-stance).

Our interest is not in offending people, but in protesting at a Constitution and a law that prohibit free discussion on religion, whereas there is no law limiting public discussion on your cherished political party or sporting team (or any other idea which you hold dear).

We hope you will come by us, and we can give more information about laws against blasphemy, and the bad effects of such laws. We will give leaflets on the reasons to repeal the law and remove the relevant sentence from Article 40 of Ireland’s Constitution.

We hope this will be enjoyable for as many people as possible, including people with religion (many people with religion write their own jokes and satires about their religion).

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

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.

February meeting cancelled because of ROSA Limerick Election Candidates’ Debate

Special Notice on Cancellation of meeting 17 February 2016

We became aware only on 11 February of another meeting at exactly the same time, that would be of great interest to many Mid-West Humanists, connected with the General Election on 26 February. By Saturday 13 February we decided to cancel our meeting, so that Mid-West Humanists can attend-

General Election Candidates’ Debate (Limerick candidates for election to the Dáil) – organised by Rosa Limerick, who campaign for the reproductive health and other services for women.

Date                    :          Wednesday 17 February 2016

Time                   :          20:00

Place                   :          Pery Hotel, Glentworth Street, Limerick

One of Rosa Limerick’s 3 main subjects for the Dáil Candidates is about Public Services, “Do you think that in the areas of health and education the State should provide support to people of all faiths and none equally? How is that possible in the current system?”

This is an opportunity to put the case for secular education and health services to candidates for election to the Dáil. It is unfortunate for the Mid-West Humanists that this will not include candidates in Clare and Tipperary, but the message for secular services will receive some publicity.

Rosa Limerick have welcomed people such as the Mid-West Humanists to attend, people who would tell the candidates the value of secular education and health services, and people’s entitlement to these.

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.

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

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