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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.

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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 If this section were repealed, Section 7(2) would prohibit discrimination in a school under the 9 grounds described in Section 2 of the Act.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.

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

August 2015 meeting

The meeting on 19 August 2015 supported the petition by Paddy Monahan that no baptismal certificate be required of a child on entry to school.

The meeting considered how to further publicise the information that the Leases of National Schools are very secular, and how to make use of the recent great publicity about the unfairness or requiring a child to be baptised in order to get a place in the local school.

July 2015 meeting

The meeting on 15 July 2015 supported the campaign by Atheist Ireland for every person to visit the TDs in your constituency to ask that they vote for the Private Members Bill amending section 37 (1) of the Employment Equality Act 1998. This is NOT to support the amending Bill that the Government has promised, which intends to remove discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or identity, but also intends to keep discrimination on the grounds of religion or lack of religion.

The meeting considered as much allying with other secular groups as is possible, in the campaign to make people aware that the Leases of National Schools are very secular, and thus to forestall the leases being changed by the Minister for Education signing Deeds of Variation.

June 2015 meeting

The meeting on 17 June 2015 discussed the definition of Atheism in the Mid-West Humanists’ leaflet on Humanism and the Mid-West Humanists. The consensus was to keep the definition as a view that there do not exist any gods.

The meeting heard that some of our members had met the Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan T.D. since the May meeting. The Minister has very recently confirmed to us that the decision to change the Lease of a National School by signing a Deed of Variation is a decision reserved to the Minister and not delegated to any civil servant. She had told us at the recent meeting that the Department of Education is allocated to the Labour Party for the length of this coalition government, and the Labour Party favours secular education. Thus it is unlikely that any Deeds of Variation will be signed under the present government. The Mid-West Humanists will continue to seek more information about school leases, and will seek to avoid any leases being modified by the draft Deeds of Variation.