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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.

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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

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.

March 2015 meeting

At the March 2015 meeting we decided to continue the Blasphemy law stands on the street in Limerick, which were there again on 21/02/2015 and 07/03/2015, and to begin the stand soon in Ennis.

The meeting decided at the next meeting to debate the way in which we run the meeting, the rules for speaking and chairing.

Dr Chris Exton is to give his talk on Ethics in a Secular Society a second time, at the Rowan Tree Cafe Bar, Harmony Row, Ennis on 26/03/2015 at 19:30. See the Next Meeting page.

February 2015 meeting

I forgot to post this right after the meeting.

At the February 2015 meeting we decided to report after each meeting any important decisions and plans made.

Two of the mid west humanists stood at the junction of Thomas Street and O’Connell Street in Limerick for 2 hours on 24/01/2015, giving leaflets to the public on the blasphemy law. People could also sign a petition to the TDs to ask for a referendum to remove the law.

The meeting decided to continue this campaign, including standing on the street also in Ennis.

After a very successful talk by Dr Chris Exton on Ethics in a Secular Society at The Stormy Teacup (off Foxes Bow, Limerick) on 12/02/2015, further talks are planned there.

The monthly meeting is continue in the Absolute Hotel.

Secular weddings and the Humanist Association of Ireland

Marcus Brooks and Joni Spence commented on the report of the 19 June meeting discussion on the HAI EGM and the problem with their Celebrants being made state Solemnisers. Many visitors to our website would like to understand what this is about.

The criticism of the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) for accepting its Celebrants being legal Solemnisers of state marriages, under the Civil Registration Amendment Act 2012, is not that the HAI should not provide marriage and civil partnership ceremonies that are also the legal bond, but that accepting this generally admirable plan under this particular law will inhibit the HAI from secular campaigning. And Ireland needs a national body that will campaign vigorously (not weakly) for a secular state and a secular society.

Mid West Humanists’  views on secular marriages

People who have come to the Mid West Humanists’  (MWH) meetings have talked of secular marriage ceremonies many times. The commonest view has been about people who want a marriage, wanting to have the ceremony free of any religious matter. I think people who spoke also wanted not to be involved in the hypocrisy of using a church organisation for their wedding when they do not believe in a god, and have not and will not be attending the church for years before and after the marriage. People also wanted not to show hypocrisy by marrying in a church when they say to their relatives and friends that they have no religion. Some people who have come to MWH meetings have talked of the difficulty in getting people to believe that you do not have a religion.

In 2011 several meetings discussed whether we could do something to have the HSE improve the decor of the Registry Office in St Camillus’ Hospital Limerick, to a standard that two people and their few guests would feel good enough for the ceremony of a major new stage of their lives. We didn’t get around to doing anything.

New attenders and visitors to the website often ask how to contact a humanist celebrant, and we always give a contact for the Celebrants of the Humanist Association of Ireland. There is a link to this in the left sidebar.

I’ve never heard anyone speak in favour of having two procedures or events: but I can see a person wanting to have the legal start of his or her marriage being like any other formal signing of a contract, and thus being free to have the party run in any way they like – this person might want to have two events.

Humanist Association of Ireland and Marriages

The question within the Humanist Association of Ireland is not about the State registering marriages with the officiant or solemniser having no connection to a religion. Up to 2012 the only non-religious officiants have been the State’s registrars. Many Mid West Humanists (and others) were happy with this, and the limits were about the poor decor in the Limerick office (and elsewhere, I would suspect), and how the Registrar worked only on weekdays and it was quite hard to get the Registrar to officiate at places outside the Office. Many other people wanted the type of ceremony that the Humanist Celebrants organise, and saw no good reason to have to go to the Registry Office as well.

The people within the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI), and people who attend the Mid West Humanists, who see difficulty with the HAI and the Civil Registration Amendment Act 2012 (CRAA), have never spoken against pairs of people (who plan to marry or be civil partners) getting to have only one ceremony and it having no religious content. All the critics of the HAI’s stance see this aim as entirely reasonable.

Continue reading

It’s either a Big Tent or Multiple Hats.

I listen to the Chariots of Iron podcast (thanks for the link Jason) and they have coined a word  – atheiskeptihumanist to cover the idea of including atheists, sceptics and humanists in the one group.

“It’s a big tent” or a “broad church” are also phrases I’ve been hearing a lot lately since atheists are about to set up an organisation of their own.   What the term seems to imply is that there is a big tent of Freethinking which can accommodate all kinds of different groups, but each of the groups has its own distinct outlook or role.  The phrases have been used as a form of reassurance to people who have been expressing worry about the division of membership between organisations or the danger of misunderstanding among the public (and politicians) of the nature of atheists and humanists.  Needless to say I take a different view and needless to say it’s got the cat herding characteristics associated with freethinking.  I believe that we can wear multiple hats.  Take me for example:

I am an assertive (not MILITANT) atheist because of the repression and mental pain religion inflicted on me  and on so many other people.  I want people to know that religion is a controlling mechanism and a sham and that they can be free of it.

I am a sceptic and as far as possible apply reason and logic to the decisions I make and situations I am presented with.  I believe that science and reason offers humans their best chance of understanding the world and improving their lives individually and collectively and as a result that nonsense should be challenged where possible and reasonable.

I am a humanist because it is the life stance that best reflects who I am.

I am a secularist.  I believe that humans are a social and gregarious animal and must live in an organised society and that society must be regulated.  This regulation should be the minimum necessary to allow people to pursue happiness for themselves without inflicting harm on others or society as a whole.  For that reason the ethic underpinning society should in no way be connected with religion but derived from human need as tested by experience.

I can wear these hats and more and this is why I believe that the Big Tent analogy should be replaced by the Many Hats one because it more nearly reflects the real nature of the atheiskeptihumanist.

A New Atheist Group?

I know some of you have already been active in this discussion over at atheist.ie.

To give some background Dick Spicer from the HAI wrote an article on atheist.ie suggesting a new more assertive atheist group should be set up.

While there has been much to and fro on the topic the general feeling seems to be supportive of such a move.

The suggestion I made for a next step is below, what do people here think? What would people think of the MWH offering to host such a convention?

Do people think we need a new national organisation? Should we concentrate on building the membership of the HAI instead?

If we do want a new group I’d suggest we call a convention. What I mean is that we form a temporary organising committee and then select a date and location and advertise as widely as possible with the aim of starting a mass movement with local branches throughout the country. The convention would have to run over a couple of days and work on a constitution, name, aims & objectives. This might need to be done by a series of committees and then voted on by those present. Existing groups like the HAI and ISS should be invited to participate.

As I see it the rationalist position will only be treated seriously when we have numbers, another 200 member group won’t change anything. People have criticised the HAI but please remember that it is a entirely voluntary organisation. If we can garner enough support we can have full time paid staff, that means people who are available to write press releases/blogs and appear on TV or radio. There is only so much free time people can give to any organisation.