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 If this section were repealed, Section 7(2) would prohibit discrimination in a school under the 9 grounds described in Section 2 of the Act.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

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.

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.

May 2015 meeting

At the May 2015 meeting we noted that the street campaign to remove the blasphemy prohibition from the Constitution was going well. There are now about 100 signatures on the petition to TDs for a referendum to remove it. There will be a table with the petition and leaflets about every second Saturday at the corner of Thomas Street and O’Connell Street in Limerick from about 11:00 until 13:00.

As we have not received a reply from the Minister for Education and Skills to our request on 24 04 2015 at her office for more information about the Deeds of Variation to leases of National Schools, we are to meet her again at her clinic soon.

The Mid-West Humanists decided to submit a plan to contribute to the commemorations in 2016 in Limerick of the 1916 Rising.

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

Blasphemy outlawed in the Constitution – why we should remove this urgently

Pakistan quotes Ireland’s law against blasphemy to defend against democratic countries urging them to abolish it. Laws do maintain culture within a society, and the culture in Pakistan against blasphemy has resulted in the murder of – people released from a blasphemy charge, a lawyer who defended an accused, a judge who did not make the popular decision, and a state governor who had spoken in public of the problems with this law and favoured repealing it.

These murders contribute to views that to kill people who blaspheme (and anyone who favours the “blasphemers”) is right and reasonable. This contribution probably extends, at least indirectly, to those who did the murders on 07 01 2015 in Paris.

To prohibit blasphemy does not add to freedom of religion; it reduces it

Religions have rules. There are usually rules about what you will think or believe, mostly about the god and related people or things. A second set of rules tell you to do some things, and also not to do some other things.

Freedom of religion in democratic societies means you are free to join a religion, and also free not to join a religion; to choose which religion; and to leave the religion at any time.

When you choose a religion you can agree to follow its rules (otherwise, you are not bound by such rules.) If a thousand million people thereby undertake not to draw pictures of Mohammed, that does not create a right for any of those people to stop the other six thousand million people on earth drawing and publishing what they choose. A law against blasphemy is not about freedom of religion: rather it lets some people stop other people exercising freedom of religion and some other freedoms.

Continue reading

Constitutional Convention Deadline Wednesday 27 11 2013

Submissions to the Constitutional Convention will close on the Convention’s close of business on 27th November 2013

I regret that I posted previously, on 14 11 2013, that the Convention would cease taking submissions on 19 11 2013. I had thought that this news which I received was reliable.

On Monday 25 11 2013 the Convention’s website showed a new notice, that the Convention will accept its last submissions at its close of business on Wednesday 27 11 2013.

So you can still send a submission, and we ask all people without religion, and people with religion who want a secular society and a secular constitution, to make his or her own submission to that effect.

The Constitutional Convention is to hold its last 2 weekend meetings in February 2014. The subjects which they will discuss on those weekends are not settled, and the Convention’s members will vote in early December 2013 on what these will be.

The Convention’s members will use the list of subjects on which people made submissions to the Convention website. They have full discretion and are not bound by the number of submissions on a subject, but may be considering the quality of the submissions.

The website is going to stop taking submissions on 27 November 2013.

Any person who wants to make a submission to the Constitutional Convention needs to put the submission on the Convention website by 27 November 2013. After that date the Constitutional Convention will cease taking submissions on its website.

At present it is not in any way guaranteed that the secular questions (other than blasphemy) will be discussed.

You can make it more likely that the main secular questions will be discussed, by sending in your individual submission, which need not be long or complicated.

See the previous post for some ideas.

Blasphemy was discussed at the Convention’s meeting on Saturday 02 and Sunday 03 November 2013. The vote was to remove the anti-blasphemy clause.

At present the Convention’s website says it has 709 submissions in its “Submissions – Other” list. There are also at least 14 submissions for a Secular Constitution in the “Blasphemy” list. The three largest groups of submissions are on these subjects:-

Separate Church and State (Secular Constitution) – 188;

Environment to be protected in the constitution – 151;

We have heard from Convention officials that there may be several tens of submissions on the Environment waiting to be put up on the website.

Economic, Social, and Cultural rights (ESC) (includes a Home) – 140.

Of the 188 submissions asking for a Secular Constitution, some of these are about all the parts that need to be changed, and some are on single subjects, such as the Preamble, or the Declarations for President, Council of State, and Judges.

Send your submission now.