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Constitutional Convention Deadline

Submissions to the Constitutional Convention will close on 19th November 2013

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 19 November 2013.

Any person who wants to make a submission to the Constitutional Convention needs to put the submission on the Convention website by 19 November 2013. After that date the Constitutional Convention will cease taking submissions on its website.

The Mid West Humanists have encouraged people of no religion, and also people with religion who would like a secular constitution, to put their own submission on the Convention’s website.

We have aimed since the Convention was announced in 2011 to seek to have it consider a plan to make the Constitution secular.

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 further down 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 620 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) – 158;

Environment to be protected in the constitution – 137;

Economic, Social, and Cultural rights (ESC) (includes a Home) – 135.

Of the 158 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.

In order for the changes to make a Secular Constitution get discussed at the Convention, this subject must receive as many individual submissions as possible, not form letters or emails. The Mid West Humanists have encouraged people to write their own submissions and not to copy another person’s submission. We hope this will mean more submissions of good quality, which we hear is more important than the number of submissions.

The Mid West Humanists recommend any person who thinks the Constitution should be secular to make her or his own submission. Here are what the Convention’s website will ask of you:

Name (will be shown on their website)
(some submitters have entered other than their true name, but their submissions are on the website)

County (will be shown on their website)

Title of your submission (will be shown on their website)

Address; email address – WILL NOT BE ON WEBSITE;

Telephone number (optional) WILL NOT BE ON WEBSITE;

Submission version 1 in a text box – maximum 1000 characters including spaces. (will be shown on their website)

Submission version 2, being a doc or pdf file that you create (optional). (will be shown on their website)

You can make quick reference to the main Articles of the Constitution that have too much religious content in the text box with 1000 characters. It is sufficient to count as a submission that you give a title that clearly shows the issue you intend. You will have shown enough substance in your submission if you put a few sentences about the issue in the text box.

For a submission in favour of a secular constitution we think it will be enough if you name some of these Articles and that you want them removed or made secular. There are already some submissions with arguments for these changes: not every submission needs to detail the arguments.

Mid West Humanists visit their TDs

When the government announced in 2012 that they would set up a Constitutional Convention, as promised before the General Election in 2011, the Mid West Humanists decided to visit the TDs in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary to ask them to have the Convention discuss making the Constitution secular.

By the time the Convention was starting its work in early 2013, the Dáil and Senate had included the part of Article 40 that makes Blasphemy an offence in the list for the Convention’s discussions.

Making the Constitution secular has not been on the list, but the Convention is considering what issues to discuss at 2 weekend meetings in February 2014. You can increase the chances that they will discuss Secular Constitution by making a submission to the Convention’s Submissions page. Give your own views, as in another post here.

So the Mid West Humanists set the plan to visit the TDs for close to the time when the Convention would discuss the anti-blasphemy clause.

The Convention discussed the anti-blasphemy clause on Saturday 02 and Sunday 03 November 2013. They voted to remove the clause; unfortunately they also voted to put in a replacement clause to prohibit religious hate crime. These are recommendations, and any referendum depends on a vote in the Dáil and Senate.

Members of the Mid West Humanists have talked to 3 of the 4 TDs in Limerick City and 2 of the 3 TDs in North Tipperary. We expect to get to speak to the other TDs in this region in the next few weeks. The TDs have listened to our proposals, which are in other posts here [Blasphemy, Declarations, Secular] ;

and in our submissions to the Constitutional Convention [Blasphemy, Declarations, Secular].

We asked the TDs to vote for referenda to let the people decide on removing the Blasphemy offence from the Constitution and on making the Constitution secular. We do not yet know what the TDs or their political parties think about this.

Watch out for more news.

Anybody who is a humanist or atheist and lives in Kerry-Limerick West would be welcome to help with the visits to TDs: please email info@midwesthumanists.com

Tell the Constitutional Convention that you want the Constitution to be Secular

The Mid West Humanists have sent one submission to the Constitutional Convention that the Blasphemy offence should be deleted;

another submission that several items in the Constitution should be changed to make the constitution secular; both on 24 May 2013;

and on 19 September 2013 a third submission that repeats the part of the second one that deals with a President, a judge, and a member of the Council of State being obliged to declare on starting the post that they so declare “in the presence of Almighty God“. We sent this because the Tánaiste making that declaration at the Council of State in July 2013 illustrated the bad effects of the mention of a god.

We have aimed since the Convention was announced in 2011 to seek to have it consider a plan to make the Constitution secular.

I write now because 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 further down for some ideas.

Blasphemy will definitely be considered – at the Convention’s meeting on Saturday 02 and Sunday 03 November 2013. The Dail and Senate in July 2012 listed blasphemy as one of the topics that the Convention is to consider. The Convention’s website now states that on 02 and 03 November there will also begin consideration of Other Amendments. Other Amendments will get more discussion at the Convention’s last listed meeting on Saturday 30 November and Sunday 01 December.

As I write the Convention’s website says it has 301 submissions in its “Submissions – Other” list. The three largest groups of submissions are on these subjects:-

Right to a home;

Environment to be protected in the constitution;

Economic, Social, and Cultural rights (ESC).

I have not counted these submissions, but these 3 groups have at least 50 submissions each. On the website you cannot filter those or any other groups in order to count them, nor can you separate the Secular submissions from the “Other” set.

As I write there are 27 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.

In order for the changes to make a Secular Constitution get discussed at the Convention, this subject must receive more submissions.

The Mid West Humanists recommend any person who thinks the Constitution should be secular to make her or his own submission. Here are what the Convention’s website will ask of you:

Name (will be shown on their website)
(some submitters have entered other than their true name, but their submissions are on the website)

County (will be shown on their website)

Title of your submission (will be shown on their website)

Address; email address – WILL NOT BE ON WEBSITE;

Telephone number (optional) WILL NOT BE ON WEBSITE;

Submission version 1 in a text box – maximum 1000 characters including spaces. (will be shown on their website)

Submission version 2, being a doc or pdf file that you create (optional). (will be shown on their website)

You can make quick reference to the main Articles of the Constitution that have too much religious content in the text box with 1000 characters. It is sufficient to count as a submission that you give a title that clearly shows the issue you intend. You will have shown enough substance in your submission if you put a few sentences about the issue in the text box.

For a submission in favour of a secular constitution we think it will be enough if you name some of these Articles and that you want them removed or made secular. There are already some submissions with arguments for these changes: not every submission needs to detail the arguments.

Mid West Humanists send a submission to the Constitutional Convention on Declarations of Office

This is connected with the Council of State’s meeting in July 2013.

The Mid West Humanists have sent a submission to the Constitutional Convention on the declaration that the constitution says you must make on starting as President, or as a judge, or as a member of the Council of State.

This is our third submission to the Convention. In May 2013 we sent a submission on the Blasphemy law in the Constitution, because the Dail and Senate and the Government had sent this subject to the convention. At the same time we sent a submission on all the parts of the Constitution that have religious features and thus are not secular. This submission included asking to remove the Blasphemy law, but we sent the two separately because it was not fixed that the Convention would discuss making the Constitution secular.

In the Secular submission we noted that the Constitution tells a person (on starting the job) promising to do the job faithfully as President, as a judge, and as a member of the Council of State, that he or she must say she or he is doing this “in the presence of Almighty God“. The President and a judge must also add at the end “May God direct and sustain me

In the submission in May 2013 we had to speculate about judges who have no religion or do not believe in a god making these declarations, and so being dishonest; where honesty is one of the main features needed in a judge.

This was because we knew of no example of a person, publicly known to have no religion who had to deal with one of these declarations.

We sent the recent submission because in July 2013 President Higgins summoned the Council of State to meet with him to advise him over whether or not to refer the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill (the Bill to legislate for the 1992 X case on abortion) to the Supreme Court. (He decided not to refer it, but to immediately sign it into law).

At this meeting of the Council of State, an instance of the problems arising from the religious content of these declarations became public.

The Constitution says that the Tánaiste is automatically (“ex officio”) a member of the Council of State. Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore had said well before his election in 2011 that he does not have a definite belief in a god. Newspapers said in July 2013 that he got legal advice that he had a duty to go to the meeting of the Council of State, and that he should make the declaration including mentioning God.

This appears to mean that Article 31 of the Constitution has just directed or strongly encouraged the second in command of the executive branch of our government to speak dishonestly in public.

This part of the Constitution appears to encourage people to think is is okay for government ministers to be less than fully honest with the people:  this is likely to reduce people’s faith in the institutions of state and destabilise the democratic form of our government.

The Mid West Humanists’ submission on Secular Declarations of Office gives the above account and argues strongly that the religious parts of the declarations for a President, a judge, and a member of the Council of State must be removed.

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

HAI’s EGM on 26 June 2013 – discussed at Mid West Humanists meeting 19 June 2013

The Mid West Humanists meeting on Wednesday 19 June 2013 discussed the forthcoming

Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI)

which is to be on

Wednesday 26 June 2013 at 19:00 in

Gandon Suite

O’Callaghan Davenport Hotel

Merrion Square

Dublin 2.

This meeting will be open only to members of the HAI.

The EGM is to do with HAI Celebrants being made State legal Solemnisers of marriages, and how that might inhibit the HAI from campaigning for political changes moving towards a secular society.

The HAI (founded 1993) has about 500 members in the Republic of Ireland and it enables humanists to meet and support each other, campaigns for state institutions to be secular (particularly including schools being fair to children with religion and without religion), and accredits celebrants so that people can have marriages, funerals, and naming their babies without any religious content to the ceremonies; and has further related aims and activities.

The HAI is a company limited by guarantee and so is subject to the Companies Acts.

The HAI has aims generally similar to the Mid West Humanists (MWH). The MWH benefit from the HAI giving notice about our meetings in their 2-monthly magazine, and a link on their website, and on occasion the HAI have sent someone to speak to the MWH. While there are not very close links between the two, people who attend the MWH know that there is a national humanist organisation that will help with major issues. The MWH website has links both to the HAI generally and to their Celebrants.

At the meeting on 19 June 2013 exactly half the attenders were members of HAI and the other half were not. Because HAI is a national organisation and because many new attenders at MWH meetings and new visitors to the website ask about humanist ceremonies (particularly marriages), even though less than half our attenders generally are members of HAI, the problems to be discussed at their Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) are of substantial interest to most Mid West humanists.

Problems leading to the EGM

Andrew Devine-Rattigan who is a member of HAI asked all HAI members to support a call for this EGM in April 2013, and at least 10% of members agreed, and that is sufficient to make the EGM happen.

Andrew wrote about the following problem. Continue reading

What the Mid West Humanists sent to the press and radio on 08 January 2013

As planned I sent the following to 13 local newspapers and 4 local radio stations by email on 08 01 2013, and later by post. I sent this information document to those on the email and phone lists on 20 12 2012, and again on 07 01 2013.

—————————————————————–

Mid West Humanists

(People without religion)

General Information about the Mid West Humanists

The Mid West Humanists are a group of people (from Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary) with no religion, or leaning that way (since 2008).

The Mid West Humanists meet monthly in Limerick, at present in the Absolute Hotel, 3rd Wednesday of the month at 20:00

The Mid West Humanists seek social and political changes, that society and the state should – (1) be secular; (2) treat equally people who have religion and people who have no religion; (3) be more open to people who have no religion.

How to contact the Mid West Humanists

Peter O’Hara is contact person for the media on Humanism, Secular society, or any connected matters.

Website                midwesthumanists.com

The contact person can speak (and obtain further people to speak) both on people’s personal experience of humanism and the change from religion, and also on government and non-government structures that create difficulty for or are unfair to people who have no religion (and the changes needed). Continue reading

Changes the Mid West Humanists seek to the Constitution summer 2012

The meetings in June and July 2012 decided in favour of a list of changes to the Constitution of Ireland.

The Mid West Humanists seek these changes in order to make the Constitution fit with a secular state. People should have freedom to have a religion, or not have a religion. The State should not show different levels of favour to people or organisations of different religions, or different levels of favour between those with religions and those with no religion.

The State should not put any value on people having a religion. It should be indifferent to this. The State’s concern is that people should obey the law.

The list of the changes that the Mid West Humanists favour is on the Meetings Report page.

The next meeting of the Mid West Humanists is on the Next Meeting page. At the meeting on 15 August 2012, we will discuss the plan to take the list of changes to the TDs in the Mid West region of Ireland, that is, Limerick city and the counties of Limerick, Clare, and North Tipperary. We hope to make these visits in the remaining months of 2012.

Meetings summer 2012 on the Constitution

The June 2012 meeting looked at features of the Constitution of Ireland that have religious content and are incompatible with a secular state. These articles discriminate against people who have no religion.
The meeting voted that many parts of articles would be best removed.
At the next meeting on 18 July 2012, the meeting is to examine further articles.
When the list of articles that should be changed in order to make the Constitution fully secular is complete, some of the Mid West Humanists will visit the TDs in the region to put the case for these amendments to the Constitution.

Election 2011

Knowing who to vote for isn’t easy.

Conor McGrath of Atheist Ireland has prepared a secular analysis of several of the parties manifestoes which I’ve linked to below –

You might also like to look at the responses to Athesit Ireland’s questions from candidates and parties here.

Below are the answers we received to the questions we sent to local candidates. As you can see we received only a small number of responses and I’d like to thank all those who took the time to respond.

Jim Connolly – Ind. – Clare
Hi Jason,
You are right on being busy — I am canvassing all day and have 30 emails to deal with. I believe in debate and never give sound bite opinions. In haste please see http://www.td4clare for evidence of my lifetime involvement with humanitarian / quality of life issues.
Regards,Jim
*******************************************************************************************************
Michael McNamara – Labour – Clare
In line with our Labour policy, here is my response.
* Do you favour a secular education system fully under state control? Yes
* Do you believe blasphemy should be a crime? No
* Do you favour removing the constitutional requirement that judges and the President swear a religious oath upon entering office? Yes
* In light of the recent ECHR ruling, do you favour the introduction of legislation to regulate abortion? Yes
* Do you favour the removal of funding for religious chaplains in state funded institutions? Yes
*******************************************************************************************************
Olwyn O’Malley – Green Party – Tipp North

Dear Jason
Thanks for corresponding with me.. unfortunately I don’t have much time or the resources to reply to the mountain of correspondence I am getting so please find my succinct replies below
*Do you favour a secular education system fully under state control? The green Party is in favour of a secular state education system
* Do you believe blasphemy should be a crime? No
* Do you favour removing the constitutional requirement that judges and the President swear a religious oath upon entering office? Yes
* In light of the recent ECHR ruling, do you favour the introduction of legislation to regulate abortion? Yes
* Do you favour the removal of funding for religious chaplains in state funded institutions? No if they are carrying out a necessary role within that institution such as counselling services but there should also be secular services available
Hope this addresses your queries
kind regards
*******************************************************************************************************
James Breen – Ind. – Clare

Dear Mr. Spratt,
While I understand that each of these issues is very important to you, I think that it is also important that we realize we are in a time of crisis in our country.  While each of us carries burning passions for issues (my own is healthcare in Clare), we must prioritize fixing our broken country.
In order to do this, I propose that we reform our government, go after the speculators and banks who put us in this position, kickstart our economy by setting up centers for innovation, investing in education and smaller class sizes, investing in top class healthcare for our citizens and reducing the cost of prescription drugs in line with other countries in the EU, tackling crime and protecting our environment and natural resources.
Once we have righted ourselves as a nation then we can tackle our other issues, but until that time, I promise you one thing; I am committed to doing whatever is in my power to creating a climate where the best solutions are brought forward and implemented by our government and the people of Claire are represented in Dail Eireann.
Thank you for your interest in my campaign,
*******************************************************************************************************
Kate Bopp – Ind. – Tipp. North

Dear Jason,
Thank you for your email.
Below are the answer previously given,
1) Yes, this is contained in my policies. I intend to campaign for a secular educational system with he removal of any religious preferences from publicly funded education
2) Again; Yes.
3) To quote from my own website: ” I will call for removal of references to religion in the constitution. Revision of the Defamation Act to ensure compliance with the Article 40.6.1 of the Irish Constitution ensuring Freedom of Speech.”
4) I will support and call for removal of any religious ethos from all publicly funded institutions including hospitals. However privately funded institutions should have the freedom to promote their own religious ethos
5) Yes.
6) Yes, although the implementation of this will need very specific & detailed study.
7) I am a strong supporter of freedom of religion as well as freedom of speech. This means that everyone should be free to believe in whatever they want to choose not to have any religion. However it also means that religion is a private matter and should in no way be part of public life or institution.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

*******************************************************************************************************

Hope all of this is some help in guiding your decision.