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 If this section were repealed, Section 7(2) would prohibit discrimination in a school under the 9 grounds described in Section 2 of the Act.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

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 ask Minister for Education not to entrench religious control of National Schools

A delegation from the Mid-West Humanists met Jan O’Sullivan T.D. Minister for Education and Skills on 24 April 2015, about the Leases of National Schools.

Our National Schools – origins and rules

Now most people believe that our National Schools are tied to principles of various religions (mostly the Roman Catholic religion).

Well, the popular awareness of the origin of National Schools is correct, that the United Kingdom government set them up from 1830 onwards. The government wanted Trustees for each school to include people of a mixture of religions. No such mixed Trustees volunteered, and only sets of clergy of a single religion became Trustees. From the religion of the Trustees, National Schools got called Roman Catholic schools, Church of Ireland schools, etc.

Historians have described the one-religion nature of every set of Trustees as the churches subverting the UK government’s plan. However the plan was subverted only in that the Trustees do not include a mixture of religions.

The Lease of each school vested the running of the school in Trustees, who thereby promised to run the school by the Lease and by the rules from the Minister for Education. From the beginning to the end, the Leases did not mention a religion.

The Leases write “…the object of the system of National Education is to afford Combined literary and moral, and Separate Religious Instruction to children of all persuasions, as far as possible in the same school, upon the fundamental principle that no attempt shall be made to interfere with the peculiar religious tenets of any pupil.”

This may be a surprise to readers, as our National Schools are indeed controlled by clergy of religions – and to most people this includes the idea that those clergy as Trustees run the schools in the style of that particular religion, and that they are entitled to run them in a religious manner. This is actually contrary to the statement in the Lease that we just mentioned. 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

Respect for persons; no respect for ideas; Limerick school was right to let Charlie Hebdo in the classroom

While I would like to vote in a referendum to remove the sentence from Ireland’s Constitution that makes blasphemy a crime, I am writing now to help distinguish between (1) respect for humans and their rights, and (2) culture and ideas (including religious culture and ideas) having no rights to respect. Instead, ideas should be open to criticism, and people have rights to make criticism and to live in a society where other people make criticisms too.

Especially when you are a child, but also throughout all of life, a really good society is one where various people are making criticisms of various ideas and elements of culture and society, with no long intervals between such criticisms both in the public news and in your private life. In so far as I have a right to have a good society in which to live, I have a right to such criticisms going on all the time.

 

The Limerick Leader reported on 05 February 2015

that a teacher at Limerick Educate Together School recently asked pupils to bring in matter relevant to the French Revolution of 1789 and freedom of speech; and a pupil took in a copy of the Charlie Hebdo of 14 01 2015, which the teacher showed to the pupils, and this offended a pupil who is Muslim;
and –
that a parent of this second pupil, as well as complaining to the school, gave the following view to the Limerick Leader – that the cover picture has caused great insult within the Islam community in Ireland and the world; and that the child was “subjected” to seeing the magazine; and that parents teach children to have respect for all peoples and for their cultures and for their religions, of which educators should be mindful. This read as if the magazine being shown in the class took away from such respect.

I agree fully with respect for all people, but disagree entirely with the idea of an obligation to have respect for any culture.

1. I favour respect for all persons and their legal, constitutional, and human rights, and the special rights of children: and special rights means, because they are growing up, that children need both protection from dangers AND open availability of information so that they can grow into good citizens, which includes understanding the cultures of the society in which they live.

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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