HAI e-Newsletter May 2014

e-Newsletter May 2014
In this issue:

Next First Sunday Meeting – May 4th
Proinsias De Rossa is the speaker at our May meeting. The title for his talk is The European Commission is not God – Why the Next European Commission President needs to be a Humanist.
The meeting takes place from 4 – 6 pm at Buswell’s Hotel, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2. All are welcome
Proinsias De Rossa, is a longstanding member of HAI. He retired from the European Parliament two years ago, having served for 15 years. He was a member of the European Constitutional Convention (2002- 2003) which produced the Lisbon Treaty.
Article 17(TFEU) of the Treaty provides for EU consultations with Humanists, Atheists and Churches. He will speak on the background to and the importance of this Treaty article. He will also look at how it has been used to date, and what its potential is in Ireland and Europe.
In addition he will look at, from a HAI perspective, the process and the importance of who will be selected later this year as the new Commission President,whose office leads this consultation process at European level. For the first time ever the European Elections (on 23rd of May in Ireland) will have some influence on that choice, and how Humanist votes and lobbying can be influential in that regard.

First Sunday Meeting Report – April 6th
Director of the Humanist Chaplaincy Nic Johnson made a presentation on ‘The Way Forward for the Humanist Chaplaincy’ at the April Sunday meeting. The topics included a history of the chaplaincy, its recent achievements, funding issues and plans for the future. There was considerable discussion around non-spiritual support groups, such as those for addiction recovery, stress with religious family members, as well on one-to-one support.
At present all hospital chaplains are religious and most are paid by the State to the tune of €40,000 per annum (plus fringe benefits). Only Roman Catholic chaplains have a contract of employment with the State.
Currently three HAI chaplains have been accredited. Ann James described the reception of the idea of Humanist chaplains by hospital chaplains: the initial response was usually warm, and usually the latter agreed to pass on any requests for a Humanist chaplain. Thereafter was silence. Nic Johnson said that a serious and sustained publicity campaign (like the fliers launched at the meeting) is required both to create awareness and evaluate demand.
As well as parity of payment, the HAI view was that there should be no unsolicited visits of patients by chaplains and that they should report to a director of services in each hospital.
Members also provided valuable feedback on the importance of building a community of people with a sense of caring. Much of this was within the context of death of a member, bereavement, and remembrance. As one member stated, ‘That good friends and loved ones are not forgotten.’
The discussion also addressed the differences between chaplaincy and counsellors and how chaplaincy can be an important part of Humanism’s public engagement in Ireland and a demonstration of the HAI’s charitable nature. Funding is an important issue; clearly the HAI cannot currently fund full-time chaplains at the ‘going rate’ and there is a discussion on an hourly rate, to be paid by the HAI.
The chaplaincy committee plans to work on these and other issues which came from the discussion. Nic thanks those who came to the meeting, as well as those who offered comments and suggestions and in particular came forward to volunteer. If others would like to volunteer or to apply to be a Humanist chaplain, contact Nic at [email protected].
Report from Nic Johnson and Alan Tuffery

News Bytes
From the Irish Times
In response to a photograph of the Garda Reserve graduation ceremony, showing the graduates swearing on the Christian Bible, HAI Chair Siobhán Walls had this letter published on 9 April.
From the National Secular Society in Britain

Taking a Stand: Saturday May 3rd
HAI member, Brendan Maher’s information stand at the GPO is going strong with positive reaction from people on the street. You’ll find Brendan and other HAI members outside the GPO on the first Saturday of every month from 12 – 2pm. The stand gives information on secularism, humanism and atheism.  If you’re around Dublin city centre this Saturday, 3rd, be sure to drop by and say ‘Hello!’

All Ireland Summer School 2014
The Humanist Associations of Ireland and Northern Ireland are delighted to invite you to this year’s annual summer school – the theme is Humanism and Sexuality.
Speakers this year will be Roy Brown, Diana Brown, Peter Tatchell and Tom Inglis.
Roy Brown is a past President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union and represents IHEU at the UN. Roy has spoken at many of our Carlingford events and is always a great contributor with his knowledge and experience. Talk:  “How Religion has Repressed Sexuality”*
Diana Brown has also spoken at a previous summer school and we are very pleased she has agreed to join us again. Diana and Roy together founded the World Population Foundation in 1987 which merged with the Rutgers Nisso Groep, Expert Centre on Sexuality in 2010. Talk: “Sex, religion and human rights”*
Peter Tatchell is a well-known political campaigner, fearless and tireless in his efforts to gain equality for LGBT people amongst other political campaigns. Talk: “Same Sex Marriage as a Human Right”*
Tom Inglis M Soc.Sc, PhD and author of many books including Making Love: A Memoir is a UCD Professor of Sociology. Talk:  “Love and Sex”*
We’re sure you’ll agree it’s a great line-up!
There will be the usual ‘extra-mural’ events – dinner on the Saturday evening, walks and workshops. As usual we’d ask that if anyone has a particular topic they could ‘kick off’ at one of the workshops/panel discussions please get in touch by email ([email protected]). Some ideas to start off with: the politics of procreation; why not polygamy/polyandry?; the psychology of sexuality; is there a role for the state in sexuality?; sex education; heterosexual marriage, still viable?!
Booking forms and details for paying will be in the July/August  Humanism Ireland or details from www.humanism.ie
Please take note that accommodation must be booked by attendees themselves and Carlingford is a very popular destination.
*Working title of talks

Malta Legalises Same Sex Civil Unions
Ramon Casha of the Malta Humanist Association reports that the Civil Unions Bill was passed in Malta on 15 April.
The new Civil Unions bill gives same-sex (and opposite sex) couples the right to get a civil union which will have the same legal rights as marriage, including adoption.
A big celebration was held in front of parliament, where participants were encouraged to dress up as for a wedding. The Malta Humanist Association joined many other groups including the Malta Gay Rights Movement to celebrate this major step towards equality.

Local Humanist Groups – New Groups
Síle Headen is interested in setting up a new local Humanist group for members in Laois, Offaly, Carlow, Kilkenny and Kildare.  If you are interested, please get in touch with Síle at 
[email protected] or 087 7704946.
A group of people interested in setting up a new local Humanist group in Cork have met twice recently. The next meeting is on Monday, May 5th and if you’d like to find out more you can contact Geraldine O’Neill on 086 812 8892.
The Mid-West Humanists group includes people from Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary who meet on the third Wednesday of each month at 20:00 in Limerick – the Absolute Hotel, Sir Harrys Mall, Limerick. Meeting notice at www.midwesthumanists.com. For more information contact Peter O’Hara on 086 8155102 or email [email protected].
Serving Humanists in Galway and surrounding areas, Humanists West meet in Galway city on the last Sunday of each month. The meetings start at 12 noon at the OSLO Gastro Bar- Micro Brewery, 226 Upper Salthill.. For more information contact Garry O’Lochlainn on [email protected] or 087 2222726.

International Humanist News 
Latest news from International Humanist News (March 2014):

‘In 13 countries atheists are considered criminals punishable in law by death.’ – Sonja Eggerickx, President, International Humanist and Ethical Union

‘The most dangerous form of fundamentalism is religious, since it is not subject to reason and adjustment.’ – Wole Soyinka, who was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature, in an interview in IHN

‘Religion is ultimately about power and domination.’ – Wole Soyinka in the same article.

‘I take the view that the state has no right to interfere in private conduct between consenting adults. For instance why do some countries frown on polygamy or polyandry? If one female and several men decide to bond in a “married condition”, why should the state make it its business to intervene? The same goes for one man and several women.’ – Soyinka, in the same interview.

‘”Homophobe” is on the same pointlessly abusive level as “faggot”, “pouf” etc.’ – Soyinka challenging both sides in the gay marriage debate to avoid condescending reciprocal stigmatization.

Elizabeth O’Casey reports in the same issue that, in the past year, people have been arrested for blasphemy in Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey. ‘In Saudi Arabia, two activists were sentenced to ten years in jail for exposing hundreds of cases of human rights abuses in the kingdom,’ she alleges, while in Mauritania, she claims, ‘nine antislavery protesters were attacked and severely beaten by police.’ Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, she reports that four atheist bloggers await trial on blasphemy-related charges. O’Casey notes that 55 countries have blasphemy laws; that in 39 of those countries the law mandates a prison sentence for blasphemers; and in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran people can be executed for blasphemy.

Other articles in the magazine include:

  • a piece about a teacher in Switzerland who was allegedly sacked for removing a crucifix from his classroom wall
  • an article by Bob Churchill which says that in the Maldives, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the UAE ‘you can be put to death for leaving religion’.
  • two articles on Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law, which sees any act of ‘homosexuality’, including touching ‘with any part of the body’ ‘with anything else’ or ‘through anything’ liable to a life sentence.
Latest news from The Open Society ( Dec. 2013), arrived April, 2014, Journal of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (NZARH):
  • NZARH ran a radio campaign encouraging citizens to tick ‘no religion’ in the 2013 census
  • 1.635 million New Zealand citizens (from total of 4.24 million) declared ‘no religion’ in 2013 census
  • The number who identified as having ‘no religion’ or who ignored the question about religion was greater than the number who identified as Christian
  • The NZARH radio campaign encouraged people to be honest and to tick ‘no religion’ who identified culturally with a religion but did not believe in the doctrine or supernatural aspects or who did not regularly go to church
  • The journal also carries an article from Wikipedia about Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger arrested in June 2012 charged with insulting Islam and, in December 2012, cited for ‘apostasy, a conviction for which carries an automatic death sentence’. It reports that Badawi had also been arrested for ‘apostasy’ in 2008. The article claims that he was banned from leaving Saudi Arabia and his bank accounts were frozen. It says Amnesty International designated Badawi a prisoner of conscience ‘detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression’. The article claims that in July 2013 Badawi was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for founding an online forum which ‘violates Islamic values and propagates liberal thought’.
News updates compiled by Joe Armstrong

Obituaries of Humanists
Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy Services, reflects that the deaths of members can pass unnoticed. Many older members grew up in a time when it took great courage and dedication to live as Humanists. It would be fitting and inspiring to mark these members’ passing, and tell something of their lives. Anyone who is aware of a recent death of a member is asked to get in touch with the Chaplaincy at [email protected] that an obituary can be prepared and included in the newsletter. This would be our way of paying our last respects to fellow Humanists.

Contributions from Members
If you have news items, stories, or links you would like to share with other HAI members in this e-Newsletter, please send them to [email protected] for possible inclusion by the 27th of the month.
Humanist Association of Ireland  •  34B Royal Terrace West  •  Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin Ireland