HAI e-Newsletter August 2, 2015

In this issue:
First Sunday Meeting 2 August
Meeting of Education Equality Campaign Team – 2 pm on 2 August before the First Sunday Meeting
Report of First Sunday Meeting on 5 July – Education and Volunteering with the Humanist Association of Ireland
Summer School 2015 – Humanism, War and Peace
Should Humanists Be Pacifists?
Save the Date! 2015 AGM Event – 1 November
John Toland – Father of Irish Philosophy
HAI Stand at the GPO 
Membership Renewals
News Bytes
Call for Coding Volunteers
Report of the First Meeting of the Waterford Group
New Groups and Local Humanist Groups 
Contributions from Members
Living Wills

First Sunday Meeting 2 August

The topic for this meeting is adoption in Ireland – particularly inter-country adoption.  The speaker is Shane Downey of Arc Adoption.

All are welcome to attend – First Sunday meetings are also social occasions, and  a great opportunity for members to meet and chat. We would love to welcome some of the many new members who have recently joined.


Alan Tuffery
Email: [email protected]
Mobile: 086 162 6988

Meeting of Education Equality Campaign Team – 2 pm on 2 August before the First Sunday Meeting
The HAI Education Campaign Team also invites you to a meeting at 2 pm in the Ashling Hotel to progress the Education Equality Campaign.

Our timing for this campaign couldn’t be better.  All across the country groups are emerging independently with the same goal.  Hopefully we can bring them all together!

No state funded school should discriminate against a 4 or 5 year old child.

Report of First Sunday Meeting on 5 July – Education and Volunteering with the Humanist Association of Ireland
The meeting was intended to provide an opportunity to review some aspects of the current major HAI campaign on discrimination against the non-religious in relation to school enrolment and to encourage people to come forward to help.

Philip Byers, a Director of the HAI Board, chaired the meeting which was attended by about 70 members and visitors. Philip reported that the HAI is involved in producing lesson plans for Educate Together schools for both first/second class and fifth/sixth class at a cost of about €10,000 each which will be available to all schools via the HAI website.

Denis Robinson and Mike Garde of the Irish National School Trust (INST) explained the formal position of all National schools which were set up by the Stanley Letter 1831 so that all children of all faiths and none would be educated together, with separate classes for religious instruction. The development to the present ‘faith-based’ system is essentially illegal as the principles of the two pillars from the Stanley Letter are incorporated in Article 44.2.4 of the 1937 Constitution and court case law commentary by High Court Judge Lafoy and Supreme Court Judge Donal Barrington. Schools which discriminate in their admission policies should not be funded by the State.

Denis Robins went on to give examples of cases which have been won against discrimination under section 29 of the Education Act 1998 also successful appeals under the Equal Status Act 2000. INST has argued that an National School cannot have any other ‘ethos’ other than that of a state funded National School and its ethos therefore cannot be undermined by being open to all children. Unfortunately, the courts have ruled that individual freedoms must give way to religious freedom. The responses from Ministers for Education have been very misleading. Several Attorneys General have advised Ministers of Education about issues relating to Article 44.2.4 and the difficulty in changing National Schools Deeds (‘Deeds of Variation’) by inserting Church denominations into National School Leases.

A parent reported her difficulty in getting her children accepted by national schools in Dublin 6 (related article from Educate Together[i]). Legal research suggests that it is possible to appeal individual decisions of school, but of course parents are reluctant to risk stigmatising their children when they are eventually admitted.

A School Provisions Bill is before the Dáil, and TDs can be lobbied on the religious discrimination issue.

HAI requires additional funding and volunteers in order to mount a serious challenge to this obvious inequality. Funding might be available through international companies who have been in the forefront of fostering diversity in order to attract highly-qualified candidates. UNHCR supports the freedom not to have a religion and the UN has been very critical of Ireland in this area.

A number of very positive ideas were discussed including urgent liaison with INST to clarify any rights that might have been established from their experience, with a view to generating a useful guide to parents.

After the meeting, a number of people signed up to act as volunteers in this campaign.

Report by Alan Tuffery (with thanks to Denis Robinson, Mike Garde and John Suttle of INST)

[i] http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/minister-should-accelerate-school-divestment-programme-1.2284828

Summer School 2015 – Humanism, War and Peace
There are still plenty of places left for the Summer School which will be held in Carlingford from 29th to 30th August, 2015.

There is a great line-up of well known speakers, including RUTH DUDLEY EDWARDS
Author and Journalist, DAVID POLLOCK, IHEU Representative at the Council of Europe, KEITH JEFFERY
Professor of Modern History,Queen’s University, Belfast and NORBERT DE KOOTER Dutch Humanist Chaplain.

Application Form and payment details for summer school and Saturday night dinner

Accommodation in Carlingford gets booked up quickly, but you may find accommodation more easily in Dundalk or neighbouring areas.

Should Humanists Be Pacifists?
Oisin Carey will be hosting a workshop session titled “Should Humanists be Pacifists?”
at 2015 All- Ireland Humanist Summer School

It often seems to humanists and other sceptics of religion that religious people have had it easy.

Thanks to their sacred books filled with the presumed words of the Creator of the Universe (at least for Christians, Jews, and Muslims), for a long time it looked like there was no need to think too deeply about questions of morality.

  • Should I hit my children when they misbehave? Check the book.
  • Should I keep slaves? Check the book.
  • Should I use violence in any situation? Check the book.

The truth is that it has never been that easy, since these holy books tend to say pretty much whatever the reader wants them to say. Thus these books actually provided the scaffolding on which people could have moral debates in religious communities, where rival interpretations of holy books were argued out to improve people’s moral intuitions.

When humans move past relying on divine revelation to decide questions of morality, it can sometimes seem as though we are moving out into an empty space without this scaffolding to hold onto. To be frank, it often seems to the religious people around us that there is nothing to guide our moral thinking whatsoever.

The thing is that, for humanists, the only way to arrive at moral truths is through human conversation, where we consider each other’s needs and try to figure out what is the best way to suit everyone. This is especially true when it comes to the question of violence, and this is the theme that we will be exploring at the All Ireland Humanist Summer School in Carlingford this August: Should Humanists Be Pacifists?

The humanist movement in the USA arose primarily from a Christian movement known as the Quakers, or the Religious Society of Friends. Opposed to all uses of violence from war to self-defence based on Jesus’s teaching, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also”, the Quakers protested against the World Wars of the 20th Century, denouncing warfare against the Nazis, but instead joining the ambulance units and transferring Jewish people out of Nazi-controlled areas. This is an example of pacifism, and it is through movements like these that humanism arose in modern times. The question of whether humanists should be pacifists is especially important when we consider the violent history of Ireland in the past century. Were we right to go to war with the British Empire to gain independence? Were the Irish Republican Army justified in their use of terrorist tactics to attempt to make Northern Ireland a part of the Republic of Ireland once more?

Pacifism can take many forms. While the Quakers were conscientious objectors, meaning they refused to take part in wars, the Indian Independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi used non-violent resistance to oppose their British rulers. While his prolonged fasting in protest against oppression was unique to the culture of India at the time, the examples of marching and disruption were successfully used by Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement of the USA to repeal laws that discriminated against black people. These are examples of how pacifism can successfully resist oppressors, and actually make changes for the better without the need for using violence to get one’s way.

As humanists, we consider the lives and experiences of all humans to be equally valid and equally important to us. Through the UN charter on human rights, these concerns were given legal protection in all the countries that signed up to them. When we see that non-violent methods can be used to change bad behaviours and make the world a better place, how can we justify infringing on other people’s rights?

Pacifists also highlight the option of using alternatives to violence to change the world. In his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Stephen Pinker shows the immense power of international organisations like the United Nations in preventing wars from happening. There have been drastic decreases in the number of wars taking place in the present day when compared to the regularity of warfare throughout human history, and Pinker says that this is because, for the first time in history, rival governments will actually communicate with one another instead of resorting to immediate paranoia.

This even works at the individual level. Dr. Gary Slutkin’s organisation, Cure Violence, has pioneered a completely new way of looking at crime and the use of violence. It looks at violence as if it was a disease epidemic, just like AIDS or malaria. By implementing quarantines, and training civilians to recognise when violence is about to occur and to step in to prevent escalation (or transmission), Cure Violence have been able to create massive reductions in violence in individual communities such as a 67% reduction in homicides in West Garfield, the most violent community in Chicago. There is an innate moral sense in humans, and it is clear that if we can change the situation people are living in, to change the culture and the environment in which people live and thrive, this moral sense can grow and take over our more animal impulses.

Unfortunately for extreme pacifists, it seems that we do need some kind of a criminal punishment system to keep violent impulses in check. Pinker uses the striking example of the police strike in Montreal in 1969, where By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, twelve fires had been set, forty carloads of storefront glass had been broken, and three million dollars in property damage had been inflicted, before city authorities had to call in the army and, of course, the Mounties to restore order.

We all intuitively know that we must set limits and boundaries between one another about what behaviour is acceptable and what is unacceptable. As humanists, while we may view human nature as essentially good, evolutionary views of humans allow us to see people as imperfect, so we can easily recognise the dark sides of human behaviour. While pacifism is easy to advocate from a position of safety, it is very different when we are experiencing violence first hand, and there are many situations in which it is very difficult to argue that someone should avoid using violence.

When our children are threatened by home invaders, when our neighbours are being oppressed and victimised, and when our lives are in danger, our first impulse is to react with violence in response to violence. In the heat of the moment it often makes no sense to stop and think about the moral implications of violence. Sometimes, there simply is no time. While we acknowledge that World War II resulted in horrendous crimes such as the firebombing of Dresden in Nazi Germany, or the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Imperial Japan, there are few today who would argue that the Allied forces should not have stood up and violently opposed the actions of Nazi Germany, or Imperial Japan, or fascist Italy. In certain situations, violence arises in self-defence, where we know that our self or our loved one is in danger. In other situations, we may consider pre-emptive strikes to get our perceived enemy before they get us. So it seems that violence remains a problem for pacifists to solve, too.

As humanists, it is our responsibility to have the difficult debates about these moral problems. While we fervently hope that we will never make such terrible and difficult decisions in our own lives, it is important that we flex our moral intellect from time to time, and try to push ourselves to be more reasonable, to be more moral, and to hear from as many perspectives as possible.

At the Summer School workshop, we will discuss pacifism and how we can avoid using violence and use alternatives to promote peace and harmony among people. We will also discuss some of the more difficult situations, where it often seems unavoidable to resort to violence.

In religious traditions, these kind of discussions tend to lead to schisms, with rival interpretations of scripture ending up as completely different religions, with communities split right down the middle and suddenly finding that their old friends and neighbours are now enemies of the one true faith.

As humanists, we have the option to discuss these issues without fear of being thrown out just for disagreeing, and without fear of being attacked when we find someone has different thinking to ourselves.

If you are interested in pacifism and why people use violence, if you have experience of violence in any form yourself and feel like sharing, or if you just want to see how it all turns out at the end, come along to the workshop. We’ll see if we can work on finding an answer to this one together.

– Oisin Carey

Save the Date! 2015 AGM Event – 1 November
Our AGM takes place on Sunday November 1st this year – this is an early reminder to put the date in your calendar.
There are plans afoot to make a day of it with discussions, information booths and a social get together with other members – along with the formal AGM.  Details to follow. It will take place in Dublin again this year, with a view to moving location in 2016. Venue and details to be confirmed. Watch this space!

John Toland – Father of Irish Philosophy

The 350th anniversary of John Toland’s birth is in 2020.
A small group of humanists, philosophers and historians from HAI and HumaNI are gathering to work on reissuing a booklet produced in the 1980s and to start a campaign for John Toland’s recognition and potentially a commemorative stamp.
We need more volunteers to join us.
Please contact [email protected], or speak to Alan, Bob, Nic, Terry, Síle or Mairéad at the next first Sunday meeting in the Ashling Hotel.

HAI Stand at the GPO 
The next outing of the new HAI stand at the GPO will take place on 15 August from 12 pm to 2 pm. All members who would like to lend their support would be most welcome!

Membership Renewals
Some of you have been wondering why you haven’t been receiving renewal notices – this is because we have been developing a new web-based system to process both new memberships and renewals.

Members will start receiving their renewal notices by email over the next few days.

This will be the first occasion since the introduction of the web-based membership system that renewal notices will be issued. To reduce the likely possibility of the system being overloaded, notifications will be sent in blocks, with earliest renewals being sent first.

The process should be straightforward and will accept payment via PayPal. Please note that you do not need a PayPal account to pay via PayPal, just a credit or debit card. Follow the instructions in the email you will receive, and on screen.

Members without email addresses will be processed separately.

If you have any queries about your membership, please contact Kilda Taylor on [email protected]

News Bytes
From the Journal.ie

Just eight days of military spending could make education free around the world says Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai

Donal O’Keeffe writes about the effects of climate change

From The Irish Times

Ireland’s religious schools are putting us off coming home, writes emigrant, Kevin O’Donnell

Joe Humphreys suggests how to solve the school patronage problem

From the National Secular Society

“This is how theocracies begin” warn Guatemalan secularists

Call for Coding Volunteers
Can you code?

If you know how to code, and are familiar with the syntax of perl (same as C, Javascript)
and how web-apps work on a LAMP stack, we need you!

Please email [email protected] with subject line CODEVOL.

Report of the First Meeting of the Waterford Group
The first meeting of the Waterford Humanist Group took place on Wednesday 15th July, 2015 in the Reference Room at Waterford City Library in Lady Lane. The Library staff very kindly give the use of the room and made us feel welcome.
Ten people attended and there was a lively discussion and exchange of views. It was agreed that we will continue to have the meetings in the Library on the third Wednesday of every month, and that the time from 6.00 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. was suitable for everybody.
People came up with some topics that they would like addressed in future meetings:  where we have come from and what the meetings will do for us, an exploration of how HAI got involved in a charity project in Dublin and how could we do likewise, Celebrants and chaplains and assisted suicide. These topics (and many others) will be discussed at future meetings, and we hope to get some visiting speakers.
Our next meeting will focus on how we have arrived at humanism and what meetings will do for us. It will take place on the 19th August at 6p.m. in Reference Room at Waterford City Library in Lady Lane.
Report by Teresa Graham

New Groups and Local Humanist Groups 
New Groups

West Cork

Humanists based in West Cork are invited to meet up for a family friendly social brunch at 11am on Sunday 13 September in the Market Cafe in Rosscarbery. Please email if you are interested in attending.  Contact details are : Sheelagh Broderick [email protected] and Anne Scallan [email protected]

The first meeting of the Waterford group took place on 26 June. Monthly meetings will be held on the third Wednesday of every month in the Reference Room, Waterford City Library, Lady lane at 6.00 p.m.  Contact Teresa Graham on [email protected] for details of further meetings.

The first meeting of the Westport and local areas group was held on 22 April in the Wyatt Hotel. Brian Whiteside gave a talk entitled “What Is Humanism?” which was well attended.  Monthly meetings will be held in the Cobbler’s Bar of the Wyatt Hotel at the Octagon in Westport at 12 o’clock on the second Sunday of every month.  The group has a facebook page. Contact Séamus O’Connell on 087 245 35 36 or email [email protected] for further details.

Local Groups

North-West Humanists meet on the third Sunday of the month in Paddy’s Bar, Main Street, Carrick-on-Shannon at 2.30 p.m.  Contact Isolde Carmody on [email protected] or 086 8820445.

Members from Laois, Offaly, Carlow, Kilkenny and Kildare meet on the second Friday of the month at 8.00 p.m. in the Aspect Hotel, Kilkenny  Contact Fachtna Roe on [email protected] for further details.

Details of Cork Humanists’ meetings are on http://corkhumanists.weebly.com/ or you can contact Geraldine O’Neill on 086 812 8892.

North Coast Humanists meet every second Tuesday of the month at 6. 30 pm in the foyer of Lodge Hotel, Coleraine. New faces are welcome. For more information, contact: [email protected]  or 07818036404.

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 Harry’s 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. Please note the change of venue: we are now meeting in the Anno Santo Hotel, Threadneedle Road, Salthill, Galway.  The meetings start at 12 noon. For more information contact Garry O’Lochlainn on [email protected] or 087 2222726.

Contributions from Members
If you have constructive comments or feedback on this e-Newsletter, Board meetings, the organisation in general, and/or are able to contribute to the goals of the HAI in any way, please let us know.

And if you have news items or links you would like to share with other HAI members, please send them for possible inclusion in the e-Newsletter by the 27th of the month.

We would very much welcome your contributions!

The email address is [email protected]

Living Wills
Advanced Healthcare Directive

Advance directives are written legal documents by which patients express their wishes about the kind of health care they want to receive in the event they become unable to make their own treatment decisions. This usually means if he or she is physically or mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to makes these desires known. They are designed to allow competent patients the opportunity to guide future health care decisions. Advance directives include living wills and medical powers of attorney, sometimes called durable powers of attorney. It takes the decision away from family members, thus reducing their stress at a vulnerable time.

More information and downloads are available from http://www.worldrtd.net/organization/living-wills-trust-lwt or contact Daphne Wynne, 01 2802879, for further information.

Humanist Association of Ireland  •  34B Royal Terrace West  •  Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin Ireland
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