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The Constitutional rights of parents  - Secular Sunday #544 || 29 May, 2022

Editorial

The Constitutional rights of parents

 
Atheist Ireland continues to campaign to protect the constitutional rights of all families in the education system. Parents have positive inalienable rights regarding the education of their children, and nonreligious parents have the same positive rights as religious parents.

We are campaigning to ensure that the State recognises the judgements in the Supreme Court and the High Court in relation to the rights of parents and their children. At present the Department of Education ignores Supreme Court judgements despite the fact that they are binding authority.

We are also trying to get the Department of Education to recognise the Irish version of the Constitution. The Irish version of the Constitution takes legal precedence and is far more nuanced in relation to the rights of parents than the English version.

As always, you can help Atheist Ireland to continue our work on secular issues by joining Atheist Ireland as a member, or by asking anybody who you think may be interested in joining us to do so. We are an entirely voluntary body with no paid staff, and we depend on our members to continue our work. You can join Atheist Ireland here.


 
- Secular Sunday Editorial Team

 

Éire Aindiach



Éire Aindiach

 
                                         
 
Chun ár gcuid feachtais a leathnú agus a neartú, tá sé beartaithe ag Éire Aindiach níos mó úsáid a bhaint as an Ghaeilge.
Ba mhaith linn meitheal a eagrú, chun cuidiú le:
  • Polasaithe agus feachtais Éire Aindiach a phlé ar an raidió nó ar an teilifís
  • Cuidiú le doiciméid ghaeilge a scríobh
  • Bualadh le polaiteoirí chun stocaireacht a dhéanamh
Táimid i mbun aistriúcháin a dhéanamh ar dhoiciméid polasaí faoi láthair, agus teastaíonn cabhair uainn le aistriúchán agus profáil.  Más maith leat bheith páirteach san iarracht seo, cur ríomhphost chugainn ag gaeilge@atheist.ie.
 
English translation:

To broaden and strengthen our campaigns, Atheist Ireland have undertaken to make more use of the Irish language.
We are looking to assemble a group of volunteers, to help with:
  • Discussing our policies and campaigns on radio or tv
  • Helping to write documents in Irish
  • Meeting with politicians to lobby them
We are in the process of translating policy documents at the moment, and we need some help with translating and proofreading.  If you would like to assist with this effort, please email us at gaeilge@atheist.ie.
 
 

Atheist Ireland News

 

The constitutional rights of nonreligious parents in Irish schools

 
For years Atheist Ireland has been campaigning to protect the constitutional rights of all families in the education system. Parents have positive inalienable rights regarding the education of their children, and nonreligious parents have the same positive rights as religious parents.
These rights come under:
  • Article 41.1 and 42.1 “The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society... The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents...”
  • Article 44.2.1 “Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen.”
  • Article 42.4 “The State shall provide for free primary education and shall endeavour to supplement and give reasonable aid to private and corporate educational initiative, and, when the public good requires it, provide other educational facilities or institutions with due regard, however, for the rights of parents, especially in the matter of religious and moral formation.”
  • Article 44.2.4 “Legislation providing State aid for schools shall not discriminate between schools under the management of different religious denominations, nor be such as to affect prejudicially the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at that school.”
However, in practice, atheist and non religious families are discriminated against in the education system and treated as second class citizens. The State gives privilege to religious families and supports discrimination against atheist and non religious families.
We are also campaigning to ensure that the State recognises the judgements in the Supreme Court and the High Court in relation to the rights of parents and their children. At present the Department of Education ignores Supreme Court judgements despite the fact that they are binding authority.
The courts have defined the terms religious and moral Education (Article 42), religious and moral formation (Article 42.4) and religious instruction (Article 44.2.4). The Department of Education cannot define these rights according to their own understanding, which is what they are now doing.
We are also trying to get the Department of Education to recognise the Irish version of the Constitution. The Irish version of the Constitution takes legal precedence and is far more nuanced in relation to the rights of parents than the English version.
For example under Article 42.4 the English version obliges the state to have “with due regard, however, for the rights of parents, especially in the matter of religious and moral formation”. The Irish version translates directly into “as regards the formation of the mind in religious and moral affairs’.
The Irish version is far more nuanced than the English version and it means that the Department of Education and the NCCA have absolutely no right to decide for parents what is or is not suitable religious and moral formation and education for their children.
Here are some other relevant distinctions in the four Articles in the Constitution that impact on the rights of families in the education system. They are from ‘Bunreacht na hÉireann: a study of the Irish text’, written by Micheál Ó Cearúil and published in 1999 by All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution.
Article 41.1 (inalienable rights of the family)
  • ‘All positive law’ is expressed as ‘aon reacht daonna’ or ‘any human statute/law’.
• ‘Indispensable’ is expressed as ‘éigeantach’, usually translated as ‘compulsory’.
• ‘To protect’ is expressed as ‘a chaomhnú’, ‘to cherish’/‘to preserve’.
Article 42.1 (rights of parents in education)
  • The word ‘educator’ is expressed as ‘múinteoir’, which means ‘teacher’.
  • ‘To respect’ is expressed as ‘gan cur isteach ar’ (‘not to interfere with’).
 The phrase ‘the religious and moral (etc) education of their children’ appears as ‘i gcúrsaí
creidimh, moráltachta (etc)’ which means ‘in religious, moral (etc) affairs’.
  • ‘Religious’ and ‘moral’ are separated by a comma, therefore explicitly treated as separate
matters, in the Irish text.
  • ‘Education’ appears as ‘Oideachas’. Dinneen’s entry under this headword includes
‘advice, instruction, teaching, education’. DIL translates ‘oidecht’ and ‘oides’ respectively
as ‘teaching, training’ and ‘teaching, instruction’.
Article 42.4 (due regard for rights of parents when funding schools)
  • 
• ‘Endeavour’ is expressed as ‘iarracht a dhéanamh’, ‘make an effort’.
  • ‘Corporate’ is expressed as ‘cumannta’, ‘communal’.
  • ‘In the matter of religious and moral formation’ is expressed as ‘maidir le múnlú na haigne i
gcúrsaí creidimh is moráltachta’ (‘as regards the formation of the mind in religious and moral
affairs’).
Article 44.2.4 (right to not attend religious instruction when funding schools)
  • 
‘Legislation .. shall not discriminate’ is expressed as ‘ní cead’, or ‘it is not permitted to’.
  • ‘To affect prejudicially’ is expressed as ‘dhéanamh dochair do’, or ‘do harm to’.
  • ‘Attend’ is expressed as ‘A fhreastal’. Ó Dónaill cites ‘an scoil a fhreastal, to attend school’ and ‘freastal ar léachtaí, to attend lectures’ as examples of ‘freastail’, ‘attend’, in the sense of ‘be present at’.
  • ‘Religious Instruction’ is expressed as ‘Teagasc creidimh’. ‘Teagasc’ is translated as ‘teaching, instruction’ by Ó Dónaill, who cites ‘teagasc ábhair, teaching of a subject’.
Read online...
 


Calling concerned teachers


If you are a teacher and concerned about unwanted religious influence contact Chris at teachers@atheist.ie
 

 

List of Atheist Ireland Submissions

 

 

Buy this book "Is My Family Odd About Gods?"

 
**Schools Special Offer**
Atheist Ireland are offering the book ‘Is my family odd about godsfree (excluding postage and packaging).  This means that you can get this book for the total price of 10 euro. This offer is aimed at families with school going children, who would like to read this book. This offer is limited to one book per family unit and for postage within Ireland only. Read more...


 
Have you noticed that your school and your teachers may tell you one thing about religion, while some of your friends and family may have different ideas about god?
If you think that this is a little odd, then this book is for you. Buy this book here.
 

Lessons about Atheism


Atheist Ireland has published a set of free lesson plans about atheism for children aged 8 and up. We welcome feedback, which we will use to develop the lessons. You can download the lesson plans

 


 

Be Good without Gods

 
Atheist Ireland 'Good Without Gods' Kiva team members have made loans of  $36,650 to 1280 entrepreneurs in the developing world. You can join the team here. Before you chose a loan, make sure you do not support religious groups. You can check the loan partner's social and secular rating here.

 

Notme.ie

 
Atheist Ireland's 'notme.ie' is a place where people can publicly renounce the religion of their childhood. Currently there are 1923 symbolic defections. Many share their reasons for making a public symbolic defection which you can read here

 

Petition on Schools Equality PACT 

Atheist Ireland currently runs one petition - The Schools Equality PACT. This seeks to reform religious discrimination in state-funded schools. Currently this stands at 4,111 Help us reach it's target of 5000. Please sign and share this petition if you haven't already done so. Thank you.


 

Tell us what you think

Have you any feedback that you would like to give us on the Secular Sunday newsletter. What are we getting right? What could we improve on? Is there something you would like to see included? Drop us an email at secularsunday@atheist.ie.
 

 




Please consider joining or re-joining Atheist Ireland

 
Atheist Ireland is an entirely volunteer run organisation. We receive no grants or government funding to continue our campaign work. We rely entirely on membership fess and donations.

Annual membership is nominal; €25 waged, €10 unwaged/student and €40 for family membership. Please consider becoming a member. Membership means:
  • You can help to build an ethical and secular Ireland.
  • You have a say in determining policy and electing officers.
  • You can attend members meetings and our AGM.
  • You will have access to our members only Facebook group
  • Your membership fee will go towards supporting our many campaigns.

 
You can join Atheist Ireland here.
 

Thank you for your continued support

 

Atheist Ireland Committee

 

Opinion and Media

Material on atheism, secularism, human rights,politics,science etc. collected from media and the blogosphere from Ireland and beyond; used without permission, compensation, liability, guarantee or implied endorsement. We aim to include a variety of diverse opinions and viewpoints.
 

Blogs & Opinions

 
 

National



The article below is a good article but there are some points that are not correct.

Catholic Schools can and do require teachers to have the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies to gain employment in their schools. This is still permitted under Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act.

Minority students are still discriminated against in schools with a catholic ethos. Second level schools with a catholic ethos can still give preference to co religionists in access and all schools can still refuse access if they believe a child will undermine their ethos.

Students from minority backgrounds don’t get the same amount of teaching time as students from catholic families, that is discrimination.

Religion is integrated into secular subjects and students cannot opt out of an ethos, that is also discrimination.

Some teachers discriminate against minority students and have absolutely no issue with that. They also force students to take religion classes.

A few years ago when the Dept of Education told the ETBs to give students another subject if they exercised their right to not attend religious instruct, it was teachers who lobbied against this and got it removed.


 

Teachers are afraid to speak out about religion in schools

 

By Aoife Cassidy

 
I had an overwhelming response to my recent Irish Examiner article on taking faith formation and sacrament preparation out of schools. I wasn’t surprised by the huge reaction from parents. 
What did surprise me though was the sheer volume of messages I received from teachers, and the content of those messages. Teachers told me they are afraid to speak out. 
They told me they are concerned that if they speak out, they will lose their job, be passed over for promotion or be ostracised by their colleagues and community – which is precisely what happened to some teachers who contacted me who had opted their own children out of religion and the sacraments. 
Teachers in training colleges told me they are anxious about having to teach a faith they don’t believe in.
As things stand in Ireland, the so-called “baptism barrier” has been lifted. This means that a Catholic school cannot discriminate against a child on the grounds of religion on enrolment. Similarly, a Catholic school cannot discriminate against a teacher at recruitment.
However, the law does allow Catholic schools to discriminate against employed teachers where they fail to uphold the Catholic ethos of the school, by virtue of section 37 of the Employment Equality Act 1998. Teachers’ fears as expressed to me are grounded in law.
In practical terms, this means that if a teacher is of another faith or no faith, they have fewer than 10% of schools where they can apply to teach in and be true to their belief system, or they can pretend to have a Catholic faith. Which do you think is happening?
How, in 2022, in a modern, pluralist society are we allowing this discrimination to persist?
When I tell people that our children don’t do religion or the sacraments because we are not religious, almost all of them without fail reply, “oh we’re not religious either”.
So why do we require teachers of other faiths and none, to instil a faith in our children that parents are not willing to invest the time in instilling in their children themselves? It devalues the role of teachers in society, expecting them to compromise their own integrity just to “do their job”.
Teachers described to me how long hours are spent explaining the concepts of Mass and the auto-responses to the children, who don’t attend Mass regularly. The parents turn up on communion day “oohing and aahing” (as one teacher put it), over how lovely it all is.
We need to take a long, hard look at how we do religion in Catholic schools in Ireland. In most countries across Europe, faith formation and the sacraments are opt-in and extracurricular. In schools for other faiths in Ireland, preparations for rites of passage take place outside of school time. Read more...

 
 

We’re missing opportunity to separate church and State: Cork GP says many not reassured over NMH

 

By Darragh Bermingham

 
A Cork GP has raised concerns about the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) site ownership, saying that reassurances from the Government are not enough for the people of Ireland who remember the role of the church and nuns in the healthcare of women in the past.
Mary Favier, a former president of the Irish College of General Practitioners and co-founder of Doctors for Choice Ireland, was speaking to The Echo after the Government agreed a 299-year lease with the St Vincent’s Health Group for the site at Elm Park to be used for the NMH.
Concerns have been raised about the possible influence of the religious site owners on the day-to-day operations of the hospital but speaking in the Dáil in recent days, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said there will be “no church involvement” in the new hospital.
However, Dr Favier said many in the GP community and wider healthcare field are concerned about the possible impact.
“The GP community would be in support of getting this project going because we need to be able to provide that care,” said Dr Favier. 
“But there is also a substantial group that would say it’s not appropriate as is and that we’re missing the opportunity to separate church and State.
“There are a lot of unhappy GPs out there and hospital staff, as well as a good proportion of the population.”
Dr Favier said there is a worry that the concerns of the majority of healthcare workers and the wider population are being ignored.
“The Irish population, women in particular, have very long memories of the Catholic Church and nuns in the healthcare of women.
“They are not reassured and they feel it is inappropriate for such a significant hospital and a significant transfer of State assets to go to a church-controlled environment.
“The Catholic Church takes a very long view of things so decades and centuries is not an issue for the Vatican, so the long lease is not very reassuring. We could have a change in the political framework — just look at the rise of the religious right in the United States and the impact that is having. Read more...


 

Religion and property right - Letter to the Irish Times

 

By Anthony O'Leary

 
Sir, – Your headline over Breda O'Brien's column is seriously incorrect ("All the Sisters of Charity achieved was ramping up anti-Catholicism", Opinion & Analysis, May 21st).
Many of us who were baptised as Catholics as babies, but have since moved on to agnosticism on religion, know many kind-hearted practising Catholics, lay and clerical, and appreciate their contribution to society.
We have no objection to Catholicism as such. A Catholic is as much entitled to believe in Jesus as a Muslim is entitled to believe in the writings of the Prophet.
What many of us find incomprehensible is that the Catholic Church seems to be unable to accept that the days when they could use State funding and laws to impose their teachings on the populace in general are coming to an end.
Essentially, nowadays, the Catholic Church is relying on its property rights to impose its moral view on our citizens – in our State-funded Catholic schools, where a third of parents would prefer a non-denominational education for their children, and in our State-funded Catholic hospitals, where the vast majority have publicly, through recent referendums, rejected the Catholic Church’s position on sexuality, reproduction and marriage.
Reliance on property rights to promote moral values is doomed to failure – as can be seen by the collapse in religious practice in the home, the collapse in attendance at Mass, and empty seminaries and convents.It really is time for the Catholic bishops and religious orders to accept that the days of compulsory religion are gone and the use of their property rights to impose their moral views are simply accelerating the demise of genuine, individual Catholicism in Ireland. – Yours, etc, Read online...


 

The Gist: Exit, Voice and Loyalty

 

By Simon McGarr

 
The NMH debate revealed the most valued behaviour in a political system devoted to protecting groupthink.
The privilege of office
By Monday, the Taoiseach had had enough. The National Maternity Hospital decision had been postponed for two weeks to explain its virtues to the public before the Government confirmed its go-ahead.
But over that fortnight the Government had found itself losing the room. A poll over the weekend saw FG losing 5% of their support and 60% of the public had declared themselves against it.
As usual when governments lose public support, this was presented as a communications problem. The public just didn’t understand why this plan was such a good deal. They had misinformed themselves. They were just opposing it for political purposes. The merits were being debated when they should just be accepted and welcomed.
So the Taoiseach decided to use the power of his office. He refused to engage with any of the questions or issues raised, declared them nonsense and said that the decision was going to happen the next day, with no changes.
And that was that, really. The Government did what the Taoiseach told them the following day. Two Green TDs declined to do what they were told the next day and were stripped of the party whip for six months.
I was opposed to the proposed deal. I think the wording is ambivalent, and that a 299 year lease and licence deal can’t afford to be anything but crystal-clear.
But you can read about why and how I thought the deal could be improved in earlier Gists.
I wanted to reflect with you about the experience of those two weeks and what came after.
An Expert Eye
I wasn’t representing a client or getting paid by anyone as I did this public engagement. As they describe, down at the Bar, working unpaid to try to make things better for everyone,  I was acting Pro Bono Publico- for the public good.
I am a litigator. That’s both my primary professional experience and my temperament. I read documents with an eye to the weak points. I look for inconsistencies, escape clauses and unlawful elements. And so, when they were released, I stress tested these agreement papers.
And, just as a citizen of the republic, I found some howlers in the NMH deal paperwork. Most crucially, the phrase “clinically appropriate” had been inserted at its root without a definition, creating a risk of unexpected or perverse interpretation across the next three centuries. Read more...



 

International


 

Tusk promises to “separate church from state immediately after winning elections” in Poland

 

By Ben Koschalka

 
Donald Tusk, the leader of Poland’s largest opposition party, has pledged to “immediately” separate the Catholic church from the state if his Civic Platform (PO) wins the next election.
He accused bishops of becoming “government functionaries” under the current Law and Justice (PiS) government, saying that it was their fault – not that of believers such as himself – that the church has already separated itself from Polish society.
 
Tusk, who returned as leader of PO last year, was speaking in the northern town of Stargard as part of a tour to meet with residents of smaller towns around Poland. Tusk was asked by a member of the audience when the separation of the Catholic church from the state would take place.
“There is no other way than to clearly, immediately after winning the elections, carry out the process of separation of the church from the state, with all its consequences,” Tusk answered, quoted by the Polish Press Agency (PAP).
The church has already separated itself from society, Tusk said, and it only has itself to blame. “I have no doubts that the responsibility lies with the church, and not society; believers are the victims, and not the perpetrators of this situation.”
 
Tusk declared that he had “no reason to be happy at seeing how the church is being separated from society”, reminding his audience that he is a Catholic himself as well as the current president of the European People’s Party, which represents “Christian democracy”.
The Catholic church – meaning its members – should be distinguished from the institution, which is “largely composed of government functionaries,” Tusk added. “I am speaking about a significant part of the clergy, bishops, not to speak of government apparatchiks like Rydzyk”.
The latter was a reference to Tadeusz Rydzyk, an influential and controversial priest who is the founder of a Catholic media group and has enjoyed close ties with PiS. His foundations have received generous state grants under the current government.
But in his remarks Tusk also warned against waging a “culture war”. “I believe that Poland today does not need a radical revolution in which some hate others or want to degrade or humiliate them,” he said.
 
PiS has been strongly supportive of the Catholic church and advocated for it to play a prominent role in public life. PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński describes the church as the “repository of the only moral system commonly known in Poland” and warns that “rejection of it is nihilism”.
As a result, PiS has faced criticism from those who say it prioritises the church’s interests over those of the wider public, such as by pursuing a near-total ban on abortion that is opposed by most Poles. The church has in turn been criticised for involving itself in politics and linking itself to a particular party.
Last year, Tusk similarly warned that “the appropriation of the church by politicians is a fatal blow”. He accused PiS and its allies within the church of “destroying” the institution and called for the church to be “protected from itself”. Read more...


 

Why I just quit the Catholic Church

 

By Craig Lazzeretti

 
With the archbishop of San Francisco’s announcement Friday that he was unilaterally banning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion, I made a decision that had been building for a long time.I no longer consider myself a member of the Catholic Church.
Those are painful words for me to write. I spent much of my youth as an altar boy who was deeply influenced by the priests and nuns I encountered. I seriously contemplated becoming a priest at one point, was married in the church, saw my children baptized and looked on in pride when they received their first Holy Communion. I have attended more Masses and listened to more inspiring homilies over the past 40-plus years than I can begin to count.
But if you’re Catholic, you know how deeply important the sacrament of Holy Communion is to all of us who consider ourselves sinners. It represents the climax of the Catholic Mass as the consecrated body and blood of Christ. To deny a Catholic this sacrament is to deny them the right to unite with Christ.
The idea that a leader of the church would weaponize something so precious is not only wrong; it’s abhorrent. It betrays the teachings of Pope Francis and the principles the church has operated under for more than a half century in respecting our rights to follow our conscience on issues of morality. One of the defining statements that came out of the Catholic Church’s revolutionary Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965 was the declaration of religious freedom and decree that “no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs.”
While Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone routinely takes to Twitter to denounce Pelosi and her fellow Catholic, President Biden, over their abortion stances, he rarely targets politicians over other grave moral issues. I did not see a word from him in the aftermath of the Buffalo massacre about the political factors that have enabled a plague of racism, hate and gun violence in our society. I also never see him call for political action to address the plague of inadequate health care and safety net services that results in our country having some of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the advanced world.
He apparently had no idea about this nation’s shameful record on maternal mortality until I called it to his attention on Maternal Health Awareness Day. His brief acknowledgment on Twitter came without any call for action to address it by the same legislators he wants to see ban the right to abortion.
Many of us hoped that leaders like Cordileone would have had the humility to focus on their own institution’s moral failings in the aftermath of the child sex abuse crisis. But in his role as bishop in both San Francisco and previously in Oakland, Cordileone has routinely come under fire for his lack of transparency and accountability in addressing this horrific church failure that devastated the lives of untold children across the Bay Area. Just last month, he joined other California bishops in challenging a California law that gives victims of childhood sex abuse additional time to sue. Read more...


 

The network of organisations seeking to influence abortion policy across Europe

 

By Angela Giuffrida and Flora Garamvolgyi

 
A network of ultra-Christian, anti-abortion and far-right organisations is building momentum in its quest to influence abortion policy in Europe as the US supreme court considers striking down Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalised the procedure in America.
Elements of the network originally came together under the name Agenda Europe, holding yearly summits across the continent between 2013 until at least 2018, by which time it had grown to comprise 300 participants, including politicians and Vatican diplomats.
The aim of the group was to “restore the natural order” by devising ways to gradually erode abortion rights, gay rights and policies on combating violence against women, as well as to reduce access to contraceptives.
Organisers behind Agenda Europe summits included Terrence McKeegan, a former legal adviser to the Holy See’s mission to the UN in New York, and Gudrun Kugler, a Catholic theologian, member of the Austrian parliament and human rights spokesperson for the Austrian People’s party.
“It is a rather loose network that brought together all the different groups – mostly from around Europe – that identify themselves as pro-life or pro-family, so anti-abortion or anti-LGBT rights,” said Neil Datta, secretary of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights who conducted an inquiry into the network and shared documents detailing the group’s aims, meeting programmes and participants.
“You can see they started out trying to find their relevance, and by the third meeting they were actually coming up with proactive ideas about how to roll back human rights in sexuality and reproduction.”
Today, people connected to Agenda Europe are linked to the Political Network of Values (PNfV), a global platform with strikingly similar values that sprung up as the former’s visibility appeared to diminish.
PNfV is hosting its fourth transatlantic summit – which includes Kugler and other Agenda Europe personalities among the speakers – in Budapest on Thursday and Friday.
When it comes to abortion rights, the network is allegedly seeking to replicate recent anti-choice efforts in the US, where rightwing activists have gradually manoeuvred people who share the same views into the judicial and political systems.
“They’ll be really pumped up by the potential reversal of the Roe v Wade,” Datta added. Read more...


 

Atheists in Pakistan fearful as crackdowns on digital blasphemy continue

 

By ANI

 
Islamabad [Pakistan], May 23 (ANI): Blasphemy arrests and mob violence continue to escalate in Pakistan as blasphemy laws are leading to the erasure of atheist identities.
Pakistan is among one of 32 Muslim-majority countries that imposes harsh penaltiesfor blasphemy, apostasy, or atheism, and one of 12 that punishes these “crimes” with death. The atheists, agnostics, and other dissenters of Islam in the country are fast losing their safe spaces online, which they had built to dodge the institutionalized threats engulfing them, media reports stated.
After the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) in 2016 co-opted the harsh clauses of the Pakistan Penal Code, blaspheming online became a capital crime.
In 2017, immediately after passing PECA, Pakistan issued its first death sentence for digital blasphemy. The same year, the state launched a crackdown on online dissent and atheism, urging the masses to ‘report blasphemers,’ going so far as to abduct and torture activists and bloggers for dissent against the military establishment and Islamic hegemony.
Since Islamic hegemony helps the state, especially the all-powerful military and radical Islamist groups, maintain its autocratic control, it has been in the rulers’ interest to silence all forms of dissent, DailyDot reported, citing sources.
The arrests for blasphemy have escalated over the past five years in Pakistan and so has mob violence. For instance, the lynching of Mashal Khan by fellow students in 2017 and the death sentence issued for university lecturer Junaid Hafeez in 2019 have silenced debate on religion and atheism in educational institutions, including in digital spheres
Moreover, the lynching in December of Sri Lankan citizen Priyantha Kumara, over allegations that he had torn a poster that had Islamic prayers written on them, was a gory reminder of how Pakistan’s blasphemy law continues to encourage Islamist mob violence.
According to DailyDot, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Federal Investigation Agency have access to groups and pages on social media, which has even resulted in summon of administrators during the state’s crackdown on blasphemy.
Families disowning outspoken atheists is a frequent occurrence all over the country, with many even reporting their relatives for blasphemy. Many dissenters are also forced to flee after being labelled heretics by local Islamic clerics endangering their lives in their own hometown. Read more...

 

NSS criticises move to entrench faith school protections in law

 

By The National Secular Society

 
The National Secular Society has criticised a move to enshrine protections for the ethos of faith schools into law as a missed opportunity for child rights.
The Schools Bill will put into law that religious institutions in England must have a "clearly defined role" in the running of schools with a religious character if they become academies.
At present these protections only exist in the funding agreements for academies and not in primary legislation. Religious institutions which control faith schools have complained these "weaker arrangements" hold back some faith schools from converting to academies.
There are no plans for equivalent laws to protect the secular, community ethos of academies without a religious character.
The Schools Bill will also ensure faith schools which become academies provide religious education (RE) and collective worship "in accordance with the tenets and practices" of their religion.
The NSS is campaigning for reform of RE so that it is broad, balanced and objective in all schools, and to abolish laws requiring daily acts of collective worship. The United Nations have recommended the UK repeal its laws requiring collective worship in all state schools.
But the government has said that a change in law on collective worship is "unnecessary", adding that collective worship "encourages pupils to reflect on the concept of belief".
Bishops' bench "very grateful" for faith school protections
During the bill's second reading in the House of Lords on Monday, Paul Butler and Steven Croft (pictured), who sit in the Lords as of right as Anglican bishops, welcomed the move.
Butler said the provisions set out how the "settlement between Church and state continues" and said the Church of England was "very grateful" for the way in which ministers have engaged with the Church so that "areas of policy with specific relevance to the future of schools on sites that have been provided by the Churches are addressed". 
Read more...

 

Nigeria: Killing of student for blasphemy raises question on place of religion

 

By 'Tofe Ayeni

 
The brutal death of a Nigerian second year university student, Deborah Samuel, was in the name of blasphemy against Prophet Mohammad. Her death and previous incidents in the country question the role and place of religion in the country.
Allegedly, Deborah had requested that other students do not post religious material in a Whatsapp group meant for school assignments. Other reports state that she made a statement on social media insulting the prophet.
Samuel, a Christian, was first beaten and stoned before being set on fire on 12 May. Following the incident, the school was closed immediately, and the Sultan of Sokoto and the northern governors condemned the killing.
Although there have been arrests made, the charges were simply “criminal conspiracy and inciting public disturbances”, which many in the country have called out against.
Blasphemy and Sharia law
The Assistant General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God on Administration and Personnel, Pastor Johnson Odesola said: “Nigeria is one, Nigeria is a secular country, not a religious country.” Read more...


 

Religious charity shut down after NSS raises extremism concerns

 

By The National Secular Society

 
The charity regulator has shut down an Islamic charity after the National Secular Society repeatedly raised concerns about extremism.
The Charity Commission for England and Wales ordered Islamic Research Foundation International (IRFI) to be dissolved after an inquiry found it had funded TV programmes which incited violence and murder.
IRFI was removed from the charity register earlier this month.
In 2020 the commission opened a statutory inquiry into the charity, which aimed to advance the Islamic faith by funding the Peace TV network. It also appointed an interim manager to "consider the future viability" of IRFI.
IRFI was registered under the charitable purpose of 'the advancement of religion'. Its remaining funds of £57,950 have been transferred to three charities with "similar objects".
The inquiry found IRFI's trustees had mismanaged the charity by continuing to fund Peace TV.
Between 2015 and 2020, 96% of the charity's expenditure, amounting to around £3.6 million, was granted to Universal Broadcasting Company, the parent company of the Peace TV channels' two licence holders.
Some of the charity's trustees had been directors of companies within this group structure whilst also acting as trustees of the charity, the commission found. The inquiry saw no evidence that conflicts of interest were appropriately identified and managed.
The former chair of IRFI's listed trustees, Zakir Naik (pictured), was also a regular preacher on Peace TV. He has been banned entry to the UK over security concerns. He was disqualified as a trustee in 2019 and barred from holding senior management functions in any charity in England and Wales.
NSS action on IRFI
The NSS has repeatedly raised concerns about IRFI since 2018, when it questioned Naik's involvement with IRFI in a letter to the commission.
In 2019 the NSS found that the commission had received five complaints about IRFI in the last nine years. Read more...

 

 
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