Lolek Ltd’s delusional view of secular schooling.

There follows a rebuttal of yesterday’s publication by the Iona Institute. You can view the original here.

Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland has outlined his wishes for Irish schools in The Irish Times. If implemented they would result in the effective elimination of every denominational school in the country, bar a few privately-funded ones.

As per usual with Iona articles, Mr Quinn leads with his signature cocktail of fear-mongering and hyperbolae, sadly lacking the required addition of fact. The article in question (linked below) specifically states both that reform should be starting in exactly nine primary schools, and – more importantly – “Discriminating against religious families is as wrong as discriminating against atheist families.”. Why let things like facts get in the way of colouring a proposed move towards equality as some sort of attack on the poor downtrodden Church?

The details of his proposals you can read in his article. However, if you strip down his vision to what I believe is its core, it is based on the delusion that it is possible to run a school on the basis of an all-inclusive ethos.

This, of course, is absolutely impossible. Nugent himself says he wants schools to teach what he calls “moral education”, so long as it is kept separate from religion.

On this point, while I disagree with Mr Quinn, I also have reservations about Mr. Nugent’s proposed moral education. I (and I imagine most parents) would agree that morality, ethics, and the basic principles by which we live our life must be taught in the home as well as the school. Then again, I don’t think anyone really believes that a child’s moral code should be prescribed from an organisation that values women as mere walking incubators.

Presumably he wants moral education kept separate from religion because religion, in his opinion, cannot be all-inclusive while morality can be. This is nonsense, of course. There is no system of morality to which everyone subscribes any more than there is a religion to which everyone subscribes. Morality is every bit as controversial and controverted as religion.

Firstly, nothing in the history of mankind is “as controversial and controverted” as religion. Secondly, the argument here seems to be that seeing as morality is the examination of many points of view, and that not all people share the same point of view, that we should instead exclusively subscribe to the existing dogma. In other words, “Not everyone likes that, take what we like instead”. Absolute stuff and nonsense, even by Lolek standards.

In the same vein Nugent speaks of giving children an “objective, pluralist education”. What does the word “objective” mean here and who decides what is “objective” and what is not? Ultimately some authority must decide. I wish that authority luck in coming up with an “objective” vision of education that everyone agrees is “objective”.

Not for the first time, I feel the need to assist Mr. Quinn in one of his linguistic difficulties. Objective is an adjective with the following definition:

“Not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.”

Some good examples of objective statements would be the following:

  • All children in the Republic deserve an education
  • The Catholic church in Ireland currently uses its stranglehold on primary school education to discriminate against non-Catholic children
  • The two statements above are the root of the problem
  • The problem requires a solution

A “subjective” statement, defined as “based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.”, would be any one of the following. You’ll note that some of them fit Mr Quinn’s world view, whereas some probably don’t so much.

  • Everything’s fine the way it is
  • Ireland needs to return to fawning at the feet of an Italian church
  • All opinions should be heard, but all those outside my beliefs should be ignored or steamrolled
  • Leaving primary education in the hands of an organisation that hates women, pays no tax and has at best a sketchy track record with children is absolute madness and should be ceased immediately
  • Strong-arming a service as fundamental to a state’s well-being as education in order to achieve nothing short of forcing parents to pay for baptisms and keep collection plates full while dragging Ireland back to the 1950s is an appalling strategy, and one that nobody’s likely to fall for any time soon.

I hope that cleared things up for Mr. Quinn.

No matter what kind of morality Nugent’s schools would teach, no matter what kind of “objective, pluralist education” it offers, many parents would end up disagreeing with it.

Again, lack of universal agreement doesn’t necessitate adherence to the status quo, despite what the conservative spouts would have you believe.

What is to be done with these parents in his vision? What schools are to exist for them? None, is the answer, unless they can afford private schools.

Even if this was true as opposed to wild hyperbolae, it’s been the case that Church of Ireland ethos schools have been few, far between, and fee-paying since time immemorial. Yet, strangely, Lolek Ltd don’t flock to the defence of religious teaching there, outside the sphere of the Holy See.

What is noticeable about Atheist Ireland’s proposals for our schools is the short shrift it gives to what parents want for their children.

At present, the Constitution puts parents in the driver’s seat constitutionally speaking. It makes the State their servant. It allows that there will be a plurality of opinions among parents as to the education, including the moral and religious education, they want for their children.

Oh it allows for a plurality of opinions, as long as all legislative education policy remains subservient to the One True opinion held by the One True Church. As for giving parents the “short shrift”, a quick look at the numbers attending mass should speak volumes to the number of Catholics that truly want a Catholic education for their children.

It rejects a one-size-fits-all vision, which is really what Nugent’s ‘inclusive’ vision amounts to, a vision that by definition cannot include everyone because as with religion and morality, there are multiple conflicting visions of what education should offer.

A one-size-fits-all vision may in fact be the best way to describe the status quo, wherein the choices are as follows:

  1. Send your child to a Catholic-ethos school, regardless of your beliefs.
  2. Enter the effective lottery that is the waiting list for one of the few non-Catholic schools
  3. Keep your kids at home and hope for the best next year

The State has no right to impose what it believes is the ‘correct’ one.

Again, this statement represents a staggering about-face in position for Lolek. Clearly, Mr. Quinn and his ilk are absolutely fine with the State imposing what they see as the correct version of morality. Who needs options or plurality when we already know that Catholicism has proven the perfect answer to every question?

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Re: Irish Times article, Breda O’Brien, 25/05/2015

With the celebrations of the Yes side now coming to a close and the nation returning slowly to normalcy this Monday morning, the majority on both sides of this hard-fought campaign are impeccable in their behaviour. Both Senator Ronan Mullen and David Quinn have been remarkably gracious in defeat, in both old media and new. For the most part a 62/38 victory is enough of a margin of victory to satisfy – or at least placate – the vast majority of opponents. Aside from some mildly unfair slagging of Roscommon for being the only county to vote no, it’s all been fairly positive on the Yes side too. But fear not! There will always be some voice of tireless, dour whining in the Irish press just days after a defeat. This year it’s Breda O Brien, who apparently wasted absolutely no time in trotting out the same fallacious guff she’s been spouting all year, apart from the 2 week break she took to avoid stepping up to debate Panti  to recover from bronchitis. Here are a few of the real gems from today’s rant:

‘734,300 No voters are just as generous and inclusive as those who voted Yes’

Unless of course you’re referring to the generosity of actually voting for a more inclusive society.

They are just as generous and inclusive as their neighbours who voted Yes, and just as fond of their gay relatives. In fact, some of them are gay themselves.

Yes. Two of them. Paddy Manning and Keith Mills. I’ve spent the last month asking the Iona members to name a third homosexual opposed to marriage equality. They’re yet to respond.

People who voted No recognise marriage as the place where society celebrates sexual and gender differences as deeply embedded features of the human condition, primarily – although by no means exclusively – because it produces children. They wanted to preserve that in our social structures and law.

I’ll give her this much credit, she’s managed to offend or insult more people per column inch with increasing efficiency as the year has progressed. The idea that marriage equality precludes gender differences is one of the most tired, most relied-upon, and most laughable lies of the entire No campaign, which I’ve covered already in an earlier post.  The line about producing children is almost as offensive to unmarried parents as it is to childless spouses. But let’s do our best to pretend they don’t exist, right Breda?

the soft coverage of gay icons and celebrities and “human interest” stories pushing the Yes side have been going on for years, with the enthusiastic collusion of the media.

Again, Paddy Manning and Keith Mills being trotted out with near-ubiquity on YouTube in the week before the vote was what, exactly, if not human interest? The piece by the woman raised by two women that missed her dad, was that not an attempt to appeal to the same heartstrings through pathos? The obscene use of pictures of children to try and emotionally manipulate us into voting No, who was that again Breda?  And this enthusiastic collusion of the media you speak about, from your Irish Times column on a Monday morning while David Quinn puts his out in the Independent, have you truly not yet realised you speak from a pulpit of influence as large as anyone’s?

We do not have to admire Government Ministers who talked about damaging the gay people’s mental health if we voted No.

The same Government presided over the disintegration of mental health services – everything from removing guidance counsellors from school, often the first to pick up serious problems – to decimating the psychiatric services. The hypocrisy is stunning.

Clearly it’s the big evil government again, out to destroy homosexuals by cutting the health service budget. What you seem to be saying here is that you want them to do more damage to gay people.

We do not have to admire a political system that ignored 734,300 voters, aside from six brave TDs and Senators who dared to be different.

They weren’t ignored. They voted. They were outnumbered. They lost. And the vast majority of them accept that, because they’re more interested in democracy than dogma. As for the lack of Dail representation, why not run yourself, Breda? Obviously the support is there for hard-right Christian demagogues in elected office. That’s probably why Senators Fidelma, Jim and Ronan had to be appointed instead of elected and Deputy McGrath’s constituency passed the referendum by 5 to 3.

It was a fantasy to suggest that the referendum would extend marriage to same-sex couples and then give them no way to have children.

Same-sex couples already have children. Hundreds of them. This referendum didn’t change that in the slightest.

We have damaged irreparably the connection between marriage and a child’s right to know and be cared for by the two people who each give them half of their biological, social and familial identity.

That’s a fascinating approach to take, given the numerous adoptive parents that are also vocal members of the No campaign. Are they, too, denying their children access to their biological parents? Must we pretend that heterosexual couples don’t adopt or use surrogacy? Or would that just not fit the narrative?

(If you’re a sufferer of high blood pressure or are easily enraged, you may want to skip the next quote)

Some day, there will be a young Irish woman wandering the streets of Copenhagen. She will have been raised by her lesbian mother and her partner, both of whom she loves dearly, and who are great mothers.

But she also has a deep longing to know the other half of herself, her father, and simple things like whether she got her love for music or the shape of her hands from him. All she knows is her father was a Danish sperm donor. She has no idea how many half-siblings she has. She is in contact online with other sperm donor children, some of whom have 150 half-siblings.

Her father’s address, given when he sold his sperm, is long out of date. So she wanders, looking at Danish faces, wondering, is that man my sperm donor father? Could that be a half-sibling?

Children of surrogacy unsure as to whether they have half-siblings or not, eh? Well, for anyone in Ireland whose father was sexually active 35 years ago, the same question has to be asked, doesn’t it? Particularly since the conservative christian hatchet crews kept contraception illegal here until 1980. So in fact anyone above a certain age may have half-siblings out there. Of course, we don’t know, because the gangs of priests and nuns sent out to take these children from their parents and sell them, while moving their mothers into slave labour camps to be abused didn’t keep open written records either, did they? Still, let’s not play up the “human interest” stories, eh Breda?

(Original article)

In response to Lolek Limited’s latest video.

As almost 200,000 of you have now seen as of this post’s publication, Lolek Ltd. recently published the following video:

Those of you who are resolved to vote Yes on the 22nd will almost certainly find this incredibly frustrating. Those already decided to vote No, probably not so much. However for the benefit of the thousands in between, I’d like to ensure that you know what this video is actually trying to say. While it presents itself as a straight-talking, fact-based piece, it is in fact one of the most surgically precise, cynical, and manipulative pieces of campaign material distributed so far. Here’s a line-by-line translation:

“The government says this referendum is all about two simple words – ‘I do’.”

Immediately, the narrator wishes us to oppose marriage equality by framing it as somehow forced down our throat by an unpopular government. There’s been huge and vocal opposition to many and varied government policies over the past four years, however support for same-sex marriage has also been touted by every single opposition party. For the record that’s Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein, the AAA, the Socialists, People before Profit, and every independent with the exception of one Mattie McGrath (IND) of North Tipperary. So to say it’s just the government in favour of this is a massive omission. Every part of the elected political spectrum is in agreement here, even parties that normally exist entirely in opposition to the government. The most vocal politicians in opposition to the referendum are senators Mullen and Healy-Eames, neither of whom were elected by anyone. So perhaps in the interest of accuracy, this could be translated as “165 of 166 TDs” or “99.4% of elected representatives”. This of course wouldn’t fit the agenda, because Lolek are hoping to confuse you into voting against the government. That’s not what we’re voting on, but more on that further down.

“This is very misleading, because we aren’t simply being asked to redefine marriage.”

Actually, that’s not what anyone’s being asked. One of the classic misdirections of the No campaign has been to try to convince you and I and every other Irish voter that marriages are somehow under attack. What’s actually being voted on is the opportunity to extend the existing definition of marriage to include our gay and lesbian compatriots. What we’re actual voting on is whether to add a clause to the existing legislation of Article 41 of Bunreacht na hEireann (viewable here on the referendum commisson’s site) as follows:

4 Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.

That’s in no way a change to the existing definition of marriage between heterosexuals. It’s also nothing – nothing – to do with any religious institutions marriage practices, which as I’ve already covered elsewhere are entirely separate from state legislation. No text is being removed or altered, we’re merely specifying that we also want same-sex couples to be allowed to employ this civil liberty currently afforded heterosexual citizens as equals.

“We are also being asked to redefine the family, Because the section of the constitution the government wants us to change is article 41, called the family.”

Our first logical leap of faith, and an incredibly nonsensical one. To claim – despite all textual evidence – that the family is being redefined simply because of the article’s name reeks of desperation and straw-clutching. By this logic, surely we’re redefining the state, seeing as it’s the Irish constitution we’re voting to amend? Is adding an extension to a house “redefining the county” ? This line of argument is barely-cloaked hyperbole, a tactic used time and time again by conservatives to justify continued exclusion and regression.

“If we change this as the government wants…”

There’s that pesky government again. You’re not supposed to like them, remember? It’s their idea, it must be a bad one! It’s us versus them, how could you possibly think anything they agree with is a good idea?

“…two men or two women will be given the right to marry and have children.”

Two men or two women already have the right to have children through surrogacy and adoption. In fact, every actual authority on both topics – government and NGO – has agreed that there will be absolutely no change to adoption or surrogacy laws as a result of this referendum. Plenty of children in Ireland are already being raised by loving gay couples, single parents, unmarried heterosexual couples, an uncle, an aunt, their grandparents, foster parents….the list of familial configurations in Ireland is near endless. But the Lolek agenda is to pretend these families don’t exist. Or, as in the case of Mothers and Fathers matter spokesperson Eileen King, see them as “just circumstance”. Surely this is the most brazen lie in the entire No campaign.

“But two men can never give a child a mother and a father and two women can never give a child a mother and a father.”

This is technically correct. And, like the above line, requires you to immediately disregard the thousands of children who – for whatever reason – are already without either a mother or a father. A widow can’t give her children their father back. Should we then pretend they she’s any less of a mother? And more importantly, given that the entire argument about raising children is entirely separate, why is it being clung to so dearly by Lolek? The answer is simple – they’re attempting to warp the facts in order to manipulate the undecided voter.

“If we vote yes on may 22nd we will be forced to pretend that two fathers or two mothers are just the same as a mother and a father.”

Actually, no. At no point has anyone made the case that gay people are the same as straight people. They’re not. They’re gay. Similarly, tall people aren’t the same as short people. They’re taller. Old people aren’t the same as young people. They’re older. What all of these groups have in common though is that each must be seen as equal in the eyes of the law. Here we come upon the most consistently trotted-out linguistic backflip of the No campaign. Equal does not mean the same. We’re not asking anyone to say that gay parents are the same as heterosexual parents. We are however insisting that all our nation’s citizens – regardless of their gender or sexuality – be treated equally by the courts, by the government, and by our society. And because it apparently needs to be stated for a third time, this referendum is not about parenthood,it’s about marriage.

” This is why marriage equality is really inequality for children. So if you think a mothers love is unique and irreplaceable and so is a fathers love then vote no on may 22nd.”

Of course a mother’s love is irreplaceable. So is a father’s love. Sadly for the No campaign, neither statement has anything to do with what we’re actually supposed to be discussing. This climax for the video above may as well say “So if you believe that love is good, and that the government is bad, please vote No”.  It’s utter balderdash, clinically designed to fool you into answering a question that nobody is actually asking at the expense of a minority in our society. And if we fail that minority now, we lose the opportunity to make a better, more inclusive society for all of us – and that includes the children.

Charity Regulator Reply to yesterday’s mass complaint

All,

Yesterday in our hundreds we made our feelings clear on the Lolek Ltd. tax-free charity status. As many of you will now have seen from the copy-paste reply email, the regulator doesn’t seem particularly interested in ending this scam. Here’s the reply that was sent to me today:

Dear Jimi,

I refer to your recent complaint regarding Lolek Ltd (Iona Institute).

Please note that the Charities Regulatory Authority is not currently
resourced to undertake investigations; the current focus of the Authority
is on the development of the Register of Charities.  Part 4 of the
Charities Act 2009, which provides for the investigation of the affairs of
charitable organisations, has not yet been commenced.

Campaigning and lobbying activities are an important part of the work of
many charities. However, it is important that charities are aware of the
restrictions that charity law places on this aspect of their work. It is
acceptable for charities to carry out campaigning and lobbying activities
where these activities are directly related to the advancement of the
charitable purpose or purposes of the charity. Charity trustees should have
regard to this when they are making decisions about how and when the
charity for which they have responsibility might carry out campaigning and
lobbying.

Best regards,

Brenda R. Ryan
Charities Regulatory Authority

Disappointingly, this seems to state in simplest terms that the CRA is not bothered with performing all of its functions right now, focusing entirely on a single one that’s been 6 years in the making. I’ll be asking why the rest of the 2009 act isn’t in place yet and who has the power to actually perform any sort of oversight on “charities” in Ireland if not the regulator.

What’s even more worrying is this passage :

However, it is important that charities are aware of the
restrictions that charity law places on this aspect of their work. It is
acceptable for charities to carry out campaigning and lobbying activities
where these activities are directly related to the advancement of the
charitable purpose or purposes of the charity. Charity trustees should have
regard to this when they are making decisions about how and when the
charity for which they have responsibility might carry out campaigning and
lobbying”

Having never dealt with Breda before I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that she thinks I’m stupid as opposed to just sending a veiled “PFO”, as the above translates as “yes, charities should behave themselves, and i’m sure someone should make them”. In other words hand-washing of the highest order.

Frankly I don’t really need to be told there’s a problem with Lolek. Lolek do. And from the above, it’s fairly clear that the regulator wants to do everything apart from actually regulate.

More to be posted as replies are forthcoming.

Jimi

Concerned that Lolek Ltd. is an illegally subsidised political group as opposed to a charity?

For anyone who – like myself – is tired of the Iona Institute using their charity status as a pretext to avoid tax on their political activities, here’s a quick 3-step process that will allow you to voice your concern.

1. Head over to https://www.charitiesregulatoryauthority.ie/Website/CRA/CRAweb.nsf/frmCharHelpdesk?OpenForm

2. Enter the Iona Institute’s charity number, 17347 (with thanks to Bock the Robber, to clarify this is their CHY number. Their charity reg number is 20064365)

3. Let the charity regulator know how you feel about a political lobbying group enjoying charity status. Here’s what I wrote, feel free to copy and paste or write your own:

“To whom it may concern,


I would like to formally request an investigation of the current charity status of Lolek Ltd, more commonly known as the Iona Institute. Lolek’s charity status is based on their supposed “furthering of a religion”, however on an almost daily basis their employees are campaigning for a no vote in the upcoming referendum on an entirely legal matter. The interference in politics is outside the terms of their memorandum and articles of association, which state their aims as

“The advancement and promotion of the Christian religion, its social and moral values, and the doing of all such other things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of that object.”

I am concerned that their actual activities as a political lobbying group mean that they are illegally using their charity status to avoid paying tax, effectively meaning that their political lobbying is being subsidised by the tax payer.

I look forward to your response.

Jimi Kavanagh”

The institutions of marriage

In the next couple of months or so, citizens of Ireland will be asked to decide on whether to permit all citizens to exercise their legal right to marry, regardless of gender. Support for this move is almost overwhelmingly in favour, and while all opinion polls on the issue indicate that Ireland is in favour of marriage equality, there are still those that believe it should remain illegal.

Loudest among the detractors in terms of both media exposure and fervent ideological opposition are the Iona Institute, or to give them their actual name, Lolek Ltd. They’ve presented many spurious reasons that equality for all citizens is a bad idea. First we were to believe that the referendum was about parental rights, even though this is an entirely different issue. To say that parenting is somehow connected to the legal technicalities of civil marriage is to pretend (or worse, deny) the simple fact that plenty of children in Ireland are already raised not as the video claims by “a mum and a dad”, but by two mums, two dads, just mum, just dad, a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle….the variations of loving family configurations in Ireland are endless, and have nothing to do with sexual preference and less to do with marriage. When this approach failed, Lolek stalwart Breda O Brien tried to scare us all with an imagined risk of incest, claiming that SSM will allow mothers to marry their daughters. Strangely she overlooked that this is no more possible or likely than mothers marrying their sons under current legislation, but why let logic or facts get in the way of wild scaremongering?

The most consistently trotted-out fabrication by Lolek and their ilk is that SSM somehow compromises the existing institution of marriage. This idea has, through silencing of critics and litigious media tactics, been allowed to propagate far beyond the reach of a few ultra-conservatives. It’s one that strikes at the concerns of thousands of Irish voters, the vast majority of whom either belong to or one day wish to be part of the institution of marriage. Who wouldn’t be worried that a law was somehow going to affect their family life? Here’s the thing though : it’s also utterly untrue, and overlooks one absolutely crucial fact.

There are two institutions of marriage. 

This referendum has absolutely nothing to do with the institution of marriage in the Catholic church or any other religious group. Nothing. Not a thing. Zero. Marriage in a church is a union between two people in the eyes of their god. The marriage we’re all voting on in 8 weeks time is state (or civil) marriage. State marriage joins two people in the eyes of the Republic, not God nor Allah nor Jahweh. Neither is more or less based on love, neither is more or less valuable to participants, but there’s a crucial difference between the two. Catholics get married under Catholic law in the eyes of the Catholic church, and how they choose to do so is determined by the Vatican. Irish citizens get married under Irish law, and when the people of Ireland decide it’s time for a change in the law, we get to vote on the issue. We don’t get to tell the Church how to conduct its business. If the Catholic church decides to keep its version of marriage exclusively for heterosexual couples, then sadly there’s nothing anyone outside the Pope can do about it because – for reasons that I won’t dwell on right now – religious organisations are exempt from existing equality legislation.

And that’s ok. Because the people of Ireland aren’t telling the Catholic church how to conduct its affairs. On the other hand, Lolek and co. are attempting to frame themselves as somehow representative of all Catholics in Ireland (most of whom are, like everyone else, in favour of a better life for all Irish people) in this debate. At the same time, they’re trying to frame the debate in terms of religious institutions, when in fact the vote is about a civil institution. It’s a massive game of misinformation and misdirection that’s being played, and sadly too many people seem to be buying what’s being sold.

What follows below is a short list of simple facts. They’re not based on spurious “scientific” studies funded outside the country by special interest groups. They’re not designed to push any kind of religious or political agenda. They’re just simple, hard-boiled statements with the added merit of being true.

  • This referendum will have no impact on any practice or custom of the Catholic church.
  • Church weddings will still have no relationship to civil wedding in the eyes of the laws of State or God.
  • This referendum has zero impact on adoptive or reproductive rights.
  • This referendum doesn’t have any impact on any existing marriage in any way shape or form.
  • If you’re a heterosexual, your rights are not altered in any way, shape or form.

There are now just over 9 weeks left in this debate. When you next see someone try to distract from or deny any of the above, call them out on it. If not for basic decency, then for the sheer joy of holding people in the public eye accountable.