Jan 30

Humanists support SHout campaign, encourage NO vote to spring hunting

Turtle Doves

As Humanists we are deeply concerned about the environment in which we live. We are not a species in isolation, and our happiness and wellbeing is inextricably linked with other species in an intricate web of interrelations and an ecosystem that encompasses the planet.

We must always be aware of the ways in which we have a negative impact on our environment, and if necessary be prepared to make sacrifices to mitigate the harm. From buying energy-saving devices to reduce pollution from fossil fuels, to recycling the waste we generate, every little bit helps.
On the 11th of April, the people of Malta are being called upon to make one such decision - to determine whether hunting of birds can continue during spring.

The spring migration season marks the penultimate stage in a bird’s annual cycle. It is heading from Africa back to Europe to nest. Not all birds survive winter of course - some will fall victim to predators, or die of other causes. The ones that survive would have flown thousands of kilometers, and are on the final leg of their journey before they reach their breeding grounds in Europe. Killing a parent bird before it can produce the next generation goes against all principles of sustainable activities.

Apart from the direct impact of hunting on the authorised species it is an unfortunate fact that a legal hunting season provides cover for those hunters who shoot indiscriminately at all species of birds, as well as the fact that the Maltese public is kept out of the countryside by hunting activities.

Hunting is not a right but a pastime, and like any pastime it can be subject to restrictions. Just as Malta has banned spear fishing while scuba diving, it can stop hunting during spring, and this is not a breach of anybody’s rights. On the contrary it is a rational way to limit our impact and try to stem the steady and alarming decline of bird populations in the wild. We urge everyone, including hunters, to vote with an eye to the future of bird populations and vote "No" to spring hunting on the 11th April.

Dec 09

MHA Concerned about Church Staff Document

The Malta Humanist Association is troubled by recent press reports that Heads of Catholic schools are being asked by the Maltese archdiocese to discuss new terms of employment, which terms would guarantee that schools’ head teachers and other staff can be safely considered as “practising Catholics” – or face disciplinary action if their “life choices give scandal or run counter to the ethos of the school”. The document, ‘Practising Catholic As A Requirement For Eligibility And Selection Of Staff In Church Schools’, would impose upon church school staff restrictions to their life choices that are inconsistent with employment law and human rights. The Employment and Industrial Relations Act makes it clear that “discriminatory treatment means any distinction, exclusion, or restriction which is not justifiable in a democratic society including discrimination made on the basis of marital status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, sex, colour, disability, religious conviction, political opinion or membership in a trade union or in an employers’ association.”

Considering what the church teaches on topics such as homosexuality, homosexual relationships, unwed parents, IVF and many others, this new policy is likely to affect such minorities - as well as requiring all such staff to be baptised Catholics. Even the requirement that staff reveal such details as their sexual orientation or marital status is a violation of that person's privacy and dignity. Employers are in fact legally prohibited from requesting such information during interviews.

The document further implies that a concordat with the state grants the church autonomy in running its schools. However, this cannot be taken as carte blanche to ignore or break any laws. As an employer, the church is bound by employment laws and must adhere to them as it must adhere to all other laws.

While the church currently has a constitutional exemption to permit it to discriminate in the case of religion teachers, this proposal would extend this discrimination to cover heads of schools, assistant heads, PSD teachers, counsellors and other staff positions.

Almost simultaneously with this report, MHA was informed that the Faculty of Theology is proposing a course in Catholic School Leadership to be pushed to all prospective heads of schools, with candidates who have attended this course being given preference over others.

The MHA calls upon the relevant ministries to proactively investigate these matters and not wait for the first staff to lose their jobs and have to face the consequences alone. Many teachers and other staff, including MHA members, are not Catholics and are concerned about the possible repercussions to their own careers if these plans are put into practice.

Sep 13

The Oxford Declaration on Freedom of Thought and Expression

World Humanist Congress 2014

The 2014 World Humanist Congress, gathered in Oxford, UK, on 8-10 August 2014, adopted the following declaration on freedom of thought and expression:
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May 17

Report from IDAHO conference

by Ramon Casha, deputy chairman, MHA

On Thursday I attended the IDAHO forum - International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, held in Malta.

The conference included updates on the unfolding situation in many countries in regard to equal rights for LGBTI people. I'm proud to say that Malta registered the greatest improvement in this area, followed by Montenegro, but the positive developments in many countries were offset by major setbacks in others, including Uganda, Sudan, Nigeria, as well as Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe.

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Apr 15

Civil Unions bill passes

It was smiling faces all round and rainbows everywhere as the speaker called out the result - the bill has passed. The new Civil Unions bill gives same-sex (or opposite sex) couples the right to get a civil union which will have the same legal rights as marriage, including adoption.
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Jan 29

Ethics Education in Malta – Information Seminar

20140125_123144On Saturday 25th January, the University of Malta and the Ministry of Education and Employment, presented the plans and provisory suggestions to offer an Ethics Course for students who choose not to take the current Religious Education offered in schools. The intention is to offer this course starting in the next 2014/2015 scholastic year and to commence a certificate for training teachers starting in March. Till present, even in state schools, students who opt out of Religious education are either placed in a corner of the class where they do not participate in the lesson, or leave class to roam about the school or go to the library. It is important to note that children who opt out of religion lessons exist also in Catholic schools. Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 22

You can help scientific research


Do you want to help in important scientific research without lifting a finger (much) and even with no scientific experience or training?

Lots of scientific research requires computing power - lots and lots of it. They have huge amounts of data that need to be analysed by means of intensive mathematical algorithms. Today's desktop computers and laptops are very powerful. We've got quad-core processors and powerful graphics chips and yet, for much of the time, that computer is twiddling its metaphorical thumbs while you read a web page. Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 06

MPs have a moral duty to legislate on behalf of all citizens

The Malta Humanist Association is concerned at what appears to be undue pressure placed on members of parliament when it comes to an imminent vote on the civil unions bill. Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna has warned ‘Catholic MPs’ – a category that accounts for most, if not all, the current composition of parliament – that voting in favour of this bill, and with the right of same-sex couples to adopt children, constitutes a ‘grave immoral act’. Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 06

Mandela passes the torch to us

mandelawaveThe Malta Humanist Association wishes to show its appreciation for Nelson Mandela, a man whose life was a beautiful inspiration for millions. Rising from a time of cruel rule and harsh discrimination, he not only ended this discrimination, but rose above retribution and led a country through a difficult time of soul-searching, forgiveness and reconciliation, a force of healing that spread far beyond the borders of South Africa. His “retirement” was characterised by efforts to promote AIDS awareness and to combat war and poverty. Speaking about the African concept of Ubuntu, in which humanism plays an important role, Mandela said “It does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question is, are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve. These are the important things of life, and if one can do that you have done something very important that will be appreciated”. Mandela has now passed the torch of Ubuntu on to us.

Nov 11

Does Malta need sentencing guidelines?

One of the glaring problems that plague Malta's court system is the extreme inconsistency in sentencing. It's very common to have two crimes where the more serious crime gets a laughable slap on the wrist while the other, less serious crime gets a harsh sentence. We've had attempted murderers let off with a paltry €200 euro fine (later appealed and changed to a short prison term) while someone growing a small number of cannabis plants was given a shocking 11 year prison term. Read the rest of this entry »

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