Atheist Ireland asks RTE to reconsider new Angelus video competition as disrespectful and pre-evangelising

RTE has recently promoted a competition for new video for the Angelus, asking producers for ideas that enable members of all faiths and none to pray or reflect, under the title and chimes of the Angelus, which is a Catholic call to prayer. We recognise that RTE intends well in this, but we have serious concerns about the practical impact.

As a national broadcaster with a public service remit, RTE should not propose that atheists and secularists should pause and reflect during a Catholic call to prayer. This is disrespectful to the philosophic convictions of many citizens, facilitates Catholic pre-evangelisation, and is contrary to Principle 5 of the BAI Code of Programme Standards.

RTE would not dream of broadcasting a daily prime-time programme that called on atheists to proclaim that there is no God, then respond to criticism from Catholics by telling them they can be ‘included’ by praying during that broadcast. Yet RTE seems unable to see how inappropriate this is in reverse.

Atheist Ireland has sent the following submission to RTE about the Angelus broadcast generally and this new competition, along with some suggestions for a genuinely inclusive and religiously neutral pause for reflection.

Contents

  1. The four things that we are asking RTE to do
  2. Overview of the basis of Atheist Ireland’s complaints
  3. Principle 5 of the BAI Code of Programme Standards
  4. Positively respect the rights of atheists and secularists
  5. The chimes of the Angelus are a Catholic call to prayer
  6. Facilitating the Catholic policy of pre-evangelisation
  7. How this complaint differs from the 2009 BCC judgment
  8. Atheist Ireland’s 2011 correspondence with RTE
  9. Please reconsider the current video competition
  10. Suggestions for a genuinely inclusive pause to reflect

1. The four things that we are asking RTE to do

  1. Stop broadcasting at prime-time the Angelus, which is a Catholic call to prayer.
  2. Stop trying to ‘include’ atheists and secularists under a Catholic call to prayer.
  3. Please postpone and reconsider the current Angelus video competition.
  4. Broadcast a genuinely inclusive and religiously neutral pause for reflection.

1.1 Stop broadcasting at prime-time the Angelus, which is a Catholic call to prayer

RTE has a public service remit that obliges it to show no editorial or programming bias in terms of religion. The daily prime-time prominence given to the Angelus shows bias for religious beliefs over nonreligious philosophical beliefs, and for Catholicism over other religions.

This is an inappropriate use of prime time public service broadcasting, by a body with a statutory duty to show no editorial or programming bias in terms of religion. This duty to show no bias stands on its own merits, regardless of how many people might support or tolerate such bias.

1.2 Stop trying to ‘include’ atheists and secularists under a Catholic call to prayer

It is discriminatory and disrespectful to the human dignity and philosophical convictions of many atheists and secularists for RTE to suggest that we should pause to reflect on life, under the title and chimes of a Catholic call to prayer that is contrary to our convictions. This is contrary to Principle 5 of the BAI Code of Programme Standards.

The Catholic prayer of the Angelus, including its title and chimes, has a specific religious purpose for Catholics. It is not the role of RTE to reinterpret this into a hybrid of a Catholic call to prayer and a time for people of other faiths and atheists to reflect on life generally. In doing this, RTE is going beyond its public service remit as a religiously neutral public service broadcaster.

Ultimately, whatever it is that RTE broadcasts at this time, it is one or other of two things:

  • Either it is the Catholic Angelus, in which case RTE should (a) not broadcast it daily at prime-time, and (b) not suggest that atheists and secularists should pause to reflect during a Catholic call to prayer, as it is disrespectful and facilitates Catholic pre-evangelisation.
  • Or else it is not the Catholic Angelus, but a pause for people of all faiths and atheists to reflect, in which case RTE should (a) not name it the Angelus or use the Angelus chimes, and (b) broadcast instead a genuinely inclusive and religiously neutral pause.

1.3 Please postpone and reconsider the current Angelus video competition

We know that RTE means well by seeking to make the Angelus video more inclusive. However, this proposal actually makes things worse, by seeking to institutionalise the ‘inclusion’ of everyone under the umbrella of a call to prayer that is contrary to some of our convictions.

At a minimum, if you won’t reconsider the competition, please at least postpone taking it further it until Atheist Ireland can make a complaint to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland about it, and have the issue addressed independently of RTE and Atheist Ireland.

1.4 Broadcast a genuinely inclusive and religiously neutral pause for reflection

We agree with RTE’s aim of an inclusive pause for reflection. But the Angelus cannot provide this, as RTE implicitly acknowledges by describing it as possibly your most controversial religious programme.

Why continue with an approach that you know cannot achieve your stated aim? Why continue to try to ‘include’ part of your audience under something that you know is contrary to our convictions? We include some suggestions for a genuinely inclusive pause for reflection.

2. Overview of the basis of Atheist Ireland’s complaints

We suggest that both the existing Angelus format, and even more so the new proposals, are:

2.1 Contrary to Principle 5 of the BAI Code of Programme Standards

  • The manner in which atheists and secularists in Irish society are represented is not appropriate and justifiable, and it prejudices respect for our human dignity.
  • The programme material stigmatises, supports or condones discrimination against atheists and secularists on the basis of our nonreligious philosophical convictions.
  • The broadcaster is not showing due respect for nonreligious philosophical convictions and beliefs in the programme material of the Angelus.

2.2 Contrary to Section 8 (Religion) of RTE’s Programme Standards Guidelines

  • It does not show respect for nonreligious philosophical convictions.
  • It does not show tolerance for the diversity of belief in Ireland.
  • It does not show sensitivity towards the beliefs of atheists and secularists.
  • Ironically, even some of the detail of Section 8 itself shows prejudice for religious beliefs over nonreligious philosophical beliefs, contrary to the headings in Section 8.

2.3 Contrary to the BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality

  • While this Code is about News and Current Affairs, RTE has included it among the requirements that entrants to the Angelus competition must meet.
  • The broadcast treatment of this competition, about what RTE calls possibly its most controversial religious programme, is not fair to all interests concerned.

2.4 Contrary to RTE’s Public Service Broadcasting Charter

  • It does not reflect the cultural values of Irish society, only part of it.
  • It does not reflect fairly and equally the cultural diversity of Ireland and its peoples.
  • Editorial or programming bias is shown in terms of religion.

2.5 Contrary to RTE’s Public Service Statement

  • It is not independent of any vested interest, which includes ensuring that editorial decision-making is not subject to undue influence from any religious interest.
  • It does not provide for and is not responsive to the interests, needs and concerns of the whole community on the island of Ireland, only part of it.
  • It does not reflect and nurture contemporary Irish cultural expression and seek to inform a greater understanding of the wider world.

2.6 Addressed here on different grounds to previous complaints by others

  • We agree that RTE should broadcast religious programmes, alongside nonreligious philosophical programmes including some based on atheistic convictions.
  • Our objection is not based on the Angelus being offensive. We agree with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland that there is no right not to be offended.
  • Our objection does not depend on how many viewers or listeners might support or oppose or tolerate or ignore the broadcast of the Angelus. RTE’s duty to show no editorial bias stands on its own merits, regardless of reaction to it.
  • We also address previous judgments by the Broadcasting Complains Commission, and previous correspondence between Atheist Ireland and RTE.

3. Principle 5 of the BAI Code of Programme Standards

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland evaluates complaints based on its Code of Programme Standards, as required by law. We suggest that both the existing Angelus format, and even more so the new proposals, are contrary to Principle 5 of the BAI Code of Programme Standards.

3.1 Explicit requirements of Principle 5

Principle 5 of the Code is titled “Respect for Persons and Groups in Society.” This states that:

“The manner in which persons and groups in society are represented shall be appropriate and justifiable and shall not prejudice respect for human dignity. Robust debate is permissible as is the challenging of assumptions but programme material shall not stigmatise, support or condone discrimination or incite hatred against persons or groups in society in particular on the basis of age, gender, marital status, membership of the Traveller community, family status, sexual orientation, disability, race, nationality, ethnicity or religion.”

In fulfilment of Principle 5, broadcasters shall, among other things: “Show due respect for religious views, images, practices and beliefs in programme material. This is not intended to prevent the critical scrutiny of religion by means of information, drama or other programming.”

The relevant explicit parts of Principle 5 for the purposes of this submission are:

  • The manner in which persons and groups in society are represented shall be appropriate and justifiable and shall not prejudice respect for human dignity.
  • Programme material shall not stigmatise, support or condone discrimination on the basis of religion.
  • Broadcasters shall show due respect for religious views, images, practices and beliefs in programme material.

3.2 Implicit requirements of Principle 5

The Section of the BAI Code titled “How to Comply with the Code” states that: “Each principle has a list of non-exhaustive requirements which broadcasters must discharge.”

The qualifier “non-exhaustive” suggests that there are other implicit requirements not explicit in the Code. We suggest that, with regard to Principle 5, these implicit requirements include:

  • Section 8 (Religion) of RTE’s Programme Standards Guidelines.
  • The BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality, which RTE has announced as a requirement to enter the Angelus video competition.
  • RTE’s Public Service Broadcasting Charter.
  • RTE’s Public Service Statement.
  • Adhering to the human rights standards of respecting and vindicating the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, the right to freedom from discrimination, and the right to equality before the law, as enshrined in various human rights treaties that Ireland has signed up to and/or incorporated into our domestic law.

4. Positively respect the rights of atheists and secularists

RTE’s duty involves more than avoiding discrimination against atheists and secularists who do not have a religious belief. It also involves RTE showing equal respect for the rights of atheists and secularists as it does for the rights of religious people. Showing equal respect, in addition to a negative undertaking of avoiding disrespect, also implies a positive obligation.

The persons and groups listed in Principle 5 of the BAI Code are identical to the persons and groups listed in the Equal Status Act 2000. In Section 3(e) of the Equal Status Act, discrimination on the ground of religion is defined as:

“that one has a different religious belief from the other, or that one has a religious belief and the other has not.”

The UN Human Rights Committee, in General Comment 22 on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, found that:

“Article 18 protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The terms belief and religion are to be broadly construed… The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reasons…”

The European Court of Human Rights, in Kokkinakis v Greece, found that:

“As enshrined in Article 9, freedom of thought, conscience and religion is one of the foundations of a “democratic society” within the meaning of the Convention. It is, in its religious dimension, one of the most vital elements that go to make up the identity of believers and their conception of life, but it is also a precious asset for atheists, agnostics, sceptics and the unconcerned. The pluralism indissociable from a democratic society,which has been dearly won over the centuries, depends on it.”

The European Court of Human Rights, in Lautsi v Italy, found that:

“The Court emphasises that the supporters of secularism are able to lay claim to views attaining the “level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance” required for them to be considered “convictions” within the meaning of Articles 9 of the Convention and 2 of Protocol No. 1. More precisely, their views must be regarded as “philosophical convictions”, within the meaning of the second sentence of Article 2 of Protocol 1, given that they are worthy of “respect ‘in a democratic society’”…”

The European Court of Human Rights, in Folgero v Norway, found that:

“The verb “respect” means more than “acknowledge” or “take into account”. In addition to a primarily negative undertaking, it implies some positive obligation on the part of the State. The term “conviction”, taken on its own, is not synonymous with the words “opinions” and “ideas”. It denotes views that attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.”

Therefore, we suggest that the tests of the relevant explicit parts of Principle 5, as phrased from the perspective of atheists and secularists, are that:

  • The manner in which atheists and secularists in Irish society are represented shall be appropriate and justifiable and shall not prejudice respect for our human dignity.
  • Programme material shall not stigmatise, support or condone discrimination against atheists and secularists on the basis of our nonreligious philosophical convictions.
  • Broadcasters shall show due respect for nonreligious philosophical convictions and beliefs in programme material.

5. The chimes of the Angelus are a Catholic call to prayer

It is impossible for RTE to disentangle the chimes of the Angelus from their function as a Catholic call to prayer, and even more so when the RTE actually names the programme the Angelus.

RTE is promoting the idea that atheists and secularists should pause for reflection, under the title and chimes of this Catholic call to prayer. Using the explicit tests of Principle 5, this is inappropriate and unjustifiable; prejudices respect for our human dignity; stigmatises, supports or condones discrimination; and does not show due respect for our nonreligious philosophical convictions. It also breaches several implicit requirements of Principle 5.

Here is an analogy to consider. Imagine a State broadcaster, in a largely atheist country, broadcasting a daily prime-time one-minute programme called ‘Godless’, which used a soundtrack that was universally known as a call to atheists to declare that there are no gods. Now imagine Christians in that country (rightly) protesting that this was disrespectful to their religious convictions. Now imagine the State broadcaster replying that they will retain the title ‘Godless’ and the atheistic soundtrack, but might include some video footage of people going to church beneath it. That would not be inclusive. Indeed, it would be adding insult to injury.

It is indisputable that the chimes of the Angelus are a call to Catholics to pray the Angelus.

The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship says that:

“Civil society, constituted ideally as a societas Christiana, modelled many of its structures on ecclesiastical usage and measured itself according to the rhythms of liturgical life. An example is the ringing of bells in the evening which called the peasants from the fields and simultaneously signalled the Angelus.”

The Catholic Encyclopaedia says that the triple-stroke pattern seems to have been adopted from the start. A fourteenth century Bishop of Lerida directed the faithful, on hearing these chimes, to fall on their knees and recite the Ave Maria. A fifteenth century bell at Erfert bears the words in Latin:

“When I ring thrice, thrice devoutly greet the Mother of Christ.”

The Angelus was originally broadcast on Radio Eireann to mark the Roman Catholic Holy Year of 1950, using a mechanism blessed by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, with the stated purpose that all who heard the bells

“would recite the Angelus, in Union with Our Blessed Lady, as a prayer of thanksgiving for the grace of the Incarnation.”

Today, the chimes remain an integral part of the Angelus. The website vatican.com says of the chimes: “The ringing is a call to pray and spread good-will to everyone on Earth.”

The Catholic prayer of the Angelus, including its title and chimes, has a specific religious purpose for Catholics. It is not the role of RTE to reinterpret this into a hybrid of a Catholic call to prayer and a time for people of other faiths and atheists to reflect on life generally. In doing this, RTE is going beyond its public service remit as a religiously neutral public service broadcaster.

Ultimately, whatever it is that RTE broadcasts at this time, it is one or other of two things:

  • Either it is the Catholic Angelus, in which case RTE should (a) not broadcast it daily at prime-time, and (b) not suggest that atheists and secularists should pause to reflect during a Catholic call to prayer, as it is disrespectful and facilitates Catholic pre-evangelisation.
  • Or else it is not the Catholic Angelus, but a pause for people of all faiths and atheists to reflect, in which case RTE should (a) not name it the Angelus or use the Angelus chimes, and (b) broadcast instead a genuinely inclusive and religiously neutral pause.

6. Facilitating the Catholic policy of pre-evangelisation

Asking non-Catholics to pause for reflection under the title and chimes of a Catholic call to prayer facilitates the Catholic Church policy of pre-evangelisation. We know that this is not RTE’s intention, but it is the practical effect of the policy, of the current broadcast and, even more so, of the proposals for the competition.

6.1 What is Catholic pre-evangelisation?

In 2011, the Irish Episcopal Conference, in “Share the Good News – National Directory for Catechesis in Ireland” says of pre-evangelisation:

“The Church also uses the term pre-evangelisation when referring to a type of initial proclamation that, in bringing the person to consider the deepest meaning of life, helps them, over a period of reflection, to be prepared to meet Jesus.

For several reasons, including lack of opportunity, negative experiences and preoccupation with other matters, many people cannot see the value of making God a priority in their lives. They can, however, readily understand the significance of trust, reconciliation, solidarity and love. This is true, too, of very young children.

Reflection on such matters tills the earth and prepares the ground, so that when the seed of Christ’s message is sown, there is the possibility of its being fully recognised, supported and cared for.

By raising the person’s interest and thoughtfulness about life, a sense of the religious dimension of our lives can be awakened. Themes investigated in different ways by philosophy, science and the arts, for instance, can, for many, open up avenues toward a deep understanding of the mysteries of the world, of human life and of God.

Pre-Evangelisation can be relevant for people of all ages and stages of life, including children in Catholic schools. We should never presume that the soil has already been prepared when we seek to plant a precious seed.”

The Modern Catholic Dictionary defines pre-evangelisation as follows:

“Preparation of a person or people to receive the Gospel. The need for such preparation in the modern world arises from the massive neglect of God and things spiritual… Through the media of social communication, [a] spirit of unbelief has permeated whole segments of society. Hence the need for predisposing people even to listen to the Gospel, especially in the once Christian affluent cultures of Euro-America.”

6.2 Catholic pre-evangelisation and Principle 5

Asking non-Catholics to pause for reflection under the title and chimes of a Catholic call to prayer facilitates the Catholic Church policy of pre-evangelisation, however unintentionally.

If we apply the tests of Principle 5 of the BAI Code to this, we suggest that the programme material is inappropriate and unjustifiable; prejudices respect for our human dignity; stigmatises, supports or condones discrimination; and does not show due respect for our nonreligious philosophical convictions.

7. How this complaint differs from the 2009 BCC judgment

In May 2009 the Broadcasting Complaints Commission rejected a complaint about the Angelus by Patrick Flynn. We want to highlight here how our concerns differ from this complaint. Mr Flynn complained that the Angelus broadcast discriminated on the basis of religious belief, and that he found it deeply offensive. Our complaint is not based on offence, and we address the discrimination issue here.

7.1 RTE’s description of the Angelus in 2009

RTE’s response to Mr Flynn’s complaint included that (a) RTE is obliged to make programmes which reflect the religious views of all the people of Ireland, (b) whilst RTE recognises that the Angelus is a Catholic prayer, RTE believes that people of other faiths can use the minute as an opportunity for reflection or personal prayer, (c) RTE has no evidence that other faiths find the broadcast of the Angelus oppressive or discriminatory; the matter has been raised with Church leaders of all faiths, and none has expressed any concern, and (d) to uphold this complaint would bring into question all the worship programming broadcast on RTE.

Please note that, in 2009, RTE was unambiguously positioning the broadcast as (a) reflecting religious views, (b) being a Catholic prayer, (c) having been raised with Church leaders but not atheist or secular groups, and (d) perhaps melodramatically phrased, essential to all of the worship programming broadcast on RTE. The Commission noted that the content of the broadcast material was the Angelus, and acknowledged that the Angelus is synonymous with the Catholic religion.

This unambiguously religious and indeed Catholic description, used by both RTE and the BCC in 2009, is very different than the hybrid religious/secular description that RTE is currently using. Therefore, any decisions of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, based on this old 2009 description, cannot be automatically applied to any new decision of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland based on the current 2015 hybrid description.

7.2 The test of prejudice as used by the BCC in 2009

Even if RTE was to revert to the purely religious definition used in the 2009 complaint, the BCC did not apply, in that case, the test of prejudice that is today described in Principle 5 of the BAA Code.

In 2009 the Commission found that: “Under Section 3.4.2 a broadcaster must ensure that it does not condone or support discrimination against any person or section of the community on the basis of religion. The Commission could not determine that the broadcasting of the Angelus in itself shows, or proves, that the broadcaster supports or condones prejudice on grounds of religious belief and/or non-belief. There is no basis for considering that the content of the Angelus is unjust, or that by broadcasting it the broadcaster condones and supports discrimination of religious belief and/or non-belief.”

But the test in Principle 5 of the BAA Code is not whether the broadcaster supports or condones prejudice, but whether the programme material supports or condones prejudice.

In this submission, we are not suggesting that the broadcaster supports or condones prejudice. Indeed, we accept that it does not. But we suggest that the programme material as it is broadcast supports or condones prejudice, however unintentionally on the part of the broadcaster, in the context of the various arguments that we have made so far in this submission.

8. Atheist Ireland’s 2011 correspondence with RTE

In February 2011, Atheist Ireland made a submission to RTE about the Angelus, and we received a comprehensive response from the Director General Noel Curran, who said that while he intended to maintain the status quo, he had given careful thought to the points that we made.

8.1 General overview

Mr Curran acknowledged that we are not against religious programming per se, and noted that one of our principal objections was the high-profile position in the daily schedules. He said that he did not see why religious programmes should automatically be consigned to the margins. But we were not suggesting that. We were suggesting that, whatever is broadcast at prime-time schedules, it should be balanced during that prime-time schedule.

Mr Curran said that the Angelus chimes do not promote one faith position over another, that RTE did not broadcast the the Angelus prayer in these slots, that the format has evolved over the years, and that many license payers seem to be strongly in favour of it continuing. We have addressed these points elsewhere in this submission.

8.2 Sunday broadcasts

Mr Curran acknowledged that we had raised some anomalies. Firstly, we had asked why the Angelus is not broadcast at 12 on Sundays if it is intended for everyone? Mr Curran said that we were right, that there is no logical reason why the broadcast should be inconsistent.

Since then, RTE has made one change to the broadcast schedules. In 2013, RTE us that:

“For the last two years we have broadcast the chimes on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. In the past, in line with Catholic observance, we had suspended them, but the point was accepted at senior management level that, since our broadcasts are not limited to Catholic observance, they shouldn’t follow the Catholic liturgical calendar. The Catholic Church leadership accepted this logic.”

This raises further questions.

  • Why was this change limited to the two days in the year when the Catholic Church uses the same schedule for a slightly different prayer?
  • Why does RTE still not broadcast the Angelus at 12 on Sundays, if it is intended for everyone, and given that Mr Curran said that we were right about this?
  • What were the circumstances in which the Catholic Church leadership accepted this logic? Did RTE approach them for consultation? If so, why did RTE not approach other groups including Atheist Ireland about the current proposals?

8.3 The title of the Angelus

The second anomaly was that we had asked why the broadcast is called the Angelus, if RTE says it does not broadcast the Angelus prayer. Mr Curran said that there may well be an argument for dropping the Angelus title for these reflective slots, in order to signal to the audience that this is an all-embracing slot, and that he will give serious consideration to this suggestion. Whatever consideration has since been given to this, the broadcast still retains the title of the Angelus.

9. Please reconsider the current video competition

Last Friday Atheist Ireland became aware of an RTE competition to fill what was described as “RTE One’s reflective 6pm “Angelus” slots.” The notice described the programme as possibly the most controversial of RTE’s religious programmes. It proposed to retain the title of the Angelus, and the chimes that are synonymous with the Angelus as a Catholic call to prayer.

The notice described two conflicting views of the Angelus, and asked how can RTE reconcile them. But it did not include the views that Atheist Ireland had put to RTE about this topic in 2011, which make different arguments than the two conflicting views described in the advertisement.

The notice quoted “one primary school headmaster, Harry Rowan” as articulating what would be RTE’s aspiration for the slot: “To the person of faith, it’s a moment of grace; to the person without faith, it’s a moment of peace. What’s not to like?” But it did not mention that RTE already know “what’s not to like” about this, as Atheist Ireland has repeatedly informed RTE “what’s not to like”.

9.1 Our email correspondence last weekend

Atheist Ireland only became aware of this competition on the day of the closing date, so we emailed the Head of Religious Programmes, Roger Childs, and asked:

“Hi Roger, With apologies, I’ve only just become aware of the commission for a replacement of the Angelus and noticed that the deadline has passed. I’m not in the habit of checking for new commissions and I didn’t see this advertised anywhere. I noticed that you have quoted a Primary School Headmaster as describing how the non-religious view your Angelus broadcast and I was wondering if you contacted any secular organisations to discover the actual (rather than imagined) perspectives of non-religious license payers? If not, perhaps you might consider extending the deadline by one week to facilitate a submission by Atheist Ireland? Best Regards, John Hamill.”

Mr Childs replied by email:

“Thanks, John. The deadline and terms and conditions were deliberately aimed at producers capable of delivering something acceptable to people “of all faiths and none.” Given the level of response, I see no need to give any religious or non-religious group preferential treatment with an extension. Best wishes, Roger.”

9.2 What we are now asking regarding the competition

We know that RTE means well by seeking to make the Angelus video more inclusive. However, the current competition actually makes things worse, by seeking to institutionalise the ‘inclusion’ of everyone under the umbrella of a call to prayer that is contrary to some of our convictions.

RTE has communicated with the Catholic Church leadership about the Easter changes, and has directly alerted others about this video competition, but chose not to alert Atheist Ireland, despite us having been in direct correspondence with RTE about the issue, and indeed us making suggestions about alternatives. Also, why does RTE assume that we would be incapable, by ourselves or with partners, of delivering something acceptable to people “of all faiths and none?”

We are asking RTE to please reconsider this competition, based on the arguments that we have made in this submission. At a minimum, if you won’t reconsider the competition, please at least postpone taking it further it until Atheist Ireland can make a complaint to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland about it and the Angelus generally, and have the issue addressed independently of RTE and Atheist Ireland.

10. Suggestions for a genuinely inclusive pause to reflect

We agree with RTE’s aim of an inclusive pause for reflection. But the Angelus cannot provide this, as RTE implicitly acknowledges by describing it as possibly your most controversial religious programme. Why continue with an approach that you know cannot achieve your stated aim? Why continue to try to ‘include’ part of your audience under something that you know is contrary to our convictions? Why not instead take the obvious step of broadcasting a genuinely inclusive and religiously neutral pause for reflection?

10.1 Some suggestions that we made in 2011

We made the following suggestions to RTE in 2011 for a genuinely inclusive pause for reflection.

  • A minute each day of music by an artist such as Turlough O Carolan, the eighteenth century blind Irish harpist whose image appeared on the Irish £50 note before we adopted the Euro currency. O Carolan is considered by many to be the nation’s composer, and he has ties to many parts of the island, north and south.
  • A minute each day of reflection based on the thoughts of great philosophers, from different ages and backgrounds and schools of philosophy, each of which addresses the question of how people can find a personal sense of meaning in the flurry of contemporary life.
  • A minute each day, devoted each week to a different group that works to benefit society, to promote the work that they are doing and to encourage people to engage in such activity. Alternatively, a minute each day devoted to a different person to explain how they think a particular idea of theirs would help to improve society.

10.2 Some suggestions that we are adding now

We enclose some further suggestions based on the themes of friends, family, time and distance.

If RTE postpones and reconsiders the video competition, we will work with a production company to prepare professional proposals for these and other suggestions.

(a) Friends

The viewer sees a traditional Muslim family engaged in a traditional Muslim activity, such as almsgiving. As the perspective widens, the viewer sees they are in Dublin. As the viewer’s perspective continues to broaden, other families come into view, wearing the traditional dress of say Hindus or another faith. There is also a well-dressed Western family walking towards a Christian Church. Some of the family members each enter their respective houses of worship and viewers see the prayers of different faiths. Some of the groups don’t join their families at prayer. Those from various families that didn’t go to prayer, are seen to be friends and meet for a meal. There are some indications that they are not religious. Perhaps someone is wearing an evolution shirt or carrying a book like “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking. After prayers, some members of each religious group and some members of the secular group meet up. They each are seen to put on the hats and scarves of an Irish national sports team and they walk into a stadium together.

(b) Family

The initial scene is of a group of children playing together happily in a park. They are a mixture of genders and also a mixture of ethnicities. The viewer is then shown a group of adults, who are supervising the children. They are talking and joking and again there is a mixture of ethnicities and genders. As everyone leaves, the viewer sees the couples revealed as the adults kiss, hold hands and embrace. There is a gay couple, a lesbian couple and a mixed race couple. The viewer then sees each family unit revealed as the adult couples collect their children and happily leave the park. Each family has a mixture of ethnicities.

(c) Time

Introduce the Cosmic Calendar, with the Big Bang on January 1st and today as midnight on 31st December. Show the first stars igniting in March and then our solar system beginning to form at the end of August. The earliest life arose on earth during September but animals didn’t evolve until 7th December. The Giant’s Causeway was formed on the 29th December and the first humans evolved at around 10:30pm on December 31st. Newgrange is 5,000 years old, which means the Irish built it around 10 seconds ago on the Cosmic Calendar.

(d) Distance

Open with a harpist playing a piece by Turlough O’Carolan. The viewer perspective zooms in to one of the vibrating strings and keeps zooming in, until it shows the vibrating wave function of an electron around a molecule. As the music keeps playing, the viewer sees the dimensions of an atom and then the viewer perspective begins to broaden out. With the music continuing, the viewer sees that the atom is part of a DNA molecule (with scale shown) and the viewer perspective keeps broadening. The viewer then sees that the DNA molecule is part of a single human hair (again with the scale shown) and then the harpist becomes visible once again. The viewer’s perspective continues to zoom out, so that we see the building and town the harpist is in, until we eventually see our country as viewed from space then planet earth. As the zoom out continues, the viewer sees the solar system scale, then the galaxy, larger light-year-scale structures, and then eventually the entire observable universe (with the scale shown to viewers at all points).

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