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Atheist Ireland objects to revamped Angelus on RTÉ

By Susan Gately - 27 June, 2015

Editor of Religious Programmes at RTÉ, Roger Childs, rejects contention that the Angelus is biased in favour of Catholics.

AngelusA planned revamp of the one minute Angelus on RTÉ has raised the ire of Atheist Ireland, which says the chimes and calling the ‘moment of prayer’ the Angelus makes it a catholic broadcast.

Responding to the charge, the Editor of Religious Programmes at RTÉ said the ‘new look’ Angelus will take account of those of all religions and of none.

He rejected the contention that the Angelus is biased in favour of Catholics.

“The BAI (Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) has ruled on it four times and not once upheld the complaint on those grounds. They are the authority on this not us (RTE),” Roger Childs stated.

He continued, “The BAI has ruled that it is totally defensible as a part of our obligations under the broadcasting act to reflect the culture of Ireland including the religious culture of Ireland which is not a secular culture.”

Mr Childs said that he had never had complaints from any religious leaders over the Angelus.

“They are in fact broadly supportive of having a reflective space. As one Imam said to me, ‘I like living in a country where the news is made to wait until 6.01 for a moment of reflection or prayer’.”

Atheist Ireland is particularly exercised by the 18 peals of the Angelus bell during the “moment of reflection” and by the fact that it is called the Angelus which it says amounts to the “facilitation of Catholic pre-evangelisation”.

However, Mr Childs rejected this, saying that when he heard the chimes of the church on Merrion Road in Dublin from his office he did not feel evangelised by them.

“They are part of the landscape that is Irish society. I don’t feel that they are coercive or intrusive.”

BellsRTÉ has invited proposals for six new short films to be broadcast on RTÉ One television at 6pm every day in the Angelus slot before the main evening news.

The invitation for film proposals said they should “demonstrate both creativity and sensitivity, in order that the content is conducive to prayer or reflection for people of all faiths and none, rather than being seen as exclusively reflecting any one faith, or non-faith, position”.

A spokesman said it was RTÉ’s intention that “this reflective minute” should be accessible to people of all faiths and none.

“The Angelus prayer itself is never broadcast in these slots and is not imposed on viewers,” he added.

Atheist Ireland has said that it believes the changing the title would be “an important first step to creating a genuinely inclusive and religiously neutral moment of reflection”.

It argues that  RTÉ should not be asking atheists to reflect on life under a Catholic call to prayer, as it is disrespectful to their philosophical convictions.

In its response, RTÉ said it will “continue to reflect” on what the reflective minute should be called.

“For the moment we are taking our lead from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland which has said that this is a defensible position. It has not upheld complaints,” said Mr Childs.

The ‘new look’ moments of reflection produced for the Angelus slot are to be put on line and the public will have the opportunity to adjudicate on them and vote for their favourite.

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