Category Archives: From the BHA

Items originating with the British Humanist Association

Report on Religion and Belief

Only By Accepting That Britain Is No Longer a Christian Country Can We Start to Look Towards Real Equality
Andrew Copson in the Huffington Post  7th December 2015

Monday’s report from the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life is a watershed moment for recognition of the non-religious and the significant role that they play in the community. While the report gives due attention to the 8% of Britons of non-Christian religions and what their increase means for our public life, it is unique in giving fair recognition to the 50% of us in Britain who say we have no religion: the fastest growing group in this country.

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Excluding Humanism is Illegal

Government Broke the Law

In a landmark judgment handed down in the High Court today, a judge has ruled in favour of the three humanist parents and their children who challenged the Government’s relegation of non-religious worldviews in the latest subject content for GCSE Religious Studies. In his decision, Mr Justice Warby stated that the Government had made an ‘error of law’ in leaving non-religious worldviews such as humanism out of the GCSE, amounting to ‘a breach of the duty to take care that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in a pluralistic manner.’ The British Humanist Association (BHA), which was responsible for bringing the case and has supported the three families throughout, has welcomed the landmark decision.

Read the report by the BHA

BHA Protests Against Blasphemy Laws

In a speech to the assembled nations of the UNHRC, BHA delegate Amelia Cooper said that blasphemy laws are the ‘embodiment’ of these shortcomings, and that their continued presence stands as an affront to international law and freedom of belief.

The BHA, which is a partner organisation in the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws, has said that these laws have leant credibility to extrajudicial acts of violence, such as the mass riots in Pakistan which followed an alleged desecration of a Koran, resulting in six deaths, and the assassinations of officials Rashid Rehman, Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti.

As well as condemning states for tacitly sanctioning these crimes by failing to respond to them, the BHA pointed out:

‘It must also be noted that encoding corporal punishment for blasphemy convictions is nothing less than State violence in the name of religion. Four of the 13 states which punish apostasy or blasphemy with the death penalty are current members of this Council, and are thus mandated to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”. This is hypocrisy of the highest order.’

The BHA’s statement comes amid continuing abuses perpetrated against those deemed to have blasphemed. Avijit Roy was murdered last month after advocating for greater freedom of expression in Bangledesh, while Raif Badawi remains imprisoned in Saudi Arabia where he is being subjected to a punishment of 1,000 lashes for the crime of insulting Islam.

Legal restriction on freedom of thought, particularly affecting the non-religious, is widespread throughout the world, as shown by the latest Freedom of Thought Report, a global survey of laws affecting the non-religious and freedom of expression which is researched and published each year by the International Humanist and Ethical Union. In 13 countries, non-religious people face the very real threat of a death penalty if they do not live a lie and pretend to be religious.

Given these heinous restrictions on freedom of expression, which are often exploited by states to justify persecution of non-religious people and those of minority religions, the BHA has stressed its support for a UNHRC resolution to expressly forbid the ‘discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief.’

 

Equal Pastoral Care

New NHS obligation to provide equal pastoral care to non-religious in England

With the publication today of new national guidance, NHS bodies in England will be obliged for the first time to provide pastoral support and care to non-religious people on the same basis as chaplaincy is provided to the religious.

Promoting Excellence in Pastoral, Spiritual & Religious Care marks a significant departure from previous guidance, which focussed solely on religious chaplaincy and the needs of the religious. It makes clear that NHS bodies in England must deliver appropriate pastoral care to the non-religious; it mandates the equal treatment of those with a religion and those without a religion in the receipt of pastoral care; and it makes clear that managers must ensure that a comprehensive service must be in place that meets the needs of the non-religious.

Read whole item from the British Humanist Association

State Funding Favours Religions

From the British Humanist Association

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has announced a £400,000 programme to ‘strengthen faith institutions’. The fund will be available only to bid-winning charities to support the growth of ‘places of worship’ in Britain. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has criticised the project as a poor use of public money and discriminatory.

Justifying its decision, the DCLG stated that ‘Faith communities make a vital contribution to national life: they guide the moral outlook of many, inspire great numbers of people to public service and provide help to those in need.’ Fitting with previous comments made by senior Government ministers, including the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles, the impetus for this enormous spending drive appears to be an unsupported belief that religious organisations and people do more good for local communities than non-religious ones, and so are more deserving of public funds. Continue reading