Court Ruling in Northern Ireland

Christian-only RE and compulsory collective worship
A successful challenge in Northern Ireland

The High Court in Belfast just ruled today that Northern Ireland laws requiring Christian-only Religious Education and compulsory collective worship breach the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is a major victory for Northern Ireland Humanists, which supported the parent who took the case, and builds directly on Humanists UK’s 2015 case which ruled humanism should be taught in RE. But our fight’s not over yet…

We need to take immediate action to see this ruling implemented in law —and to see its effects logically ripple out to the parliaments in England, Scotland, and Wales too.

Humanism for Kids

What is Humanism?

Michael Rosen’s book, aimed at children, was published in 2016 with Annemarie Young.  It asks “What is Humanism? How do you live without a god? And Other Big Questions

Check it out on Amazon Books:

if your school would like a  free copy, as a gift from Cornwall Humanists

Prayer Seats

Prayer Card

Prayer Seats for MPs

Did you know that every day the House of Commons is in session, up to 223 MPs can be denied the chance to speak up for their constituents in important debates – just because they do not participate in Christian prayer?

In the Commons, there are only 427 seats for a total of 650 MPs, but those who attend Christian prayers are able to put down a ‘prayer card’ on their seat, which reserves it for the whole day. This means that non-Christian MPs are less likely to get a seat or be selected by the Speaker to take part in the day’s business.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this antiquated and discriminatory practice at the highest level should be scrapped immediately.

With the support of members like you, we are calling for parliamentary prayers to be replaced with inclusive time for reflection.

Giving Humanist Marriages Legality

Humanist Marriages

From Humanists UK website:

In July 2020, in a case brought by six humanist couples, High Court judge Mrs Justice Eady DBE ruled that the failure to provide legally recognised humanist marriages means that ‘the present law gives rise to… discrimination’. She also ruled that, in light of that, the Secretary of State for Justice ‘cannot… simply sit on his hands’ and do nothing. However, she said, given that the Government is currently giving the matter consideration in the form of a review into marriage law by the Law Commission, the Government’s refusal to act immediately can be justified ‘at this time’ and concluded, ‘Although I may deprecate the delay that has occurred since 2015, I cannot ignore the fact that there is currently an on-going review of the law of marriage in this country.’

In response to an email, local MP for the St Ives constituency, Derek Thomas, wrote:
“The Law Commission conducted an initial scoping review of marriage law. It found that the law was badly in need of general reform and that it would not be appropriate to legislate solely for non-religious belief organisations, as this would create further anomalies. The results of the Law Commission’s consultation is finally due to be reported to Government in July of this year.” 

So it seems that progress may come, as a result of the Law Commission’s work, when it is published in July 2022.

School Worship

Religious Freedom and its Limits

Religious Freedom and its Limits

Cornwall Humanists enjoyed a very interesting talk on Zoom at 7pm on Tuesday 21st September, given by the National Secular Society.  Stephen Evans, Chief Executive Officer of the National Secular Society, talked about religious freedom and its limits.

School Worship

Photo by Don McPhee

Stephen told us that the National Secular Society defends everyone’s freedom of religion and belief.
Everyone should have freedom to believe whatever they wish. This is confirmed by the United Nations Charter of 1948, in Article 18, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

However there are areas of human life where balances need to be struck between the undoubted rights of people to practise their religion, and possible harms that might result from certain religious beliefs.

Stephen gave the Jehovah Witnesses’ opposition to blood transfusions as an example, where the parents’ religious belief could result in the death of a child in their care.
It has been decided by the courts that the child’s right to life, takes precedence over the parental rights of religious belief.

In the world of work British Airways failed to prevent a Christian employee, Nadia Eweida, from wearing a visible cross at work, because their policy was found to be inconsistent regarding other religious symbols. By contrast the NHS were successful in preventing nurse Shirley Chaplin, from wearing a crucifix at work.

There are differing views on how animals should be slaughtered, before their meat is eaten.
The majority of meat certified as Halal is stunned before slaughter, but no prior stunning is permitted in the rules of Kosher slaughter.  It would be possible to label meat, to show if the animal had been stunned prior to slaughter, allowing the buyer to make a choice.

Another example Stephen gave was the religious practice of surgery on the genitals of children.  It seems widely accepted in the UK that operations on girls, known as FGM (female genital mutilation) is unacceptable, and it is illegal in the UK.  But circumcision of boys is not illegal in the UK, although there is no medical benefit, for boys or girls, while there is sometimes serious harm resulting from surgery.

In the case of Batley Grammar School, a teacher used a caricature image of the Prophet Mohammed as part of a lesson.  This caused offence to some people of the Muslim faith, who protested at the school.  The Trust which runs the school has said that it wishes to ensure that offence is not caused, but Stephen feels that an Islamic blasphemy code has been quietly imposed at this school.

The right of freedom of religion and belief is accepted, but Stephen suggested that there also needs to be freedom from religious belief.

Peter Wood 23rd September 2021

Daily, compulsory, Christian worship in our schools does not seem to strike a fair balance between the freedom of religion, and the freedom from religion.

UK – Majority not Religious

April 2021   53% of UK non-religious

Social Attitudes








The British Social Attitudes Survey – April 2021

Some 68% of 18-24 year olds say they belong to no religion,
versus just 18% saying they are Christians.

All state schools are required by law to hold a daily act of collective worship, of a “broadly Christian character.”

26 bishops of the Church of England serve in the House of Lords, but only 12% of the UK population identify as Anglican, down from 15% in 2017.

When will out-dated religious priviledge in the UK be ended?


Census 21st March 2021

On March 21st  adults will be filling in their census forms.

Cornwall Humanists held a meeting  by Zoom last Sunday, on 14th March.
We discussed the leading question about your religion in the census form.

It asks “What is your religion?” – which assumes that you have one.

The unbiased question would ask,
“ Do you have a religion?” and then,
“ If so, which one?”

It was decided to write to local newspapers, to encourage people to answer the question on religion, without being guided to say that they have one, by the way the question is worded.

This matters because census results are one of the elements used to plan policy on health, education and social services.

So, if you are not religious please tick “No religion” on your census form.