Take Action – Toolkit
Why we need your support
Campaigns work best when persuasive arguments are backed by strong public support.
The BHA is well able to present compelling arguments for our policies to the right people at the right time and in the right manner. But we need support from members of the public – not just our own members but everyone who recognises the sense of what we say – if the case we put is to be given its due weight.
Politicians by the nature of their role have to be sensitive to public opinion. They do not like taking ‘adventurous’ decisions, however right they are, without demonstrable public support.
That is why we need your support.
Moreover, national campaigns often depend on local action to maximise their effect. Local authorities listen to local opinion when deciding a proposal to hand over a community school to a religious group. Crematoria managers with fixed religious symbols on display will only respond to local opinion in favour of removable ones to cater for non-religious funerals.
Each individual campaign on this site says what you can do to help. This page gives you some general tips on how to go about it. Sometimes, as with the campaign against religious schools, there is specific local work to do – you will find details about that on the relevant pages.
Contacting your MP
It is always much better to contact your MP than to write to a Government Minister. An MP will usually forward your letter or enquiry to the relevant Minister anyway – and ministerial replies to MPs are seen and signed by Ministers, whereas responses (if any) to the general public are almost always standard letters from junior civil servants.
You can find out who your MP is by going to the official House of Commons website and entering your postcode.
You can write to your MP at his or her constituency office or other address, but the safest way is probably to send letters to:
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Most MPs have e-mail addresses – you can check yours using the same ‘Find your MP’ service - but a letter is more effective than an e-mail.
You can alternatively use the Write To Them website - easy to use and valuable for urgent matters.
But the best thing by far – as long as you are fairly well briefed – is to go and see your MP in person. All MPs have constituency ‘surgeries’ and you often do not need to make an appointment. Once you have located your MP, follow the link to their website, which should list the times and places of their surgeries, or you can email them to ask, or else contact the appropriate local constituency political party to find out. You may even like to ask to see your MP at the House of Commons – but it is risky to simply turn up and “put in a green card” (as with mass lobbies of Parliament), as he or she may not be there or may have a full diary.
Whether you write or meet your MP, remember that he or she is a busy person with little time. You need to make a clear, concise case quickly. Use these web pages to isolate one or two key points and concentrate on them. Offer to provide more detailed information – we will always be ready to supply you with it. Make clear that your case is not based on sectional advantage or privilege but, as with all the BHA’s campaigning, your arguments are founded on clear principles of fairness and equal treatment.
NB: There is little point in writing to MPs other than your own: they will disregard letters that are not from their own constituents. The only exception is when an MP is leading a campaign on some issue.
Writing to Government Ministers
As stated above, there is generally little point in writing to Government ministers – letters from the public are (at best) acknowledged by a junior civil servant and are rarely if ever seen by anyone senior.
The exceptions are the two extremes: when letters on a subject are weighed by the ton (in which case the shortest and simplest note is just as effective as anything more elaborate) and when you are such an acknowledged expert on the topic that the Minister concerned will either welcome your advice or at least cannot ignore it.
The BHA will very rarely suggest letters to Ministers, and only when we have some reason to believe it may have an effect.
Influencing Local Councillors
Increasingly, many important decisions are in the hands of local councils – especially decisions about state-funded religious schools. Councillors also take part in local Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education and help draw up ‘agreed syllabuses’ for religious education.
You can influence them. Your local councillor will hold a ‘surgery’ where his/her constituents can seek help. This is not just for people with personal problems. You can go – more than one of you if you wish – and set out your ideas about any matter the council is responsible for. Find out where and when the surgeries are held by enquiring from the Town Hall or the relevant local political party.
And of course you can write to your local councillor at the Town Hall, attend relevant meetings (and sometimes speak at them by the committee’s invitation), present a petition or take a delegation to a Council meeting.
If you have a particular interest in Religious Education, you may be able to help represent Humanism on your local Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education - email us with details of your local authority to find out if there may be a vacancy.
You may also be interested in volunteering as part of our Local Development Project.
Work through Political Parties
If you are a member of a political party, you are in a special position to influence its policies or (less ambitiously) to alter attitudes, making the outlandish seem acceptable and the plausible compelling.
All political parties work in different ways but if you are or want to be active in yours, one way of starting is to join your party’s humanist group – we now have affiliated groups in the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green parties.
Writing to the Press
Letters to the press can be an effective way to promote a point of view and advance a campaign. But if you do not want to waste a lot of time, take note of these tips:
- Check the typical length of letters to the newspaper you are writing to.
- Shorter letters are more likely to be published.
- Make one or two points only, and make them clearly and succinctly.
- Avoid irony, which will often be misunderstood.
- Write without delay – preferably (for daily papers) by email on the day of publication.
- Local newspapers are easier to get into and will often publish longer letters, especially about a local campaign.
Click below to send email letters to editors of the national daily papers:
Supporting the BHA
You can support the BHA by becoming a member. That helps in itself, and you can help even more by supporting our campaigns in the ways suggested above. But campaigns also cost money – quite a lot of money – and we need financial support. We are therefore very grateful for all donations to the BHA.