New Bill fails to promote real equality for non-religious people

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has today welcomed the Government’s Equality Bill but has also described it as a ‘missed opportunity’ for improving equality for non-religious people in the UK, with many of its provisions retaining privileges for religions and its failure to abolish endemic discrimination against non-religious people in our education system.

Hanne Stinson, BHA Chief Executive, said, ‘Like other organisations working to promote and realise equality for all of us in society, we welcome this new Equality Bill as a step forward, with new and greater protection against discrimination and inequality in a number of areas. However, it appears that the Government has missed this vital opportunity to ensure equality for non-religious people and acceded yet again to the demands for privilege from the religious lobby.’

Ms Stinson continued, ‘If we are serious about achieving equality, we must have a law that does not exempt religious groups and institutions from prohibitions on discrimination except in very restricted circumstances – yet this Bill, in fact, retains wide exceptions for religions, allowing them to discriminate in many ways. “Faith schools” are still allowed to select their pupils on religious grounds – despite a wealth of evidence that this leads to social, religious and sometimes ethnic segregation and inequality. There is also evidence that current exceptions in law for religious employers who are contracted to provide public services mean that suitably qualified, non-religious people are barred from applying for jobs, or face discrimination in their jobs, because they do not believe in a god or say they go to church. That religious groups are granted similar exceptions in the new Bill is extremely worrying.’

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For further comment or information, contact Hanne Stinson on 020 7079 3583.

The British Humanist Association represents and supports the non-religious. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.