Time for the law to tackle discrimination against non-religious people

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has briefed all MPs and Peers ahead of the Second Reading debates on the new Equality Bill, which will take place in the House of Commons on Monday. The BHA has already been working closely with Parliamentarians ahead of the Bill’s publication, and has now published, in a briefing, its key recommendations which aim to promote equality between all people, whatever their non-religious or religious beliefs.

Naomi Phillips, BHA Public Affairs Officer, said, ‘There are some exciting opportunities within this Bill for us to try to affect some real changes to the law on matters relating to specifically to humanists and other non-religious people. Especially important for us will be to prevent discrimination by religious organisations that are working under contract with public authorities to provide public services.’

‘Although such organisations are, famously, no longer allowed to discriminate against service users on grounds of sexual orientation, they are allowed to discriminate in various ways against service users on grounds of religion or belief, and against staff on both grounds. With increasing numbers of essential public services likely to be contracted to religious organisations, unless there are changes in the law the negative impact of religious discrimination in service provision and the employment market could be very large indeed.’

Ms Phillips continued, ‘The Bill also provides opportunities for Parliamentarians to look again at the privileges afforded to “faith schools”, and prohibit behaviour such as religious discrimination in admissions. A modern education system should be based on equality and not segregation by religion or belief, race or socio-economic status.’

Notes

Read the BHA’s Briefing on the Equality Bill for Commons Second Reading.

Read the BHA’s report Quality and Equality: Human Rights, Public Services and Religious Organisations. The report focuses on the contracting out of public services to religious organisations and makes recommendations aimed to mitigate the negative effects of that policy.

For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips on 020 7079 3585.

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.