BHA reacts to Conservative amendment which would undermine the equality and human rights of humanists in the UK

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has expressed deep concern at an attempt by the Conservative Party to change the definition of the term ‘religion or belief’ in the Equality Bill. Baroness Warsi, who is leading for the Conservatives on the Equality Bill as it makes its way through the House of Lords, has tabled an amendment to the Bill which would remove the phrase “and philosophical” in the definition of belief, which currently reads:  ‘“belief” means any religious or philosophical belief”’.  

Our equality and human rights law give equal protection to people whether they hold religious, non-religious or have a ‘lack of’ beliefs. Humanism is a recognised philosophical belief and so by removing “and philosophical” from the definition of belief, millions of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK would lose the protection they currently enjoy under our equality laws.

Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, explained, ‘We are deeply concerned that this amendment has been tabled – an amendment that we consider would affect humanists in particular. In practice, this could mean that humanists would be unprotected against discrimination and unequal treatment in the provision of, and access to, public services, employment, education, funding and elsewhere.’

‘Changing the definition of the word belief would mean that humanist beliefs would no longer have parity with religious beliefs in equality law. We believe this represents regression from UK and European equality legislation and is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and therefore with our own Human Rights Act 1998. We are urging Peers not to support this amendment when they debate the Equality Bill next week.’

Notes

For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips on 020 7079 3585 or 07540 257101.

Read the BHA’s briefing for Peers on this amendment. The amendment is likely to be debated in Lords Committee next week on Monday 11th or Wednesday 13th.

Read comment from the Conservative Humanist Association.

Read more about our work on the Equality Bill.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious, campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief.