The BHA has reacted to reported comments from the Communities Minster Eric Pickles that, “Labour tried to force Britons to turn their back on faith and heritage in the name of political correctness.” In an interview with the Sunday Express, the Minister reacted to news that some councils, rather than focussing on Christmas, prefer to have inclusive winter festivals that cover many different religious festivals that fall in December and the secular aspect of the winter solstice. He described such inclusive festivals as existing “only in the minds of a few bean bag-sitting weirdos” and argued against “puffed up” council bosses ‘banning’ council prayers.
Pepper Harow, BHA Campaigns Officer, responded, ‘The Minister is reacting to events that are not actually occurring. No one is trying to ban Christmas or to ban people from praying. Removing a compulsion to pray is not banning prayer and moves made by equality groups and councils are generally attempts to ensure access to democratic bodies and shared community events is not only for Christians. This is not political correctness but a measure to include whole communities. Of course some councils get things wrong but that is simply evidence that equality legislation and good practice is not always understood at local government level and government must do more to make it clearer.
‘To suggest that religious organisations were somehow sidelined by the last government is ridiculous. They received millions of pounds in public money and the Communities and Local Government Department gained a dedicated ‘Faiths Directorate.’ Their policy encouraged religious groups to run public services and the government spent a huge budget on ‘interfaith week.’ In our experience, there is no evidence Christians are being marginalised from public life and complaints from the Church and lobby groups stem from changes which aim to limit their privileges, not from real discrimination against them.’
For more comment or information, contact Pepper Harow on 020 7462 4992.
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.