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Progress in moves to make national ceremonies of remembrance inclusive

For the first time humanist representatives will lay wreaths at the official Remembrance Sunday commemorations in Edinburgh and Belfast this year. However a request from the British Humanist Association (BHA) for armed forces humanists to be included at the Cenotaph in London has again been refused.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport dismissed the BHA’s request, citing ‘limited space at the Cenotaph’ and a need to receive permission from the Royal Household as reasons to continue the exclusion of representatives of humanist servicemen and women. In its response, the government stated that it had invited ‘fourteen faith leaders’ to participate, and was working closely with the ‘Faiths Unit’ at the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure ‘faith representation’ at the ceremony.

By contrast, humanists in Scotland were issued with an invitation from the Royal British Legion Scotland to participate in the parade and lay a wreath on the stone of remembrance, humanists in Northern Ireland have been given permission to join with other representatives in the service being held in Belfast, and in at least nine areas in England, local humanist groups will be participating in remembrance events.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘It is welcome that, for the first time, humanists in Scotland and Northern Ireland will be included in official ceremonies on Remembrance Sunday. But it is disappointing that humanists have again been rejected from the Cenotaph.

‘We know from our work with the UK Armed Forces Humanist Association the contribution non-religious servicemen and women make in this area and the desire to give thanks and mark the sacrifices of earlier generations is likewise not limited to those who believe in an afterlife.

‘We believe it only appropriate that, just as the nation gathered and gathers together in times of national crisis, that the remembrance services commemorating those who fought and died for their country should be inclusive of all people.’

Notes:

For further information or comment, contact Andrew Copson andrew@humanism.org.uk on 07534 248596

The British Social Attitudes Survey 2010. http://www.natcen.ac.uk/study/british-social-attitudes-26th-report

  • In the UK, those who profess no-religion as an identity have risen from 31% to 43% between 1983 and 2008
  • 59% did not describe themselves as religious when asked about how they would describe their religiosity level
  • In 1983 66% identified as Christian, in 2008 the number was 50%
  • 62% of people in the UK never attend a religious service and only 8% attend a weekly church service

An Ipsos Mori Poll 2007 showed that 36% of people ‘equivalent to around 17 million adults’ are in fact humanist in their basic outlook. http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/communities/pdf/863680.pdf

More information about the UK Armed Forces Humanist Association http://www.armedforceshumanists.org.uk/

Humanist groups are participating in remembrance events in the following areas: Bedfordshire; Belfast; Edinburgh; Essex; Farnham; Lancashire; Milton Keynes; South Hants; Richmond; Stockport; Watford.

The BHA is the national charity representing the interests of the large and growing population of ethically concerned non-religious people living in the UK. It exists to support and represent people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs and to promote Humanism.

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