The BHA has submitted a memorandum to the Public Administration Select Committee’s Inquiry on ‘Smaller Government: “Bigger Society”?’
The submission outlines the BHA’s position on the government’s ‘Big Society’ proposals, stating that, although initiatives which encourage civil, social and political participation are in general to be welcomed, the BHA is concerned that the ‘Big Society’ will focus on groups and communities rather than on individuals. The BHA is critical of this approach as it treats people as members of perceived or declared identity groups, such as members of so-called ‘faith groups’, rather than as equal, individual members of the wider community.
The submission states that if the government wishes to meet its aim of creating accessible, inclusive and accountable public services, it should only contract services to groups and organisations that do not discriminate on religious grounds in their employment or in the way they provide services. The BHA therefore reaffirms its position that any public service reform should be grounded in principles of equalities and human rights, and be inclusive of people regardless of background or belief.
Naomi Phillips, Head of Public Affairs commented, ‘Unless the ‘Big Society’ and any related initiatives are secular, that is, neutral on matters of religion and belief, treating all people equally regardless of belief, and without privilege or discrimination, then it will fail to be inclusive and may serve to divide rather than to unite society. It is also important that social and public policies focus on the real needs and contribution of individuals and not the perceived needs of specific identity groups.’
For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips on 020 7079 3585.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. 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.