At a speech to be given during a visit to the Vatican, Baroness Warsi will once again criticise ‘militant secularisation’ as ‘intolerant’ and ‘illiberal’ and call for Christianity and ‘Christian values’ to be reaffirmed in Europe. It is not the first time that the minister has called secularism ‘intolerant and illiberal’. She has also said that religious people contribute more to society than the non-religious, has championed religious groups as being at the heart of the ‘Big Society’, and even tried to amend the Equality Bill in a way which would leave humanists unprotected against discrimination and unequal treatment in the provision of, and access to, public services, employment, education, funding, and elsewhere.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) has expressed its dismay that the minister continues to misrepresent the nature of secularism and has condemned her call for a greater role for Christianity as outdated, unwarranted and divisive.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘With government proposing to hand ever more schools and other public services to religious groups with only limited protections for the rights of staff and service users of the “wrong” or no religion, the need for an inclusive and secular approach to our public institutions has never been greater. At such a time it is surreal to hear secularism being condemned as intolerant – it is not secular schools that select pupils according to their parents’ beliefs, it is not secular agencies that reserve employment opportunities for staff according to their beliefs, and it is not secular organisations which lobby to maintain privilege and have exemption from laws – like equality laws – that should affect everyone equally.
‘Constant talk of the Christian nature of Britain denies the fact that most British people today are not Christians, and ignores for no good reason the many pre-Christian and non-Christian influences that have shaped our society for the good, sometimes in opposition to Christianity. What is Lady Warsi’s point in constantly repeating this theme? As a factual claim it is ahistorical and plainly untrue of contemporary society; as policy it is chauvinist and unnecessarily divisive. In an increasingly non-religious and at the same time diverse society, we need policies that will emphasise what we have in common as citizens rather than what divides us.’
BHA Head of Public Affairs, Pavan Dhaliwal said, ‘There is a deep irony that Lady Warsi’s latest comments come on the same day that new research shows that many self-described “Christians” in fact are not Christian in a religious but only in a residual inherited cultural sense, and have the same social and political attitudes as the liberal mainstream of British society. Research like this demonstrates that government policies constructed on the false assumption that Britain is in fact a Christian country are doomed from the start – we really do need better from government ministers than that.’
For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson, Chief Executive at Andrew@humanism.org.uk or on 07855 380 633 or Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at Pavan@humanism.org.uk or on 0773 843 5059.
The research published today, commissioned from Ipsos MORI by the Richard Dawkins Foundation, showed that 73% of self-identifying Christians strongly agree or tend to agree that religion should not have a special influence on public policy. You can read more about this new research today at https://humanism.org.uk/news/view/986 and https://humanism.org.uk/news/view/985
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK) is a registered charity which promotes rationalism, humanism and science. http://richarddawkinsfoundation.org/
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.