On 19 July, members and supporters of the British Humanist Association (BHA) celebrated the charity’s most successful year in memory at the BHA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), held at the Bishopsgate Institute in central London. In addition to the formal business of the AGM and reports from BHA staff, members in attendance also heard from the BHA Choir and from keynote speaker Natalie Haynes, who spoke on the subject of morality and ethics in ancient Greek theatre.
BHA staff delivered reports on their work, with Head of Ceremonies Isabel Russo starting off by reporting on the growth of Humanist Ceremonies™ across England and Wales, and how the Humanist Ceremonies™ network is preparing for even more dramatic growth as a result of natural population shifts. BHA Head of Education and Promotion Sara Passmore also discussed the busy year her department has had, with successes such as the That’s Humanism! social media campaign, which led to remarkable growth across BHA social media platforms, to education initiatives such as sending copies of The Young Atheist’s Handbook to secondary school libraries across England and Wales, training 100 volunteer workers to assist Religious Education (RE) teachers in schools, and the BHA’s inaugural RE Teachers’ Conference. Head of Pastoral Support David Savage also spoke on the amazing strides he has made towards establishing a network of humanist pastoral support volunteers in prisons and hospitals, and presented compelling data which suggested an overwhelming need for non-judgemental pastoral support from sources other than religious organisations.
Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal and Education Campaigner Richy Thompson also reported on a long list of BHA successes from the past year, including the banning of creationism in state-funded schools, the introduction of the theory of evolution to the primary-age National Curriculum, the new RE Council for England and Wales RE subject framework which puts non-religious perspectives and worldviews such as Humanism on equal footing with world religions, the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act and a related humanist weddings amendment, Ofqual’s U-turn on allowing exam questions to be redacted in ‘faith’ schools, the prompting of U-turns on gender segregation guidance by Universities UK and Ofsted, the introduction of new secular promises from the Scouts and Guides, our victory over the London Oratory School concerning its discriminatory admissions policy, several victories for transparency in the approvals process for Free Schools, our role in the investigations into a number of Birmingham schools, and our high-impact letter to the Prime Minister over his divisive ‘Christian country’ remarks. Pavan also discussed our appearances at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court as interveners in Jane Nicklinson and Paul Lamb’s assisted dying cases, our successful European Parliament elections hustings, support of a British Veterinary Association epetition for pre-stunning of all food animals, and our high media profile throughout the year.
The results of the BHA’s trustee elections were also announced. BHA Vice Chair Trisha Rogers was re-elected to the Board, where she was joined by three new trustees in the form of Naomi Phillips (former BHA Head of Public Affairs), Michelle Beckett, and Jeremy Rodell. Outgoing trustees Blaise Egan, David Savage and John Woolhouse were thanked for their enormous contributions to the successes of the BHA in recent years, with David Savage staying on in his volunteer role as Head of Pastoral Support, and Blaise Egan continuing on the committee for BHA section Centre for Inquiry UK.
The formal business of the AGM was conducted by Chair of the Board, Robert Ashby. A motion from a representative from North East Humanists on the subject of greater action on social justice, including economic social justice, was considered and debated by members. As the day drew to close, the BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson thanked members for their tireless ongoing support of the charity, which has enabled a more successful 12 months than any before in its history, before co-opted trustee and BHA Distinguished Supporter Natalie Haynes rounded off the day with a fascinating talk on the moral lessons contained in ancient Greek theatre.
For further information or comment on any of the public affairs work of the BHA, contact Pavan Dhaliwal at firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information or comment on the BHA’s education initiatives, contact Sara Passmore at email@example.com.
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.