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100 years of Welsh disestablishment: a proud legacy of pluralism and inclusion

Wales Humanists today celebrates 100 years of the disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales which led to the nation being more secular and plural, but says more needs to be done to ensure equality for all people, regardless of religion or belief.

The Welsh Church Act 1914 disestablished the Church of England in Wales on 31 March 1920 and led to the devolved administration running along more secular lines. Today in Wales, more than 58% of Welsh adults regard themselves as belonging to no religion and there has been a solid rise in those belonging to non-Christian religions (0.8% in 2008 to 3.2% in 2018), showing the need for treating everyone equally in public life, regardless of their religion or belief.

In meetings of the National Assembly for Wales, unlike in the UK Parliament, there are no Anglican prayers as part of Assembly business. Policies in recent years have seen Wales become a world leader in inclusive education. The Welsh Government is currently legislating to make explicit that schools must teach humanism equally alongside the major world religions, reflecting their obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998, and it has renamed ‘religious education’ to ‘Religion, Values and Ethics.’ It is currently adding compulsory relationships and sex education (RSE) to the curriculum, giving children the information they need to grow up happy, healthy, and safe after a long campaign led by Wales Humanists.

However Wales Humanists says there are still areas that need improvement, including the removal of compulsory collective worship and state-funded faith schools, giving legal recognition to humanist marriages, and ensuring the equal provision of pastoral care and chaplaincy services to non-Christians.

Wales Humanists coordinator Kathy Riddick said, ‘Since devolution, Wales has proved to be the most plural nation in the UK, forging strongly secular approaches to governance, education, and in areas such as healthcare policy with its visionary organ donation law which is saving more lives. But there are still urgent policies that must be overhauled to ensure we live in a fully inclusive society where all people are treated equally.

‘The Government mandates that schools must hold a daily act of Christian worship in state-funded schools and we still have religious bodies receiving public money to run schools in line with their religious ethos, where instead we should have inclusive education. We also need to ensure that our hospitals and prisons have equal provision of pastoral care for non-religious people and those with other beliefs, and we still have an unequal marriage law which does not give legal recognition to humanist marriages. When the Government has the capacity, it must urgently see to these matters.’

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For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293. Please note due to the Coronavirus, Wales Humanists had to postpone its 100 years of disestablishment event at the Senedd. It is planning to hold it later in the year.

Read more on the renaming of RE to ‘Religion, Values and Ethics.’

Read the latest on Humanists UK’s campaign to remove compulsory collective worship in Wales.

Read more on our work to ensure equal access to pastoral care.

Wales Humanists is a part of Humanists UK. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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