Today sees the first meeting of the UK FoRB Forum, a new civil society body established to uphold freedom of religion or belief all around the globe. Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson is on the steering group of the Forum, and has today welcomed its launch.
Humanists UK works through Parliament and with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to see the UK Government champion freedom of religion or belief around the globe. It particularly focuses on persecution of the non-religious, and the need to repeal blasphemy and apostasy laws which are commonly the cause of that persecution. It is a member of Humanists International, which leads such efforts at the UN and other global bodies, publishes the annual Freedom of Thought Report on discrimination against the non-religious, and coordinates the End Blasphemy Laws campaign.
In a new video published to mark the launch, Andrew Copson comments:
‘For me, freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief is about the freedom for us all to shape our own lives in accordance with our own developing values, convictions, beliefs, and opinions, without external constraints – apart from the rights and freedoms of others. We all want to be free to do this.
‘What Article 18 [of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights] protects is the full diversity of human experience. It means that no-one can hold you back from that personal development. Not the law, not religious institutions or leaders, not your parents, and not the state. Every individual human being has the right to the development of their own religion or belief, thought, or opinion.
‘Humanists and other non-religious people around the world are discriminated against in a great number of ways today, ranging from the relatively mild – having their children shut out from access to state-funded schools, having their citizenship on a lower level than the citizenship of people with religious beliefs – to the very very severe. In some countries, to set up a humanist organisation is a crime. To declare yourself non-religious on any official forms is also unlawful. And in some countries, being non-religious – and specifically, often, leaving a religion to become non-religious – a protected human right of every human being in this world – can be punishable by death.
‘Humanists are not only interested in protecting the freedom of belief of non-religious people. Humanists have a commitment to the human rights and to the freedom of thought, conscience, religion, or belief of all people. This universal nature of this freedom is an important part of the humanist commitment. That’s why humanists prefer to see these issues through the framework of human rights in the international treaties. That’s why Article 18, which guarantees freedom of religion or belief, is so important to humanists. And it’s not just important because humanists have a commitment to individual freedom. A humanist view of human life is also one that celebrates the rich diversity that human freedom leads to. Human freedom naturally leads to a diversity of thought and opinion. And a diversity of thought and opinion is one of the best ways to guarantee human progress. It’s also something beautiful in its own right, to be celebrated as far as the humanist is concerned.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
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.