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‘New discrimination law cannot legally exclude the non-religious’ Channel Islands Humanists tells Bailiwick of Guernsey

Channel Islands Humanists has told the Bailiwick of Guernsey that there is no legal basis in which non-religious worldviews, such as humanism, can be excluded from protection under its proposed Discrimination Ordinance. As currently proposed the Ordinance wrongly suggests the protection would only extend to people who hold religious beliefs.

In response to a consultation by the Committee for Employment and Social Security, Channel Islands Humanists stated that as Guernsey is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights references to religion must be read as including reference to non-religious beliefs, in accordance with both article 9 (the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and article 14 (the right to protection from discrimination). It cannot choose to exclude non-religious beliefs from protection without being in contravention of human rights law.

Channel Islands Humanists has therefore recommended that the wording of the Ordinance is amended to replace ‘religious beliefs’ with ‘religion or belief’ and that this is defined as ‘reference to religion or belief is to religions and non-religious philosophical beliefs within the meaning of articles 9 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.’

The Discrimination Ordinance also proposes to include several exemptions that would allow religious discrimination in Guernsey’s schools, including allowing religious selection in admissions criteria and permitting religious schools to only offer religious education in line with their own faith perspective. Channel Islands Humanists has called for these proposed exemptions to be dropped as evidence suggests that religious selection damages social cohesion between different groups and often leads to de facto ethnic and socio-economic selection. Additionally, the response pointed out that regardless of background or the type of school they attend, all children are entitled to have a broad and balanced education that allows them to consider philosophical and fundamental questions from different perspectives and every child should have the opportunity to learn about a range of different beliefs.

Channel Islands Humanists’ Guernsey Representative Gary Vaudin commented, ‘We are pleased that Guernsey is proposing to bring forward legislation to establish equality laws. However, when considering religious discrimination, it is well-established that non-religious worldviews that are analogous to religions are covered by the European Convention on Human Rights, which is enshrined in Guernsey law through the Human Rights (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law 2000. Therefore, it is already the case that the non-religious beliefs must be included and to restrict the Discrimination Ordinance only to ‘religious belief’ would run counter to the 2000 Act as well as over 70 years of international precedent and human rights thinking.’

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For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read more about Channel Islands Humanists.

Channel Islands Humanists is a part of Humanists UK. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 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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