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MPs highlight impact of Covid-19 on humanists around the world

Stephen Doughty MP

Yesterday, in a UK Parliament debate on the effects of Covid-19 on freedom of religion or belief, both the Government and the opposition highlighted the impact that the pandemic has had upon humanists around the globe. Humanists UK, which briefed MPs ahead of this debate, is pleased the challenges and threats to the rights and freedoms posed by the pandemic to the non-religious were acknowledged alongside those of religious people.

Stephen Doughty MP, the Shadow Minister for Africa and International Development, referred repeatedly to the non-religious in his contribution, commenting, ‘The pandemic has affected rights and freedoms of the non-religious, too. Humanists International made some powerful points about the impact on the humanist movement, and the impact of lockdown on those being forced into religious practices when they hold no such religion and the impact that has had on them and their communities.’

The Minister for Asia Nigel Adams MP, replied saying: ‘Let me take this opportunity to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to championing freedom of religion or belief for all and to promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities.’

In its briefing, Humanists UK quoted Humanists International as saying: ‘The global Covid-19 crisis has dramatically affected the lives of humanists at risk. Many are in prison with little or no access to medical assistance and exposed to the contagion; the poor conditions in many prisons, and disregard for their welfare, makes them all the more susceptible to contracting the virus. Still more find themselves stuck, unable to flee dangerous conditions at home or stranded in a foreign country, waiting for borders to open and struggling to sustain themselves financially.’

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘Humanists are one of the most persecuted groups globally, with 13 countries retaining the death penalty for the crimes of blasphemy or apostasy, and over 40 more retaining prison terms for the same. In times of national and international crisis, as we have seen with the Covid-19 pandemic, certain liberties and freedoms, such as the right to freedom fo religion or belief, can come under increased threat and restriction. This is absolutely the experience of far too many humanists around the globe. We are pleased that both the Government and the opposition have acknowledged that.’


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

Read Humanists UK’s briefing to MPs for this debate.

Read the transcript of the debate.

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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