Former Labour Member of the European Parliament and Patron of Humanists UK
“Democracy and religion do not mix… Politicians are voted in to represent their electorates. People who vote for me and my colleagues expect us to further the interests of the public at large, not those of any particular religion, church, mosque, synagogue, temple or indeed any other interest group. We go against the democratic foundations of our country at our peril.”
Mary Honeyball, born in 1952, has described herself as “a humanist MEP”, and is a regular blogger on women’s rights, religion and politics. She was elected to the European Parliament in 2000 as a Labour Member for London, after 30 years in Labour politics. She was Labour spokesperson in the European Parliament on women’s rights and culture and education, and was a member of the European Parliament’s Labour Party Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. She did not stand for re-election in 2019 and announced her resignation from the Labour Party shortly after voting closed. She is also Chair of the Osteoporosis Interest Group and an active member of the Working Group on the Separation of Religion and Politics, and recently completed “Women in Power”, a directory of female MEPs. She is a member of UNISON, the Co-operative Party and the Fabian Society.
Before her election to the European Parliament, Mary Honeyball’s career was in the charitable and non-governmental sector. In the 1980s she was Chair of the Greater London Labour Party Women’s Committee and Treasurer of Emily’s List, an organisation that helps Labour women campaign for seats in Parliament. At that time she also ran the Council for Voluntary Service in the London Borough of Newham, before going on to work as a Senior Manager for SCOPE. In the 1990s she became Chief Executive of Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families, and then General Secretary of the Association of Chief Officers of Probation. She was also a London Borough Councillor for eight years and a school governor for over 20 years.
She is an outspoken critic of religious interventions in politics. When commenting on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in 2009, she queried whether ministers who followed the Pope’s whip above the government’s should be allowed to sit on the front bench, and said that Catholicism exercised a “vice-like grip” on the legislative processes over large parts of Continental Europe, blocking women’s right to an abortion.
She is also an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society.
Her official website and blog
Her Wikipedia profile
Her profile on the European Parliament website http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/maryhoneyball where you can read her contributions to The Guardian’s “Comment is Free”, including ones criticising the influence of religion on politics: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jul/25/catholicism.eu;http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/20/cardinalssins