We frequently achieve success in our campaigns as we work to tackle discrimination against the non-religious and to bring about fair and equal treatment for all.
Here’s some wins that we’re most proud of:
- We helped abolish blasphemy laws in England and Wales in 2008 to ensure freedom of expression is protected
- We were one of the most influential voices to campaign for marriage equality which led to same-sex marriages being legalised in England and Wales in 2013
- Our ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign in 2014 now means every state school in England is required to teach evolution, and there’s a ban on creationism or intelligent design being taught as scientifically valid
- We won the right for humanists to take part in Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph in 2018 after decades of campaigning for non-religious war veterans to be recognised alongside religious veterans
- We were a major influence in making the Government introduce compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in all English schools from 2020 so that all children will learn what’s needed to grow up happy, healthy, and safe
- Since 2015, hospitals must now provide pastoral care for non-religious patients after we worked with NHS England to amend their guidance. We’re working to do the same in prisons.
- Non-religious worldviews must be treated equally to major religions in RE after we won a legal case in the English High Court in 2015. This prompted the Welsh Government to change the law to do the same.
- In 2018 we got the Government to commit to shutting down illegal religious schools where children are at risk, after we exposed some schools’ alarming practices
- We achieved legal recognition of humanist marriages in Northern Ireland and Jersey in 2018 so that more people can have a legal marriage that reflects their deepest beliefs
- Our asylum support is helping save the lives of non-religious asylum seekers at risk of persecution. We’re also training Home Office staff on the grounds of asylum for humanists and non-religious people at risk.
Other recent and ongoing successes which have come about as a result of our campaigning, or in coalition with partner groups, include:
- We worked to save Hamza bin Walayat, the humanist asylum seeker who was finally granted asylum after humanists rallied to save his life. Now we’re training Home Office staff on humanist and non-religious asylum applications
- The first ever legally recognised humanist marriage in Jersey
- First humanist head of a pastoral support and chaplaincy team at an NHS Trust, allowing more people to receive humanist pastoral care
- Government decides to keep 50% cap on admissions to religious free schools after our campaigning
- Protecting free speech on university campuses by prompting parliamentary guidance on free speech
- First ever legally recognised humanist marriage conducted in Northern Ireland
- Welsh Government holds first ever humanist state funeral for ex-First Minister Rhodri Morgan
- Ministry of Defence sponsors first ever national Remembrance event for non-religious people who died serving their country
- United Nations calls on UK governments to urgently extend abortion rights to Northern Ireland, and repeal ‘collective worship’ law
- Wales adopts new evidence-led, humane opt-out law on organ donation
- Scout Association and Girlguiding UK work with us to change their Promises to enable non-religious young people and adult volunteers to join for the first time
- Our campaign to allow the advancement of non-religious beliefs for the public benefit to be a charitable object – which became the case in 2011
- Our 2011 Census Campaign, encouraging people who are not religious to tick the relevant box on that year’s Census form. The number of those who ticked ‘No religion’ rose from 15% in 2001 to 25% that year.
Historically we’ve had even more achievements since 1896 which have come about as a result of our work either alone or in coalition, including:
1896 – Union of Ethical Societies formed with focus on ‘right living’ without religion
1911 – First ever global conference against racism hosted by us in London
1945 – Founding of UNESCO by our President Julian Huxley, originally intended to promote humanism and peace internationally through arts and culture
1955 – Humanist Housing Association founded to ensure fair access to housing to non-religious people
1965 – Agnostics Adoption Society founded to open adoption to the non-religious
1967 – Abortion made generally legal in Britain, homosexuality decriminalised in England and Wales, death penalty brought to an end, and Family Planning Act makes the pill widely available for the first time
1968 – First campaign for ‘Moral Education’ launched, predating modern subjects like PSHE and Citizenship
1979 – Gay Humanist Group (now LGBT Humanists) founded to help organise and support LGBT community activism in response to Gay News blasphemy trial
1998 – Human Rights Act makes freedom of religion or belief and freedom of speech and expression a legal right in the UK
2006 – The UK Equality Act protects people from discrimination on grounds of ‘religion or belief’ in employment and the provision of services. We sat on the Government steering group for the new law
2006 – We secured an amendment to the then Equality Bill to ensure that young people could no longer be expelled from their school on account of their religious opinions (for instance, if they attend a faith school and decide they do not share the religion of the school)
2006 and 2010 – We helped with the passing of the 2006 and 2010 Equality Acts, bringing comprehensive equality legislation into English, Welsh, and Scottish law
2009-10 – Our Atheist Billboard Campaign, which promoted the message ‘Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and decide for myself’ – opposing the labelling of children with religious or non-religious beliefs
2010 – Equality Act 2010 outlaws discrimination in employment and services on grounds of ‘religion or belief.’
These are just a handful of examples – many more can be found throughout the campaigns’ pages of our website.