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‘Tackling one of our society’s greatest problems’ — leading academic on religious schooling joins Humanists UK team

A leading UK academic specialising in the study of religious schools has joined Humanists UK to head up its national campaign to abolish them in the state sector, which she describes as ‘one of British society’s greatest problems today.’

Dr Ruth Wareham has been appointed as Humanists UK’s new Education Campaigns Manager to lead the campaign to end religious privileges and discrimination in the education system, particularly in the areas of curriculum, admissions, and employment.

Dr Wareham has studied religious schools for over a decade. Immediately prior to her new role, she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Faith Schooling: Principles and Policies project based in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick. Before that Ruth earned her PhD studying religious schools, and before that she was a classroom teacher.

Today’s announcement coincides with the launch of Humanists UK’s annual online fundraising campaign to raise money for Ruth’s salary. The fundraiser is at https://www.justgiving.com/nofaithschools.

On her appointment, Dr Ruth Wareham said:

‘I am motivated by the firm conviction — cultivated through my career as a teacher and academic researcher— in the importance of inclusive, nonpartisan education which fully respects the rights and interests of children to form their own religion or belief.

‘My research has led me to conclude that the problem of religious schools is one of the greatest problems in British life today.

‘For many decades, Humanists UK has led the way with its policy and campaigning work on these issues. I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to use my expertise to help build upon previous successes and drive this important work forward.’

Welcoming the appointment, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘We are very excited by Dr Wareham’s appointment which adds even greater weight to our vital work defending the rights of children, parents, carers, and teachers in our education system and working for a fairer society for all.

‘More than a third of all state schools in England and Wales – more than 7,000 schools – are run by religious organisations and this figure is growing.

‘These schools are legally entitled to discriminate against children on the basis of beliefs they are too young to confidently hold for themselves, and which serve to divide communities rather than bring them together. We need to foster a more inclusive, kinder future based on shared human values and that outcome depends greatly on what we teach students today.’

About Ruth

In 2018, Ruth was awarded a PhD in philosophy of education by the University of Birmingham for a thesis entitled: Prohibition, Accommodation or Transformation? A Philosophical Investigation into the Moral Permissibility of Faith Schools in Liberal Democratic Societies. From 2017 until taking up her Humanists UK appointment, she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Faith Schooling: Principles and Policies project based in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick. She has a variety of relevant academic research interests, including religious education, religious schooling, indoctrination, moral education, citizenship and liberal theory. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain.

Prior to moving into academia, Ruth trained as a primary school teacher and worked in schools in and around Birmingham and the West Midlands for six years.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 0781 55 89 636.

For more information about our education campaigns, visit https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK invited for the first time to participate in Remembrance service at the Cenotaph

Humanists UK has been invited to participate in the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Westminster for the first time, following many years of campaigning effort. Humanists UK and its armed forces section Defence Humanists will be represented at the ceremony by Chief Executive Andrew Copson. They have today welcomed the move towards a more inclusive approach, which recognises the contribution of non-religious personnel to the armed forces and the increasingly prominent place of humanism in British public life.

For many years Humanists UK and Defence Humanists ran the campaign ‘For All Who Serve’, to urge that the national Remembrance service be made inclusive of the non-religious, and not just the religious. The Defence Humanist Network is officially recognised within the Ministry of Defence and has been organising its own Remembrance service in London for several years now with Ministry of Defence backing and Defence Humanists has more members than several of the major world religions have personnel in the armed forces.

Humanist representatives have participated in the National Remembrance Service of Northern Ireland since 2010 and have similarly long been represented alongside religious groups at the Scottish National Remembrance Service in Edinburgh; in 2017 giving a reflection alongside the Church of Scotland and an Islamic representative. Last month it was announced that Wales Humanists will this year also participate for the first time in the Welsh national service.

In keeping with its longstanding policy, Humanists UK will continue to urge that remembrance services across the UK should be secular and fully inclusive occasions, but have welcomed the opportunity to participate in the National Service of Remembrance as it is currently constructed, out of respect for those whose lives have been lost in war.

Announcing the news, the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government said, ‘A significant number of people serving in Britain’s military do not prescribe to a particular faith, but many of these will associate with humanist beliefs. It is important that in our quest to create a National Remembrance Service which is reflective of modern Britain, that major belief systems are recognised as well as faiths, including the humanists.’

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson, who will be the humanist participant in the ceremony, commented, ‘We welcome the Government’s decision to officially include a humanist representative in the national remembrance ceremony at the cenotaph and I am honoured to have been asked by Defence Humanists to represent them there. Remembrance offers an opportunity to reflect on the lives lost in the tragedy of war and to honour those whose loss has safeguarded our own freedom. Increasing numbers of those who serve are humanists or otherwise non-religious, who take risks knowing that they have only one life to lose. I’ve met many such brave men and women in Defence Humanists and I will be thinking of them in particular.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on richy@humanism.org.uk or 07815 589636.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign work on Remembrance: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/secularism/government-and-faith-communities/remembrance-ceremonies/

Visit the For All Who Serve campaign’s website: http://forallwhoserve.org.uk/

Read more about Defence Humanists: http://defencehumanists.org.uk/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

94% of people in Guernsey support legal humanist marriage

94% of those responding to a Guernsey States Assembly consultation on reforming marriage law have responded in support of legal recognition of humanist marriage, it has today been announced. The level of support was amongst the very highest of all the proposed changes, and has been welcomed by Channel Islands Humanists and Humanists UK, which responded in to the consultation in their favour.

A policy letter will now be prepared off the back of the proposals for deliberation by the States Assembly later in the year.

A humanist wedding is a non-religious ceremony that is deeply personal and conducted by a humanist celebrant. It differs from a civil wedding in that it is entirely hand-crafted and reflective of the humanist beliefs and values of the couple, and conducted by a celebrant who shares their beliefs and values.

Welcoming the outcome, Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We’re delighted to see so many people in Guernsey support humanist marriages becoming legal. With the population of the Channel Islands becoming increasingly non-religious, more and more couples are demanding a personal, non-religious ceremony that is crafted just for them, and that’s what humanist marriages offer. We look forward to working with Guernsey officials and deputies to support these proposals become law.’

A growing trend around the UK, Ireland, and crown dependencies

Guernsey’s proposals follow on from a new law giving recognition to humanist marriages in Jersey coming into force on 1 July, with the first humanist celebrants expected to be approved by the state in the next few months. And in Northern Ireland, following a court ruling, legal humanist marriages started there at the end of August.

Humanist marriages have much longer been legally recognised in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, and it has already had a transformative effect in both countries. In Scotland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2005, and have risen in number from 85 in the first year to almost 7,000 in 2017 – some 20% of the total, meaning Humanist Society Scotland now provides more marriage ceremonies than any other religion or belief group. In the Republic of Ireland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2012. In 2017 around eight percent of legal marriages were humanist, placing the Humanist Association of Ireland only behind the Catholic Church and civil marriages.

In England and Wales, over 1,000 couples a year already have non-legal humanist wedding ceremonies, but such ceremonies cannot at present carry legal recognition, without the couple also going through the time and expense of having a civil marriage as well. Humanists UK believes this is unfair, and since religious marriages do carry such recognition, discriminatory. But the recognition in Northern Ireland, in Jersey, and the ongoing proposals in Guernsey, surely means that the prospects of legal recognition in England and Wales, too, have now become much more likely. Since 2013 the UK Government has had the power to extend legal recognition if it wishes, but hasn’t chosen to use this power yet. Now Humanists UK is asking the Government to urgently do so.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on richy@humanism.org.uk or 0781 55 89 636.

Read the Guernsey Policy & Resources Committee announcement: https://gov.gg/article/167151/Public-views-on-proposals-to-change-Marriage-Law-published

Read the consultation report: https://gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=115220&p=0

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns around marriage laws: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/marriage-laws/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Channel Islands  Humanists is a part of Humanists UK.

Jersey’s humanist and same-sex marriage law comes into force

  • But first legal humanist marriages still some months away

Jersey’s Law giving legal recognition to humanist and same-sex marriages has received royal assent today. This means the Law has now completed its legislative passage and comes into force today. However, the first legal humanist marriages are still some months away, as celebrants now need to complete an accreditation process with the state. Channel Islands Humanists and Humanists UK have welcomed the news, and looks forward to the first humanist marriages taking place soon.

When will the first humanist ceremonies take place?

The Law sets up a process by which celebrants can register with the state for the purposes of performing legal marriages. In order to register, celebrants need to hold a recognised qualification, and Humanists UK’s training and accreditation process will be so recognised. Once registered, celebrants then need to complete a state-run training process before they are able to start performing legal ceremonies.

As of today celebrants can register for the training but the States of Jersey is yet to schedule the first training. It is anticipated that this will take place in the next few months. Until celebrants pass this training, it is not possible to have a legal humanist marriage. In the meantime however couples can continue to have humanist wedding ceremonies with Humanists UK’s celebrants – but would also have to have a civil marriage to gain legal recognition.

As for same-sex marriages, they are now available immediately. Legal same-sex humanist marriages will start occurring at the same time as legal opposite-sex humanist marriages.

States Assembly Deputy Louise Doublet was the first to propose legal humanist marriage. She is also on the Committee of Channel Islands Humanists. Welcoming the completion of the passage of the Law, Louise commented, ‘It’s been a long journey since my proposition to introduce legal humanist and open-air marriage in 2015. I’m delighted that our new marriage laws are now in force and I want to thank the team at Humanists UK for the support they have provided in getting to this point. Locally trained Humanists UK celebrants are keen to take the final steps and engage with the extra training provided by the Superintendent Registrar. Jersey is leading the way by recognising humanist marriages and as well as providing another option for non-religious islanders, I’m hopeful that we will see benefits in terms of UK residents travelling to our beautiful island for their big day.’

Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We’re delighted that humanist marriages are now on the statute books in Jersey, and that it’s only a matter of months before the first ceremonies will be performed. Jersey is leading the way in offering meaningful choice to non-religious couples so that they can have a ceremony that’s able to fully reflect who they are and that’s unique just to them.

‘Coming in the same week as the Court of Appeal gave legal recognition to humanist marriages in Northern Ireland, and new stats showed Humanist Society Scotland performing more marriages last year, for the first time, than the Church of Scotland, this week truly has been a momentous week for humanist marriages across these isles. But England and Wales continues to lag behind. Surely it is past time the UK Government wakes up to the need for recognition there too.’

Couples can find a humanist wedding celebrant at https://humanism.org.uk/ceremonies/find-a-wedding-celebrant/

About humanist weddings

A humanist wedding is a non-religious ceremony that is deeply personal and conducted by a humanist celebrant. It differs from a civil wedding in that it is entirely hand-crafted and reflective of the humanist beliefs and values of the couple, conducted by a celebrant who shares their beliefs and values.

Legal recognition has already had a transformative effect on Scottish and Irish society. In Scotland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2005, and have risen in number from 85 in the first year to almost 7,000 in 2017, overtaking the Church of Scotland in the process. In the Republic of Ireland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2012. In 2016 around seven percent of legal marriages were humanist, more than three times as many as there were (Protestant) Church of Ireland marriages.

In England and Wales, marriage law is different from in Northern Ireland and Scotland. But the recognition in Jersey, as well as the decision in Northern Ireland and ongoing proposals in Guernsey, surely means that the prospects of legal recognition have now become much more likely. Since 2013 the UK Government has had the power to extend legal recognition if it wishes, but hasn’t chosen to use this power yet. Now Humanists UK is asking the Government to urgently do so. Last week the Welsh Assembly heard calls to devolve marriage law due to concern about the UK Government’s inaction.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on richy@humanism.org.uk.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns around marriage laws: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/marriage-laws/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Channel Islands Humanists is a part of Humanists UK.

Guernsey votes against legalising assisted dying

The States of Guernsey Assembly has today voted against proposals to grant legal recognition to assisted dying. The proposals, which were brought forward by Chief Minister Gavin St Pier and were supported by Channel Islands Humanists and Humanists UK, were defeated by 24 votes to 14.

Had the vote passed, the States of Guernsey would have established a working party for the development of legislation to permit assisted dying with appropriate safeguards within 18 months. This regime would have permitted adults who are of sound mind, are terminally ill, and who have six months or fewer left to live, the information, support, and means to end their life at the time of their choice, subject to stringent safeguards.

Reacting to the outcome, Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘As medical science has become more advanced, so too has our ability to keep people alive for longer than ever before. This development in science is to be welcomed but it also means that many people end up suffering for longer before they die. The proposals that Guernsey has voted on today, therefore, were needed more now than at any other time in our history.

‘We are disappointed by today’s outcome, which will let down many people who need a change in the law. With more and more jurisdictions around the world making assisted dying legal, it seems clear to us that legal assisted dying in Guernsey and across the rest of these isles is surely a matter of when, not if.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 0781 55 89 636.

In 2013-14, Humanists UK intervened in support of Tony and Jane Nicklinson’s and Paul Lamb’s attempts to overhaul the law on assisted dying for the terminally ill and incurably suffering by taking human rights cases through the courts. Humanists UK also supported subsequent attempts in the UK Parliament to legalise assisted dying for the terminally ill.

This year, Humanists UK intervened in the Court of Appeal case of its member Noel Conway, who is terminally ill, and is intending to do the same in the anticipated High Court case of its member Omid T who is seeking to also allow assisted dying for those who are not terminally ill but are incurably suffering.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns work on assisted dying: http://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/assisted-dying/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Channel Islands Humanists is part of Humanists UK.

Humanists UK and Humanist Society Scotland announce strategic partnership

The strategic partnership is being announced at the annual conference of Humanist Society Scotland in Edinburgh today. Photo: Marlusz Klunznlak.

Humanists UK and Humanist Society Scotland have formed a new strategic partnership to govern how the two charities work together and to foster closer ties.

The two organisations have long worked together closely to promote humanism and help people be more fulfilled in the one life they have, and the agreement announced today cements that relationship and allows it to enter a new phase.

The agreement will see the two organisations adopt a collaborative way forward across all areas of their work. This will include mutual recognition of celebrant accreditation, coordinated campaigns, and co-operation in providing humanist pastoral support.

Recent areas of collaboration include Humanist Society Scotland supporting Humanists UK’s campaign for legal recognition of humanist marriages in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and Humanists UK training HSS volunteers to join the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network. The two groups have also been working increasingly closely together on securing legal recognition for assisted dying.

Speaking from the annual conference of Humanist Society Scotland in Edinburgh today, Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson and Chair Tamar Ghosh said, ‘We’re delighted to be entering into this new partnership, allowing us to continue to learn from each other and provide mutual support to ensure a growing voice for humanism right across the UK.’

Humanist Society Scotland Chair John Bishop commented, ‘This new agreement is vital in ensuring that the growing community of people across the UK who live to humanist values have as strong a voice as possible. We are excited for the potential a future of working together will bring in campaigning and providing much needed services to non-religious people across the UK.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on 07815 589636 or at richy@humanism.org.uk, or Humanist Society Scotland Campaigns and Communications Manager Fraser Sutherland on 07477 692109 or at fraser@humanism.scot.

Humanist Society Scotland is responsible for humanist ceremonies, pastoral support, local groups, and legislative work in Scotland, whereas Humanists UK is responsible for the same in the rest of the UK and crown dependencies, as well as UK-wide work such as with the Foreign Office. Wales Humanists, Northern Ireland Humanists, and Channel Islands Humanists are parts of Humanists UK. Both Humanists UK and Humanist Society Scotland are full members of the European Humanist Federation and International Humanist and Ethical Union.

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanist Society Scotland seeks to represent the views of people in Scotland who wish to lead ethical and fulfilling lives guided by reason, empathy and compassion. We provide a range of non-religious ceremonies and campaign for a secular state. HSS has over 14,000 members across Scotland.

Channel Islands Humanists statement on assisted dying

The following statement was published in its entirety in Tuesday’s Guernsey Press and Star and has been sent to all the Island’s Deputies:

As a group, Channel Islands Humanists brings together and represents non-religious people across the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey. We call upon islanders to support proposals for legal assisted dying in Guernsey, which are set out in a requête (similar to a private member’s bill) put forward by Gavin St Pier, Chief Minister, and which will be debated by the States on 16th May.

The proposals permitting assisted dying will bring a new approach to the end of life care, one based on compassion and respect. It will permit adults who are of sound mind, are terminally ill or, perhaps, enduring incurable, inexorable suffering, the information, the support and the means, to end their life at the time of their choice, subject to certain, stringent safeguards. People who have freely and without coercion determined that they no longer wish to endure suffering may opt for a dignified death. As medical science has become more advanced, so too has our ability to keep people alive for longer than ever before. This development is to be welcomed but it also means that many people end up suffering for longer before they die. Such changes, therefore, are needed more now than at any other time in our history.

Last month, leaders of several Christian denominations in Guernsey formed a coalition and several representatives signed an open letter, stating opposition to the proposals. They wrongly stated that an individual’s choice over how much suffering they should endure should not be the prime consideration in the debate around assisted dying. The importance of choice, however, having autonomy over one’s own body and having that autonomy respected by law cannot be overstated.

To suggest that ‘living life in all its fullness’ must involve suffering or that pain towards the end of life is somehow ennobling is a position that fundamentally lacks compassion. It should be for the individual to determine what is and what is not enriching their experience of life. No other body, whether a religious organisation or the state, should judge how much or what type of pain a person should endure.

It has also been suggested that this change would place vulnerable groups at risk of being coerced into an assisted death. Although this concern is understandable, it is misplaced. The proposals will ensure that strict, legal safeguards are in place and empower people to make rational choices over their end of life care, free from coercion.

Bronwyn Parry, Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s College London, recently published an article in the British Medical Journal, in which she stated that ‘growing evidence from jurisdictions worldwide that have adopted assisted dying legislation shows that safeguards can work. Assisted dying laws in the US have led to no reports of abuse and no extension of eligibility criteria.’ She continues: “Society would be incapable of moving forwards on many issues, from the cloning of organisms to disclosure of patient information, if we were to accede that ethical complexity fatally compromises our ability to generate thoughtful, nuanced regulation.”

Assisted dying would neither detract from nor undermine the high quality palliative care provided by hospices and health care professions towards the end of life. The choice of an assisted death should not be instead of palliative care for terminally ill people, but a core part of comprehensive, patient-centred approaches to end of life care.

The current restrictions often mean that the autonomy and needs of patients are disregarded and families are placed in the immensely difficult position of being unable legally to help their loved ones enact their wishes, and must watch their suffering needlessly prolonged.

The National Centre for Social Research has consistently shown that the British public are strongly in favour of legalising assisted dying. The church groups that expressed opposition to the requête do not represent the majority view. Gavin St Pier submitted the proposals after seeing a loved one suffer unendurably. He was motivated by compassion for others who may find themselves in a similar position, a position that we should all respect and support.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 0781 55 89 636.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns work on assisted dying: http://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/assisted-dying/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Channel Islands Humanists is part of Humanists UK.

Humanists UK launches first ever funeral tribute archive

The life stories of ordinary people who have their death marked with a humanist funeral are to be immortalised for all time, thanks to a new initiative from Humanists UK. Working with the Bishopsgate Institute, they have created the first national online archive of funeral tributes from the thousands of funerals conducted by their celebrants each year. The Humanist Funeral Tribute Archive is being launched today and will be accessible through the Bishopsgate Institute’s online Catalogue. Over 50 tributes are now online, with more being submitted all the time, and academics and several Humanists UK patrons have hailed the initiative.

Increasingly popular across the UK, humanist funerals and memorial services offer a personal and fitting way to say goodbye to those who have lived without religion. They bring people together to express sadness at the loss but also to celebrate the life lived. They focus sincerely and affectionately on the person who has died, paying tribute to the connections they made and left behind and the way they lived their life. Research published in 2016 shows that one in seven British people want a humanist funeral, when they die.

Humanists UK has provided humanist funerals since the 1890s, pioneering the concept of a non-religious funeral. Famous people to have had Humanists UK funerals include Terry Pratchett, Doris Lessing, Victoria Wood, Linda Smith, Warren Mitchell, Cynthia Payne, Ronnie Barker, Bob Monkhouse, Claire Rayner, and John Noakes.

Now, anyone who has a funeral conducted by a Humanists UK-accredited celebrant is eligible to have their story lodged in the Archive, with scripts submitted at the request of families. Photos are also being stored to give a full picture of the person who is being commemorated. Humanists UK celebrants conduct thousands of funerals a year, across the country, and estimates that maybe as many as a million people could have tributes to add to the Archive from funerals conducted so far alone. In consequence, it expects the Archive to rapidly become a significant repository of life stories from the 20th century and beyond.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK, explained, ‘The most important part of a humanist funeral is the tribute or eulogy. It tells the life story of the person who has died. This new archive will preserve these stories and make them available to future generations, so that people can live forever with a humanist funeral.’

There has been widespread support for the new Archive and a recognition of the importance of preserving the stories of ordinary people’s lives. Maureen Duffy, author and patron of Humanists UK, commented, ‘Humanist funerals are a celebration of the life that was lived. This digital archive is the perfect way to preserve and continue that celebration for many years after that life comes to a close.’

Kate Fox, anthropologist, author of the bestseller Watching the English, and patron of Humanists UK, commented on how valuable these stories are: ‘Archives help future generations make sense of the lives that were lived before them. This archive brings a rich, personal tapestry, that shows not only the activities of this generation, but the meaning we attached to those activities.’

The new archive is also of considerable interest to the academic world. Callum Brown, Professor of Late Modern European History at Glasgow University stressed its importance to researchers: ‘The funeral and its tribute to the dead is a key part of the human rite of passage. The Humanist Funeral Tribute Archive provides a wealth of understanding of remembrance and memorialisation, and how it changes. For the historian it also provides a record of the rise of the distinctly humanist commemoration of well-lived lives of the early 21st century. It will mature into a well-tended and unique research resource.’

The Archive is the brainchild of Patsy Wallace, a Humanists UK celebrant based in Somerset. She commented, ‘I began working as a celebrant in 2012, and quickly learnt that the tribute is the central part of a humanist funeral. During my training with Humanists UK I learnt how important it is to get this life story right. Through my work I have learnt how rich and fascinating the lives of ordinary people can be.

‘There are some amazing stories already in the Archive: the soldier who escaped from a prisoner of war camp and spent five cold months hiding in a chapel perched on a crag in the Italian mountains; the young woman born in a workhouse, who went on to become a successful teacher and campaigner; the teenager – a member of the Communist Party – who wanted to fight the Nazis, but who was posted to the Shetland Isles in case he “infected” his comrades with his ideology; and the woman who was born in a workhouse, and went on to become a successful teacher and campaigner.

‘As a celebrant I was fascinated by the stories that I heard about people’s lives when I was preparing their funeral. Individually they are an important part of family histories but, taken together, they form a detailed picture of everyday life in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.’

If you’re interested in a humanist funeral for yourself or a loved one, or training to be a Humanists UK-accredited celebrant, you can find out more at https://humanism.org.uk/funerals

You can view the Archive at: https://humanism.org.uk/ceremonies/funeral-tribute-archive/

If a loved one has had a Humanists UK funeral and you would like their tribute added to the Archive, you can do so by contacting the celebrant who conducted the funeral. Or, if this isn’t possible, please email us at ceremonies-archive@humanism.org.uk, along with the name of the Humanists UK celebrant who took the funeral, a copy of the consent form (PDF/Word), the tribute or eulogy (taken from the funeral ceremony), and any photos you wish to provide.

Notes

For more information please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 0781 5589 636; our Archive lead, Patsy Wallace at ceremonies-archive@humanism.org.uk or on 07788 817619; or our Head of Ceremonies at Isabel@humanism.org.uk or on 0207 324 3060.

Further comments from Humanists UK patrons

A number of patrons of Humanists UK told us they welcome the Archive. Shappi Khorsandi, President Patron of Humanists UK, said, ‘Our stories are the legacy that we leave to future generations. The Humanist Funeral Tribute Archive is an opportunity to share these stories and preserve them for all time.’

Philosopher, author, and Humanists UK Vice President A C Grayling commented: ‘Our stories are the legacy that we leave to future generations. The Humanist Funeral Tribute Archive is a great opportunity to share these stories and preserve them for all time, thus celebrating in perpetuity the lives of the people whose stories these are.’

Anatomist, presenter, and Humanists UK patron Alice Roberts commented: ‘Each humanist funeral is a celebration of a unique, lived life. The focus is on the individual, not on religious promises to those left behind that a better existence lies in wait for them after death. The legacy of that life is not the keys to the kingdom of heaven, but the ripples that are set in motion during that life here on earth; the other lives they touched. A name on a headstone is a lasting but meagre memorial. This digital archive will provide a different sort of memorial – one that preserves the tribute or eulogy prepared for a funeral, for future generations to read, remember and celebrate.’

Novelist and Humanists UK patron Ian McEwan commented: ‘It’s a simple and brilliant idea, and it’s our only shot at immortality.’

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Success! Jersey adopts opt-out organ donation system

The States of Jersey Assembly has today passed legislation adopting a ‘soft opt-out’ system for organ donation on the island, similar to the system which has operated in Wales since 2015. This means a deceased person will be assumed to have consented to organ donation unless they have previously opted out and their family members provide no evidence that they wished to opt out. Humanists UK has welcomed this legislation which it is hoped will dramatically increase the number of organs available for donation, saving lives.

This legislation, which passed with 44 votes in favour and only one against, will replace the current ‘opt-in’ system of organ donation, where individuals willing to donate their organs have to sign up to the organ donor register. Currently only 12 percent of islanders have registered as organ donors, despite research suggesting that far more would be willing to donate. The law is now awaiting approval by the Privy Council and then will come into force at a later date.

The passing of this legislation has followed the holding of a consultation on moving to an opt-out system on Guernsey, to which Channel Island Humanists responded, and announcements by the Scottish and Westminster Governments that they intend to introduce this system in Scotland and England, respectively. Last week, Isle of Man politician Martyn Perkins announced that he will introduce a Private Member’s Bill to the Tynwald to bring about a similar change in the Isle of Man.

Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘We are delighted that Jersey is leading the way in moving to a soft opt-out organ donation system. The evidence strongly suggests that this move improves willingness to donate both from individuals and their families, cuts transplant waiting times, and better reflects the will of the majority of people who wish to donate. Most importantly it will reduce the suffering and save the lives of those in need of a transplant.’

States of Jersey Assembly Deputy Louise Doublet, who is also on the committee of Channel Islands Humanists, commented, ‘I fully support the move towards an opt-out system of organ donation in Jersey. This system does no harm, is popular with the public, and can potentially save many lives. I hope that other jurisdictions will follow suit and introduce similar legislation.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Rachel Taggart-Ryan on rachel@humanism.org.uk or 07951 176 245.

Humanists UK campaigns for a move away from an ‘opt-in’ system of consent to donating organs to a ‘soft opt-out’ system where a deceased person over the age of 16 is presumed to have consented to their organs being donated, unless they had specifically stated otherwise and their family members know of no prior objection. This system is currently in operation in Wales.

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on organ donation: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/organ-donation/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Channel Islands Humanists is a part of Humanists UK.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk

 

Launch of Channel Islands Humanists

Andrew Copson and Louise Doublet.

Channel Islands Humanists held a successful launch event in St Helier yesterday, with the new group now bringing together non-religious people across the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey into a community for the first time.

The launch event saw Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson and States of Jersey Assembly Deputy and Humanists UK patron Louise Doublet speak about the exciting initiative and some of the work it is already undertaking, for example around marriage laws and organ donation, as well as training celebrants to meet the needs of non-religious Islanders.

Andrew and Louise have taken part in extensive media over the last few days including BBC Radio Guernsey, BBC Radio Jersey, Channel 103, and ITV Channel, alongside coverage in print publications.

Welcoming the launch, Andrew Copson commented, ‘We’re delighted to see the recent growth in humanist activity in the Channel Islands and to support the launch of Channel Islands Humanists. With a very high proportion of Channel Islands residents – indeed, a majority of young adults – having no religion, the time is right for a group that works with and on behalf of this community to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail.’

Deputy Louise Doublet, who is joining the committee of Channel Islands Humanists, commented, ‘I’m so pleased to be a part of the new Channel Islands Humanists group. This exciting community-building initiative has come about at a time of change, as we non-religious people increasingly feel able to speak out and identify as such, and the state is starting to recognise that, through, for example, the legal recognition of humanist marriages in Jersey and perhaps soon Guernsey. I very much look forward to taking this role forward to bring non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have.’

You can find out more about Channel Islands Humanists and sign up to the event on our website. You can also sign up to the group’s mailing list at https://humanism.org.uk/channel-islands/

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3072.

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Channel Islands Humanists is part of Humanists UK.

Channel Islands Humanists calls for opt-out organ donation in Guernsey

Take Action! Respond to the States of Guernsey consultation on introducing an opt-out organ system on the island. The deadline for responses is Friday 23 March. Read Channel Islands Humanists’ response to help you draft your own.

Channel Islands Humanists, a part of Humanists UK representing non-religious people living in the Channel Islands, in conjunction with Richard Norman, Professor Emeritus of Moral Philosophy at the University of Kent, has responded to a consultation held by the States of Guernsey on introducing an opt-out organ donation system on the island, similar to the system that currently operates in Wales. Humanists UK supports the introduction of this system which will increase the number of organs available for transplant, saving lives.

Similarly to Guernsey, the Jersey Council of Ministers has stated plans to introduce draft legislation to move to an opt-out system over the coming weeks. This change follows announcements by the Scottish and Westminster Governments that they intend to introduce this system in England and Scotland.

Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘We’re delighted to see that the tide is turning on opt-out organ donation across the UK and crown dependencies, and we welcome this move from Guernsey officials. By having the confidence to address this issue head-on and move past people’s taboos, we can create a more rational and more humane model which will save countless lives while protecting individuals’ right to choose. We encourage the people of Guernsey to show their support for opt-out organ donation by responding to this consultation.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Rachel Taggart-Ryan on rachel@humanism.org.uk or 07951 176 245.

Respond to the States of Guernsey’s consultation: https://www.gov.gg/organdonation

Read Channel Islands Humanists response: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018-03-20-RTR-States-of-Guernsey-organ-donation-consultation.pdf

Read more on the news from Jersey: http://www.itv.com/news/channel/2018-02-13/would-you-support-an-opt-out-organ-donor-system/

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on organ donation: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/organ-donation/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Channel Islands Humanists is a part of Humanists UK.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk

 

Guernsey to consider proposals for assisted dying

Gavin St Pier, Chief Minister for Guernsey has backed the campaign for assisted dying

A bill to allow terminally ill people to seek an assisted death is to be considered by the States of Guernsey parliament in May, it has been announced. If passed Guernsey could become the first place in the UK and crown dependencies to allow assisted dying. Humanists UK and Channel Islands Humanists, who have campaigned for a change in the law to allow both terminally ill and incurably suffering people who are of sound mind the option to choose a dignified death, welcome this announcement.

If the bill passes, the Guernsey Government will open an 18 month consultation on how the proposals will be implemented, including whether this would be available to those travelling from the United Kingdom. Currently, according to figures from Dignity in Dying, 44 people from the UK each year travel to Switzerland to seek an assisted death, at an average cost of £10,000.

Humanists UK campaigns to change this law. It recently intervened in the High Court case of its member Noel Conway, who is terminally ill, and is seeking permission to do the same in the upcoming Court of Appeal case, as well as the case of its member Omid T who is seeking to also allow assisted dying for those who are not terminally ill but are incurably suffering.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We welcome the compassionate decision taken by Guernsey’s leaders to consider assisted dying for those who are terminally ill. This marks a significant step in the right direction and strengthens the case for a similar change in the law all across the UK and crown dependencies, which we want to see not only for the terminally ill people but also for those who are incurably suffering.’

‘We campaign to change the law in the UK to permit assisted dying to reduce the pointless suffering of those who are reaching the end of their lives and wish to die without pain and distress and for people whose physical condition causes them suffering that they can no longer endure.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at richy@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3072.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign work on assisted dying: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/assisted-dying/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Channel Islands Humanists is a part of Humanists UK.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/

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