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Non-religious continue to face severe persecution in 70 countries – new report

In 70 countries there are blasphemy and apostasy laws.

Humanists UK has welcomed the release of a new report which documents the persecution faced by humanists, atheists, and other non-religious people, including in 70 countries that have severe punishments for leaving a religion or expressing non-religious beliefs.

The 2019 Freedom of Thought Report by Humanists International, released today, finds that while eight countries have abolished ‘blasphemy’ laws in the past five years, around 70 others still retain such laws with prosecutions and penalties in some states harshening.

Pakistan remains one of the most dangerous places to be non-religious, with the death penalty, mob violence, incarceration, and extrajuidical violence being the norm against people who express non-religious views publicly or who leave Islam.

It also highlights the deterioration of human rights in countries including Brunei and Mauritania which have cracked down on ‘blasphemy’ and ‘apostasy’ in the past two years. Brunei’s new 2019 penal code renders blasphemy and apostasy, as well as other hudud crimes such as adultery and homosexuality, punishable by death. Mauritania introduced a mandatory death sentence for blasphemy and apostasy in April 2018.

In Italy and Spain, prosecutions against artists and protesters in recent years have increased. Indonesia, Iran, and India are also carrying out harsher crackdowns on people expressing their views.

Humanists International founded the End Blasphemy Laws campaign, of which Humanists UK is an active member. Since then, the campaign has succeeded in persuading Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Malta, France, New Zealand, Canada, and Greece to all repeal their blasphemy laws, with the Republic of Ireland and Spain committing to doing the same.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented: ‘The right to publicly express humanist views on science, rational thought, or even to challenge religious beliefs is a dangerous act in many countries, as this new report shows. While there has been progress in recent years of more countries abolishing blasphemy as a crime, we have seen a harsh crackdown on human rights across many countries where people still live in fear to express their thoughts. We continue to call on the UK and international governments to recognise the dangers humanists face internationally and commit to ensuring their protection.’

NOTES:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293.

Northern Ireland Humanists has been running a campaign to abolish its blasphemy laws. Read more here: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/freedom-of-speech-and-expression/repealing-northern-irelands-blasphemy-laws/

Read our news item on last year’s Freedom of Thought report: https://humanism.org.uk/2018/10/29/discrimination-faced-by-non-religious-worldwide-at-alarming-levels-new-report-shows/

Read more about our international campaigns: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/international-campaigns/

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 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.

‘Assemblies for All’: Humanists UK launches groundbreaking school resource hub

Schools wanting to deliver inclusive assemblies instead of compulsory religious worship can now access a groundbreaking new resource hub featuring hundreds of inclusive assemblies, after Humanists UK developed the first model of its kind for schools to roll out across the UK.

Assemblies for All comprises more than 200 high-quality, inclusive assemblies for Key Stages 1 to 5 across 30 diverse themes, none of which promote one particular religion or belief, making them suitable for all pupils regardless of their religious or non-religious background.

The assemblies cover diverse themes such as the environment, physical and mental health, arts and culture, and religious and secular holidays, and have been developed by a wide range of organisations including charities such as Unicef UK, Amnesty International, and WaterAid, the UK Parliament, the BBC, businesses, and many others.

Teachers are signposted to the assemblies on the website of the creator organisation, where they can easily download scripts, presentations, videos, and speaking notes they can use. Teachers can also explore a calendar of over 250 events and plan assemblies around key dates including holidays, festivals, and international awareness days.

The UK is the only country in the world to impose compulsory Christian worship as standard in its state schools. In an August poll of 1,500 British adults, respondents, including parents, ranked religious worship as the least appropriate activity out of 13 possible themes for school assemblies, with the environment, physical and mental health, arts and culture, and historical events among those ranked as more suitable.

In July Humanists UK announced it is supporting Lee and Lizanne Harris, two English parents who are taking a legal case to try to make schools provide a meaningful alternative of equal educational worth for those pupils withdrawn from collective worship.

Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: ‘Schools are increasingly turning away from providing compulsory Christian worship despite it being required by the law, and instead want to replace it with inclusive assemblies which welcome all pupils regardless of their religious or non-religious background. Now teachers have a one-stop shop of high-quality, inclusive assemblies with hundreds of resources to draw upon.

‘We encourage teachers to make use of this great new hub so that they can offer truly inclusive and welcoming assemblies to their pupils.’

Religious Education teacher Lisa O’Connor said: ‘Assemblies for All is an invaluable teaching resource for those wanting to deliver high-quality, inclusive assemblies that are suitable for pupils from all backgrounds. These assemblies form a vital part of the spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development of pupils but, up until now, teachers like me have either had to waste time searching for standalone resources or make their own.  I am very impressed by how user-friendly the site is in terms of grouping by age and theme. It will definitely be a boon to time-pressed educators.’

Lee and Lizanne Harris said: ‘We withdrew our children from assembly after discovering that they were being made to not only say prayers, but were also exposed to evangelical preachers who had some very harmful, divisive views. Ours is a state community school with no religious ethos so we were alarmed to see this level of religious interference creeping into our children’s education.

‘But until Assemblies for All was launched, there was no clear model of what the alternative to religious worship would look like. We very much hope many schools and teachers will adopt this excellent model of inclusive assemblies which will make all children feel included and welcome.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact the Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham at ruth@humanism.org.uk or phone 0207 324 3000.

Visit the Assemblies for All website.

Read more on the collective worship poll.

Read more about the legal case on collective worship.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 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.

Humanists UK at UN calls for abolition of death penalty for blasphemy and apostasy

Humanists UK has urged all countries to abolish the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy at the 42th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Humanists UK’s representative Farah Mohammed told the UN, ‘Fourteen states still impose such punishments, including Pakistan where no evidence is required to prosecute a charge of blasphemy, and there are no penalties for making false allegations, and in two states in Malaysia where apostasy is an offence punishable by death.’

‘In light of such concerns we call upon member states to recognise that blasphemy and apostasy are actions whose very criminalisation violates freedom of expression, and freedom of religion or belief. We further call upon member states to continue to work towards the universal abolition of the death penalty.’

In welcoming a commitment from Malaysia to abolish the death penalty, Ms Mohammed reminded the UN that under Human Rights Council Resolution 36/17, that where still used capital pubishment should at least be restricted to only the most serious of crimes, and not to actions, such as blasphemy and apostasy, that should not be criminalised in the first instance.

Humanists UK is a member of the End Blasphemy Laws coalition.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read the intervention: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019-09-09-FM-Draft-Intervention-Item-3.pdf

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 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.

Humanists call for review into Christian persecution to be broadened to other groups

Alice Roberts leads the signatories for Humanists UK.

The global review into the persecution of Christians announced by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in December must be broadened to include other persecuted groups such as the non-religious, Humanists UK and Humanists International (newly renamed from the International Humanist and Ethical Union) have said today. The call comes in an open letter published in the Sunday Telegraph today, and follows on from a similar letter from three of the world’s leading experts on freedom of religion or belief which was published by the paper last week.

Today’s letter has been signed by Humanists UK President Alice Roberts, Vice Presidents Jim Al-Khalili, Shappi Khorsandi, and A C Grayling, and Humanists International President Andrew Copson. It reads:

It is correct to say that our country in recent years has a growing reputation as a principled advocate for the human right of religion or belief globally. If we want to keep that reputation, however, it is vital that the Government should not narrow the scope of that work.

Christians are persecuted in many countries – and their persecution must end – but so too are followers of every other religion. Also persecuted are humanists and other non-religious people: 30 countries have some form of the most serious or brutal persecution against the non-religious up to and including the death penalty. A further 56 have serious social or legal discrimination, such as forcing the non-religious to comply with ‘family law’ as controlled by religion, or mandatory religious instruction in schools with families unable to opt-out.

The Government’s present independent review of the persecution of Christians should either be broadened to include all violations of the human right to freedom of religion or belief or additional reviews into the plight of those groups should be commissioned – and that should include the non-religious.

The UK has one of the highest proportions of non-religious people in the world and our culture is a cradle of the modern humanist tradition. If our Government does not commit to standing with the nonreligious globally, as much as with all other victims of persecution, who will?

Around 30 countries have some form of the most serious or brutal persecution against the non-religious, up to and including the death penalty. A further 56 have serious social or legal discrimination, such as forcing the non-religious to comply with ‘family law’ as controlled by religion.

Threats to the freedom of the non-religious come from a wide range of sources, from individuals and groups wishing to censure freedom of thought, or criticism particularly of religion, through to powerful nations seeking to outlaw and criminalise any perceived negative discussion or criticism or portrayal of religion.

Last week UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Ahmed Shaheed and the preeminent international human rights academics Nazila Ghanea and Sir Malcolm Evans similarly called for the review to be broadened, writing:

‘…couching this review even more broadly, and in the context of persecution against those of all religions and beliefs (including those of no religion), will greatly enhance its effectiveness internationally.

‘Seeking to protect some from persecution necessarily requires seeking to protect all from persecution. Upholding full enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief (which includes the freedom of worship) would enhance its enjoyment by all, whether believer, non-believer or ambivalent.’

Notes:

For more information contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3078.

Read Humanists UK and Humanists International’s letter in the Sunday Telegraph: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2019/02/17/lettersbritain-can-have-better-transport-without-wasting-money/

Read last week’s letter by international human rights academics: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2019/02/10/lettersremoving-backstop-wont-make-mays-deal-acceptable/

For more information about our international campaigns visit https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/international-campaigns/

Humanists International is the new name for the International Humanist and Ethical Union. The change happened on Friday this week.

About Humanists 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.

Humanist campaigner Gulalai Ismail re-arrested by Pakistani authorities

Gulalai Ismail with Crispin Blunt MP and Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson, at Humanists UK’s fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference last October. She was first arrested upon returning from the Conference to Pakistan.

The leading Pakistani humanist and human rights campaigner Gulalai Ismail has been arrested for a second time. Gulalai was first arrested in October, after flying in to Pakistan from speaking at a Humanists UK event at the Conservative Party Conference. Shortly afterwards she was freed on bail but has now been re-arrested in Balochistan.

Gulalai is a Board member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and an award-winning Pakistani human rights defender. She is the co-founder and chairperson of Aware Girls, an organisation which works to empower and educate women and girls on rights and leadership in Pakistan, and chair of the Seeds of Peace network. She regularly speaks at home and abroad on peace-building in Pakistan and women’s empowerment.

Both her previous and latest arrests were due to activism with the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, which works for Pashtun human rights in Pakistan. Since her first arrest she has had her passport confiscated and been placed on the exit control list. Her latest arrest was along with at least 81 others whilst protesting the recent death of one of the Movement’s members, Arman Loni, who was allegedly killed by police.

IHEU President Andrew Copson has written today to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to call for Gulalai and others’ release:

‘The repeated arrests of Gulalai Ismail and fellow rights activists is a form of harassment, and a further violation of human rights against people who are already protesting rights abuses against Pashtuns in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. The disproportionate attacks on protesters do nothing to counter the fear that widespread human rights abuses continue to occur in these provinces.

‘For security services and officials to brand peaceful activists as “anti-state” is a sign of entrenched authoritarianism. Criticism of the army or the state as such is not at all identical with insurgence or sedition. Human beings have a right to peacefully protest mistreatment and abuses.

‘We call for the release of Gulalai Ismail, Abdullah Nangyal, Pashteen Idrees, and all protesters arrested in yesterday’s crackdown against peaceful protesters, and we call for a high-level investigation into the apparent killing of Arman Loni in another peaceful protest on Monday.’

Humanists UK will also today be raising the matter with the UK Government to ask what they can do to help support Gulalai.

More about Gulalai

Gulalai Ismail is the co-founder and chairperson of Aware Girls and chair of the Seeds of Peace network. Aware Girls aims to challenge the culture of violence and oppression of women in the rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area (north-west Pakistan). The Seeds of Peace network, founded in 2010, trains young people in human rights and political leadership, encouraging the participation of women in politics in Pakistan, and encouraging tolerance between religions and beliefs.

Gulalai is a recipient of the Fondation Chirac Peace Prize, and won the International Humanist of the Year Award 2014. She has also been awarded the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy, the Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Democracy, and the Anna Politkovskaya Award.

In August 2017, she was elected by member organisations from around the world to the Board of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). She has previously been on the Executive Committee of the International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation, and a Board Member of the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights. She also works for the Gender Working Group of the United Network of Young Peacebuilders, and is a member of the Asian Democracy Network.

Notes:

For more information contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or 07393 344293.

Read about Gulalai’s previous arrest: https://humanism.org.uk/2018/10/12/pakistani-humanist-campaigner-arrested-in-pakistan-on-return-from-humanists-uks-conservative-party-conference/

Read more about her current arrest on the IHEU website: https://iheu.org/gulalai-ismail-arrested-fellow-human-rights-activists-must-released/

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 calls for BBC to ensure coverage of the non-religious

Broadcasting House. Source: Via

Humanists UK has responded to the BBC’s consultation on its draft Editorial Guidelines, calling for the BBC to increase its content about the non-religious, which is currently disproportionately low, and reduce the barriers that prevent fair criticism of religion.

In its submission, Humanists UK highlighted the lack of guidelines for non-religious coverage, which as a result, means that the non-religious remain underrepresented across BBC programming.

Humanists UK called for specific and equal inclusion of non-religious beliefs in the guidelines so that dedicated programmes can be made about and for humanists and the non-religious, thereby fulfilling the BBC’s obligation to do so under its own Charter, as well as under domestic and international human rights legislation.

Humanists UK also called on the BBC to take note of the fundamental right to freedom of expression and to amend the draft guidelines so that content which legitimately scrutinises religion can be made without undue barriers. Currently, any content dealing with matters of religion and likely to cause offence to those with religious views and beliefs must be editorially justified at higher levels within the BBC.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:  ‘It is vital that humanists are fully considered and represented in the BBC’s draft guidelines, and it is disappointing that so far the BBC has overlooked programming and content specifically about the majority of its licence fee payers, listeners, and viewers who are non-religious. We hope to see the BBC take note of our response, and update the editorial guidelines to create interesting and informative content that reflects the diversity of the UK today’.

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read Humanists UK’s consultation response to the BBC in November 2018 here: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018-10-31-Humanists-UK-response-to-BBC-Editorial-Guidelines-consultation.pdf

To see the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines consultation document visit:  http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/insidethebbc/howwework/accountability/consultations/editorial_guidelines_review_consultation_document.pdf

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on broadcasting rights for the non-religious: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/broadcasting/

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.

‘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.

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