Join Donate

Wales Humanists: News

Church in Wales to spend £10 million on converting Welsh people to Christianity

Surveys have repeatedly found Wales to be the least religious part of the UK, and a majority non-religious country. This fact is not lost on the Church in Wales, part of the Anglican Communion, which has announced it will spend £10 million funding projects to convert more Welsh people to Christianity.

Wales Humanists, which represents non-religious people in Wales and provides humanist funerals, weddings, and naming services, has called on the Welsh Government to reflect on the changing demographics in Welsh society and look closely at the privileges it still affords to religious groups in Wales.

A significant proportion of schools in Wales are faith schools, many of which operate admissions policies which discriminate on religious grounds. Non-religious parents can face an added struggle to find a local school in their preferred language that is not religious or which accepts non-religious families. Wales Humanists has been challenging discrimination of this kind against the non-religious, and recently scored a victory when Welsh Government clarified that councils must not prevent humanists from participating in the local bodies which advise on Religious Education.

Commenting on the new Church in Wales scheme, Wales Humanists coordinator Kathy Riddick said, ‘This newest funding initiative draws attention to the monumental changes Welsh society has seen in recent years. And yet despite the non-religious now making up a majority in Wales, we continue to be the victims of discrimination in areas like education. This state of affairs is surely unsustainable.’

Notes

For further comment or information please contact Wales Humanists Development Officer Kathy Riddick on kathy@humanism.org.uk.

2016 news item on Welsh religion or belief statistics: https://humanism.org.uk/2016/11/30/nearly-a-million-welsh-adults-have-a-humanist-approach-to-life-yougov-research-shows/

Wales Humanists is part of Humanists UK, the national charity for the non-religious. 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.

Parliamentarians call for legal humanist marriages in England and Wales

In a new report published today All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) Co-Chairs Crispin Blunt MP and Baroness (Joan) Bakewell have called for legal recognition to be extended to humanist marriages in England and Wales. The report follows an inquiry of the Group conducted over the last three months, into the barriers to such recognition, and proposes solutions to Government for all those barriers.

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 beliefs and values of the couple, conducted by a celebrant who shares their beliefs and values, and can take place in any venue that is special to them. In Scotland, humanist weddings are recognised as legal marriages but in England and Wales Government commitments to extend legal recognition were recently abandoned.

The report examines two previous reviews into the matter, conducted by the Ministry of Justice and the Law Commission, to consider any concerns they had about extending recognition. In their foreword, Mr Blunt and Baroness Bakewell write that:

‘Our exercise has led us to conclude that [these reviews] both ignored two crucial matters: firstly the human rights case for reform; secondly, a more technical point about multiple Orders that nonetheless significantly deals with the bulk of the concerns raised. Our inquiry has also led us to realise that the present system, whereby couples having a humanist wedding ceremony must have a separate civil marriage in order to gain legal recognition, can put such couples at a serious disadvantage, financially and practically, in terms of their ability to have the wedding they want.

‘In light of our findings, we think the concerns set out by the official reviews are largely dealt with. Marriage law is extremely complex and may call for wider reform, but we don’t think any need for wider reform remotely justifies continuing delay in granting recognition to humanist marriages.’

The main recommendation of the report is consequently: ‘We urge the Government to lay an Order… for legal recognition of marriages conducted by Humanists UK.’

On publication of the report, Crispin Blunt and Baroness Bakewell commented, ‘It has been five years since humanist marriages in England and Wales found their way onto the statute books, through the Same-Sex Marriage Act, but the Government still has chosen not to enact the relevant provisions and make them happen. Humanist wedding ceremonies are already very popular in England and Wales, and this is even more true in Scotland where they have had legal recognition for over a decade.

‘Our inquiry has led us to conclude that the human rights case for such reform is overwhelming. Given these facts it is far past time the Government enacts legal recognition. We can see no reason for continuing delay.’

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 report, ‘Any Lawful Impediment?’ A report of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group’s inquiry into the legal recognition of humanist marriage in England and Wales: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/APPHG-report-on-humanist-marriage.pdf

Recognition of humanist marriages around the UK, Ireland, and crown dependencies:

  • Legal recognition of humanist marriages 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 over 4,900 in 2016.
  • In the Republic of Ireland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2012. In 2016 around seven percent of legal marriages were humanist, more than four times as many as there were (Protestant) Church of Ireland marriages.
  • Jersey extended legal recognition to humanist marriages in February, as part of new legislation. Guernsey is also currently considering legal recognition of humanist marriages, as part of a similar more recent review of marriage law.
  • In Northern Ireland, Humanists UK and its section Northern Ireland Humanists have been working through the courts to secure recognition of humanist marriages alongside public speaker Laura Lacole and footballer Eunan O’Kane. A High Court decision granted initial legal recognition to humanist marriages but this has been stayed as it was subsequently appealed by the Government. The Court of Appeal finished hearing the appeal in early January. Its decision is expected soon.
  • In England and Wales, 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. Nonetheless, over 1,000 humanist wedding ceremonies are now taking place each year – meaning that Humanists UK celebrants are only being outnumbered by civil marriages, the Church of England, the Catholic Church, the Church in Wales, and the Methodist Church.

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.

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.

Humanists UK represented at National Memorial to British Victims of Overseas Terrorism

Humanists UK is being represented today at the ceremony to unveil the National Memorial to British Victims of Overseas Terrorism at the National Memorial Arboretum. Chief Executive Andrew Copson is attending the dedication alongside those who have lost friends or family in a terrorist incident overseas, other representatives of civil society, and representatives of different religions.

The National Memorial is the first of its kind, and reflects the growing number of terrorist incidents that have occurred worldwide since the 1970s. Such incidents have been declining in number in Europe, with groups such as the IRA and ETA disarming, but other forms such as Islamist terrorism have been expanding, and increasingly used as a way to generate fear and gain attention.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘Terrorist attacks deliberately target the lives of innocent bystanders and destroy them in pursuit of some ideological goal that will most often never succeed in being realised.

‘Remembering those we have lost is a deeply personal act but in the case of today’s dedication it is also a public one. We are glad as humanists to play our part in the remembrance of those who lose their lives to random aggression in the blind pursuit of political ends and do our bit to elevate humanity above such acts.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy 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.

Revealed: How many marriages each religious group and Humanists UK do

Weddings conducted by Humanists UK celebrants grew by 240% between 2004 and 2015, it has been revealed, meaning that Humanists UK is now the fifth biggest organisation providing religious or belief-based wedding ceremonies and the largest non-civil/non-Christian provider.

For the first time, official statistics have revealed how many marriages are performed by each different religious denomination in England and Wales – allowing a comparison between them and with how many couples are choosing a humanist wedding.

The new figures show how many marriages different groups performed from 2004-15 and were obtained by Humanists UK following a request to the Office of National Statistics. In the past the number of Church of England, Catholic, other Christian, and other religious marriages have been published, but no further breakdown.

Alongside the official figures, Humanists UK is publishing for the first time the number of wedding ceremonies its celebrants have reported over the same time period, and can reveal that it topped 1,000 in 2016. Projecting the decline in the number of religious marriages forward to 2016, Humanists UK believes it is now probably the fifth biggest organisation providing religious or belief-based wedding ceremonies in England and Wales, after the Church of England, Catholic Church, Church in Wales, and Methodist Church. There are also more civil marriages than religious.

What is more striking is when looking at the relative growth and decline over the 11-year period. Here, the growth of Humanists UK weddings really stands out:

Change in number of marriages performed across different denominations and Humanists UK, compared with 2004 levels. Across all groups for whom data is available, only Humanists UK, all Muslim groups combined, and all Sikh groups combined, have seen any increase in the number performed.

At present, while religious ceremonies are legally recognised as marriages in England and Wales, humanist weddings are not. Couples wishing to have a humanist wedding ceremony must also have a civil marriage if they want legal recognition. Some choose not to do so, but those who do face additional costs and inconvenience, as well as being unable to have legal recognition for the wedding ceremony that is most meaningful for them.

Humanist weddings are recognised as legal marriages in Scotland (where they comprise 17% of the total), the Republic of Ireland (where they comprise 7%), and – as of February – in Jersey. The Belfast High Court ruled last year they must also gain recognition in Northern Ireland, but that decision was appealed by the Government; a decision of the Court of Appeal is awaited.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘What this research reveals for the first time, is the explosion in demand for legal humanist marriages in England and Wales. Well over 1,000 couples are now having non-legal Humanists UK wedding ceremonies, more than the vast majority of religious groups. That humanist ceremonies are not recognised when religious groups are is unjustified and unfair. The Government has the power to correct this, simply and without an Act of parliament. They should do so, and bring this inequality to an end.’

Recognition of humanist marriages around the UK, Ireland, and crown dependencies

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 of humanist marriages 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 over 4,900 in 2016, 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 four times as many as there were (Protestant) Church of Ireland marriages.

Guernsey is also currently considering legal recognition of humanist marriages, as part of a similar wider review of marriage law.

In Northern Ireland, Humanists UK and its section Northern Ireland Humanists have been working through the courts to secure recognition of humanist marriages alongside public speaker Laura Lacole and footballer Eunan O’Kane. A High Court decision granted initial legal recognition to humanist marriages but this has been stayed as it was subsequently appealed by the Government. The Court of Appeal finished hearing the appeal in early January. Its decision is expected soon.

In England and Wales, 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. Jersey’s move must surely increase the pressure for it to 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.

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.

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

Research shows significant support for assisted dying amongst those with motor neurone disease

Noel Conway with his wife, Carol.

Unique research being highlighted today has revealed that there is significant support for assisted dying amongst people with motor neurone disease (MND), with a plurality wishing to consider it for themselves, were it made legal with strong safeguards.

The research, found in two reports first published in 2012 and 2013 but only now having its findings in relation to assisted dying highlighted, also suggests that only a very small minority would wish to stop others from having the choice of accessing an assisted death. The findings are being highlighted as part of Humanists UK’s intervention in the ongoing legal challenge for the right to die brought by member Noel Conway, who himself has MND. Humanists UK’s oral intervention is taking place on Wednesday lunch time.

The 2012 and 2013 research was conducted by the Picker Institute Europe on behalf of the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MND Association). The 2013 research, a quantitative survey, was published on the MND Association’s website at the time but (for reasons unrelated to the precise research) is no longer present. It asked around 550 people with MND, ‘What does having control at the end of life mean to you?’ The most popular answer by far was ‘Deciding when the time is right to die’, given by 69% of respondents.

This doesn’t necessarily indicate support for legislative change, but the survey then asked more directly, ‘What are your views on assisted suicide?’ 45% say they’d consider it now or if the law changed, 25% gave an answer that said they’d never consider it, 19% said it was too early for them to think about it, and 10% refused to answer.

The 2012 research was more qualitative research on views of 34 people with MND. It recorded similar views. Many of those interviewed wanted to be able to have the right to die, but were concerned about loved ones being prosecuted for assisting them. They also said that to have to journey to Dignitas in Switzerland would be too expensive, difficult, and ultimately (as the disease progresses) impossible. In terms of those who would not consider an assisted death, the report found that ‘A few interviewees said they would not consider assisted dying currently for religious or philosophical reasons, but could see that others might… Only a few interviewees dismissed assisted dying altogether… Despite the variety of views expressed, there was a tolerance of other people’s beliefs and a feeling that this was a deeply personal issue.’

The MND Association has a neutral policy on assisted dying, but was prompted by the research to provide more comprehensive advice about the law around assisted dying, which was published in 2014.

Today Humanists UK is having its oral intervention heard in Noel’s Court of Appeal case, with Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC arguing on its behalf. Humanists UK has submitted the research as part of its application and Caoilfhionn will be relying upon it in court.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘This research reveals significant support for the right to die among people with motor neurone disease. With Noel Conway’s case for the right to die currently being heard before the Court of Appeal, we very much hope this research will aid the Court’s thinking as it considers his case.’

Hodge Jones & Allen LLP’s Nancy Collins, the solicitor representing Humanists UK in the case, commented,

‘The issue at stake in this appeal is of fundamental importance; the right of those with terminal illnesses to choose when and how they die. This right has been recognised in other jurisdictions and this case provides an opportunity for there to be a change to the current ban on assisted dying in England and Wales. A change in the law to allow assisted dying would alleviate the terrible difficulties faced by individuals, like Mr Conway, and their families who wish to decide for themselves when they are ready to die. Humanists UK provides crucial evidence and insight into the wishes of people like Mr Conway.’

Details of the case

Noel, who is supported by Dignity in Dying, is challenging the illegality of assisted dying for those who are terminally ill and have six months or fewer to live. His case will be heard by the Court of Appeal from the 30 April to the 4 May.

Humanists UK has worked with philosophy professors Simon Blackburn and John Harris to craft its appeal. Both men have put in witness statements examining the underlying ethics at play, reflecting Humanists UK’s unique interdisciplinary expertise at the intersection of medical ethics, moral philosophy, and the law. Humanists UK has adopted a similar approach before, including in the Supreme Court cases Nicklinson (also concerned with assisted dying) and NIHRC (about abortion in Northern Ireland). Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson also submitted evidence on the research being highlighted today.

Humanists UK is being represented in its intervention by Nancy Collins of Hodge Jones & Allen LLP alongside Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Graeme Hall, both of Doughty Street Chambers.

Noel’s case is brought using article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998, arguing that section 2 of the Suicide Act interferes with his right to private and family life.

Noel’s decision at the High Court represents some advance over the previous decision, in the challenge brought to the Supreme Court in 2014 by Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb. There, the court decided that as the issue was such a high profile ethical debate, Parliament should first of all have a chance to decide the matter, before the courts do. However, in 2015 the House of Commons rejected an Assisted Dying Bill. So, the judges decided for the first time that the court should now engage with the substantial issues at hand. Unfortunately, however, the court decided that preventing Noel from being able to access an assisted death is legitimate under the Convention.

Separately, another Humanists UK member, ‘Omid T’, is bringing a case to also challenge the fact that those who are incurably suffering cannot access an assisted death. His case has had a preliminary hearing at the High Court, which is currently awaiting its decision.

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 the 2013 quantitative research:  https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/P2604_MNDA_FINAL_REPORT_V2_160713.pdf

The questions highlighted are question 58 on page 51 and question 64 on pages 52-3.

Read the 2012 qualitative research: http://mnda.stage2.reason.digital/life-with-mnd/treatment-and-care/choices-and-control/

Read the announcement of Humanists UK’s intervention: https://humanism.org.uk/2018/04/26/humanists-uk-to-intervene-in-conway-assisted-dying-case-at-court-of-appeal/

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.

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

Humanists UK to intervene in Conway assisted dying case at Court of Appeal

Humanist and assisted dying campaigner Noel Conway

Humanists UK has been given leave to intervene in the Court of Appeal hearing of its member Noel Conway, who has been fighting for the right to an assisted death. Noel, who has motor neurone disease, lost his case at the High Court in October, and is now seeking to have that decision overturned. Humanists UK is supporting Noel’s challenge.

Humanists UK has worked with humanist philosophers Simon Blackburn and John Harris to craft its appeal. Both have put in witness statements examining the underlying ethics of the situation, reflecting Humanists UK’s unique interdisciplinary expertise at the intersection of medical ethics, moral philosophy, and the law. Humanists UK adopted a similar approach in the Supreme Court cases Nicklinson (also concerned with assisted dying) and NIHRC (about abortion in Northern Ireland). Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson also submitted evidence on the views of people with motor neurone disease on assisted dying.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘It is morally wrong that the UK is denying individuals such as Noel Conway the opportunity to die with dignity at a time and in a manner of their choosing. As more and more jurisdictions around the world are responding to demands for recognition, we very much hope the UK soon joins them.’

Hodge Jones & Allen LLP’s Nancy Collins, who is representing Humanists UK in the case, commented, ‘The issue at stake in this appeal is of fundamental importance; the right of those with terminal illnesses to choose when and how they die. This right has been recognised in other jurisdictions and this case provides an opportunity for there to be a change to the current ban on assisted dying in England and Wales. A change in the law to allow assisted dying would alleviate the terrible difficulties faced by individuals, like Mr Conway, and their families who wish to decide for themselves when they are ready to die. Humanists UK provides crucial evidence and insight into the wishes of people like Mr Conway.’

Details of the case

Noel, who is supported by Dignity in Dying, is challenging the illegality of assisted dying for those who are terminally ill and have six months or fewer to live. His case will be heard by the Court of Appeal from the 30 April to the 4 May.

In addition to the witness statements from Simon Blackburn, John Harris, and Andrew Copson, Humanists UK will also be making oral and written submissions. Humanists UK is being represented in its intervention by Nancy Collins of Hodge Jones & Allen LLP alongside Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Graeme Hall, both of Doughty Street Chambers.
Noel’s case is brought using article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998, arguing that section 2 of the Suicide Act interferes with his right to private and family life.
Noel’s decision at the High Court represents some advance over the previous decision, in the challenge brought to the Supreme Court in 2014 by Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb. There, the court decided that as the issue was such a high profile ethical debate, Parliament should first of all have a chance to decide the matter, before the courts do. However, in 2015 the House of Commons rejected an Assisted Dying Bill. So, the judges decided for the first time that the court should now engage with the substantial issues at hand. Unfortunately, however, the court decided that preventing Noel from being able to access an assisted death is legitimate under the Convention.

Separately, another Humanists UK member, ‘Omid T’, is bringing a case to also challenge the fact that those who are incurably suffering cannot access an assisted death. His case has had a preliminary hearing at the High Court, which is currently awaiting its decision.

Notes

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

Read Humanists UK’s previous comment, on the conclusion of the High Court hearing: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/07/20/noel-conways-assisted-dying-hearing-concludes-in-high-court/

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.

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

Religious groups and human rights expert give evidence on recognition of humanist marriages

‘Very supportive’ of legal recognition to humanist marriages: that was the message received today by the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG), when hearing evidence from Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Michael Booth of the Quakers in Britain, and human rights lawyer Ciaran Moynagh, in the latest session of its inquiry into legal recognition of humanist marriages. The session, which is part of an ongoing investigation into the ‘range of issues that the Government would be required to consider before giving legal recognition’, was the second on the subject, and focused on the law itself.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE is the Rabbi of Maidenhead Synagogue and a former Chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK. He outlined the history of marriage law as it relates to Jewish groups, and ongoing practice today. He explained how it came to be that Jewish groups are able to marry people in any location (including outdoors) and gave his support to humanist marriages also gaining recognition. ‘Many people would be astonished that humanist marriages aren’t already recognised’, he said, adding ‘I can’t see what possible objection there could be.’

Michael Booth, the Church Government Adviser at the Recording Clerks Office of the Quakers in Britain, gave similar evidence, and also voiced his support. He set out the regulatory processes that the Quakers follow in order to register their marriages and provided useful advice as to the approach that Humanists UK may take in its own addressing of the subject.

Jonathan Romain, Michael Booth, and Ciaran Moynagh give evidence to Baroness Bakewell, Viscount Ridley, and Crispin Blunt MP.

Ciaran Moynagh is a solicitor specialising in human rights and founding partner of McLernon Moynagh Solicitors. He is representing Laura Lacole, who is taking her case for legal recognition of humanist marriage in Northern Ireland. He explained that in his view, human rights law compels such recognition – that a state of affairs that recognises religious but not humanist marriages is not a sustainable one and something that must be addressed.

The panelists were questioned by APPHG Co-Chairs Crispin Blunt MP and Baroness Bakewell, as well as Viscount Ridley. They discussed wider issues that may surround such recognition, and in line with the remit of the inquiry, considered what steps would need to be taken to address such issues.

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 about the inquiry’s previous meeting, which was focused on the law around the UK and crown dependencies: https://humanism.org.uk/2018/02/21/all-party-parliamentary-humanist-group-launches-inquiry-on-legal-humanist-marriages/

Read the terms of reference of the inquiry: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018-02-07-APPHG-inquiry-on-humanist-marriage-terms-of-reference.pdf

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.

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

Majority of non-stun halal slaughterhouses have failed hygiene inspections

The majority of slaughterhouses producing non-stunned halal meat in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland have failed inspections in the last three years by the Food Standards Agency. Only one in seven other slaughterhouses have done likewise. Data has revealed that non-stun slaughterhouses are also failing to maintain the hygiene standards required by law. Humanists UK has called upon the Government to end the exemptions to animal welfare regulations that allow non-stunned slaughter, which causes unnecessary suffering to the animal.

According to data from the Food Standards Agency and the Halal Monitoring Committee, 53% of non-stun halal slaughterhouses have failed inspections compared to just 14% of other slaughter houses. Furthermore, 68% have major hygiene issues, a significantly higher proportion than th 40% in slaughterhouses that stun their animals before slaughter.

The figures also reveal that 22% of non-stun slaughterhouses had major animal welfare issues compared to only 9% of other slaughterhouses. Last month, four men who worked at a non-stun slaughterhouse pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary cruelty to sheep after footage revealed them abusing the animals.

These figures suggest that there is a correlation between the method of slaughter and the regard shown towards the animal and its environment in the slaughterhouse. Non-stunned halal slaughter involves slitting the animal’s throat whilst it is still fully conscious and sensitive to pain, and allowing the animal to die slowly of blood loss. This is done outside of the normal welfare regulations for the slaughtering of animals, under exceptions made for halal and kosher meat. The figures suggest that this disregard for the animal’s suffering engenders a wider disregard for other animal welfare and hygiene regulations.

In response to these figures, the National Farmers’ Union has called on the Government to address the issue of non-stun slaughter houses and reduce the number of animals slaughtered by them, amid fears that they could lower Britain’s high animal welfare standards. The number of animals slaughtered without stunning has dramatically increased in recent years. From April to June of 2017, 24.4% of sheep and goats were killed without stunning, a rise from 15% in 2013. This sharp increase raises the risk that more animals are being slaughtered in places that are unhygienic and unfit for use.

Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘We’ve long campaigned against non-stunned slaughter on grounds that it causes unnecessary pain and suffering to the animal. These figures are truly worrying and confirm that non-stun slaughter houses are disproportionately failing to maintain both animal welfare and hygiene standards. In light of this, we urge the Government to take immediate action to ban this type of slaughter and the poorer standards that it engenders.’’  

Notes

For further comment or information contact Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan, at rachel@humanism.org.uk or 07951 176 245.

Read more on our campaigns on animal welfare:

https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/animal-welfare/

Read our previous article on the recent increase in non-stun religious slaughter:

https://humanism.org.uk/2017/10/10/food-standards-agency-reveals-large-increase-in-animals-slaughtered-without-pre-stunning/

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 campaigning work, we’re committed to creating a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association:

https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/

Humanists UK calls for easy access for Northern Ireland women to abortion in Wales

Take Action! You can respond to the Welsh Government’s consultation on the provision for Northern Ireland women accessing abortion services in Wales. You can read Humanists UK’s response to help you draft your own. Deadline is Friday 9 February.

Humanists UK and its section Wales Humanists has called upon the Welsh Government to make provision to alleviate the additional burdens placed upon women normally resident in Northern Ireland who travel to Wales to access abortion services. The Welsh Government is currently consulting on how to abolish charges of up to £2,000 imposed upon Northern Ireland women accessing these services on the NHS. Humanists UK, who successfully lobbied the Welsh Government to abolish these charges in 2017, has called for this change to go further, offering Northern Ireland women in Wales parity of treatment with England and Scotland where bursaries for travel and other expenses are being introduced.

In July 2017, the First Minister for Wales Carwyn Jones announced that Wales would join England and Scotland in funding abortion services for women travelling from Northern Ireland. However, the current proposals by the Welsh Government to implement this change are framed on providing parity of access with Welsh women, in waiving the normal residency criteria for accessing these services. This does not recognise the particular set of circumstances and burdens facing women from Northern Ireland travelling to the UK, which are not experienced by women living in Wales.

These burdens include travel and accommodation expenses, which can be a significant burden for low income women living in Northern Ireland, as well as difficulties managing aftercare and gaining a referral from doctors in Northern Ireland. These barriers to access could be reduced if the Welsh Government introduces a central booking system for women from Northern Ireland in which they or their GP can easily refer and book services in Wales, and through which they can be refunded for expenses for travel and accommodation. Such a system should also provide an ongoing line of communication between the women and the abortion service provider in order to manage the aftercare of the procedure.

Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘We welcome the free provision of services to Northern Ireland women as a hugely positive step. But we think it is imperative that this is not all Wales offers.

‘In October the then UK Women and Equalities Minister Justine Greening announced that Northern Ireland women with low incomes travelling to England for abortion services would be able to apply for funding to cover the cost of travel between Northern Ireland and England. A similar provision is being considered in Scotland. There is no reason why provision should not be made in Wales. The Welsh Government abolished NHS charges in order to make these services accessible. Recognising that there are still unique and substantial burdens facing Northern Ireland women is the next step towards achieving adequate service provision.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Rachel Taggart-Ryan, Campaigns Officer at rachel@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3065.

Read Humanists UK’s consultation response: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018-01-24-RTR-Welsh-Government-consultation-on-abortion-for-Northern-Ireland-women.pdf 

Access the Welsh Government’s consultation here: https://consultations.gov.wales/node/11485/respond-online

Read more about our abortion campaign work: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/

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

Welsh Government to consider sex and relationships education in 2018

Welsh Education Secretary Kirsty Williams

In its final report and recommendations, the Welsh Government’s Sex and Relationships Education Expert Panel (SREEP) has identified ‘significant gaps’ in the sex and relationships education (SRE) curriculum on offer to children in Wales, prompting Education Secretary Kirsty Williams to promise a considered response to the SREEP report in the new year.

Wales Humanists, which as part of Humanists UK has campaigned for a robust SRE curriculum in Wales for many years, has welcomed the Education Secretary’s openness to reform.

The SREEP was convened by Kirsty Williams in March to review SRE in Wales. In its final report, the SREEP identifies that SRE in Wales is currently being taught in an overly biological, mechanistic fashion, with too little emphasis placed on relationships, emotions rights, or even vital information about domestic violence, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This information is critical to ensuring that children in Wales have their human right to education met in full.

Wales Humanists coordinator Kathy Riddick commented:

‘We want every child in Wales, including those attending faith schools, to receive a thorough, age-appropriate, and inclusive education about sex and relationships, as is their right.’

‘Wales has been a leader in the UK on many issues in education for years, and sex and relationships education offers the Welsh Government a clear opportunity to set the gold standard for this area of education in the UK, and so we look forward to Kirsty Williams’ response. ‘

Notes

For further information or contact, contact Wales Humanists coordinator Kathy Riddick on kathy.riddick@humanists.uk or Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman at jay@humanists.uk.

Wales Humanists is part of Humanists UK, the national charity for the non-religious. 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.

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on Relationships and Sex Education: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/pshe-and-sex-and-relationships-education/

Search Humanists UK