Wales Humanists: News

Noel Conway’s assisted dying hearing concludes in High Court

Humanist and assisted dying campaigner Noel Conway

Humanists UK member Noel Conway’s claim for an assisted death has been heard by the High Court. The hearing came to an end today, after four days of submissions from his lawyers and from Humanists UK, who intervened in the case in his support.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘The hearing in Noel’s case seemed to go well and we’re hopeful that we will get a positive outcome. It is long past time that those who are of sound mind but are terminally ill or incurably suffering – like Noel, and like Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb who took cases before him – are granted the choice and autonomy to end their lives with dignity, at a time and in a manner of their choosing.’

About the case

Noel has motor neurone disease, a terminal degenerative condition which may leave him with only months to live. His case, which is being supported by Dignity in Dying, hopes to establish that the current law is incompatible with the Human Right Act 1998, specifically with regard to Article 8 on the right to respect for private and family life.

Humanists UK was granted permission to intervene in the case in recognition of its long support for attempts to legalise assisted dying across the UK and its particular expertise on this issue. Humanists UK also intends to apply to intervene in a separate assisted dying case in the autumn in support of its member ‘Omid T’, who suffers from multiple systems atrophy. That case will focus on changing the law with regard to those who are incurably suffering.

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. Ms Gallagher made oral submissions on behalf of Humanists UK focusing on the discrimination he has faced.

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 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 intervenes in Conway assisted dying case

Humanist and assisted dying campaigner Noel Conway.

Today, Humanists UK made oral submissions in the assisted dying case brought by its member Noel Conway, who is seeking to change to law that currently prevents terminally ill people –  those with six months or less to live – from being able to chose a medically assisted death. The case is being heard before the High Court from 17- 20 July. Humanists UK also previously made a written intervention to the court.

Noel has motor neurone disease, a terminal degenerative condition which may leave him with only months to live. His case, which is being supported by Dignity in Dying, hopes to establish that the current law is incompatible with the Human Right Act 1998, specifically with regard to Article 8 on the right to respect for private and family life and Article 14 which prohibits discrimination.

Humanists UK was granted permission to intervene in the case in recognition of its long support for attempts to legalise assisted dying across the UK and its particular expertise on this issue. Humanists UK also intends to apply to intervene in a separate assisted dying case in the autumn in support of its member ‘Omid T’, who suffers from multiple systems atrophy. That case will focus on changing the law with regard to those who are incurably suffering.

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. Today, Ms Gallagher made oral submissions on behalf of Humanists UK focusing on discrimination.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘It is desperately sad that society denies individuals like Noel Conway the right to end their lives at a time and manner of their choosing, instead forcing them through the indignity to continue suffering long after they have a settled wish to die. We very much hope the present case will succeed in bringing this injustice to an end.’

Solicitor Nancy Collins commented, ‘It is deeply concerning that individuals continue to endure painful and undignified deaths in circumstances where medically qualified professionals can in theory bring about an easeful death but face the risk of criminal sanctions if they do so. There is strong public support for a change in the law and we hope that the court will seize the opportunity to grapple with this complex issue and bring about a change.’

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 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 hosts Understanding Humanism conference for RE teachers

Busy: roughly 100 teachers and education professionals turned out to expand their knowledge of humanism

Yesterday around 100 teachers attended Humanist UK’s Understanding Humanism Teachers Conference at Conway Hall. One of the biggest events of the year for Religious Education (RE) teachers, the conference provided an opportunity for teachers to broaden their subject knowledge and to gather, share, and discuss ideas for teaching about humanism in the classroom.

The conference featured a series of stimulating seminars and workshops aimed at both primary and secondary teachers. These included talks from humanist philosopher Professor Richard Norman; former Ofsted National Adviser for RE, Alan Brine; and the co-founder of Faith to Faithless, Aliyah Saleem.

Humanism now features on an increasing number of locally agreed RE syllabuses in England and Wales, and an ever-growing number of teachers and schools are looking for assistance with how best to include it within their teaching. Humanists are currently involved with more than 100 different Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education across England and Wales, either as full members helping to draw up their local curriculums, or as co-opted members or observers.

Teachers compare notes at the Understanding Humanism RE Teachers Conference

Humanists UK also supports teachers’ needs by offering free education resources, trained school speakers, and teacher training through its education service, Understanding Humanism. 

Reflecting on a successful event, Humanists UK Head of Education Luke Donnellan said ‘To support mutual understanding it is essential that young people, alongside learning about the main religions, have the opportunity to learn about what it means to be a humanist. It is fantastic to work with so many members of the education community on ways to support their students understanding of humanism. Developing a more balanced and inclusive RE can support us to build a more tolerant and curious society and support young people to reach their own informed conclusions about what they believe.’

Notes

For further information, please contact Humanists UK Head of Education Luke Donnellan on luke@humanism.org.uk or on 020 73243070.

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.

Understanding Humanism is Humanists UK’s education service, which aims to introduce young people to humanism as a non-religious approach to life which can be studied as an example of a ‘non-religious worldview’.  It provides teachers with the resources necessary to teach accurate, high-quality lessons about humanism, and assists them with the development of their own subject knowledge. The Understanding Humanism website offers lesson plans and activities, as well as free school speakers who can work with teachers to broaden students’ understanding. Visit Understanding Humanism at understandinghumanism.org.uk.

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

 

Humanists UK intervenes in Conway assisted dying case

Humanist and assisted dying campaigner Noel Conway

Humanists UK has been given permission to intervene in the assisted dying case being brought by its member Noel Conway. Noel, who has motor neurone disease and has been given months left to live, is due to have his case heard at the High Court from 17-20 July. Humanists UK’s written intervention was submitted to the court yesterday.

Noel is seeking to change the law to make assisted dying legal for those who are terminally ill with six months or fewer to live. He is being supported by Dignity in Dying to bring his claim. Another claim is separately being brought by Humanists UK member ‘Omid T’, who is incurably suffering with multiple systems atrophy. Omid’s case will be heard after Noel’s in the autumn and Humanists UK intends to apply to intervene in his case too.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘It is completely wrong that people who are of sound mind but terminally ill or incurably suffering are denied the choice to die with dignity. The deliberate extension of suffering as a matter of public policy is a stain on our humanity. The majority of the public want change but as long as Parliament is unwilling to act, it is up to brave individuals such as Noel to fight for all our rights. We will always stand with such courageous and public-spirited champions.’

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.

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 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/

Wales joins England and Scotland in pledging to fund Northern Ireland women’s abortions

First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones made the announcement today. Photo: National Assembly for Wales.

First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones has confirmed in the Welsh Assembly that Wales will join England and Scotland in funding abortion care for women traveling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.  Jones indicated that the three nations would now work together to agree how this support will be provided, from travel, and accommodation, to aftercare and support from the NHS in England, Scotland, and Wales.  

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented:

‘We are delighted with this move to end the injustice of charging women in Northern Ireland for a medical procedure freely available to women in the rest of the UK. It has come too late for many women, but it is the right decision nonetheless. We trust the process of agreeing what support will be provided will be handled swiftly, so no other women within the UK face additional trauma.

‘It is essential now that the Government moves to defend the rights of women more broadly, decriminalising abortion throughout the UK and legislating to bring the reproductive rights of women in Northern Ireland in line with those of women in England, Wales, and Scotland.’

In an earlier statement following the UK Parliament’s decision to fund Northern Ireland women’s abortions in England, the Scottish Government said:

‘The First Minister has already made clear that the Scottish Government would look into the provision of abortion in Scotland to women from Northern Ireland. The Scottish Government’s view is that abortion should be part of standard healthcare for all women, and available free from stigma. The Scottish Government believes that a woman from Northern Ireland, in Scotland, should be able to access an abortion for free on the same basis as women in Scotland and we will set out shortly how that can be achieved.’

The law governing abortion in Northern Ireland is one of the most restrictive in Europe, such that abortion is unlawful in all but the most extreme cases. The law does not, however, prohibit women resident in Northern Ireland from travelling to Britain to access abortion services, but until now they have had to pay up to £2,000 to access those services.

Last month the Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the legality of the UK Government’s failure to provide free abortions Northern Irish women. Humanists UK intervened in the case, focusing its submissions on the impact of the policy on women who do not wish to continue with a pregnancy and who are faced with the limited options of obtaining an unlawful and/or unsafe abortion in Northern Ireland. The submissions argued that forcing women to continue carrying their foetus to full-term or sustaining the unanticipated expense of a paid abortion outside of Northern Ireland would cause an unacceptable level of stress and trauma involved.

In response to the Supreme Court’s disappointing ruling, Humanists UK launched a petition calling upon anyone concerned by the unequal treatment of Northern Irish women to sign its petition urging Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon, and Carwyn Jones to grant Northern Irish free access to abortion services on the NHS in England, Scotland, and Wales respectively, and wrote to all three leaders. It actively lobbied MPs in the Wesminster Parliament ahead of the important Queen’s Speech vote on abortion care in England, and through its Welsh section, Wales Humanists, did the same in the Wales Assembly ahead of today’s announcement.

Notes

For more comment or information please contact Humanists UK on 0207 324 3078 or jay@humanism.org.uk.

Read Humanists UK’s previous news item ‘Humanists UK urges British leaders to allow free NHS abortions for Northern Ireland women’: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/06/14/humanists-uk-urges-mainland-british-leaders-to-allow-free-nhs-abortions-for-northern-ireland-women/

Read more about the case including the judgment on the Supreme Court’s website: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2015-0220.html

https://humanism.org.uk/2017/06/14/supreme-court-dismisses-case-challenging-lack-of-free-abortions-for-northern-irish-women-on-nhs/

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns on women’s reproductive rights: 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/

South Africa outlaws promotion of any one religion in schools

The High Court in Johannesburg

A High Court judge in Johannesburg has outlawed state-funded single-faith schools in South Africa, following a human rights case brought by the Organisation for Religious Education and Democracy.

The court found that it was unlawful for a public school to promote adherence to one particular religion, to the exclusion of others, or to hold that it promotes the interests of any religion above any others. However, the ruling does not create a truly secular education system in South Africa. Children can, and will, for example, still be required to participate in collective worship in many schools run by religious officials.

Jacques Rousseau, who runs the Free Society Institute, which like Humanists UK is a member organisation of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, cautioned that it will take future legal rulings to address, for example, pupils’ right to opt out of collective worship.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman, commented, ‘This decision by South Africa’s High Court represents a giant leap towards an inclusive education system for the country. It means that pupils of all religions and beliefs will now be educated together, when before they may have been divided.

‘Just as in the Republic of Ireland, which announced this week that it is abolishing religious selection by Catholic schools, now we see South Africa leapfrog the UK in ensuring its schools are inclusive. We urge the UK, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish governments to take notice, as the UK is increasingly being left behind.’

Notes

For further information on this story, see the news item from the International Humanist and Ethical Union: http://iheu.org/public-schools-cant-promote-one-religion-says-court-south-africa/

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/

Scotland introduces ‘opt-out’ organ donation scheme, England could follow

'Teddy's story': the the Cardiff newborn who became the UK's youngest ever organ donor, and whose short life inspired thousands of others to register as organ donors ahead of the new law. Photo © ITV.

‘Teddy’s story’: the Cardiff newborn who became the UK’s youngest ever organ donor, and whose short life inspired thousands of others to register as organ donors ahead of the new law. Photo © ITV.

Scottish ministers have announced plans to introduce a ‘soft opt-out’ system for organ donation. Once implemented, the scheme will mean that unless a patient has actively opted-out before their death, it is presumed that they have given consent for donation. Humanists UK has long supported a change in policy on organ donation, as it is an important way to save lives by reducing the time people are left waiting on transplant lists.

Today it has further been revealed that England may soon follow Scotland’s lead, as Downing Street announced they would consider a change of policy. A spokesperson at No. 10 said they will be keeping a close eye on continuing developments in Scotland. The current opt-in system in England means that people have to actively sign up to the organ donation register. Support for an opt-out system in England has previously been given by The British Medical Association who explained that although 66% of people say they would donate their organs, only 39% of people have signed the register.

If adopted, England would also join Wales, which moved to a soft opt-out system in December 2015 after a successful campaign supported by Humanists UK. Humanists UK gave oral evidence to the Welsh Government when it was considering the matter. Six months after the introduction of the new rules, the Welsh government announced that of the 60 organs transplanted since the change in the rules, half had come from people who had given ‘presumed consent’, meaning many lives have been saved by the change.

The Northern Irish Government has also suggested it may support a similar system, although a private member’s bill on the changes was rejected in 2016.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘Scotland has taken an important step to tackle the major issue of transplant waiting times and organ shortages. We hope that England and Northern Ireland are quick to follow. Developments in Wales since our campaign shows the immediate positive impact an opt-out system can have. Humanists UK also support campaigns to encourage the public to discuss their wishes for the end of life, including organ donation, in advance.’

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.

You can join the Organ Donor Register and help save lives after your death at https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/

Read more about our campaigns work on organ donation: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/organ-donation/

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

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

Humanists UK welcomes new ‘person-centred’ guidance on conscientious objection in pharmacies

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GphC), which regulates pharmacies across Britain, has published new guidance on religion, personal values, and beliefs in pharmaceutical practice. The guidance focuses for the first time on ensuring that pharmacists’ religious beliefs do not hinder or prevent a person from receiving care. Humanists UK, which met with the GPhC and responded to its consultation on the new guidance, has welcomed the publication and the shift in focus it represents.

The guidance recognises that although ‘pharmacy professionals have the right to practise in line with their religion, personal values or beliefs,’ this should not compromise a person-centered approach to care, which emphasises service user needs as a primary consideration for pharmacists. This is particularly relevant in the handling of requests for contraceptive, fertility, hormonal, and sexual health treatments.

The new guidance now advises pharmacists to:

  • ‘recognise their own values and beliefs but do not impose them on other people’
  • ‘take responsibility for ensuring that person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs.’

This recommendation not only reinforces the principle that a person-centred approach should not be compromised by conscientious objections, but clears up uncertainties about how this should applied in practice. Previously, pharmacists were advised to refer the person seeking care to another provider, if they felt unable to provide care themselves due to their personal beliefs. However, in certain circumstances – such as in rural locations or late at night – finding another willing provider to refer the service user to is not possible. This new guidance recommends that best practice for pharmacists is to consider the location of the pharmacy, the opening times of other providers and the rotation of staff to ensure that referrals either to other staff or different pharmacies are appropriate and can be arranged in a timely manner. Ultimately, the guidance recommends that ‘pharmacy professionals should not knowingly put themselves in a position where they are unwilling to deliver or arrange timely care for a person.’

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We are pleased that the General Pharmaceutical Council has acted upon concerns we raised during the consultation period and have put person-centred care at the heart of their new approach. The new guidance outlines practical and reasonable steps to ensure that no person seeking care should be denied assistance locally or in a timely manner because of conscientious objections. We are pleased that this guidance has clarified that it is the responsibility of the pharmacist and their employer, and not service users, to ensure that this does not happen.’

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 more about our campaign work on conscientious objection: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/conscientious-objection/

Read our response to the General Pharmaceutical Council Consultation on religion, personal values and beliefs: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017-03-02-BHA-response-to-GPC-consultation-on-religion-personal-values-and-beliefs.pdf

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/

Nicola Sturgeon: Scottish Government is exploring free NHS abortions for Northern Ireland women

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that the Scottish Government is exploring whether to remove financial barriers within NHS Scotland imposed upon women normally resident in Northern Ireland who cross the Irish Sea to access safe and legal abortion. She first announced that this policy would be considered in November 2016, depending upon the outcome of a Supreme Court case, a decision on which came back last week. Humanists UK is petitioning Sturgeon, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones to commit to just such a change, and has welcomed Sturgeon’s renewed commitment.

Sturgeon’s confirmation comes in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling, last week, which found that charges of up to £2,000 imposed by NHS England on Northern Ireland women travelling over to have an abortion are lawful. Humanists UK intervened in the case. It was not an unanimous decision, with two of the five judges finding that such charges did constitute discriminatory treatment and could not be justified. The judgment concluded that the abolition of these charges was a political decision and the power to do so lies with the Secretary of State for Health in England and the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales.

The law governing abortion in Northern Ireland is one of the most restrictive in Europe, such that abortion is unlawful in all but the most extreme cases. Abortion is currently not permitted in instances where the pregnancy has resulted from a sexual crime, such as incest or rape, nor if there has been a diagnosis of fatal fetal abnormality. The criminal sanctions imposed in Northern Ireland are amongst the harshest in the world, with the maximum sentence being life imprisonment. However, the law does not prohibit women resident in Northern Ireland from travelling to Britain to access abortion services. It is estimated that approximately 2,000 women do so every year.  

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘This confirmation by Scotland’s First Minister that a change in NHS Scotland’s policy being explored is welcome news. All women, regardless of which part of the country they reside in, should have equal access to free, state-provided, legal abortion services.

‘In addition to the travel and accommodation costs involved in journeying to Britain, this charge imposes a further undue financial and emotional burden upon Northern Ireland women and in our view that represents a fundamental breach of their human rights. We urge Nicola Sturgeon to lead this proposal through to fruition and abolish these charges. We also call upon the Governments in Westminster and Cardiff to follow the lead laid down by the Scottish Government on this issue.’

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, or Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator on boyd.sleator@nihumanists.org or on 07470 395090.

Sign our petition calling on Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones to allow Northern Irish women free access to NHS abortions: https://humanism.org.uk/what-you-can-do-to-help/help-northern-irish-women-access-free-abortions-in-great-britain/

Read more about the case including the judgment on the Supreme Court’s website: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2015-0220.html

Read Humanists UKs story on the outcome of the case: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/06/14/supreme-court-dismisses-case-challenging-lack-of-free-abortions-for-northern-irish-women-on-nhs/

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns work on abortion: 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/

 

Appeal set for 19 June in Northern Ireland humanist marriage case

A date has now been set for the Court of Appeal hearing in the ongoing case to secure legal recognition for humanist marriages in Northern Ireland. The case involves humanists Laura Lacole, a model and public speaker, and Eunan O’Kane, a footballer with the Republic of Ireland and Leeds United. The couple, backed by Humanists UK, won their case at the Belfast High Court on Friday, but the decision has been appealed to the Court of Appeal. A hearing has now been scheduled for Monday 19 June.

The couple are due to wed on 22 June, and as such the case was expedited through the High Court to ensure a decision was reached in time for their wedding. That meant that having received permission for their case to be heard before the High Court on 9 May, the case had its full hearing just 17 days later, on 26 May. Just 14 days after that, on the morning of 9 June, the High Court ruled in their favour, thus extending legal recognition to humanist marriages in Northern Ireland. But that afternoon the Northern Ireland Attorney General chose to appeal the ruling, meaning that the Court of Appeal will hear the case just ten days after the High Court’s decision. This then leaves a further two days for it to rule before the wedding is due to take place.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘The Attorney General is spending a surprising amount of effort and public money just to stop two people in love from getting married in the way they wish. We very much hope that he will be unsuccessful, both for Laura and Eunan’s sake, as well as that of the thousands more couples who are set to benefit from the original court ruling.’

About the case and its likely impact

The case has been taken on human rights grounds, targeting the discriminatory law that has meant that religious people are able to have legal marriage ceremonies in line with their beliefs, but humanists have, until now, not been able to do likewise.

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 over 4,300 in 2015, overtaking the Church of Scotland in the process. In the Republic of Ireland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2012. In 2015 around six 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 as the case was taken on human rights grounds, the underlying principles are very similar, and so this case may have some impact. 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.

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, or Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator on boyd.sleator@nihumanists.org or on 07470 395090.

Press are free to use images made available by the couple:

Laura Lacole is also available for interviews, which can be arranged through Richy.

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/

Northern Ireland Humanists is a part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland.

Public humanist funeral for Rhodri Morgan at National Assembly for Wales

Rhodri Morgan. Photo: National Assembly for Wales.

Today at 10.45, a humanist funeral for former First Minister of Wales and Humanists UK patron Rhodri Morgan will be streamed online through Senedd TV for the world to see.

The funeral will be led by Rhodri’s friend and former fellow Welsh Assembly Member Lorraine Barrett. Lorraine is also a Humanists UK patron who retired from politics to focus full-time on being a Humanists UK-accredited funeral and namings celebrant.

The funeral is the first of its kind in the UK: the first ever public funeral, akin to a state funeral, led by a humanist. Rhodri’s choice is a particularly fitting one for the Senedd’s first national funeral; YouGov polling published in December 2016 showed that 51% of Welsh people are non-religious and roughly 1 million people in Wales share Rhodri’s humanist views.

Like Rhodri, one in seven Britons say they would like a humanist funeral when they die.

Rhodri and his wife Julie Morgan, another patron of Humanists UK, recently supported the launch of Wales Humanists, a national voice for the non-religious in Wales which is part of Humanists UK. Julie spoke at the launch, which took place in the Senedd late last year.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented:

‘Like all humanist funerals, Rhodri’s will be tailored precisely to who he was, how he lived, and his loved ones’ most treasured memories of him: a true celebration of his life. The ceremony will be an opportunity for the whole world to get to know Rhodri that little bit better, share sadness, and reflect on a life well lived.’

Lorraine Barrett, taking the ceremony, commented:

‘I feel hugely privileged to lead Rhodri’ s funeral ceremony, which really will be a celebration of his life with words, poetry, and music. I’ve known Rhodri since the mid-1980s and besides sharing a love of the Labour Party, through all it’s ups and downs, we also shared a love of music. He lived his life as a humanist and said to me once, after I did the funeral of a friend of his “you can do mine when the time comes”.  Sadly, that time has come but it will be very much an uplifting ceremony to reflect how Rhodri lived his life and the huge contribution he made to Welsh public life.’

Notes

For further information, or to arrange an interview, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on 07815 589 636 or richy@humanism.org.uk.

What are humanist funerals?

A humanist funeral is a non-religious funeral ceremony that provides both a dignified farewell and a celebration of a life. It recognises the profound sadness of saying goodbye whilst celebrating the life and legacy of a loved one. For more information, see humanistceremonies.org.uk/funerals

See also: 14% of Britons want a humanist funeral when they die https://humanism.org.uk/2016/12/08/14-of-britons-would-opt-for-a-humanist-funeral-as-new-figures-show-bha-ceremonies-more-popular-than-ever/

Who is 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.

We operate in Wales as Wales Humanists and are a registered charity (No. 285987). Until May 2017, we were known as the British Humanist Association.

Rhodri Morgan (1939-2017): Humanist, first First Minister of Wales, and father of Welsh devolution

Rhodri Morgan. Photo: National Assembly for Wales.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is today mourning its patron of many years, Rhodri Morgan, who served from 2000 to 2009 as First Minister of Wales.

Born in Cardiff in 1939 to an academic family, Rhodri set his sights on public service from an early age, and was particularly set on improving the conditions of Wales. He saw Wales as unduly neglected by the UK Government at that time, which he felt was unable to properly appreciate and cater to Welsh national interests from Westminster. After studying PPE at St John’s, Oxford and a Master’s in government at Harvard, Rhodri returned to Wales, where he campaigned for future Prime Minister Jim Callaghan’s seat in Cardiff South alongside his future wife, Julie Edwards, as well as Neil Kinnock, and Glenys Kinnock. This quartet had in common with Callaghan more than just a political vision for Wales and the United Kingdom; they were distinctive within their party, and within British politics at the time, for their shared humanist outlook on life and politics.

Rhodri’s devotion to public service led him to run and be elected for Member of Parliament in his home seat of Cardiff West in 1987, a seat he held until 2001. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, he served Cardiff West with distinction and was rewarded by Labour leaders Neil Kinnock and John Smith with frontbench roles for environmental policy, energy, and Welsh affairs. In the latter role, he was a tireless campaigner for Welsh devolution, a dream he helped to realise when his party came to power in 1997. In 1999, Rhodri was elected the first ever Assembly Member for Cardiff West in the newly established National Assembly for Wales. He then succeeded Alun Michael as First Secretary of Wales and head of the Welsh Government in February 2000, and was retitled as First Minister of Wales in October that year. In his tenure as First Minister, Morgan helped to define Welsh politics and sought to carve out a distinct policy and social agenda for Welsh Labour.

Rhodri Morgan at the BHA stand at the 2016 Labour Party Conference, pictured with Kelvin Hopkins, Julie Morgan, and Andrew Copson.

Rhodri joined the Parliamentary Humanist Group, which is supported by the BHA, after entering Parliament as an MP in 1987. His long and successful tenure as First Minister helped to shape the relatively secular character of Welsh politics. At a time when the UK population was rapidly losing interest in religion, politics in England and the UK as a whole seemed to be moving in the other direction: away from public opinion. Rhodri defied that trend and instilled in Welsh civic life an ethic of tolerating and respecting difference, while thinking always of Welsh citizens not as members of sects or groups, but as individuals. Under Rhodri’s leadership, Wales was encouraged to think of itself as one community, celebrating of difference but united by a common humanity.

Before and after his retirement, he gave enthusiastic support and encouragement to the work of the BHA, particularly in its community services provision. In 2009, he wrote to congratulate the newly formed Atheist, Humanist, and Secular Students on their formation, helping to give non-religious student activists a greater voice. In 2014, he was the Cardiff Humanists’ inaugural Darwin Day Dinner speaker, lecturing on ‘Evolution and devolution: Darwin and Wallace’. He made regular appearances alongside the BHA and Labour Humanists at party conferences, most recently speaking at the 2015 Welsh Labour conference on ‘Working for a more equal, ethical, and secular government.’ Alongside his wife Julie Morgan, his fellow BHA patron, he gave his support to the launch of Wales Humanists, the BHA’s new section focused on Welsh national policy and delivering community services in Wales.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘Rhodri’s crowning achievement was the success he made of Welsh devolution. A committed man of high ideals and strong principles, we will also remember him as a warm human being and a pleasure to be around. Our thoughts are with Julie and the whole of the family at this difficult time.’

Notes

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

The BHA has well over 150 patrons who support its work in various ways through their expertise and prominence in various fields. Existing patrons include significant figures from the spheres of science, philosophy, human rights activism, politics, the arts, and broadcasting. The BHA’s President is the writer and comedian Shappi Khorsandi, who is supported by Vice Presidents Professor Jim Al-Khalili, Professor A C Grayling, and Polly Toynbee. For a full list of patrons, see https://humanism.org.uk/about/our-people/patrons.

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