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Wales Humanists: News

Jersey to introduce humanist marriages

States of Jersey Deputy Louise Doublet spearheaded the campaign for legal recognition of humanist marriages.

Jersey is set to be the latest part of the British Isles to give legal recognition to humanist marriages, joining Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.

Today Jersey’s Chief Minister has announced new legislation to give legal recognition to both same-sex and humanist marriages, that will be tabled before the States of Jersey Assembly on 14 November 2017.

The decision to include humanist marriage legislation follows on from a legislative proposal made by States of Jersey Deputy Louise Doublet and Humanists UK, who have been pressing for this change for the last three years.

Welcoming the news, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We’re delighted Jersey has chosen to extend legal recognition to humanist marriages. Humanist wedding ceremonies are personalised to non-religious couples’ deepest beliefs and values, and conducted by a celebrant who shares the couple’s beliefs in a venue of their choosing. They are increasingly popular. It’s great to see Jersey recognise this demand with legal recognition.’

Louise Doublet, Deputy of St Saviour No 2, who led the campaign for recognition, also welcomed the move: ‘By extending legal recognition to humanist marriages, non-religious people are being given the same choice of a personally meaningful ceremony that religious couples already have. Extending such recognition is a simple matter of fairness, and one that will strengthen the institution of marriage to the benefit of all of the people of Jersey. I look forward to working with my fellow States members to see this legislation approved.’

Recognition round 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 Northern Ireland Humanists are currently in court to secure recognition of humanist marriages, working with Laura Lacole and Eunan O’Kane. The challenge was successful at the High Court, but the Government has appealed the decision, which is currently stayed before the Court of Appeal.

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 decision 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 or 0781 55 89 636, or States of Jersey Deputy Louise Doublet at l.doublet@gov.je or 07797766784.

Read today’s announcement: http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/assemblypropositions/2017/p.91-2017.pdf

Read the latest on the Northern Ireland legal case: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/09/11/northern-ireland-court-of-appeal-stays-humanist-marriage-case-pending-further-negotiations/

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/

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists backs decriminalisation of abortion across the UK

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has voted strongly in favour of taking abortion out of criminal law right across the UK. Currently, under an 1861 law, if women have an abortion outside of circumstances that are legally permitted, they can face up to life imprisonment. In Britain, this means failing to comply with the Abortion Act 1967, which could include on the procedural grounds of requiring two doctors to approve a termination before it can take place. In Northern Ireland, this means having an abortion on almost any ground, even in the cases of rape and fatal foetal abnormality.

Humanists UK, which is part of the We Trust Women Coalition campaigning to decriminalise abortion, has welcomed RCOGs decision.

RCOG’s policy now states:

We believe that the procedure should be subject to regulatory and professional standards, in line with other medical procedures, rather than criminal sanctions.

Abortion services should be regulated; however, abortion – for women, doctors and other healthcare professionals – should be treated as a medical, rather than a criminal issue.

The College is not calling for any change in gestational limits for abortion which should remain in place through the appropriate regulatory and legislative process.

In June, members of the British Medical Association also voted to change its policy to back decriminalisation, and the Royal College of Midwives adopted the same position in February 2016.

There are presently two court cases going on in Northern Ireland concerning its abortion laws. One, being taken against the Government by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and due to be heard before the UK Supreme Court next month, focuses on the illegality of abortion there in the cases of rape, incest, and fatal foetal abnormality. A third case was narrowly lost before the Supreme Court back in June, that focused on Northern Ireland women being charged to have an abortion on the NHS in Britain. That decision led to such an uproar that the UK, Scottish, and Welsh Governments all subsequently decided to introduce the service anyway. However, it still doesn’t mean that Northern Ireland women can access abortion services in Northern Ireland itself.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We’re delighted to see the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists vote to back the decriminalisation of abortion across the UK. While of course there should be regulations around abortion as a procedure, these should be no different from those of any other medical procedure, none of which involve specific criminal sanctions. Women should not face jail time for failing to follow those regulations. This is especially egregious in Northern Ireland, where countless women’s basic dignity is being violated by the lack of availability of abortion there.

‘RCOG’s move reflects the growing consensus that the law urgently needs updating, and we hope that politicians are listening to the increasing clamour for change.’

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 RCOG’s statement on its new policy: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/news/rcog-backs-decriminalisation-of-abortion/

Read more about the We Trust Women coalition: https://www.wetrustwomen.org.uk/

Read more about our campaign work on abortion and sexual and 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/

Latest British Social Attitudes reveals 71% of young adults are non-religious, just 3% are Church of England

The latest findings of the British Social Attitudes Survey, published today, reveal 71% of 18-24 year olds say they belong to no religion, while just 3% say they are Church of England and 5% say they are Catholic. These latter two figures only increase slightly to 5% and 9%, respectively, amongst 25-34 year olds.

Overall, 53% of the population say they belong to no religion, 15% to the Church of England, 9% to the Catholic Church, 17% to other Christian denominations, and 6% to other religions.

Humanists UK has said the figures must raise fresh questions about the place of the churches in the running of state schools and their other state-funded privileges.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson asked, ‘How can it be right that 97% of young people today are not Anglicans, but some 20% of the state schools to which their children will go belong to the Church of England? More generally, how can the Church of England remain in any meaningful sense the national legally established church, when it caters for such a small portion of the population?’

As of last year, for the first time in history, the Church of England has more children in its state schools worshipping every weekday, than worshippers in its churches every week.

Mr Copson continued, ‘It is clear that the Church of England is experiencing ongoing and probably irreversible collapse in adherents. This should just be its private concern, but the fact that its response to this has been to seek ever more power and public money, even as the case for such state support evaporates, makes it a matter of public interest. It is long overdue that the Government woke up to the demographic reality of today’s Britain and recognises that ever-increasing state funding for religion, and public emphasis on the activities of religious groups, is the reverse of what the public wants.’

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.

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 announces Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network as new research shows wide demand for service

  • New research shows overwhelming demand for non-religious pastoral care, with the public six to one in favour.
  • Humanists UK has pioneered the creation of the new Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network (NRPSN) to address demand.
  • NRPSN members are already working in 25% of NHS acute trusts and 15% of prisons.
  • NHS England and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service recommend hospitals and prisons appoint NRPSN members to offer greater choice for service users.

69% of people (73% of non-religious people) think non-religious pastoral carers should be provided alongside religious chaplains in institutions like hospitals, prisons, and universities, with 88% of people (93% of non-religious people) never making use of chaplains where they are available.

These and other findings from new research published today show strong support for the introduction of non-religious pastoral support providers in hospitals, prisons, and universities, to provide the same help to non-religious people that religious people get through chaplaincies. The research, conducted by YouGov for Humanists UK, is being published to greet the launch of the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network (NRPSN), a national professional network of individuals providing pastoral care, which already has over 150 trained and accredited carers, who are being supported by Humanists UK to meet this demand.

Demand for non-religious pastoral care

Today’s poll results show that the demand amongst the general public is real. By six to one, the public agree that non-religious people should have access to such pastoral care, with agreement crossing across all religious groups.

Furthermore, a plurality (45%) of non-religious people say they would personally choose to access a non-religious pastoral support provider, should one be available, compared to just 4% who have used a religious chaplain. Non-religious pastoral carers are found to be even more in demand, overall, than religious chaplains are. Demonstrating that the explicit naming of such support as ‘non-religious’ matters, less than 10% of people think that ‘chaplains’ can be non-Christians.

Some 75 healthcare institutions now have a NRPSN member on their team, constituting some 25% of acute trusts. The same is true of 15% of prisons. Between them, they are already supporting some tens of thousands of people a year. Thanks to charitable support, paid posts are now held by two pastoral carers in hospital teams, with more currently being recruited. Working with Humanists UK, NHS England recently organised training aimed at ensuring that paid adverts do not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of religion.

The NRPSN is also hoping to branch out into other settings, for example is in discussions about running a pilot in the armed forces, and is exploring work with ex-offenders and in healthcare community settings.

Commenting on the significance of these latest findings, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: ‘Ground-breaking initial research we conducted a few years ago with non-religious people in hospitals and prisons established a clear demand for humanist pastoral support. That demand is only reinforced by the results we are publishing today. We are delighted to now be in a position to begin to seriously meet that demand, as it is vital that everyone receives support and empathy in their times of greatest need, regardless of their religion or belief. We will continue to work hard to ensure that the gap in services for the non-religious that currently exists disappears in coming years.’

Summing up the need for non-religious pastoral care, NRPSN Chair Dr David Savage commented: ‘At our times of greatest need, it is vital that we all have access to likeminded individuals who can be a source of compassion and treat our views with dignity and respect. Religious people in hospitals, prisons, and the armed forces have long been able to seek such solace in chaplaincy services, but for the non-religious there has been nothing equivalent. That is now beginning to change, and we firmly believe that the establishment of the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network will have a transformative effect on the lives of the large non-religious population across the UK.’

Humanists UK Head of Pastoral Support Simon O’Donoghue, said: ‘The research shows that most non-religious people want to see a non-religious pastoral carer rather than a chaplain and that the vast majority of people associate “chaplains” solely with Christianity. The time is right to offer choice and fair provision to the non-religious majority and I’m delighted that the launch of this new network will support that essential aim.’

Notes

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

In 2014, the National Offender Management Service recognised that non-religious people in prison have the legal right to humanist pastoral care, and in 2015 NHS England updated its guidance on Promoting Excellence in Pastoral, Spiritual & Religious Care, which established for the first time that NHS bodies should provide equal pastoral support for the non-religious to chaplaincy services for the religious. Since then Humanists UK has appointed a paid Head of Pastoral Support, Simon O’Donoghue, established the NRPSN, and rapidly built up the network to meet that demand.

Read more about:

Supportive quotes

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health – extract from letter sent to the Chair of the NRPSN Board: ‘It would be wonderful to see this non-religious volunteer based initiative extended to other hospitals, to ensure that all patients have the same choice for care and support when they need it most.’

Keith Munnings, Chair of the Network of Pastoral, Spiritual and Religious Care in Health: ‘This is to express my personal respect and praise for the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network, gained through the work we have carried out together. Over the past three years I have served alongside NRPSN members whilst working together on a national project to better meet the pastoral needs of sick and dying patients in a variety of healthcare settings.

‘I have consistently found the contribution from the NRPSN management team to be of great value – always conducted in a collaborative and open manner, with the capacity to address difficult questions and to arrive at practical solutions to challenging emerging situations. I have never failed to be impressed by the calibre of these individuals and the possibility of them adding real value to the healthcare chaplaincy service.’

Mike Kavannagh, Chaplain General, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service: ‘It can be especially valuable where humanists are part of the chaplaincy team. Including them can help some prisoners whose sense of themselves may not involve a “higher power” but rather a renewed sense of faith in human potential to do good and of the dignity of human being apart from any notion of transcendence.

‘Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service is committed to ensuring high quality care for all, regardless of religion or belief, and we very much believe that Humanists UK/the NPRSN will be a useful addition in supporting our multi-faith teams in the care they can provide.’

Mark Burleigh, President of the College of Healthcare Chaplains and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust’s Managing Chaplain: ‘There was a strong ethos in Leicester that the chaplains were there to support all patients, relatives and staff of any religion or belief, but there was no paid member of the team who non-religious patients could choose. The Head of Chaplaincy put together a bid to the Leicester Hospitals’ Charity. The proposal was to secure sufficient funding for a half-time non-religious pastoral carer for 2 years and during that time to assess the demand for such a service and the benefit to patients.’

Jane Flint, Leicester University Hospitals Pastoral Carer and first paid non-religious pastoral carer in the NHS: ‘My duties include providing individual emotional (spiritual in the broadest, non-religious sense) support to patients, their families and staff. This may be in the context of support through a patient’s dying phase to the patient and anyone involved. It could be support in coming to terms with a difficult diagnosis or support to think through decisions the patient or family must make. At times it is support regarding the low mood that sometimes affects long term patients or fears and anxieties about how patients’ families are coping without them.

‘Feedback from patients is 100% positive. Even those who do not want any kind of support at the time tell me they are very glad to know there is support from a non-religious person available to them should they want it. Many local patients have also expressed their pride in their city for being the first NHS trust in the UK to have a non-religious pastoral support post.’

Asad Abbas, recipient of pastoral care at Guy’s & St. Thomas’ Hospital: ‘It would have been a pleasure meeting humanist pastoral carer David anywhere but more so in the hospital as you really welcome any human interaction in those settings. David spent some time with me when we talked not just about my health but also about humanism.

‘It probably depends on the individual, but I feel that those atheists who seek company must feel deprived when other patients have it in the form of a chaplain’s visit, but they don’t.’

Sue Falder, pastoral carer in Stafford Prison: ‘I have been working at Stafford long enough to be troubled by the lack of support in general for prisoners reentering the community, a situation that’s worse for non-religious prisoners. Hopefully our pastoral care network will build over the next few years and be able to branch out into areas like that as well.

‘I wish I were 20 or 30 years younger. There’s so much we can do now we’ve started!’

Allan Greenwood, pastoral carer in Sue Ryder Hospice: ‘Not everyone wants to talk about matters of life and death. At times conversations are just about patients’ families and their memories – the reminiscing that we all like to do. At other times, talk might just be about last night’s episode of Downton Abbey!

‘For me, the most important part of Hospice Volunteering is to provide a listening ear and to display a genuine interest in people’s unique situations.’

Isabel Millar, former paid pastoral carer in University of Westminster: ‘The creation of my role as Secular Advisor at Westminster University was an absolutely thrilling development. I advised on the perspective of humanism in the context of a multi-faith and culturally diverse institution and provided a non-religious ethical reference point with regard to social, cultural and political issues arising in the university.’

About Humanists UK

Humanists UK 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 Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network is a network of people who provide non-religious pastoral support across a range of institutional and community settings. We aim to grow our network of accredited non-religious pastoral support providers and foster it as a mutually supportive, professionalised community of practice. We encourage and support our volunteers, whilst engaging with relevant bodies to ensure the equal provision of care for the non-religious throughout the UK.

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/

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