Wales Humanists: News

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.

BHA responds to Prime Minister’s Easter message

Theresa May delivering her Easter message.

In her Easter message, Prime Minister Theresa May has commented that domestically, ‘We must continue to ensure that people feel able to speak about their faith, and that absolutely includes their faith in Christ.’

Responding to the comments, British Humanist Association Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘Theresa May is absolutely right that people should be free to speak about their religious beliefs. But if her comments are construed as suggesting that this is not currently the case, then this would be a mistake. A third of our state schools are Christian, every other state school must hold daily Christian worship, and bishops continue to sit as of right in the House of Lords. And so Christianity remains in a hugely privileged position in the UK today, not marginalised from the public sphere. It is this privilege that we must be tackling.’

Theresa May also commented, ‘We must be mindful of Christians and religious minorities around the world who do not enjoy these same freedoms, but who practise their religion in secret and often in fear. And we must do more to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions to practice their beliefs openly and in peace and safety. So this Easter, whatever our faith, let us come together as a nation confident in our values, and united in our commitment to fulfil the obligations that we have to one another.’

Mr Copson continued, ‘Again Mrs May is right to speak up for the need to ensure freedom of religion around the world. But whenever one does this, it is vital not to forget the freedom of the non-religious to also openly hold and live out their beliefs. In many parts of the world it is effectively impossible to be openly non-religious, with blasphemy and apostasy punishable by death. Just this week we have seen humanist activist Mashal Khan shot and beaten to death by a group of fellow students at his University in Pakistan. It is essential that his plight and the plight of others like him are not excluded from our efforts.’

Notes

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

Read Theresa May’s Easter message: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/easter-2017-theresa-mays-message

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.

Christian groups defend child corporal punishment in Wales

Corporal punishment in Wales could be on its way out

A proposal in Wales which would make it harder for parents to hit their children has inspired strenuous opposition from religious groups. First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones announced in 2016 that his Government would put forward legislation to remove the criminal defense of ‘reasonable chastisement’ for parents charged with common assault of a child. The Welsh Government is planning to put the measure to a vote in the National Assembly later this year.

The defence of reasonable chastisement has been widely criticised by international bodies for providing a significant loophole to child protection laws. Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights noted in 2008 that the defence was based on the view that children were property, and equated it with previous legal allowances for husbands to beat their wives. The UN reported in 2002 that the UK’s retention of the defence was in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and encouraged UK to do as many other democracies had done and fully criminalise child abuse.

A new campaigning group named Be Reasonable Wales, supported by the Christian Institute and the Family Education Trust, has been set up to scupper the change, which they (without irony) call an ‘assault on parenting’. The group’s website, whose branding does not make clear its links to the Christian Institute or Family Education Trust, is collecting signatures to urge the Welsh Government not to go ahead with its plans.

Wales Humanists coordinator Kathy Riddick said, ‘Wales has a golden opportunity to lead the UK in removing this outdated defence and living up to our obligations to respect the human rights of children. Expert charities like Children in Wales, Care for the Family, and Children in Need are calling for it and we support the First Minister in making it. Far from being an attack on parents, these proposals represent vital and long overdue recognition of children as people, deserving of fuller human rights.

‘The defence of reasonable chastisement was introduced by the UK Parliament in 1860, at the height of the Victorian era. Civilised societies have since moved on and parents today are more than capable of raising young people without resorting to violence.’

Notes

For further information, please contact Kathy Riddick, Wales Humanists Coordinator on 07881 625378, or kathy.riddick@humanism.org.uk.

See the Crown Prosecution Service’s guidelines on ‘reasonable chastisement’ in relation to the Offences Against the Person Act: http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/l_to_o/offences_against_the_person/#correction

Wales Humanists is part of the British Humanist Association. 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.

New stats reveal: only legalising humanist marriages will give same-sex couples a meaningful choice of type of marriage ceremony

The Office of National Statistics has published new statistics on the number of marriages, both same- and opposite-sex, which occurred in England and Wales in 2014, the first year that same-sex marriages were legally recognised. The statistics have revealed that just 23 couples out of the 4,850 who had same-sex marriages, or just 0.47%, opted to have religious same-sex marriages. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which performs a very high number of same-sex wedding ceremonies and has been doing so for over five decades, has responded by saying that the Government should recognise that only by extending legal recognition to humanist ceremonies will same-sex couples be offered a meaningful choice of type of marriage.

Humanist wedding ceremonies were legally recognised in Scotland in 2005, where they have since surged in popularity since, overtaking Church of Scotland ceremonies in 2015 to become the most popular type of belief-based ceremony. 14.4% of legal marriage ceremonies in Scotland are now humanist, compared to 13.7% being done by the Church of Scotland.

In England and Wales humanist ceremonies have also surged in number in recent years, but they are not legally recognised so lag behind Scotland in terms of popularity. Couples wishing to have a humanist ceremony must presently also visit the register office, at the expense of additional time and cost. This is in spite of the fact that polling shows humanist ceremonies are hugely popular with the general public.

During the passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Act through Parliament, the BHA secured a section that gives the Government the power to give legal recognition to humanist marriages without requiring a new Act of Parliament to be passed. It subsequently consulted on the matter and in 2014 found 95% of respondents in favour. But since then the Government has still not chosen to use its power.

More generally the new England and Wales statistics showed that religious marriages continued to decline as a proportion of legal marriages. 27.5% of opposite-sex marriages in 2014 were religious, down from 28.5% in 2013 and 30.1% in 2012.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘The Government extending legal recognition to humanist weddings would be popular, easy to do, and provide non-religious couples with the same choice as to how to get married as is already afforded to religious couples. And what is more, these new statistics reveal that that choice would be particularly valued by same-sex couples, who at present overwhelmingly feel they have no choice of type of marriage at all.

‘The Government is strongly committed to strengthening marriage as an institution. We urge it to give humanist marriages legal recognition as this is the best move it can now make to do that.’

Notes

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

Read the new marriage statistics: https://www.ons.gov.uk/releases/marriagesinenglandandwalesprovisional2014

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

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.

MPs vote in favour of decriminalising abortion in England and Wales

Diana Johnson MP presenting her Bill yesterday.

Members of the House of Commons yesterday voted by 172 to 142 in favour of a Ten Minute Rule bill brought by Diana Johnson MP, to decriminalise abortion in England and Wales. Currently women across the UK can be sent to jail for having an abortion without the permission of two doctors, even if she does so within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. The bill sought to repeal the 1861 Act which makes this the case, leaving in place the wider rules and regulations that only permit abortions during that 24-week time-frame and in certain other circumstances.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is a member of the We Trust Women Coalition, the campaign to decriminalise abortion across the UK, organised by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas). Thousands of BHA members and supporters emailed their MPs about the bill, and the BHA also briefed the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group in favour. 21 APPHG MPs were amongst those who voted for the change, with none voting against.

The BHA is also supporting campaigns to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland, where it is currently illegal in almost all circumstances. In 2015 the Northern Ireland High Court ruled that the fact that abortions are illegal even in the cases of rape, incest, and fatal foetal abnormality meant that women’s human rights are being breached. However, the Northern Ireland Assembly has since refused to amend the law to put that ruling into statute.

BHA Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘That a Victorian law, passed before women were even allowed to vote, means that women having abortions, even early on in a pregnancy, can and do face a jail term for doing so, is an unbelievable aspect of our modern society. Just one in five people believe this should be the case, and so we are glad that parliament has voted in favour of reform.

‘Having passed this first hurdle, a private member’s bill on decriminalising abortion will now be heard in the Commons and proceed to further stages of parliamentary debate. Although private members’ bills do not frequently become law, we will continue to campaign for the passage of the bill in the hope that this anachronism can be brought to an end.’

Notes

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

Read the transcript of the debate: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2017-03-13/debates/D76D740D-2DDD-4CCB-AC11-C0DBE3B7D0D8/ReproductiveHealth(AccessToTerminations)

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns around abortion: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/

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 is a member of the steering group of Voice for Choice, the national pro-choice coalition, and a supporter of the We Trust Women Campaign. Northern Ireland Humanists, which is a part of the BHA, is also on the steering group of Trust Women NI, the campaign coalition seeking abortion law reform in Northern Ireland.

Schools across UK receive free copies of What is Humanism? from British Humanist Association

What is Humanism? will be distributed to schools in every part of the UK

This week, schools across the United Kingdom will be receiving free copies of Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young’s children’s book What is Humanism? courtesy of the British Humanist Association (BHA), following a successful crowdfunding campaign.

What is Humanism? is the first of its kind: a nonfiction book for upper primary and lower secondary pupils which explores humanist views of morality and ethics, the origins of life, and the relationship between religion and the state. It is intended for use in the classroom or at home to help children from all backgrounds better understand the mainstream non-religious values shared by record numbers of people in the UK today.

This is the first time the BHA has distributed a book to primary schools, and for many schools, it will be the first book about non-religious worldviews in their libraries.

The book features special content provided by authors Stephen Fry, Natalie Haynes, and Philip Pullman, who are all patrons of the BHA, as well from the BHA’s Vice President, physicist Jim Al-Khalili, and its President, the comedian and novelist Shappi Khorsandi, who share their outlook on life.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented:

‘Thanks to generous donations from humanists across the UK, Michael and Annemarie’s groundbreaking new book will be available in classrooms and libraries throughout the country.

‘These days it’s more important than ever that children are able to learn about the different beliefs and perspectives they will encounter in modern Britain. It’s important that children have access to information about all the different religions and non-religious perspectives out there in the world today so they can make up their own minds about what they believe.’

Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young commented:

‘Millions of people in this country and all over the world work out their philosophy of life, and how to live, without referring to religion. Schools quite rightly spend a good deal of time and effort exploring the ideas and philosophies of the world’s great religions, but the ideas of humanism, secularism, and atheism are largely ignored. The mismatch between what is believed and what is taught is surely wrong. Our book aims at opening up a discussion about what humanism is, and how people live their lives as humanists. Throughout the book, readers are encouraged to ask questions, in order to help them think for themselves and thus to counter prejudice.’

Children read What is Humanism? with the authors

A 2015 court judgment, Fox v Secretary of State for Education, clarified that all schools in the United Kingdom have a positive duty to teach about Humanism, the UK’s principal non-religious worldview, as part of Religious Education (RE) lessons.

The BHA hopes that the book will go towards helping teachers to fulfil their statutory obligation by supporting young people to discover how many people today live happy, ethical, and fulfilling lives without religion.

The book is available to request for free through the BHA’s education website, Understanding Humanism, which also provides free teaching resources about Humanism for children of all ages, along with trained and accredited humanist School Speakers who can help teachers to plan and deliver inclusive RE lessons.

Humanists are non-religious people whose values include looking to reason and science to gain an understanding of the world around them and relying on empathy to make moral choices. Recent surveys estimate that as many as one in five people in the UK share these values, and that half of the population claim no religion. This number rises to two in three for Britons under 35.

Notes

For press inquiries or to arrange an interview with one of the authors, please contact BHA Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 07815 589 636. For questions about obtaining a copy of the book, please email BHA Head of Education Luke Donnellan at luke@humanism.org.uk.

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.

Understanding Humanism is the BHA’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.

A 2016 BHA-commissioned YouGov poll asked British adults a series of questions about their beliefs about religion, ethics, morality, and reason. The results found that 22% of the population has a non-religious outlook on life that matches the humanist one, and 17% would self-define as humanist when this fact was pointed out to them.

Nearly a million Welsh adults have a humanist approach to life, YouGov research shows

Outside the Senedd, Cardiff Bay. Credit: Wikimedia.

Outside the Senedd, Cardiff Bay. Credit: Wikimedia.

Nearly a million adults in Wales have a humanist approach to life and morality, according to YouGov research released at the launch of Wales Humanists at the Senedd in Cardiff today.

Respondents in Wales were asked to select which statement most closely matched their views in three areas of beliefs and values. The results showed that:

  • 66% of Welsh adults agreed that science and evidence provide the best way to understand the universe, while only 12% said that religion is needed for a complete understanding. 
  • 57% of Welsh adults agreed that what was right and wrong depended on the effects on people and the consequences for society and the world, rather than being unchanging (24%) or just a matter of personal preference (13%).
  • 74% of Welsh adults agreed that our empathy and compassion give us an understanding of what is right and wrong, rather than religious teachings.
  • 35% of Welsh adults (translating into around a million people in Wales) believed all three of these.

In addition, the YouGov research showed that  just over half of Welsh adults (51%) say they belong to no religion. This includes 73% of 18-24 year olds and 69% of 25-34 year olds. Only 26% identified as Anglicans and Episcopalians, 5% as Roman Catholics, 3% as Baptist, 3% as Methodist, and 6% as of some other religion.

‘Wales is a majority non-religious country and one in which many share humanist beliefs and values,’ said the Chair of Wales Humanists, Ben Morris, who will be part of the launch of Wales Humanists at the Senedd, this week. ‘Wales Humanists will provide community services, advocacy, and support to this new majority,’ he added.

The launch is being sponsored by humanist Julie Morgan AM and will introduce key priorities – specifically Humanism being accorded equal status in the school curriculum and an end to the requirement for ‘broadly Christian’ collective worship in all state schools in Wales. It will also be an opportunity to learn about other campaigns in the pipeline for Wales such as non-religious pastoral care in hospitals, prisons, and universities; legally recognised humanist marriages; and the right to die.

BHA President Shappi Khorsandi and Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association will be speaking at the event introducing Humanism and its goals in Wales.

‘Humanists in Wales have already achieved great things,’ said Khorsandi. ‘The research shows Wales is the least religious part of the UK, and leads the way on so many ethical issues. Wales Humanists will help galvanise that movement.’

Also attending will be BHA patrons, the Wales Humanists Committee, along with representatives from Welsh Government, interfaith groups, and other non-profit organisations. Wales Humanists is part of the British Humanist Association, the UK organisation working on behalf of non-religious people, who seek to live ethical lives on the basis of reason and humanity, and is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year.

‘Nearly a million people in Wales have a humanist approach to life so it’s the right time to be offering an alternative to religion,’ said Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association. ‘We will be providing non-religious ceremonies, talks and care services in hospitals, universities and prison, and promoting equal treatment regardless of religion or belief.’

Note 

For more information, please contact Kathy Riddick, Wales Humanist Development Officer on kathy.riddick@humanism.org.uk, or Sarah Gillam, Director of Communications and Development on sarah@humanism.org.uk on 020 7324 3079 or 07534 248 596.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1000 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17-21 November 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Welsh adults (aged 18+). See the full dataset: YouGov, 17-21 November 2016

35.08% of All Welsh adults ‘selected the humanist answer in all three statement questions’ and the official figure from the ONS suggests that there are 2,507,896 Welsh adults (those 18+), therefore 879,770 Welsh adults have a humanist approach to life and morality.

The three answer statements which are classed as a ‘humanist approach to life and morality’ were: ‘Science and evidence provide the best way to understand the universe’, ‘What is right and wrong depends on the effects on people and the consequences for society and the world’ and ‘Our empathy and compassion give us an understanding of what is right and wrong’.

Wales Humanists engage in upcoming elections

The Senedd debating chamber. Copyright Keith Edkins and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Where do the parties stand on key issues of concern to humanists? Today Wales Humanists are publishing a table giving an overview of their views on issues of concern to their members and supporters, ahead of the upcoming National Assembly for Wales election.

Wales Humanists put 7 questions to the various parties last month, and has produced the table by drawing on these responses, the parties’ manifestos, and other sources.

The questions asked were:

  1. Would you support non-religious worldviews such as Humanism being taught equally alongside religions in schools?
  2. Would you support fully inclusive admissions with no religious selection in all state-funded schools, including faith schools?
  3. Would you support making a high-quality, comprehensive personal and social education and sex education curriculum statutory in Welsh schools?
  4. Would you support an end to the archaic policy of reserving seats for Church of England Bishops in the House of Lords?
  5. Would you support the legalisation of humanist marriage in Wales, which has been hugely popular in Scotland since its legalisation in 2005?
  6. Would you oppose any moves in Westminster to weaken our human rights settlement, including pulling out of the European Convention on Human Rights – which is essential in protecting fundamental human rights and freedoms?
  7. Would you support the legalisation of assisted dying for people who are terminally ill or are permanently and incurably suffering, in order to protect their right to autonomy and self-determination?

Northern Ireland Humanists has similarly been asking questions of the parties, and the two groups have also been encouraging their supporters to contact their candidates. Meanwhile, in London, LGBT Humanists organised a hustings with representatives of the six biggest parties.

Kathy Riddick, Wales Humanists Coordinator, commented: ‘Respecting and promoting freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are key ways in which humanists seek to embody their values, and that means exercising their voting rights. We hope that this table will enable our members and supports to make a fully informed decision when choosing who to support in the upcoming assembly election, as well as to engage in the democratic process more generally.’

Notes

For further information, please contact Kathy Riddick, Wales Humanists Coordinator on 07881 625378, or Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072.

Wales Humanists is part of the British Humanist Association. 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.

Wales moves to new ‘soft opt-out’ system of organ donation

'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.

A new ‘soft opt-out’ system of organ donation will come into effect in Wales today, in a move which it is hoped will increase the number of organ donors by 25%. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has long campaigned for the introduction of such a system, and gave oral evidence to the Welsh Assembly Government Committee Inquiry on the matter. It has welcomed today’s change.

The soft opt-out system means that anyone who is over 18 and has lived in Wales for more than 12 months will be assumed to have given consent to donate their organs in the event that they die, unless they explicitly opt out, or their loved ones make it known at the end of their life that the individual would not have wished for their organs to be donated.

This is as opposed to the ‘opt-in’ system that previously operated in Wales, and still operates in the rest of the UK, whereby individuals are not deemed to have consented to donate their organs unless they explicitly opt in to the organ donor register. The problem with this system is that many individuals who would be happy to have their organs donated simply do not state a preference either way. The ‘soft opt out’ system means that such individuals will have their organs donated – while minimising the risk that other individuals who do not want this to happen to their organs will nonetheless end up as donors.

BHA Director of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘We welcome the move by Wales from an opt-in to soft opt-out system of organ donation. Such a change is set to increase the number of available organs for donation and thus reduce the number of individuals dying needlessly due to a shortage of donors – while at the same time, taking all necessary precautions to ensure that those with a conscientious objection to donating their organs will not do so.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at pavan@humanism.org.uk or on 0773 843 5059.

Read more about the BHA’s position on organ donation: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/organ-donation/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethically 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 of belief.

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