Category Archives: Europe

UK School Bills Debate 2022: Still Lording-it Over the People

June 14th, 2022

Amendments to the Government’s Schools Bill that would reform religious education, replace compulsory collective worship with inclusive assemblies, and end religious discrimination for teachers, were debated in the House of Lords on Monday night. Humanists UK has long called for changes to the law in these areas, and worked with members and supporters of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group to see the amendments tabled. However, the Government spoke out against the amendments, leading to them being withdrawn.

The proposed improvements to the Schools Bill were as follows:

  • Inclusive Religious Education:
  1. to make it explicit that RE outside of faith academies must be inclusive of non-religious worldviews such as humanism – in line with what is already required by case law; and rename the subject accordingly to ‘religion and worldviews’, and
  2. to require faith academies to provide an inclusive alternative to faith-based religious education (RE) for those who request it.
  • Compulsory collective worship and inclusive assemblies:
  1. to replace the requirement for collective worship outside of faith academies with a requirement for inclusive assemblies, and
  2. to require faith academies to provide a meaningful alternative assembly for pupils withdrawn from collective worship.
  • Teacher discrimination:

To reduce faith-based teacher discrimination, by making it clear that faith academies cannot discriminate on grounds of religion during the hiring or promotion of teaching staff unless there is a ‘genuine occupational requirement’.

Discussing the amendments on collective worship, Baroness Meacher (Crossbench) paid tribute to Humanists UK’s work. She also explained that:

‘under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, younger children have the right to freedom of religion or belief. We do not seem to provide that in this country at the moment [due to the collective worship law].’

APPHG member Baroness Whitaker (Labour) also rose in support of the inclusive assemblies amendments. She explained that in a diverse society such as the UK, replacing compulsory Christian worship with inclusive assemblies in schools without a religious character is important because:

‘To live with each other, we need to understand each other within a framework of human rights; we need to learn to respect where our fellow citizens are coming from. I suggest that this is a better way to avoid extremism—from any side—than excluding the traditions that people value. Among those are values that establish a moral code that is not faith-based.’

Former Schools Minister and humanist Lord Knight (Labour), speaking in support of the amendments to make RE more inclusive of non-religious worldviews, refuted the Government’s often-used defence of the faith school system, namely that it gives parents choice:

‘The DfE’s associated memorandum declares that it is not compulsory for a child to attend a school with a religious designation, but of course this ignores the fact that, as we have heard, thousands of parents are effectively having to send their children to faith schools every year because there is no suitable alternative locally. That was definitely the case in my former constituency of South Dorset in the rural areas where many or indeed most of the village schools were Church of England schools…’

Lord Shipley (Liberal Democrat) supported the amendments, and pressed the Government to give some clarity on the existing law:

‘As I understand it, these amendments would not actually change the legal position but place existing case law into statute. In 2015, in the case of Fox v Secretary of State for Education, the High Court ruled against the DfE and in favour of three humanist parents and their children who challenged the Government’s relegation of non-religious world views in the new subject content for GCSE religious studies. The court stated that religious and non-religious world views, such as humanism, must be afforded equal respect in the RE curriculum…’

The Labour frontbench, via Baroness Wilcox, also spoke in praise of the amendments, and referenced recent, similar changes in Wales:

‘These are admirable aims… It is important to break down stigmas, and non-religious children in faith schools should not be made to feel left out if they opt out. The Government should think carefully about how to encourage this here. The amendments and the work in Wales are a way forward to do this’.

Responding for the Government, Baroness Penn explained that the Government was not going to support the amendments, believing them to be ‘unnecessary’ – even claiming that compulsory collective worship was a way to further the ‘spiritual, moral, social and cultural’ (SMSC) education of children. In so doing, she failed to recognise that children from non-religious backgrounds are automatically failed by such requirements.

Baroness Penn then went on to say that there was no parental demand for inclusive RE and therefore providing for it was not necessary:

‘I am unaware of significant demand from parents who withdraw their children from religious education to have this replaced by education representative of a wider range of religious and non-religious beliefs… we believe that it [the amendment] is unnecessary because RE will likely already include the concept of non-religious world views.

The Government’s claim that RE is already inclusive of non-religious worldviews is false: Humanists UK knows of many examples of narrowly-focused RE curriculums, and often works with parents to challenge these. Furthermore simply ‘including the concept’ of non-religious worldviews is by no means the same as affording it the ‘equal respect’ required following the 2015 Fox Case.

Baroness Penn finished her speech by making it clear that the Government had no intention to remove the discriminatory privileges afforded to faith schools in the recruitment of teachers:

‘The Government supports the freedoms and protections associated with academies with a religious character, including their freedoms to continue to appoint, promote and remunerate their teachers and deal with their employment with reference to the relevant religion or religious denomination.’

The Baroness’s response on behalf of the Government made no reference to the fact that the amendment would in fact have retained the ‘genuine occupational requirement’ (GOR) qualification – which is no more than a faith school should require if, for example, needing to recruit a religious teacher to lead a specific act of worship. Northern Ireland has recently changed the law to remove this ability to discriminate against teachers on grounds of religion if there is no GOR; the rest of the UK now lags behind.

The Schools Bill also contains measures to tackle illegal schools. Humanists UK has worked on two amendments to improve those proposals. These are likely to be debated next week.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Robert Cann said:

‘It was heartening to see such support in Parliament, even late on a Monday evening, for these important amendments, and we’re grateful to all peers who spoke so eloquently about religious education, inclusive assemblies, and teacher discrimination.

‘The Schools Bill is a great opportunity to improve the law around religion in schools to make our education system fit for the 21st century. While not surprising, we will use the Government’s negative response to plan our approach to the Report Stage of the Bill, and look forward to working with peers again. These issues are not going away.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read the debate on the amendments on Hansard.

Watch the debate on the Parliament TV website.

Visit the Schools Bill page on the Parliament website.

Read our article on the Queen’s Speech.

Read our exposé on illegal schools operating during lockdown.

Read more about our work on illegal schoolsreligious education, and collective worship.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Feature Image Courtesy: https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/opinion/columnists/time-reform-house-lords-and-sack-work-shy-peers-bill-carmichael-2935052
  2. https://www.christian.org.uk/news/govt-blocks-attempt-to-include-atheism-in-re/
  3. https://humanists.uk/2022/06/14/government-blocks-inclusive-re-and-assemblies-during-schools-bill-debate/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

War in Ukraine 2022: What are the Humanists Saying?

On February 24, 2022, the Russian military invaded Ukraine. Whether this conflict should be considered any more or less serious than other global conflicts may be a matter for historians to consider at some future date. Currently, however, this seems to be a very concerning situation as it is viewed by some as the largest military assault in Europe since the 1940’s. This attitude seems to ignore the Bosnian war of the early 1990’s, which was no small incident.

Setting aside comparisons, the conflict in Ukraine may well be a world-changing situation. So HumanistFreedoms.com is interested to know what humanists and humanist organizations have to say. Following is a sample of what we’ve found. Are you a humanist and have something to say? Do you know about a humanist position on this situation that we ought to cover? Let us know.


February 28, 2022: Humanists International Says “Human Rights Council must act in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”

Ahead of an urgent debate at the UN Human Rights Council on the Human Rights situation in Ukraine following the unprovoked and illegal invasion by Russia, Humanists International is calling for the creation of a UN mechanism to monitor and report on the situation in Ukraine and for Russia to be suspended as a member of the Human Rights Council.

During the opening of the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council – which began this morning – Ukraine called on the Council to approve the holding of an urgent debate following the Russian invasion on 24 February.

When requesting that the debate happen, the Ukrainian Ambassador, said, “The reason for this request is known to the whole world. Russia, a member of this Council, perpetrated an unprovoked and unified attack on Ukraine.” She noted that, “Russian aggression is accompanied by a massive flow of disinformation that aims to distort the truth and mislead the international community. Some of it we will hear today, as well as in other rooms of the [UN] Palais des Nations.”

Members of the Human Rights Council approved the request of an urgent debate to be held, with 29 out of 47 countries voted in favor. China, Cuba, Russia, Venezuela and Eritrea voted against having the debate. Armenia, Cameroon, Gabon, India, Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Namibia, Pakistan, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, UAE, and Uzbekistan abstained.

The debate is scheduled to happen on Thursday 3 March and Friday 4 March.

Ahead of the debate, Humanists International is calling for the debate to lead to the adoption of a resolution unequivocally condemning Russia’s violations of international law, including international criminal law, international human rights law and the UN Charter. It should recognise that Russia’s actions against Ukraine constitute an unprovoked and illegal invasion, and one which has, and will, result in massive human rights violations.

It is also calling for the resolution to:

  • Call on the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia’s membership of the Human Rights Council (in line with GA Resolutions General Assembly Resolution 60/251);
  • Create a Commission of Inquiry, to monitor and report on the situation in Ukraine and to promote accountability for all human rights violations;
  • Mandate a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Russia itself. The oppressive human rights climate in the Russian Federation itself (including the severe restrictions on free expression, the widespread propagation of disinformation, the repression of civil society, and the intimidation, censoring and criminalisation of journalists) all contribute to the Russian government being able to wage a war of aggression without accountability at home.


March 1, 2022 on Pressenza: A Guide for Peace in Ukraine: A Humanist and Nonviolent Proposal

The Centre for Humanist Studies “Exemplary Actions”, the Portuguese branch of the World Centre for Humanist Studies, an organism of the Humanist Movement, is disseminating a non-violent proposal for the restoration of peace in Ukraine, inviting citizens and non-governmental organisations who identify with it to sign it and send it to the Russian, Ukrainian and American embassies, as well as to the United Nations (UN), the European Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of their respective countries, to sign it and send it to the Russian, Ukrainian and American embassies, as well as to the United Nations (UN), the European Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of their respective countries, in order to produce a popular outcry capable of influencing the course of events.

For your information, we transcribe here the humanist proposal in its entirety:

Whereas,

  • A nation is defined by the mutual recognition established by people who identify themselves with similar values ​​and who aspire to a common future – and this does not necessarily have to do with race or ethnicity, or with language, or with History understood as a long process that begins in a mythical past;
  • This mutual recognition between people can lead to the formation of national or plurinational States, as well as the existence of nations spread over several States, without this implying the loss of the individual’s sense of belonging to their community or preventing the possibility of convergence in diversity;
  • States do not have the potentiality to constitute, by themselves, nations and can, therefore, be transformed throughout history, since they are, for all intents and purposes, changeable social and political constructions, as models of governance of peoples ;
  • National minorities have, in any case, the right to have their cultural specificity recognized, as well as the right to self-determination, within the framework of a democratic federative organization and respect for human rights.

And recognizing that,

  • Peaceful conflict resolution requires each party to put itself in the other’s shoes, opening itself to a process of cooperative negotiation and reciprocal treatment;
  • National interests must be reciprocally attended, as far as possible, but they do not justify everything, nor can they override the human being as a central value and concern;
  • The freedom of choice of individuals and peoples only exists if it can be exercised without external pressure and interference, imposed in a violent way;
  • Humanity’s progress is not made through the constitution of empires or supranational entities that alienate the power of the social base in favour of particular economic interests, but through the construction of a Universal Human Nation, diverse and inclusive, governed by freedom, equal rights and opportunities and non-violence;

We propose the following guide for peace, given the difficult situation currently experienced on Ukrainian territory, with a view to halting the unacceptable return to war on European soil, which has caused so much life and destruction in the recent past:

  1. Immediate ceasefire between the warring parties and opening of humanitarian corridors for assistance to civilian populations;
  2. Withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory and creation of a multinational peacekeeping force, constituted under the aegis of the United Nations (UN), for the Dombass region;
  3. Temporary demilitarization of Dombass by the belligerent forces and the possibility of the return of refugee civilian populations;
  4. Organization of a fair and free referendum on the self-determination of Dombass territory, under UN supervision, with a commitment to the acceptance of the respective results by the interested parties;
  5. Organization of a fair and free referendum on the self-determination of the territory of Crimea, under UN supervision, with a commitment to the acceptance of the respective results by the interested parties;
  6. Adoption of a status of political-military neutrality by Ukraine and recognition of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, depending on the results of the aforementioned referendums, by Russia;
  7. Lifting of all economic sanctions between the parties and resumption of international political and economic cooperation.
  8. Conducting international talks on nuclear and conventional disarmament at regional and global levels.

March 4, 2022 : The Ontario Humanist Society Condemns Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

OHS calls for Russia to cease its illegal and unprovoked actions, and to cease all challenges to Ukraine’s independence. Russia must terminate its violation of international law and of the UN Charter, and withdraw from Ukraine immediately. There is no justification for this aggression and the cost will be borne by innocent Ukrainians. As Humanists we can NOT turn away from this humanitarian crisis. We encourage OHS members to stand behind the Ukrainian people through the many opportunities available to us, some suggestions are listed below. Our Ethical Actions Committee will further examine steps we can take to continue to show our support for Ukraine.

If you would like to donate to support Ukraine, here are some charities that you might wish to consider:

Canada/Ukraine Foundation

Ukrainian Red Cross

Canadian Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal The Canadian Government will match all donations by Canadians dollar-for-dollar, to a maximum of $10 million.

United Nations High Commission on Refugees Canada

If you would like to provide input into Canada’s response to the situation in Ukraine:

Write to our Prime Minister https://pm.gc.ca/en/connect/contact

Or seek out an on-line petition that supports your point of view. Thank you for joining the OHS board in condemning this travesty that is unfolding before us.

Sincerely,

Kerry J. Bowser President, OHS


March 14, 2022: The Gold Foundation’s Statement in Support of Ukraine and Humanism

These tumultuous and uncertain times demand of us the greatest possible expression of humanism. As Dr. George Thibault, Trustee of the Gold Foundation, has said in his defining essay on this topic,  “It will be hard to have humanism in medicine if there is no humanism in the world around us.

We are reminded of these words as the crisis continues to unfold in the Ukraine. Russia has attacked not only military targets and soldiers but civilians, schools, homes, and hospitals. More than 30 hospitals have been destroyed, including the horrific bombing of a children’s hospital in Mariupol.

These attacks are the essence of anti-humanism, sparing no human interests, values, and dignity. They are both direct attacks on humanism in healthcare, the sphere of our work, and on the wider humanism in our world, literally the foundation of freedom, compassion and science.

Still, through the scenes of rubble and destruction, we see humanity. Humanity in the healthcare heroes dodging artillery as they work tirelessly on the frontlines of the conflict. Humanity in those rising to defend their homes, their country, and democracy at large. Humanity in the charitable donations and mobilization here in the United States and around the globe. Humanity in a time where home can be everywhere and nowhere all at once, an unfortunate truth that tells the story of so many refugees from war and conflict throughout our world.

At the Gold Foundation, in thousands of ways, we’ve seen Gold community members apply compassion, collaboration, and scientific excellence in practical, real-life ways throughout their clinical work, teachings, talks, and relationships. The culture of humanism in healthcare is the bedrock of the Gold Foundation, influencing all of our work, creating the structure and draw of the Gold community and its Gold Humanism Honor Society, whose Advisory Council voted unanimously to publish a statement on the inhumanity of the tragedy in Ukraine. It is joined by the entirety of the Gold Foundation family in standing with the efforts of humanists around the world who rally together and further humanism in all its forms. The Ukrainian people and all people affected depend on the shared mission of humanism, in this crisis and in the years to come.


March 16, 2022: Humanists International says: Belgian Humanist convoy reaches Ukraine border with humanitarian aid

After a journey of 1,500km, employees from deMens.nu and Centre d’Action Laïque reached Medyka, a village on the Polish-Ukrainian border, on Monday night.

Four vans, packed with medical supplies and other necessities, were unloaded at the tent camp yesterday, then sorted and distributed to Ukrainian refugees .

“We are all very impressed by what we have seen. It is quiet in the car, words fail everyone . Despite the confrontation with a lot of human suffering, I am particularly proud of our humanist community, which has shown its full force,” says Yasmina El Boubkari.

deMens.nu is still collecting funds to help Ukrainian refugees. You can donate to BE 55 9734 2242 6344.

With this money, deMens.nu and CAL are buying bandages, syringes, infusions,, paracetamol, ibuprofen, isobetadine, styptic drugs, antibiotics, haemostatic agents, but also baby food, milk powder, wet wipes, sanitary towels, candles, diapers, thermal blankets, gloves, hats, stockings, backpacks, thermal clothing, ski clothes, sleeping bags, food preserves and ready meals.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of
  2. https://www.ontariohumanists.ca/post/the-ontario-humanist-condemns-russia-s-invasion-of-ukraine
  3. https://www.gold-foundation.org/newsroom/news/statement-in-support-of-ukraine-and-humanism/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Russian_invasion_of_Ukraine
  5. https://www.elephantjournal.com/2022/03/war-humanism-racism-in-ukraine-when-people-arent-just-people-anymore-james-ezimoha/
  6. https://www.pressenza.com/2022/03/a-guide-for-peace-in-ukraine-a-humanist-and-nonviolent-proposal/
  7. https://humanists.international/2022/02/humanists-international-human-rights-council-must-act-in-response-to-russias-invasion-of-ukraine/
  8. https://humanists.international/2022/03/belgian-humanist-convoy-reaches-ukraine-border-with-humanitarian-aid/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Humanists UK’s New President

Humanists UK is delighted to announce that acclaimed geneticist, science writer, broadcaster, and humanist Adam Rutherford will be its next President. He will succeed current President Alice Roberts in June 2022 who, like her predecessors as President, will become a Vice President of Humanists UK.

Adam has been a high-profile ambassador and patron of Humanists UK for many years, especially as an advocate for robust science education and against religious discrimination in state faith schools. As President, Adam has pledged to spearhead both those campaigns, as well as Humanists UK’s campaign for assisted dying. He will also continue Humanists UK’s work of connecting the millions of non-religious people in the UK who strongly hold to values of rational thinking, kindness, and empathy – the humanist approach to life.

According to YouGov research, over 17 million people in the UK hold humanist beliefs and values, with 5 million primarily calling themselves ‘humanists’. Around 34 million people – half the population of the UK – identify as ‘non-religious’.

Adam continues to use his platform and his insights as a geneticist to challenge racism and to promote humanist values. He delivered Humanists UK’s 2019 Voltaire Lecture, How to argue with a racist, which became the basis for his 2020 bestselling book of the same name. The lecture, and indeed, much of Adam’s work, challenged false claims from religion, pseudoscience, and simple prejudice, emphasising instead our common humanity and our capacity to build a better society. This is also the subject of his latest book, Control: The Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics.

Accepting the appointment, Adam Rutherford said:

‘As a geneticist, I believe strongly in our shared humanity and how, through science and the humanist values of logic, reason, and evidence, we can overcome divisions and create a society where everyone is treated equally.

Surveys show that most people in the UK are non-religious, and about a quarter hold humanist beliefs and values. Humanists can be found in so many walks of life and, by working together, there is so much we can do to help promote a better, fairer society.

I am deeply honoured to become the next President of Humanists UK and to be part of this community of like-minded, thoughtful, and compassionate people striving for positive social change.’

Adam also paid tribute to his predecessor Alice Roberts, saying:

‘Alice has done an amazing job at advancing the causes of and promoting humanism to a wider audience. She’s a hard act to follow, but it’s an honour to do so.’

Welcoming the appointment, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘Throughout his career Adam has used his platform as a geneticist and science communicator to challenge falsehood and prejudice in the interests of building a better society.

At a time of increased uncertainty, and when our work in bringing non-religious people together is more important than ever, we are delighted to welcome such an experienced communicator with a passion for promoting humanist values.’

Outgoing President Professor Alice Roberts commented:

‘Since 2019, I’ve been honoured to serve as President of Humanists UK and help to bring attention to our amazing work – from our ceremonies for non-religious people and the support we offer to the vulnerable in hospitals and prisons, through to our important campaigns for freedom of thought, choice, and expression. Adam is a brilliant scientist and communicator who I know will do a fantastic job promoting the values of humanism.’

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of
  2. https://humanists.uk/2022/03/05/adam-rutherford-named-next-president-of-humanists-uk/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Roadrunner: Anthony Bourdain and How Humanism Infuses Everything

Featured in the trailer for Roadrunner, a documentary about chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain, is a comment which argues that, “It was almost never about food…he was about totally learning to be a better person.”

Whether by design and intent or not, this singular comment provides a measured, rich and delicious metaphor for how a deeply-lived humanism infuses everything.

Human connection and humanism rarely separate us from our world. Humanism tends to deepen our care for all of the people, things and processes that surround us.

In Emily Zemler’s interview (Inside the Hurt and Humanism of Anthony Bourdain Doc ‘Roadrunner’), Morgan Neville, the film-maker says, “For somebody like Keith Richards or Iggy Pop, they’ve survived because they don’t care about anything, in a way that is enlightened. They don’t care what people say about them. They don’t care how they come off. They care about the people in their lives and, as Iggy says in the people, the people who love him. They are family people. But they have a relaxed way of being in the world. It’s carefree, which is enviable. And Tony was the opposite. He cared about everything. Every tweet. Every review. Every episode. As much as he tried to walk the walk, constitutionally he was not a Dionysian figure.

Anthony Bourdain’s suicide evokes a great sadness. But a person’s life is not entirely understood by cutting consideration of the person down to nothing more than the nature of their death. When has it been more necessary than today to understand that none of us are entirely defined by our best moments, our worst moments or even our final moments?

Morgan Neville said, “He was such an humanist, but also so fucking funny — and dark.” Considering Anthony Boudain’s humanism and considering all others via a humanist perspective opens inquiry and curiosity rather than shuttering it with a grieving-veil of emotional taboo.

In the essay Why People Loved Bourdain, Jaron Gilinski argued that “Tony stood for more than mere writing, travelling, and eating. In pursuing those three actions with gusto, perhaps to his chagrin, he became a cultural icon for the 3 ism’s of humanism, pluralism, and globalism, values held sacred to many across the planet. Anthony Bourdain had a trademark formula for human connection that is so simple, so replicable, and yet so lost in today’s world. His ingenious discovery was that when you sit down and share a meal with someone, anyone, you have a better chance of understanding them. you ask the right questions over intoxicating aromas, a real connection can be made.

Olivia Durif (Pouring One out for Anthony Bourdain) was inspired by Bourdain to write, “Eating, for Bourdain, was ultimately a humanist act. It is a good thing, he believed, to care about strangers, especially if you cannot imagine how they live their lives. It is also good to eat in many different kinds of places: at a restaurant, on the street, at the home of a friend, with a stranger.

This is a lesson of humanism. Whether one experiences life as a chef, a teacher, a corporate executive a dentist or any other occupation that you care to mention – human connection can, if you open up to it, infuse every part of that experience.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://www.focusfeatures.com/roadrunner
  2. https://observer.com/2021/07/anthony-bourdain-roadrunner-morgan-neville-interview/
  3. https://jarongilinsky.medium.com/why-people-loved-bourdain-d152d22c5954
  4. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/pouring-one-anthony-bourdain/#!


The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Most Senior Appointment YET For A Humanist Pastoral Carer at an NHS Trust

Lindsay van Dijk has been appointed to head up the chaplaincy and pastoral care team at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which provides person-centred pastoral and spiritual care. As a head of service role, this is the most senior role a humanist pastoral carer has ever held in the NHS. She is also the youngest person to have held such a position. Humanists UK has congratulated Ms van Dijk. It hopes her appointment will encourage other trusts to embrace more inclusive and diverse pastoral care teams.

Research shows that only 4% of hospital visits by religious chaplains are to non-religious patients. This suggests that non-religious people’s pastoral needs are not met when an NHS trust only has religious chaplains. People in need of support should be able to choose to speak to someone who shares their worldview. Until recently, only religious chaplains provided this kind of service. But recently some NHS trusts have started to introduce non-religious pastoral carers.

Previously, Ms Van Dijk was Lead Chaplain at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust. She is also the chair of the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network (NRPSN), which is part of Humanists UK. She holds a BA and MA in humanist pastoral care from the University of Humanistic Studies in the Netherlands. She is currently studying for a PhD in humanist pastoral care. She worked at the Humanist Community at Harvard as a humanist pastoral carer. She held posts in a hospice and nursing home for elderly patients with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She has also worked as a humanist pastoral carer at a UK secondary school. She is a member of the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) and accredited by the UK Board of Healthcare Chaplaincy (UKBHC).

Welcoming the appointment, Humanists UK’s Head of Humanist Care Clare Elcombe Webber commented,

‘I am delighted that Lindsay has been appointed to such a senior role within an NHS Trust. A few years ago, such opportunities were not open to humanists. Non-religious people were not able to get the like-minded support that they needed. It is a mark of how far we have come that a humanist is a Head of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care. We hope this appointment will be a catalyst not only for other trusts to embrace inclusion and diversity, but other public institutions such as the prison service and armed forces to do the same.’

On her appointment, Lindsay van Dijk commented,

‘It is a great honour to be appointed to this position. The heart of my role is to ensure that patients get the person-centred care that they need and is right for them.’

NHS England is currently reviewing its Chaplaincy Guidelines, which set out best practice across pastoral, spiritual, and religious care. Humanists UK is currently working with other religion and belief groups to make sure that the new guidelines address issues of equality and inclusion as standard practice. This includes the need for non-religious pastoral care.

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Ms van Dijk has made an image available for use by media. Photo credit Edward Thompson. Twitter @_edthompson, Instagram @mredthompson.

Read more about Humanist Care.

Read more about the work of the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofEdward Thompson. Twitter @_edthompson, Instagram @mredthompson.
  2. https://humanism.org.uk/2021/06/09/most-senior-appointment-yet-for-a-humanist-pastoral-carer-at-an-nhs-trust/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.