Category Archives: Europe

OMG, you can’t write that – Banned Books Event(s)

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Did you Know that September 18-24 is “Banned Books Week“?

The Banned Books Week Coalition is an international alliance of organizations joined in a commitment to increase awareness of the freedom to read. The coalition seeks to engage various communities and inspire participation in Banned Books Week through education, advocacy, and the creation of programming about the problem of book censorship.

Humanist Society of Scotland

Join Humanist Society of Scotland for an online evening of discussion to mark Banned Books Week 2022. In light of the recent horrific attack on Salman Rushdie and the increase in book banning in schools in the US driven by Christian fundamentalists, we wanted to create an event that highlights religious censorship of books. OMG, you can’t write that! Books, Censorship, and Religion 

Join the event online on Thursday 22nd September, 7:30pm-9pm

The panel discussion will be hosted by our CEO Fraser Sutherland and will include playwright and Lyceum artistic director David Greig, cartoonist and Executive Director of Cartoonists Rights Network International Terry Anderson, Emma Wadsworth-Jones of Humanists International and formerly of PEN International, and Professor Emerita of Royal Conservatoire Scotland, theatre director, and co-chair of Humanist Society Scotland Maggie Kinloch. The panel discussion will be followed by an audience Q&A. 

The event is free to attend, with donations to the legal fund of former Scottish Award for Humanism winner Mubarak Bala welcomed. Bala is serving a 24 year sentence in Nigeria after being found guilty in 2022 of 18 counts of public disturbance in relation to a ‘blasphemous’ Facebook post that he wrote.  

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: https://www.tophermacdonald.com/Banned-Books-Week
  2. https://bannedbooksweek.org/

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.

Amsterdam 2022: Humanists International’s 70th Anniversary Update of its Definitive Guiding Principle

Humanist International defines itself as “the global representative body of the humanist movement, uniting a diverse community of non-religious organizations and individuals. Inspired by humanist values, we are optimistic for a world where everyone can have a dignified and fulfilling life. We build, support and represent the global humanist movement and work to champion human rights and secularism.”

In other words, Humanist International strives to be the global voice for humanism. The organization held its annual General Assembly (i.e. governance and policy meetings) in Glasgow, Scotland (UK) from June 3-5 this year. The 2022 assembly represented a landmark as it marked the 70th anniversary of the first World Humanist Congress.

Back in 1952, the first World Humanist Congress launched The Amsterdam Declaration, a document which intended to articulate a set of agreed-upon fundamental principles of “modern humanism“.

Somewhat parenthetically, visitors to HumanistFreedoms.com may observe that we use the term “contemporary applied humanism” to describe our content rather than “modern applied humanism”. This choice is a deliberate choice as there are philosophical and semantic implications of the term “modernism” which are, to say the least, problematic.

Qualms and quibbles over terminology, such as we’ve just touched-upon, can be a necessary thing. Which is, presumably, why Humanists International included in its celebration of 70 years of existence, an update and relaunch of the 1952 original (and its 2002 revision) which is currently being called The Amsterdam Declaration 2022. It seems a bit odd that the new document hasn’t been called The Glasgow Declaration or even The Glasgow Revision of the Noordwijkerhoutu Update of the Amsterdam Declaration – but such is the nature of geo-political sentimentalism, traditionalism and authorial pride. It weens its way into just about everything to the extent that a “global” declaration must necessarily be tied to a specific set of meetings and those who attended.

How about “Global Declaration of Humanism III” and let everyone own it in the time and place of their own? Just a thought.

Humanists International have published an educational video for those who may be interested in the history and details which includes recitations of the text.

On the Humanists International website, the organization explains that the original declaration was a “child of its time” . The implication is that the original needed revision to bring it into alignment with contemporary perspectives and issues – that is to say, the tastes and attitudes of organization-based humanists of 2022.

Here is what the organized and political Humanists have establishes as the fundamental principles of humanism in 2022:

Humanist beliefs and values are as old as civilization and have a history in most societies around the world. Modern humanism is the culmination of these long traditions of reasoning about meaning and ethics, the source of inspiration for many of the world’s great thinkers, artists, and humanitarians, and is interwoven with the rise of modern science. As a global humanist movement, we seek to make all people aware of these essentials of the humanist worldview:

1. Humanists strive to be ethical

  • We accept that morality is inherent to the human condition, grounded in the ability of living things to suffer and flourish, motivated by the benefits of helping and not harming, enabled by reason and compassion, and needing no source outside of humanity.
  • We affirm the worth and dignity of the individual and the right of every human to the greatest possible freedom and fullest possible development compatible with the rights of others. To these ends we support peace, democracy, the rule of law, and universal legal human rights.
  • We reject all forms of racism and prejudice and the injustices that arise from them. We seek instead to promote the flourishing and fellowship of humanity in all its diversity and individuality.
  • We hold that personal liberty must be combined with a responsibility to society. A free person has duties to others, and we feel a duty of care to all of humanity, including future generations, and beyond this to all sentient beings.
  • We recognise that we are part of nature and accept our responsibility for the impact we have on the rest of the natural world.

2. Humanists strive to be rational

  • We are convinced that the solutions to the world’s problems lie in human reason, and action. We advocate the application of science and free inquiry to these problems, remembering that while science provides the means, human values must define the ends. We seek to use science and technology to enhance human well-being, and never callously or destructively.

3. Humanists strive for fulfillment in their lives

  • We value all sources of individual joy and fulfillment that harm no other, and we believe that personal development through the cultivation of creative and ethical living is a lifelong undertaking.
  • We therefore treasure artistic creativity and imagination and recognise the transforming power of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts. We cherish the beauty of the natural world and its potential to bring wonder, awe, and tranquility. We appreciate individual and communal exertion in physical activity, and the scope it offers for comradeship and achievement. We esteem the quest for knowledge, and the humility, wisdom, and insight it bestows.

4. Humanism meets the widespread demand for a source of meaning and purpose to stand as an alternative to dogmatic religion, authoritarian nationalism, tribal sectarianism, and selfish nihilism

  • Though we believe that a commitment to human well-being is ageless, our particular opinions are not based on revelations fixed for all time. Humanists recognise that no one is infallible or omniscient, and that knowledge of the world and of humankind can be won only through a continuing process of observation, learning, and rethinking.
  • For these reasons, we seek neither to avoid scrutiny nor to impose our view on all humanity. On the contrary, we are committed to the unfettered expression and exchange of ideas, and seek to cooperate with people of different beliefs who share our values, all in the cause of building a better world.
  • We are confident that humanity has the potential to solve the problems that confront us, through free inquiry, science, sympathy, and imagination in the furtherance of peace and human flourishing.
  • We call upon all who share these convictions to join us in this inspiring endeavor.

Is this a perfectly-achieved declaration? Certainly not. There are plenty of quibbles and nuances that probably need to be given some attention. But it may well be more adequate to serve most contemporary humanists needs and preferences when it comes to something like this than its 1952 and 2002 predecessors. Or maybe not.

Setting qualms and quibbles aside – it is a good thing that Humanists International and the growing number of national and local organizations continue to update and revise their public positions. Any organization which believes that it has nailed these things down once-and-for-all begins to dance the dance of dogma. We wouldn’t want that.

Nor would we want a Global Declaration of Fundamental Principles that we fully agree-with and are satisfied-by. A document like that seems like it would probably find itself out of relevance pretty damn quick. So let’s embrace those qualms and quibbles for what they are – indicators of the kind of progress we’d like to see within contemporary and future applied humanism.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: Humanists International
  2. https://humanists.international/2022/08/humanists-international-celebrates-70-years/
  3. https://humanists.international/what-is-humanism/the-amsterdam-declaration/

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 Call on UK Government to Reverse Decisions on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

Over 20 human rights, pro-choice, and international aid groups, and the Norwegian and Danish Governments, have called on the UK Government to reverse its decision to arbitrarily strip ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ and ‘bodily autonomy’ from an international human rights statement it – and 22 other countries – signed only two weeks ago.

The ‘Statement on freedom of religion or belief and gender equality’ was issued by the UK as part of the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief conference it hosted in London on 5-6 July.

However, the agreed statement, published on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office website, was inexplicably amended without consultation; removing any references to ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ and ‘bodily autonomy’.

Now the Norwegian and Danish Governments have criticised the move. The Norwegian Government has told the Guardian:

‘Norway and Denmark have approached the UK and the Netherlands, who are the chair and co-chair respectively of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA), to enquire about and protest against the substantive changes to the statement and the way the changes were made. Norway has yet to make a decision on being a signatory to the amended version of the statement.’

Furthermore, an array of influential charities and rights groups have signed a joint letter asking the UK Government to explain its reasoning behind the shock move and to reverse its decision immediately. The letter was organised by Humanists UK, which first spotted the change. Signatories include Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Watch, ActionAid UK, BPAS, MSI Reproductive Choices, Liberty, Fawcett, Brook, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Article 19, and Maternity Action.

They write to the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss:

‘We are writing to you with serious concern about the deletion of references to ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ and ‘bodily autonomy’ from the UK-organised ‘Statement on freedom of religion or belief and gender equality’. We urge you to reverse this move, and hope you could explain why the change happened in the first place.

‘As Professor Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, has said in response to the changes: “Claims that freedom of religion or belief can be invoked to deny women and girls the exercise and enjoyment of their sexual and reproductive health rights have no foundation in human rights. Rather, such claims must be rejected as representing intolerant and patriarchal attitudes that deny the equal rights of men and women to freedom of religion or belief. Such claims especially ignore that freedom of religion or belief also guarantees to women the right to bodily autonomy and conscientious choice.”

‘At a time when abortion provision around the world is under serious threat, due to the reversal of Roe v Wade, it has never been more important for the UK Government to stand up for sexual and reproductive health and rights and bodily autonomy. We note that the latest British Social Attitudes Survey to ask indicates that less than 5% of the UK population oppose access to abortion in all circumstances. In addition, 22 countries had signed up to the statement before revision – a similar number to those signing the other Ministerial statements – which is further indication that there is no sound reason for these amendments. We urge that they be reversed immediately.’

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK said:

‘The Government must surely be aware that, given the recent events in the United States, abortion rights are under threat. To amend an agreed statement in such a manner, omitting these rights, is therefore particularly poorly timed, never mind about being regrettable anyway.

‘Unfortunately, this supplanting of individual freedom under the guise of “religious freedom” is an example of the right to freedom of religion or belief being abused in order to infringe the rights of others.

‘The Government should withdraw these amendments.’

Marie Juul Petersen, Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for Human Rights, helped draft the original statement. She has told the Guardian that the revised text was ‘a big surprise’ and called the amendment process ‘flawed and unreasonable’. She added:

‘I saw the original statement as such a big step forward because this has been a very conflict-ridden area – the relationship between freedom of religion and belief and gender equality. For so many years, there have not been many attempts at finding synergies and overlaps or at demonstrating how these two sets of rights are actually compatible and in fact intertwined and inseparable. And I thought this statement was really a big step forward in that direction, showing that these two rights are not in opposition to one another but can actually reinforce one another. So I was really disappointed.’

A total of 22 countries signed the Statement before it was amended. The revised Statement has seen that number reduce to five of the original signatories, plus one new addition – anti-abortion Malta.

The stated intention of the London 2022 International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief was bringing international governments, parliamentarians, faith and belief representatives, and civil society together to increase global action on freedom of religion or belief for all.

Speakers included Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson, in his capacity as President of Humanists International, who spoke at the opening session alongside the Foreign Secretary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Chief Rabbi, and global Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh leaders.

Notes:

Those signing the letter protesting the changes to the original statement are:

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, Humanists UK

Clare Murphy, Chief Executive, British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)

Bethan Cobley, Director of Policy and Partnerships, MSI Reproductive Choices

Sacha Deshmukh, CEO, Amnesty International UK

Yasmine Ahmed, UK Director, Human Rights Watch

John Good, Acting CEO, ActionAid UK

Martha Spurrier, Director, Liberty

Jemima Olchawski, Chief Executive, Fawcett Society

Helen Marshall, Chief Executive, Brook, UK

Andrea Simon, Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition

Quinn McKew, Executive Director, Article 19

Ros Bragg, Director, Maternity Action

Mara Clarke, Founder, Abortion Support Network

Emma Campbell, Co-Convenor, Alliance for Choice

Jane Fisher, Director, Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC)

Dr Hayley Webb, Co-Chair, Doctors for Choice UK

Lesley Hoggart and Jayne Kavanagh, Co-Directors, Abortion Talk

Marge Berer, Retiring Coordinator, International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion

Tanya Taylor, Communications Manager, Sister Supporter

Rachel Adamson and Laura Tomson, Co-Directors, Zero Tolerance

Jackie Longworth, Chair, Fair Play South West, the women’s equality network

Professor Claire de Than, Chair, Sexual Health and Disability Alliance

Jo Kinsey, President, Business & Professional Women UK

Dr Pam Lowe, Senior Lecturer, Aston University

Marie Fox, Professor of Law, Health Law & Regulation Unit, University of Liverpool

Grainne Maginnis

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.

In terms of what has changed in the statement:

  • A part said ‘Discriminatory personal status laws, laws that allow harmful practices, or restrict women’s and girls’ full and equal enjoyment of all human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, bodily autonomy, and other laws that justify, condone, or reinforce violence, discrimination, or inequalities on the grounds of religion, belief or gender should be repealed’.It now merely says ‘Challenge discriminatory laws that justify, condone, or reinforce violence, discrimination, or inequalities on the grounds of religion, belief or gender and that restrict women and girls’ full and equal enjoyment of human rights’.The significant change here appears to be the removal of ‘laws that restrict women’s and girls’ full and equal enjoyment of all human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, bodily autonomy… should be repealed’.
  • A part said ‘We commit to protect and support individuals, organisations and institutions that work to promote gender-responsive religious interpretations and practices’.‘gender-responsive’ has been replaced with ‘human dignity through’.
  • A part said ‘support and build capacities of local religious and belief leaders to advocate for gender equality, denounce sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices and ensure access to sexual and reproductive health and rights’.Everything after ‘religious and belief leaders’ has been deleted. So again, sexual and reproductive health and rights has been removed.
  • As already noted, 18 signatory countries of the statement have come off the list, while one – Malta – has signed since.

Read the original and revised statements, and view the differences between the two as tracked changes.

Read more about the Ministerial.

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

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of :  
  2. https://humanists.uk/2022/07/22/norway-denmark-and-human-rights-groups-challenge-uk-over-abortion-rollback/

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.

Humanism in Education: With Hope that a Broad Curriculum May Lead to Broad Minds

Under legal pressure from a humanist parent, a school without a religious character in Worcestershire has radically altered its planned Key Stage 4 curriculum for 2022/23, in order to make sure that its religious education is fully inclusive of humanism.

Humanists UK, which supported the parent, said the decision marks a ‘significant win’ in making sure that schools do not force a narrow curriculum on children, and says the Department for Education and other schools must now make sure that such a broad curriculum is also offered everywhere else. In a timely coincidence an amendment to the Schools Bill, to replace RE with ‘religion and worldviews’ education in schools without a religious character, is due to be debated during Report Stage of the Bill on the afternoon of 12 July. The amendment is being proposed by crossbench peer Baroness Meacher.

Humanist parent James Hammond launched the case after learning that his child was being mandated to study an RE GCSE with a syllabus that was not inclusive of non-religious worldviews. No additional teaching was to be provided to make up for this exclusivity. All other schools in the academy trust apart from the one in question appeared to provide inclusive RE. Furthermore, since the school did not provide alternative GCSE options for those withdrawing from RE, if Mr Hammond withdrew his child, then they would have missed out on one GCSE qualification compared with their peers.

The academy has agreed to meet the parent’s request by providing, in addition to the GCSE course, two other units of RE, one for Year 10 and one for Year 11, focusing on non-religious worldviews and taught from a critical and objective perspective. Each unit will run for 6-7 weeks, and will meet the requirement to accord equal respect for non-religious worldviews in RE, as established in 2015 by the Fox case.

Parent James Hammond said: 

‘I’m delighted that the school has conceded in this case, and by so doing accepted that its RE provision for years 10 and 11 was unlawful, due to not being inclusive of non-religious worldviews.

‘It was wholly wrong that a school of no religious character was imposing such a narrowly-focused RE curriculum on 15 and 16 years olds: at that age they are developing advanced powers of reason and thought, so to deny them the ability to learn about non-religious beliefs and values was both discriminatory and short-sighted, given the increasingly non-religious demographics in Britain.’

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Robert Cann said: 

‘This is a significant win. The Fox case in 2015, which was supported by Humanists UK, clearly set a legal precedent – this school should never have forced Mr Hammond into taking this action in the first place, and we are glad that it eventually conceded the case.

‘But the fact that the school was able to behave in this way in the first place was due to a failure of leadership by the UK Government. We’d much rather not be going through the courts – the Government must enable the Schools Bill to bring this case law onto the statute book, by accepting today’s amendment on religion and worldviews education.’

Dan Rosenberg of Simpson Millar said: 

‘While my client is pleased that the case has been resolved in a way that enables his child to be taught RE in a more inclusive way, it should not have required the threat of legal action to resolve this. Mandating a GCSE course focused exclusively on religious worldviews for all pupils, at a school without a religious character, and as the entirety of their RE provision, was always going to run into legal trouble. The school has sensibly acknowledged the need for a significantly wider offering.

‘My client hopes that other schools will take a cooperative and responsible approach to providing non-discriminatory, inclusive education for all children, and no other parents will need to instruct solicitors to ensure that their  concerns and beliefs are taken seriously.’

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of :  
  2. https://humanists.uk/2022/07/12/school-will-provide-re-fully-inclusive-of-humanism-following-legal-threat/

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.

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.