British Humanist Association e-bulletin 9th November 2009
The BHA notes with regret the passing of a further Remembrance Sunday that fails to accommodate individuals from a non-religious background. As with a number of national events, the current Remembrance ceremony disregards the variety of beliefs held within the armed forces and the population as a whole.
Despite making representations on the matter, including to the Home Office and the Royal British Legion, non-religious people continue to be excluded from the official acts of Remembrance, although many local groups and volunteers attend the ceremonies and may take part in them unofficially.
The BHA strongly advises all supporters to contact your MP to register your dissatisfaction with the current arrangements, and urge them to campaign for a pluralist ceremony incorporating those of all religions or beliefs.
You can find out who your MP is by going to the official House of Commons website and entering your postcode.
You can write to your MP at his or her constituency office or other address, but the best way is to send a letter to:
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Most MPs have e-mail addresses – you can check yours on another page of the House of Commons website but a letter is more effective than an e-mail.
A special Humanist Remembrance Day ceremony is taking place on Wednesday 11th at 10:45am in The Private Chapel, The Old Farm, Welbeck Road, Mansfield, Woodhouse, NG19. The third of its kind, the ceremony will be led by BHA Celebrant Don Sharpe. More details, 01623555969
Due to a debate in the Lords last week and the religious-heavy remembrance service coverage, the BBC find themselves very much in the public eye regarding religious broadcasting. When the Communications Act 2003 was passed, the BHA scored a considerable success in its long struggle to get humanist broadcasting. Since that Act, the law requires programmes on "religion and other beliefs" but we are still waiting to see programmes about Humanism.
Despite this we are inundated with Songs of Praise, Heaven on Earth, Around the World in 80 Faiths, A history of Christianity, Alleluia, Prayer for the Day, Devotional Sounds and, of course, the infamous Thought for the Day. Hours and hours of religious programming on both TV and radio.
With a humanist now on the BBC’s Standing Conference on Religion and Belief and the debate in the Lords highlighting the discrimination against Humanism, we are hopeful that the wait may be over and we will soon be tuning in to more inclusive and relevant programming.
BHA welcome changes to PSHE education
The BHA has responded to the announcement from Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, that a number of changes will be made to Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education in England following a government commissioned review and public consultation on the subject.
PSHE, which includes Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), is to be made part of the national curriculum and compulsory in both primary and secondary education. The parental right to withdraw their children from SRE until they are 19 will be reduced to 15.
BHA welcomes inclusion of evolution in primary school science
The BHA has welcomed a statement from the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) that the theory of evolution is to now be included in primary school science lessons in England.
In April this year the government began consultation on a new primary school curriculum, which like its predecessor, failed to make any mention of the theory of evolution or process of natural selection.
During the summer the BHA organised a public letter from a group of distinguished scientists and science educators, calling on government to include evolution in the primary curriculum. The BHA made its own submission to the consultation and encouraged members and supporters to do the same, as well as petitioning MPs and ministers on the issue.
Lords call for humanist broadcasting at the BBC
The BHA has echoed the Government’s response to a debate in the House of Lords last night on the BBC, Humanism, and Thought for the Day, saying that it ‘hopes the BBC has been listening’. The debate, called by Lord Harrison, and in which a number of peers declared their interest as ‘Happy Humanists’, took place on the eve of the BBC Trust’s deliberations on whether to allow non-religious contributors to the Today programme’s Thought for the Day.
Andrew Copson, BHA Director of Education and Public Affairs, said, ‘In a welcome break with past policy, humanists are now represented alongside religions in the new body liaising with the BBC on matters of common concern – the Standing Conference on Religion and Belief. While this change is significant in principle, in practice the BBC continues to discriminate against humanists and Humanism in its broadcasting. In speeches in last night’s debate, the extent to which humanism is ignored by the BBC was laid out – not one programme by humanists for humanists, not a single humanist contributor to Thought for the Day.’
Science and free speech go hand-in-hand
The BHA has reasserted its position that free speech principles must be core to science. The BHA has made its comments in light of Professor David Nutt, Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, being asked to resign his post following the publication of an academic paper on scientific research into the relative harms of illegal drug use and other pursuits.
Naomi Phillips, BHA Public Affairs Officer, said, ‘Science provides us with the evidence on which we all can make rational and informed decisions and it is vital that scientists are able to discuss their research and findings freely and openly.’
‘We expect government to pursue evidence-based policy making although we know that this regularly does not happen. In reality, the government can ignore independent advice and evidence if it chooses. At the very least, however, those advising the government must be able to do so free from fear of being discredited or losing their jobs.’
Thinking of getting Sky TV for Christmas?
When new customers subscribe to Sky+ HD via the webshop the British Humanist Association will receive £120! If you are thinking of joining Sky please do so via our webshop so we can receive this huge donation.
Call for evidence regarding the infiltration of schools
Earlier this year, a petition appeared on the number 10 petition website saying, “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to provide a mechanism that would prevent the infiltration of non-faith schools by religious groups who seek privileged access to pupils in RE, PSME or Citizenship classes, for example; and prevent such groups from loading the staffroom with their adherents.”
Details of the practice were included: “Increasingly, across the country, non-faith schools are being purposefully infiltrated by religious groups who gain privileged access to pupils and seek to convert them to their religious (usually fundamentalist) beliefs. Typically, such groups do not have precise published teachings or aims. They infiltrate schools by offering free staffing for RE, PSME or Citizenship lessons and holding Assemblies where they can encourage membership of their clubs and religious organisations, offering inducements, such a chocolate bars, for attendance. They may offer counseling services to pupils, eat in school canteens and ‘hang out’ in corridors. They engage in these activities over the heads of parents. This practice is both deceitful and unethical. Unqualified volunteer staff with a fundamentalist agenda are being given unsupervised access to our children. There is no point requiring teachers to qualify if unpaid, unqualified volunteers can take their jobs. This practice must stop.”
The government’s response is below:
“We would of course look very closely at any specific cases where it can be demonstrated that this is occurring in non-faith schools and is causing concerns to parents. It would therefore be helpful if you could provide substantive details of where this is occurring to the appropriate policy team within the Department for Children Schools and Families. Please forward details to:
Terms and Conditions Division, Young People Directorate, Mowden Hall, Staindrop Road, Darlington, DL3 9BG”
If you have any information about such practices in a school near you, please forward details to the BHA or to the address above.
New Kiva gift certificates
You can now get gift certificates that keep on giving! Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe. The BHA endorses the Humanist Team on Kiva and you can now get gift certificates here.
Take action to end child poverty
The Campaign to End Child Poverty has just released a new call to action for children living in the UK. A report, released by the campaign, has shown that as unemployment rises more families are being tipped into poverty. This isn’t just happening in deprived areas but in more affluent areas too. It’s a reminder that as the recession continues we’re all in this together. The government couldn’t let the banks fail; so they mustn’t fail our children.
We know you feel passionate about ending child poverty in the UK. Please take this action to support children in the UK.
‘Darwin and the Darwinian Controversy’ By A C Grayling
18th November 2009, Main Auditorium, St Peter’s House, University of Manchester, Precinct Centre, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9GH. A lecture organized by the British Humanist Association, Chaired by Professor John Harris. Lecture commences at 18.30 and runs until 20.00 (doors open 18.00). A. C. Grayling will address the controversy surrounding Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, followed by questions. The event will be chaired by John Harris, professor of Bioethics at the University of Manchester and member of the Humanist Philosophers. Tickets are £7 (£5 for members of the British Humanist Association or Greater Manchester Humanists) and can be purchased from www.humanism.org.uk/shop/tickets or by telephoning 020 7079 3580
The lecture will be preceded by two optional events organised by Greater Manchester Humanists. There is a guided tour of the Darwin exhibition at Manchester Museum from 3pm and an optional buffet in Cafê Muse from 5pm. There is no charge for the tour, but advance booking is required. The buffet will cost £9, and must also be pre-booked. For enquiries about the tour or the buffet or to book a place on either please email email@example.com.
What is the role of faith in community development and cohesion work? – New Event!
19th November 2009, Conway Hall, (Brockway Room), Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL, 1:45pm – 5:30pm.
A discussion seminar presented by the British Humanist Association for Interfaith Week 2009.
Current government policy appears to champion the contribution of ‘faith groups’ in community work. ‘Faith’ and the ‘faith sector’ are seen as playing a key role in defining communities, as well as fostering social capital and providing much needed services.
But the ‘faith sector’ tends to be seen as being somehow separate and distinct from the voluntary and community sector as a whole.
Polly Toynbee, BHA President and Guardian Journalist, Prof. A.C. Grayling, Professor of Philosophy, University of London, Dr. Henry Tam, Community Empowerment, Department for Communities and Local Government, Gabriel Chanan, Community Development Consultant and former Director of Policy and Research at CDF, Dr. Doreen Finneron, Executive Director of the Faith Based Regeneration Network, Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism, Prof. Marjorie Mayo, Professor in Community Development
Who is this seminar for?
Local Authority equality officers/ regeneration officers/ community cohesion practitioners, People engaged in community development practice, management or policy development, People involved in empowerment issues in the voluntary sector, Academics, People involved in ‘interfaith’ work, Local Councillors and other politicians, Community activists
Bentham lecture 2009 – The Strange Rebirth of Liberalism
20 Gordon Street (Christopher Ingold Building), Chemistry Lecture Theatre, University College London, WC1H 0AJ, 26th November 2009, 6.30pm – 8.00pm
150 years on from the publication of John Stuart Mill‘s On Liberty, there is a view that liberalism is in crisis. Richard Reeves, Director of the think-tank Demos, will argue that true liberalism – the liberalism of Mill – is not the problem, but the solution. His latest book is John Stuart Mill – Victorian Firebrand, an intellectual biography of the British liberal philosopher and politician, which was shortlisted for the Channel Four Political Book of the Year, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Richard is a political columnist for Prospect magazine and a regular contributor to The Guardian, Observer and New Statesman as well as a range of national radio and television programmes. In 2005, he was a presenter of the four-part BBC2 series, Making Slough Happy.
In 2006, Richard was selected by The Guardian as a ‘Thinker to Watch’ and was featured in the paper’s regular ‘Ideas Interview’. He is also a former Columnist of the Year and Young Financial Journalist of the Year. Richard is the author of The 80 Minute MBA (2009) and Happy Mondays – putting the pleasure back into work (2001) nominated as a Sunday Times business book of the week and described by Theodore Zeldin as a ‘wonderful book – optimistic, wise and thoughtful.’ Other publications include CoCo Companies – Work, Happiness and Employee Ownership (2007), Papering over the Cracks, Rules, Regulation and Real Trust (2006, with Edward Smith), ‘Good work and professional work’ in Production Values (2006, with John Knell), and The Politics of Happiness (2003).
The Chair will be Jonathan Wolff, Professor of Philosophy, UCL. Introduction by Peter Cave, Chair of Humanist Philosophers. Tickets are free but you must register here.
Friday 27th November, Milsom Street Day Centre, Milsom Street, Cheltenham, GL50 4BA, 7.30pm.
The Changing Face of Funerals – a Celebration of Life. A talk by a local Funeral Director.
Humanist Society of West Yorkshire
Thurs 8th November,7pm, Swarthmore, 3-7 Woodhouse Sqaure, Leeds, LS3 1AD.
“Student Atheist, Humanist & Secular Societies” – Norman Ralph, former president of the The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies.
Gilbert is Dead
by Robin French
Hoxton Hall, London, November 4th-29th, 2009
The play is a tragi-comedy about evolution. Set in London in the early 1860s, we follow eminent taxidermist Lucius Trickett, who finds himself on a mission from Queen Victoria to help explorer Gilbert Shirley find the mysterious ghost loris – a primate that proves Darwin’s theory wrong and thus that God exists…
Cast: Ronan Vibert, Kate Burdette, William Chubb and Suzan Sylvester, Directed by Robert Wolstenholme
Tuesdays – Saturdays 7.30pm
Sign Language interpreted performance Tuesday 17th November
Do faith schools promote religious intolerance?
Saturday November 21st, 8 pm at Bushey & District United Synagogue, 177/8 Sparrow Herne, Bushey Heath, WD23 1AJ.
A debate on religious schools as part of Hertsmere Interfaith Week. For more information, or to become a part of Hertsmere Interfaith Week, please contact Event Co-ordinator, Deborah Berenson firstname.lastname@example.org, 07849305785
Take two minutes to petition the Prime Minister on assisted dying
Despite continued public support for a change in the law, Parliamentarians are reluctant to take a stand on assisted dying for fear of losing the support of a vocal minority of anti-choice campaigners.
Please add your name to an online petition, calling on the Prime Minister to launch an independent commission to investigate the impact of an assisted dying for the terminally ill law and to guarantee enough parliamentary time to debate, and if necessary, act upon, the findings.
Please add your name today: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Assisted-dying/
The BBC is running a consultation on BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four. This is your chance to tell them what you think about their programming.
We want an end to the privileged status and position of religions and religious broadcasting by the BBC, and for some programmes about humanism or from a humanist perspective to be broadcast. In spite of legislation making clear that religions and beliefs, including non-religious beliefs such as Humanism, should be treated equally in terms of broadcasting, the BBC continues to resist doing so.
We want the BBC to fulfil its obligations and include Humanist programmes in its broadcasting. Find out more about the consultation.
Find more information about the BHA’s work on broadcasting.
Not already a BHA member? Join now and support our vital work!