We have written to representatives at Labour’s policy making body – the National Policy Forum – to raise our concern about the overarching equality statement it recently adopted as a commitment to the way it will implement policies and its manifesto.
As it stands, the equality statement appears not to cover non-religious people – atheists and humanists – and therefore we believe it needs urgent amendment.
The equality statement (full text below) states ‘religion’ but omits ‘or belief’. This goes against the letter of the Equality Act 2010 and human rights law, which use the term ‘religion or belief’ to cover both non-religious and religious people. In practice, just using ‘religion’ specifically does not cover humanists or any other person with philosophical beliefs which are not religious.
‘Religion’ clearly should not be used as shorthand or a catch-all for ‘religion or belief’ – few non-religious people would be happy to have their beliefs described under the banner of religion when they are atheistic, humanist or philosophical but distinctly not religious. It would be like using ‘men’ to mean ‘women and men’ and that, we are sure, would not happen in today’s Labour Party.
The exclusion of ‘or belief’ from the NPF equality statement has, therefore, potentially serious implications for the position for the large numbers of humanists and other non-religious people within the Labour Party, and sends a negative message out more widely about how Labour values non-religious people more widely.
NPF equality statement
“Labour is the Party of equality. We believe that no person should suffer discrimination or a lack of opportunity because of their gender, gender identity, age, disability, race, religion, socio-economic status or sexual orientation. In government, every decision we take will be taken with that in mind. We will ensure the policies across these eight documents and in our manifesto will be implemented ensuring that they further rather than hinder this cause.
Labour has always led the fight for equality, but our fight is not yet won. We will not rest until everyone can live their lives free from hatred, fear and oppression. In government we will work to remove the structural and social barriers that stand in our way.”
We believe that this should be amended as soon as is possible to state ‘religion or belief’ to ensure equality between people who are religious and those who are not.