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Some ideas for Labour’s policy review

Labour’s policy review provides a unique chance to influence Party policy. We are working on our formal responses to the review, all of which are aimed to help to create a more equal, ethical and secular Labour.

In brief, we would like Labour to consider the following policy options:

Faith schools
Labour’s policy towards schools should be inclusive and oppose discrimination:

  • No new faith school allowed to discriminate in its admissions
  • No existing faith school allowed to discriminate in admissions in the future
  • No faith school allowed to discriminate against teachers (including hiring, firing, and refusing promotion) on religious grounds


  • An end to compulsory collective worship in ALL schools.

Public services
Labour should take action to ensure public services are equal, inclusive, and protect and promote human rights.
All organisations,including religious groups working under public contract to provide public services must operate in an inclusive secular way. In practice that would mean:

  • No discrimination on religious or other grounds in employment
  • No discrimination on religious or other grounds against service users
  • No religious element part of the service, including prayers or proselytising

House of Lords Reform

Labour’s policy to have a 100% elected Lords would have meant in practice abolishing the Lords Spiritual. However Labour should have a clear and principled policy against religious privilege in our Parliament:

  • End the undemocratic ‘right’ for the Church of England to sit in our parliament
  • No reserved seats for an religious representatives
  • Allow Church of England bishops, and any other clergy or religious representatives, stand for election or be eligible for appointment to a reformed Lords but let that be on the same basis as everyone else
  • Promoting equality and campaigning against privilege in our democratic arrangements

We welcome your comments, thoughts, and submissions, about what you think should be Labour’s secularist and humanist policy priorities. Contact us with your suggestions.

Blog News

Sorry Archbishop, equality before the law is a ‘general social good’

Despite an organised and concerted effort led by Conservatives, Bishops, and other religious Peers, to stop the equal marriage Bill in its tracks, a wrecking amendment was overwhelmingly defeated in a vote last night. The Bill is now likely to make swift progress through the House of Lords before becoming law.

Speaking in the debate, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who is the principal leader of the Church of England and who sits in the parliament by ‘right’ simply because of his position in the Church, opposed equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

He stated, ‘The majority of faith groups remain very strongly against the Bill, and have expressed that view in a large number of public statements. The House of Bishops of the Church of England has also expressed a very clear majority view.’

He also referenced the issue of faith schools, referring to religious concerns that they would have to teach that same-sex marriage is equal to marriage between a woman and a man. A third of state-funded schools are faith schools and we firmly believe that they should not have opt-outs to allow homophobic teaching based on religious perspectives.

After setting out the strong opposition to equal marriage from his own church and other religious groups, Archbishop Welby went on to say, ‘It is not, at heart, a faith issue; it is about the general social good.’

Well, we firmly believe that valuing and enshrining people’s equality before the law is unquestionably a social good. We are pleased to campaign in favour of the equal marriage Bill alongside others including humanist groups, many religious people and groups such as Quakers and Unitarians, LGBT rights campaigners, and those from across the political spectrum.

The Church of England has tried to stop this important move for equality right from the off, even opposing equal civil marriage for same-sex couples let alone religious marriage. Through its representative in the House of Commons it also strongly opposed popular moves to legalise humanist marriage. Although it gained some wins – no same-sex Anglican couples will ever be allowed to marry in their own Church – ultimately it will lose. The Church should never have been in the position to wield so much influence in the first place. Disestablishment of the Church of England and abolishing the reserved seats for Bishops of the Church of England is long overdue.

Naomi Phillips

Chair, Labour Humanists

Follow us on Twitter @LabourHumanists

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Why Labour should support truly equal marriage

Chair of Labour Humanists Naomi Phillips writes for  LabourList, an independent progressive blog providing a platform for open debate about centre-left issues and the future of the Labour movement, on why Labour should support equal marriage for humanists in England and Wales.

Follow us on Twitter @LabourHumanists.

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Discriminatory faith schools – update

Selective faith schools and One Nation Labour

A big concern for Labour Humanists is the near-silence from the Labour Party on the issue of permitting state-funded faith schools to discriminate in their admissions policies. Labour Humanists’ chair Naomi Phillips blogged about this on, and argued that support for selective religious schools went against One Nation Labour principles.

It is incoherent that on the one hand a Party which has equality at its heart, which has openly fought against academic and class selection by schools can on the other support, endorse, and enshrine in law the ‘right’ for faith schools to discriminate in their admissions.

We want the issue of discriminatory faith schools to be properly considered by Labour right across the board. If those who support inclusive education in all state-funded schools want to see change and Labour taking the lead against selective school admissions, then we need to get our voices heard in the Party now.

Judicial review of discriminatory faith schools

A legal challenge against approval of new schools because of religious discrimination, heard in the High Court last week, highlighted the growing problem of the proliferation of discriminatory faith schools. Regrettably, that judicial review taken by the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) which challenged the decision by the Tory-run Richmond-upon-Thames Council to open two state-funded Catholic schools with highly discriminatory admissions policies was lost. More details about the case and the judgement.

Many oppose selection by state-funded faith schools

The negative impact on social cohesion, caused by dividing up more and more children along religious, class, and often ethnic lines through many faith schools operating highly selective admissions criteria, is far from being solely a humanist concern. A new survey last week had a clear majority of respondents agreeing that ‘state funded schools should not be allowed to select or discriminate against prospective pupils on religious grounds in their admissions policy’. The survey was commissioned by the Accord Coalition, which itself brings together religious groups, humanists, teachers, trade unionists, educationalists and civil rights activists, to campaign for truly inclusive education in the state school sector.

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