Blog News

Newsletter – August 2017

Thank you so much for your continued support over the years. We are pleased to announce Labour Humanists membership is growing steadily, and we have over 3,000 followers on Twitter. As we continue to expand our support base in influence within the party, we’re happy to launch the first of our new monthly newsletters covering Humanist and progressive issues at home, in the party, and abroad. As ever, we are always keen to hear from our members, so feel free to contact us with any suggestions you’d like to add.


At Home …

DfE research shows mixed schools perform better than segregated counterparts

A study conducted by the Department for Education into schooling in Oldham, one of the areas that saw race riots in 2001, has demonstrated that pupils at mixed schools perform better than their counterparts at schools that select pupils by their faith. According to the report, pupils in mixed schools have a better view of other races and religions, as well as a more positive outlook in general, that is beneficial to intergroup relations. Campaigning against faith schools has always been a key issue for Labour Humanists, and we believe that Tory plans to expand them pose a grave threat to social cohesion and tolerance as well as to the quality of education for pupils in these schools.


Labour Shadow Minister resigns over disputed article on “political correctness” in child sexual exploitation enquiry

Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham, resigned as Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities following an article she wrote for The Sun where she claimed “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”, and that authorities are afraid of tackling child sexual exploitation rings through a fear of being called racist. Champion suggested that we should be questioning whether there are “cultural issues” around the sexual exploitation of women and girls, and “this isn’t racist, this is child protection”. However, she soon distanced herself from the published article by accusing the paper’s editors of altering the opening paragraphs thus losing the “nuance” of her argument. The Sun denied this. Nevertheless, fellow Labour MP Naz Shah and many other MPs called on Jeremy Corbyn to sack Champion. Instead Champion resigned, stating “I apologise for the offence caused by the extremely poor choice of words in The Sun … I am concerned that my continued position in the shadow cabinet would distract from the crucial issues around child protection which I have campaigned on my entire political career”.

Do you think Champion was right to resign? Let us know in the comments section!


Modern slavery “in every UK town and city”

The BBC reports the National Crime Agency has stated that modern slavery is “far more prevalent than previously thought”, and previous estimates of 10,000–13,000 cases are just “the tip of the iceberg”. The most common form of modern slavery is still sexual exploitation, but evidence of the practice is found across sectors, from food processing, to construction, to care workers. Indeed, the NCA estimates that “ordinary people unwittingly come into contact with victims every day”.


CCTV to become compulsory in English abattoirs

While welcoming this move, Labour Humanists urge the government to also look at the welfare of animals condemned to ritual slaughter. Humanists UK have shown that approximately 650,000 animals a week are slaughtered without being stunned beforehand. We believe that the right of animals to a humane as possible slaughter takes precedence over religious teachings. At the very least, meat packaging should clearly indicate whether the animal in question was killed without being pre-stunned.



Abroad …


Needless to say, we were all horrified by the far-right violence in Charlottesville and the death of anti-racist protester Heather Heyer on 19th August. The resurgence of morally and intellectually bankrupt notions such as scientific racism and anti-Semitism among a section of the American Right is of deep concern, especially given the easy transmission of such propaganda through social media. It is very disappointing, to say the least, that President Trump stopped short of explicitly condemning the far-right and their actions, and that Nigel Farage defended Trump’s weak Tweets and alarming statements.



The Independent reports on women in Afghanistan launching the #WhereIsMyName campaign in protest at the Afghan custom of erasing women’s names. According to this patriarchal custom, women’s forenames do not appear on their birth certificate, wedding invitations or even gravestones. Instead, they are written as the mother/sister/daughter of Mr X. A member of the campaign, Batool Mohammadi, recounts: “I went to a private bank office to fill up the form, when the manager asked my mother’s name, I paused for few seconds, because I had actually forgotten my mother’s name. Nobody in all these years asked or called her by her name.”


“Don’t mess with my outfit”

Turkish women took to the streets to protest against increasing physical and verbal threats and violence perpetrated against them for their choice of clothing. Bearing signs “don’t mess with my outfit” as well as carrying denim shorts on hangers, the women were railing against conservative attitudes towards dress codes, which they say have been reinforced by President Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted party and policies.


Party news …

CAC Elections

There is still time for members to vote in the Conference Arrangements Committee elections. Labour Humanists is not a factional grouping, and we welcome supporters from across the party in our efforts to increase the voice of humanism in Labour policy. As such, we are not backing a slate in the elections. However, we do ask supporters to consider voting for Michael Cashman, who is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) and an associate of the National Secular Society.


Chika Amadi

Labour Humanists are pleased to see the party has taken quick action in suspending Labour councillor Chika Amadi after her unacceptable comments on homosexuality. Amadi’s comments are deeply hurtful to LGBT people in and outside the party, and further comments from Amadi supporting FGM have since surfaced. We welcome the suspension, and urge the party to ensure stringent vetting of candidates whose views do not align with progressive values and could bring the party into disrepute.


Yours faithfully,

Samuel Fawcett

Social Media and Website Editor



An interview with our new Chair – Joan Smith

Earlier this year, Joan Smith became Chair of Labour Humanists. We interviewed her about her work, what Humanism means to her and how it relates to the Labour Party.


Tell us a little about your work, background and personal life

I was incredibly lucky to be born into a non-religious family. My father was an atheist, he didn’t stop me going to church – I went to Sunday school for all of two weeks – but he brought me up to question everything. I’ve never believed in a deity and I’ve always searched for rational explanations – I realised early on that you don’t have to understand everything about the universe to recognise a bad explanation for how it came about, eg any species of divine intervention. I withdrew myself from RE when I was a teenager because it certainly wasn’t my idea of education.

I’m a journalist and novelist, and I’ve been involved in human rights campaigns for almost two decades. I chaired the English PEN Writers in Prison Committee, campaigning for the release of imprisoned writers in many countries, and I’ve also advised the FCO on promoting freedom of expression. Since 2013, I’ve been Co-Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Panel (now the VAWG Board), which draws up policy to reduce sexual and domestic violence for the whole of London.

I’m passionate about equality and universal rights, and I’ve always rejected the idea that people can’t behave well without religion. I even wrote a book (Moralities: How to end the abuse of money and power in the 21st century) about it.


What are the main achievements of Humanism in British public life so far?

I’m a big fan of the Enlightenment. Humanism has played a vital role in moving towards a more enlightened society where everyone has the same rights, regardless of whether they have a religion or not. For me, recognising the intrinsic value of the human spirit is the definition of being modern, especially at a time when there is so much evidence of what happens if the dark side of human nature is given free rein.

We are living in grim times and it’s easy to forget how much the UK has changed for the better in recent years, largely because of humanist and secular campaigns against religious privilege. It’s great that there are now humanist alternatives to religious weddings and funerals, and I loved the slogans on buses telling people there probably isn’t a god.


What drew you to Humanism?

It’s a natural home for someone with my beliefs. I’m delighted to be a patron of the BHA and many of its campaigns – exposing the disastrous and divisive effects of ‘faith’ schools, for example – are vital if we’re ever going to live together in a tolerant and diverse country. I know many people are religious but I think the right not to have a religion is as important as the right to manifest one.


In your mind, what makes Humanism and Labour natural bedfellows?

The Labour party is committed to a fairer, more equal society. Dismantling privilege, inherited and institutional, is a huge task but we wouldn’t have got as far as we have without a political party willing to take it on. Popular campaigns are important but change comes about through Parliament, and I see the job of Labour Humanists as trying to persuade as many MPs as possible to support humanist values and legislation. Humanist councillors are essential as well – local authorities need to be inclusive, and that means thinking about the needs of non-religious people as well as those put forward by ‘faith’ organisations.


What remains to be done to make British political life more secular?

A great deal, starting with the removal of automatic seats for Anglican bishops in the House of Lords. The upper chamber is in dire need of reform anyway, but the privileges enjoyed by the Church of England in the legislature are indefensible. There is a kind of default thinking that fails to see religious privileges for what they are – I could scream every time I hear ‘Thought For The Day’ starting on the Today programme.

I’ve already mentioned ’faith’ schools, which are a terrible idea – they take one small aspect of personal identity and privilege it above all others. We can see what that did in Northern Ireland. Children from different backgrounds – Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, non-religious – need to grow up, play and learn together.

I’ve written about the way politicians talk about people being in their ‘thoughts and prayers’ after a disaster, without knowing anything about the victims. The automatic resort to religious language in public life, no matter how inappropriate, needs to be challenged – and we could start with getting rid of prayers at the beginning of each day’s proceedings in Parliament. If people want to pray, it’s a private matter. I certainly don’t think that priests, vicars, imams or rabbis should have a special place in public life.


You’ve written extensively on feminist topics, how do you think feminism and humanism are linked?

They’re both rooted in universal human rights. Traditionally, women and girls did particularly badly under many religious dispensations, forced to accept theories about being ‘different but equal’ which were nothing of the sort. I wrote about the persecution of ‘witches’ in my book Misogynies and in a more recent book (The Public Woman) I looked at how some of those pernicious ideas remain influential today. I’ve always thought I was incredibly fortunate, as a woman, to grow up in Europe at a time when Christian ideas about women were losing much of their influence. I’m almost speechless when I read about the enslavement of Yazidi women by Islamist extremists in Syria and Iraq.


What drew you to the Labour Party?

I grew up in a Labour family. It isn’t just tribal loyalty, although there’s a bit of that – my father took me to my first Labour rally when I was eleven. The party’s core values are closer to mine than those of any other party – single-issue campaigns eg tackling climate change have a place, but they belong inside a wide-ranging programme based on fairness and equality.


What do you think is the greatest achievement of the Labour Party to date?

There are so many, starting with the NHS. Everything from the minimum wage to introducing civil partnerships and a mass of equality legislation stretching back to the first Sex Discrimination Act under Harold Wilson in 1975. Some of these achievements are vast, daunting even, and others are on a smaller scale – but the net effect is moving towards a kinder, more tolerant society. That’s what humanism and secular values are all about. There is a great deal still to do but the humanist tradition in Labour has some distinguished supporters and I hope we can build on that.



The Labour Leadership election: Owen Smith’s answers to our questionnaire

So far, the Labour leadership contest has seen little-to-no discussion of Humanist and Secularist issues. To attempt to rectify this situation, we sent both Owen and Jeremy a questionnaire. As of yet we have not got a response from Jeremy. Here is Owen Smith’s response in full:


Many thanks for your email on behalf of Labour Humanists. I really appreciate you getting in touch. I have replied to each of your questions in turn below:

Will you campaign to retain the Human Rights Act?

The passing of Labour’s Human Rights Act was an important milestone for Britain. From ensuring families and disabled people have a say about their own care to giving Hillsborough victims’ families the inquest they deserved, the Human Rights Act protects all of us. I will stand up to the Conservative Party’s obsession with removing citizen’s rights.

Would you defend freedoms of thought, expression and belief at home and internationally, including through opposing blasphemy laws?

Yes. The campaign of murder and violence targeted against atheist bloggers and now other minority groups in Bangladesh has been truly shocking. My commitment to human rights is universal. As Prime Minister I would work with Britain’s allies in Europe and across the world to promote freedom, equality and dignity for people of all faiths and none.

Do you oppose the ability of state-funded faith schools to discriminate on religious grounds against families and teachers?

Faith schools are part of our school system educating many thousands of children. I would not want them closed down. I am concerned by reports of unregistered schools operating outside of the scrutiny of OFSTED and I want to see greater action to protect any child denied a basic education.

Do you support the teaching of non-religious world views such as Humanism equally alongside religious perspectives in schools?

All children benefit from understanding the diverse range of beliefs and faiths – religious and non-religious – that flourish in modern Britain. I am keen to hear from those schools that already include non-religious world views, including Humanism, about their experiences.

Would you support legislation to ensure that humanists in England and Wales will be able to have a legal marriage ceremony, as they already can in Scotland?

Yes. I would right the wrong of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat broken 2014 promise and introduce legal recognition for humanist marriage in England and Wales.

Do you support an end to having reserved seats for Church of England Bishops in the House of Lords?

Yes. I support an elected second chamber to replace the House of Lords.

Do you think public services should be secular?

Yes – equal access to public services for people of all faiths and none is an essential contract between Government and citizens. Faith groups and secular charities are both important partners for public bodies and can help them to work with hard to reach groups, as well as bringing particular expertise.

Would you support a change in the law to permit assisted dying for people who are terminally ill or who are permanently and incurably suffering?

I personally voted in favour of the assisted dying bill but believe this is a matter of conscience for individual MPs.

Do you believe the NHS should fund unproven alternative “treatments” such as homeopathy?

I do not think public money should be used to pay for treatments that aren’t proven to be clinically effective. Clinical decisions should be taken by clinicians using an evidence based approach. Only science can determine what works.

Yours sincerely

Owen Smith


Announcement of New Chair

We are proud to announce that Joan Smith is the new Chair of Labour Humanists! Following on from the excellent work of Naomi Phillips, Joan will be taking our grBylinePicoup forward, working for humanist causes and to get us recognised as an affiliate of the Labour Party.

Joan is perhaps best known for her book Misogynies and her crime novels. A dedicated feminist, republican and humanist, Joan has written and campaigned extensively for a more equal and just society. She has had columns published in the Guardian, The Times, the Independent and Tribune. She chaired the English PEN Writers in prison Committee for four years and is currently Co-Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women & Girls Board.

We are living in a period of political and religious extremism, and we believe humanist values are needed now more than ever. We are delighted that Joan has chosen to lead Labour Humanists forward at this critical time.



Our reaction to Stephen Crabb becoming Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Like so many others, we were delighted to see the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith last Friday. The reforms carried out by the Department of Work and Pensions under IDS’ leadership have caused great suffering to the disabled, unemployed and low-paid, and are a sorry chapter in the history of the current Conservative administration. However, while we are pleased Iain Duncan Smith will no longer be in this role, we are concerned that his replacement comes in the form of Stephen Crabb MP.

What worries us most about Crabb is his poor record on LGBT+ rights. Not only did he vote against equal marriage, but he has associations with the Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) advocacy group, having been a parliamentary intern for them himself in 1996 and employing interns from the group in 2010. CARE has consistently opposed LGBT+ rights, and sponsored a conference which included speakers supporting ‘gay cure therapy’ and who described homosexuals as being ‘sexually broken’. Whilst Mr Crabb has said that he does not support gay cure theology, we feel that he should clarify what his links with CARE are and question his being involved with such an organisation at all.

As well as this, we are concerned about Mr Crabb’s uninformed and alarmist views about secularism. In an address to the Conservative Christian Fellowship, Crabb declared that ‘hard-edged secularism’ in the United Kingdom had to shoulder some of the blame for ‘aiding and abetting’ extremism and ‘pushing more young Muslims into the arms of Isis’. Not only does this statement betray a poor understanding of the processes of radicalisation, but it is also an ugly and undignified attempt to link humanist beliefs with the horrors of religiously driven terror. We would like to remind Mr Crabb that it was not until the secular ideas of the Enlightenment took primacy over religious dogma and superstition that Europe became free from the repressive terror spread by groups such as the Inquisition and we were able to make dramatic advances in the areas of science, medicine and minority rights. We are pleased to see someone from a working-class background a major ministerial role, but we urge Mr Crabb not to let his religious convictions blind him to the benefits secular societies bring or the rights of LGBT+ individuals.


Change of Chair and opportunity to volunteer for Labour Humanists

After four years, Naomi Phillips is standing down as Chair of Labour Humanists. We are very pleased to let you know that Vice Chair Tom Copley AM will be stepping in as Chair in the interim, until we find a new leader. Over that past four years we’ve seen our group grow hugely – we’ve more than tripled our membership, we’ve now got a strong online presence, we’ve had packed out annual ‘No Prayer Breakfasts’ at Labour conference, we’ve met and briefed MPs, we’ve contributed to Labour’s policy review (and achieved having equality for non-religious people firmly on official documents), and much, much more. We’re now going into a new exciting time for Labour where we will be looking to become an affiliated society to the Labour Party and to influence party policy on our key issues, from free speech to faith schools.

We’re also looking for volunteers to join our Executive Committee (or just volunteer!) to help us organise and grow our group. We’re particularly looking for people who can give some time to help with communications and social media, events, and updating our website. If you’re interested please contact

Events News Uncategorized

City Hall Drinks Reception

We are delighted to be organising an event in the evening of 9 February at City Hall in London, with Young Humanists and other political humanist groups. This will be the first event of its kind, and aims to be an informal way for our political groups and younger humanists to get together and chat about the cross-party political issues that matter to us. This event is open to all ages however it’s already proven so popular that we’ve started a waiting list. Find out more below and register on the BHA’s website.

Info and information


Young Humanists, the BHA section for humanists aged 18-35, has teamed up with the political humanist groups – Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats, Labour Humanists, and Conservative Humanists – to bring you a very special evening at the striking City Hall, home to the Mayor of London and Greater London Authority (GLA).

We’ll talk about the most pressing issues facing non-religious people and how you can join efforts to build a secular state for all.

You’ll hear speeches from Tom Copley AM of the Labour Party, Andrew Boff AM, former leader of the Conservative Group in the London Assembly, Dawn Barnes, Liberal Democrats Federal Executive member and London Assembly candidate, Darren Johnson AM, former Green Party mayoral candidate, and Pavan Dhaliwal, Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns at the British Humanist Association.

Discuss what you’ve heard over a glass of wine, all while soaking up spectacular views of the Capital. Most importantly, you’ll have the chance to find out how you can stand up for the rights of people who live their lives without religion, and help to build a secular state for all.

The event is free, but booking is essential.

The event is kindly sponsored by BHA trustee and young humanist Tom Copley AM.

PS – don’t forget to tell your friends you’re going on Facebook.

February 9th, 2016 7:00 PM   through   9:00 PM

Chamber Viewing Gallery
City Hall
The Queen’s Walk
London, SE1 2AA
United Kingdom

Blog News

We write to Jeremy Corbyn on free speech


Labour Humanists’s Chair and Vice Chair have written to Jeremy Corbyn to raise the issue of freedom of speech. It is Labour Humanists’ position that freedom of thought and belief – including religious and non-religious beliefs – are human rights and the cornerstone of any free and democratic society and should be robustly defended. We’ve asked Jeremy to set out his and the party’s position in relation to free speech, freedom of belief and freedom of expression.

We know that there are many threats and pushbacks on freedom of expression, such as from religious groups and individuals opposing criticism of their beliefs. In addition to the growing voice from some religious groups to have their beliefs protected from critique, we worry about the effects of university ‘safe space’ policies in curtailing free speech when in such places that just should not happen.

Ahead of our annual meeting and AGM at Conference, we surveyed our members and supporters on the issues that they felt were most important. Faith schools and human rights, including freedom of expression, were the top responses. Certainly in looking at our programme of work for 2016, we will want to focus on freedom of expression and free speech, promoting those rights as vital for the Labour Party to defend.


Blog News

New report calls for an end to compulsory worship in schools

An important report has been published which recommends that the laws requiring compulsory worship in all state schools should be appealed. The report from the independent Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life also recommends that UK Governments should introduce a statutory entitlement for all schools within the state system for a subject dealing with religious and non-religious worldviews.

Labour Humanists welcomes many of the recommendations in this report, which seek to reflect the changed landscape of religion and belief in Britain today, which is increasingly diverse and with a fast-growing non-religious population.

We strongly oppose the current legal requirements for all schools to hold a daily act of worship and would like to see schools hold inclusive assemblies instead.

Read more on the British Humanist Association’s website.


Government made an ‘error in law’ over exclusion of humanism from GCSE

Fantastic news from the British Humanist Association (BHA) – a High Court judge has ruled that the Government made an ‘error in law’ when it left out non-religious worldviews such as humanism from the content of GCSE Religious Studies (in the curriculum in England). The BHA supported three non-religious families who wanted to challenge the Government’s moves to relegate non-religious beliefs in the curriculum and helped the parents and their children to bring the case to court. This is a landmark judgement and a real victory for inclusive and balanced education. A huge congratulations to those families and to the BHA. More news on this story below and on their website.


BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘We have made the case for many decades that the school curriculum on religions should include major non-religious worldviews such as humanism. It is great news that the Court has now said the law is with us. This is a stunning victory for the three humanist families who stood up to the Government on this issue. It is also a victory for the vast majority of people who believe in the importance of a religious education curriculum that is inclusive, balanced, and pluralistic, and which contributes to mutual understanding between people of all religions and none.

‘We look forward to working with the Government to ensure that the changes required by the judgement are implemented and hope they will use this as an opportunity to improve the GCSE for the benefit of all children. Continuing to exclude the views of a huge number of Britons, in the face of majority public opinion and all expert advice, would only be to the detriment of education in this country and a shameful path to follow.’