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.’

Blog News

Support BHA’s faith schools & education campaigns

The British Humanist Association (BHA) employs the country’s only dedicated campaigner against the discriminatory and divisive faith schools system. The BHA is asking for donations so they can continue to have this post. In just the past year, the successes of the Faith Schools and Education Campaigner include:

  • Publishing a landmark report revealing that thousands of children may have been unlawfully denied a place at their chosen school as a result of a near-universal failure by ‘faith’ schools to comply with the School Admissions Code.
  • Exposing the widespread practice of state-funded ‘faith’ schools demanding financial contributions from parents or pressuring them into making payments that are supposed to be voluntary.
  • Seeing evolution taught as part of the primary national curriculum for the first time, following years of campaigning through our ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign.
  • Welcoming the Welsh Government’s plans to transform Religious Education in Wales into a new ‘Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics’ syllabus, along very similar lines to those we recommended in our response to a consultation on the Welsh curriculum.
  • Seeing the Office of the Schools Adjudicator rule once again that the London Oratory School’s faith-based admissions criteria were unlawful and must be removed. This came over two years after we made our initial objection about the school’s discriminatory and divisive admissions arrangements. And it’s not over yet. The Oratory has already stated that it intends to appeal.
  • Securing recommendations in the UK Civil Society report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the inclusion of non-religious worldviews in RE, compulsory sex education in all schools, and a reduction in the degree to which schools can religiously select. We were part of the education working group responsible for steering the report.
  • Successfully campaigning on a change to regulations requiring school inspectors to be independent not only from the school they’re inspecting, but also from any organisation representing the school. This led to the closure of the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, some of whose inspectors were revealed to have extensive links to the ‘faith’ schools they were inspecting, and also to hold very conservative religious views in relation to homosexuality and women.
  • Revealing that despite a ban introduced last year, taxpayers’ money is still going to creationist and potentially extremist private nurseries through the Government’s early years funding programme.
  • Exposing significant inconsistencies in the outcomes of Ofsted’s inspections of Charedi Jewish private schools, finding that the schools were far more likely to be rated favourably by a Charedi Jewish inspector than by a non-Charedi inspector. The two Charedi inspectors involved have since been dropped by Ofsted.
  • Working alongside the Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats to pass a policy motion at the Lib Dem Conference backing an end to collective worship and employment discrimination in faith schools.

Please do consider helping the BHA raise money to support this vital post.

Blog Events News

‘No Prayer’ Breakfast is our biggest ever!

We’ve held our ‘No Prayer’ Breakfast fringe event at Labour conference for several years and this was our most popular so far. Unfortunately for late arrivals (including some of our panel!) it wasn’t just a case of ‘no prayers’ but also ‘no breakfast’ as there were many more people than we had expected! Along with NPB regulars Polly Toynbee, Angela Eagle MP and Kelvin Hopkins MP, we were delighted that the new chair of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, Clive Lewis MP, was able to join us. We also welcomed back Tom Copley AM and Labour Humanists’ Naomi Phillips. Andrew Copson, British Humanist Association chief executive, chaired the event.

The speakers made clear the importance of having humanists in Parliament and of taking a humanist approach to policy making. Clive Lewis said that the rational, evidence-based thinking that’s core to Humanism applies well to politics. Specific issues raised by the panel included assisted dying and the need to continue to campaign for a more ethical law, despite a recent loss in Parliament. Polly Toynbee criticised the religious lobby specifically for its opposition to progressive laws. Faith schools were a big concern for both panel and audience – isn’t it time for Labour to oppose religiously selective and discriminatory practices by so many state schools? Human rights and equalities, including gender equality and free speech were also discussed. As humanists we can make a particular contribution to the debates and we should be leading the way within Labour on those issues.

Please do join us and help us campaign for a more equal, ethical and secular Labour.

A huge thanks to the British Humanist Association (BHA) for supporting this joint event.

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Blog Events News

Should Humanism matter in politics? Video from the World Humanist Congress.

At the World Humanist Congress 2014 in Oxford, a fantastic panel bringing together humanists from UK, Europe and the USA discussed ‘Should Humanism matter in politics’: London Assembly member Tom Copley, UK Member of Parliament Kerry McCarthy, American Humanist Association Director of Development and Communications Maggie Ardiente and European Humanist Federation policy director Julie Pernet discuss how much Humanism should influence politicians who are humanists at the 2014 World Humanist Congress in Oxford.

The session was chaired by British Humanist Association (BHA) trustee and Labour Humanists chair Naomi Phillips. The video is now available to watch on YouTube. Do follow the BHA’s channel to see more sessions from #WHC2014 as they are published.

Events News

Humanist priorities for Wales and Welsh Labour – event at Welsh Labour conference

We are delighted to announce that, for the first time, we will have a presence at Welsh Labour conference in Swansea, 1 – 15 February. In addition to a stand in the exhibition, we will be holding a joint fringe event with the British Humanist Association (BHA) at 17:30, Committee Room 3c in Brangwyn Hall, Saturday 14 February. We have got a fantastic panel for that meeting – if you are going to be at Welsh Labour conference do let us know and we hope you can join us.

‘Working for a more equal, ethical and secular Government. Humanist priorities for Wales and Welsh Labour.’
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, British Humanist Association (BHA)
Karen Wilkie, Deputy General Secretary, Cooperative Party
Nia Griffith, Labour MP for Llanelli
Rhodri Morgan, former First Minister of Wales
Chair: TBC

Dyneiddwyr Llafur a’r Gymdeithas Dyneiddwyr Prydain (GDP). “Gweithio i ddatblygu lywodraeth fwy cyfartal, moesegol a seciwlar. Blaenoriaethau dyneiddiol ar gyfer Cymru a Llafur Cymru.”
Andrew Copson, GDP
Karen Wilkie, Y Parti Cydweithredol
Nia Griffith AS
Rhodri Morgan
Chair: i’w gadarnhau


End Blasphemy Laws – we give our support

A new campaign has been launched to end blasphemy laws across the world. The campaign is led by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and the European Humanist Federation (EHF), and is supported by the British Humanist Association (BHA), to which we are affiliated.

The BHA states that the campaign ‘will put pressure on states to repeal laws which restrict or punish speech which is deemed to commit ‘blasphemy’ or ‘religious insult’. Blasphemy laws were repealed in England and Wales in 2008 following years of campaigning from the BHA and other organisations. However, many countries, including an alarming number of EU member states, continue to silence and punish criticism of religion in the name of blasphemy laws. IHEU’s 2014 Freedom of Thought Report found that 55 countries had criminal laws restricting blasphemy. In 39 countries, it is an imprisonable offence. In six countries, it has the death penalty.’

Last year we submitted a paper to Labour’s policy review, which urged Labour to champion the human rights of freedom of thought and belief – including religious and non-religious beliefs – and of free expression. We see those rights as cornerstones of any free and democratic society, and we asked that the party defend them robustly at home and internationally, including through opposing blasphemy laws.

It is encouraging that Labour has recently set out that it will ‘Lead by example on human rights, upholding them domestically through the Human Rights Act, and advocating them overseas’. We will want this to include work with humanist organisations here and internationally to repeal existing blasphemy laws and vehemently oppose any new such laws being created.

We will keep working to raise this issue within Labour and aim for it to be prominent in the Party’s human rights work.

Find out more about the End Blasphemy Laws campaign.

Join us, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook.

Blog News

Government set to U-turn on equal humanist marriage

We’ve been campaigning for the legal recognition of humanist marriage in England and Wales – something that is already available and increasingly popular in Scotland. Currently, humanist weddings in England and Wales have no legal force of their own, and couples are required to pay a visit to the registry office to make their marriages official. We proudly support the British Humanist Association’s (BHA) long-standing campaign for non-religious people to have the choice of a legal marriage ceremony which reflects their beliefs, just as many religious people do.

Over the past couple of years we have worked to increase awareness of the issue within Labour and to support Labour parliamentarians in their efforts to ensure legislation is passed. In fact, we have been delighted that it has been the Labour front bench in parliament which has spearheaded recent attempts to legalise humanist marriage. Many Labour MPs have also signed a motion supporting humanist marriage.

In July, we welcomed the Government’s agreement to set in motion moves which would see humanist marriages be made lawful in England and Wales, before the General Election.

It is hugely disappointing that the Tory-led Government now appears to have U-turned on that agreement, as Number 10 is reported to be blocking the legal recognition of humanist marriage.

Our asks of Labour

We believe there is everything still to fight for – that the Government could still be convinced to make time for this important legislation in this parliament. While Labour has shown good support so far, it has done so along with colleagues from across parties, with religious and non-religious people. Legalising humanist marriage in England and Wales is not a party political issue.

  1. It’s really important for Labour now to make clear that it will give the Government the time to get the regulations through this side of the election, should it decide to do so.
  2. We would also like Labour publicly to state its commitment to equal humanist marriage – and that it would legalise it should it get the chance after the General Election if the present Government really does go back on its agreement.


Read the BHA’s statement ‘Number 10 intervenes to block humanist marriages‘.

Read more about the broad support for humanist marriage.

Blog News

Fight back against faith schools

Please show your support for inclusive schools by donating whatever you can in support of the British Humanist Association’s (BHA) Faith Schools Campaigner. Each year the BHA, which is a charity reliant on donations and membership fees, fundraises to retain its fantastic Faith Schools Campaigner, who is the only campaigner working full time in opposition to the state funding of faith schools and against religious discrimination in admissions, employment and the curriculum.

Richy Thompson works tirelessly to end the unfair discrimination embedded in the state-funded faith schools system and has helped to make the issue of faith schools a matter of national level debate, as well as providing direct support and advice to parents, teachers, school governors and pupils in local areas. On top of all this, Richy also leads the BHA’s policy work on evolution and creationism, religious education, PSHE and sex and relationships education and collective worship – with a number of notable successes in the past few years.

There is still so much more to be done to have a truly fair, equal and high quality school and education system with no religious discrimination or prejudice. Please donate through the special JustGiving site.

Read more about the BHA’s work on schools and education.

Blog News

World Humanist Congress a huge success

Over 1000 atheist, humanist and other non-religious organisations and activists from over 60 countries from the world gathered in the internationally renowned university city of Oxford  for the World Humanist Congress, hosted by the British Humanist Association (BHA). This was the first time the Congress has been held in the United Kingdom since 1978 and was the the biggest Congress in its history.

Congress celebrated freedom of thought and expression and, on closing the conference, the BHA unveiled the Oxford Declaration on Freedom of Thought and Expression. The Declaration was described by BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson as an ‘urgent manifesto’ for reform and subject to overwhelming popular endorsement on the Congress floor. The Declaration read that ‘The right to freedom of thought and belief is one and the same right for all; no one anywhere should ever be forced into or out of a belief; the right to freedom of expression is global in its scope; there is no right not to be offended, or not to hear contrary opinions; states must not restrict thought and expression merely to protect the government from criticism; and freedom of belief is absolute but the freedom to act on a belief is not.’

Catch up

The World Humanist Congress had many speakers and sessions over three days. The Congress was filmed and those will be available shortly. Many hundreds of photographs are beginning to be uploaded by the BHA and delegates to the World Humanist Congress group on Flickr. You can also catch up with what happened by reading the news reports on the BHA website, searching for #WHC2014 on Twitter, and checking out the Congress Facebook page.

At Congress, Labour Humanists’ chair Naomi Phillips led a session asking ‘Should Humanism matter in politics’ with a truly fantastic panel: Kerry McCarthy MP, Tom Copley AM, Julie Pernet (European Humanist Federation) and Maggie Ardiente (American Humanist Association). We will publish a report of this session soon.




Meeting with Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary

Earlier this week, represented by Tom Copley AM, we met with Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt. We were pleased to attend that meeting alongside the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Accord Coalition, to speak about our shared vision for a high quality and inclusive education and schools system. We had a productive meeting and covered issues from religiously selective admissions in faith schools to the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum about religion and beliefs – including Humanism – in all state-funded schools. We look forward to working with the Labour education team as it sets out what the next Labour Government’s approach to education will be.

Read our submission to Labour on faith schools.