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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.



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 Blasphemy laws were repealed in England and Wales in 2008 following years of campaigning from the BHA and other organisations.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.

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