Successful party conference season for BHA and affiliate groups concludes with Lib Dems backing end to collective worship and employment discrimination in ‘faith’ schools

10 October, 2014

The political party conference season in Britain came to an end this week, leaving the British Humanist Association (BHA) and its affiliate groups with much to celebrate.

Of particular note was the passing of a policy motion supported by the Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats (HSLD) towards the end of the Liberal Democrats’ conference in Glasgow which resulted in the party adopting as policy that it would seek the abolition of the requirement for schools to hold acts of collective worship, and an end to legal discrimination in employment by ‘faith’ schools, except with respect to those responsible for faith-based religious instruction. The BHA, which sent its Head of Public Affairs and Chief Executive to the Labour, Conservative, and Lib Dem conferences, has celebrated the Lib Dems’ decision and has called on the other two parties to match these pledges ahead of the general election.

Speakers at the Labour Humanists event
Speakers at the Labour Humanists fringe event

Conference season began in Manchester with the Labour Party conference, where Labour Humanists hosted a successful ‘No Prayer Breakfast’ fringe event (an alternative to Christians on the Left’s regular Prayer Breakfast), drawing a packed room of over 100 delegates. BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson was a speaker at the event, with the other speakers including the journalist and BHA Vice President Polly Toynbee, Chavs author Owen Jones, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons Angela Eagle MP, columnist Sunny Hundal, London Assembly Member Tom Copley, and Kelvin Hopkins MP. The event was chaired by Naomi Phillips. Also at Labour Conference, the Fair Admissions Campaign was represented by Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow at a fringe event held by the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, the Campaign for State Education, Comprehensive Future, and the Socialist Educational Association.

At the Conservative Party conference, both Andrew and BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal were seen and heard at a variety of fringe events on a range of issues. The BHA also had a productive conversation with party grandee Kenneth Clarke MP, who identified as a ‘staunch secularist’ at the party’s Bright Blue fringe event.

Pavan Dhaliwal speaking at the HSLD event
Pavan Dhaliwal speaking at the HSLD fringe event

At the Liberal Democrats conference, fringe events covered a number of BHA areas, including assisted dying and public services reform. Pavan spoke about ‘British values’ at an event organised by HSLD on lessons from the so-called ‘Trojan Horse scandal’. She spoke alongside Maajid Nawaz, Hampstead & Kilburn prospective parliamentary candidate and Quilliam Foundation Chair, and David Ward MP, Commons Education Select Committee member, with the Chair being Toby Keynes. Mike Thornton MP also spoke at HSLD’s AGM.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘Following on from our work to influence manifestos ahead of the general election next year, this has been a highly successful conference season and we’re pleased to have encountered so many committed humanists at all three party conferences. We are particularly delighted that the Liberal Democrats have now officially backed calls from humanists for an end to compulsory collective worship, and would encourage the other two parties now to get behind public opinion on this issue as well, ahead of the general election.

‘We are also pleased that the Liberal Democrats will back an end to employment discrimination in “faith” schools, but would urge leaders there and in all parties to expand this to cover discrimination against pupils as well, as no young person should be denied a place in a local school on the basis of their parent’s religion or belief.’


For further information or contact BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal on or 0773 843 5059.

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

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.