Humanist and religious groups call on Prime Minister to protect human rights

14 June, 2021

Humanists have joined forces with religious groups across the UK to call on the Prime Minister to protect the Human Rights Act 1998. They have done so because of concern about measures possibly being introduced that would make it harder for people to secure their rights. This follows the Government’s Independent Human Rights Act Review, which was launched earlier this year.

The joint letter was coordinated by Humanists UK, Amnesty International UK, Rene Cassin – the Jewish voice for human rights, and Quakers in Britain. It has also been signed by Humanist Society Scotland, the Bishop of Manchester, René Cassin, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Network of Sikh Organisations, Soka Gakkai International, the Movement for Reform Judaism, Liberal Judaism, the Quakers in Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Bishop of St Davids, and many more. It states:

‘We believe different things about the world, our place in it, and how we should live. But what we all hold in common is that human beings are imbued with inherent dignity which is protected by human rights.

‘The European Convention on Human Rights, on which the Human Rights Act is based, was Europe’s response to the horror of the Holocaust. The Act has safeguarded our freedoms, including our freedom of thought, of belief, and of religion. It has allowed us to marry and conduct funerals in line with our understandings of the world, letting us live in accordance with our beliefs.

‘We do not want to see those freedoms diluted or see any measures taken to make it more difficult for people to access their rights. To do that would deprive people of what should be enjoyed by all. The human dignity that we all recognise needs a legal framework to protect it.

‘Any move to weaken the Human Rights Act risks undermining the basis of all of our freedom, and would be a marker on a very slippery slope. For a United Kingdom based on decency, dignity and respect, we must keep our Human Rights Act as it is.’


Click here to see the full list of signatories

  1. David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, Church of England
  2. Mia Hasenson-Gross, Executive Director, René Cassin – the Jewish Voice for Human Rights
  3. Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, Humanists UK
  4. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Chair, British Muslims for Secular Democracy
  5. Lord Indarjit Singh OBE, Director, Network of Sikh Organisations
  6. Robert Harrap, General Director, Soka Gakkai International, UK
  7. Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality
  8. Robert Harrap, General Director, Soka Gakkai International, UK
  9. Robert Wiltshire, Chair, Movement for Reform Judaism
  10. Rabbi Mark L. Solomon, Chair, Beit Din of Liberal Judaism
  11. Kira Blumer, CEO, Tzedek
  12. Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
  13. Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, Convener of the Faith Impact Forum, The Church of Scotland
  14. Rt Revd Dr Joanna Penberthy, Bishop of St Davids, Church in Wales
  15. Fraser Sutherland, Chief Executive, Humanist Society Scotland
  16. Anita Peleg, Chair of Trustees, Generation 2 Generation
  17. Dharmachari Guhyapati, Director,Ecodharma Centre
  18. Canon Mark Oakley, Dean, St John’s College, Cambridge
  19. Social Justice Group, Manchester and Warrington Quakers
  20. Greater Manchester Humanists
  21. Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers
  22. Revd Naomi Oates
  23. Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild
  24. The Very Revd Jerry Lepine
  25. Rev Margaret Crawshaw
  26. Rev Hilary A Jowett
  27. Rev Canon Nicholas P A Jowett
  28. Rev Julia M Binney
  29. Rev James Binney
  30. Rev Judith Wheatley
  31. Rabbi Dr Michael Hilton
  32. Rabbi Anna Posner
  33. Sister Alicia Perez
  34. Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah
  35. Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris
  36. Rabbi Aaron Goldstein
  37. Rabbi Charley Baginsky
  38. Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky
  39. Rabbi Warren Elf MBE
  40. Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen
  41. Rabbi Sybil Sheridan
  42. Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg
  43. Rabbi Margaret Jacobi
  44. Ruth Forrester
  45. Derek McComiskey
  46. Patricia Thompson
  47. Jill Dyble
  48. Vera Cranmer
  49. Bob Morley
  50. Shirley Grant
  51. Jackie Robinson
  52. Felicity Allbrooke
  53. Anne and Michael Sheehan
  54. Marion McPherson
  55. Judith Simpson
  56. Richard Diebel
  57. Dr Chris Jary
  58. Astrid Laich
  59. Heather Radmore
  60. Sylvia Rigby
  61. Jane Rosenberg
  62. Natasha Adams
  63. Lesley Urbach
  64. Marjory Currie
  65. John Cormican
  66. Tony Kidd
  67. Rebecca Warren
  68. Stuart Harthill
  69. Anne McFarlane

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘The Human Rights Act is one of the foundational pieces of legislation in the UK. It upholds freedom of religion or belief for all. Without it, ordinary citizens would not be able to secure our right to hold or manifest their beliefs, whether religious or humanist. We are concerned that the current review of the Act risks leading to its dilution. It must not.’

Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah, Rabbi Emeritus, Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue, one of the signatories to the letter, stated, ‘The Human Rights Act is an essential expression of our values as a society committed to equality, justice and dignity for all – not least, for the most vulnerable and marginal, whose rights demand vigilant protection.’

Oliver Robertson, Head of Witness and Worship for Quakers in Britain, said “At their core, human rights are about how we treat people. They recognise there are some things people are entitled to just because they’re human, and that there are some things it is never okay to do to people.”


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

Read the joint letter.

More than 200 organisations, including charities, trades unions, human rights bodies, and religion or belief groups, have joined a coalition in defence of human rights and judicial review. The coalition, which was established by Humanists UK, has formed in response to growing pressure from the UK Government to review both of these areas of our constitutional law, potentially with a view to scaling back, weakening, or repealing protections.

Read more about our work on human rights and equality.

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