Successful campaigns

We frequently achieve success in our campaigns as we work to tackle discrimination against the non-religious and to bring about fair and equal treatment for all. Here are some wins that we’re most proud of:

Abolishing blasphemy laws in England and Wales

We helped abolish blasphemy laws in England and Wales in 2008 to ensure freedom of expression is protected.

Legalisation of same-sex marriages across the UK

We were one of the most influential voices to campaign for marriage equality which led to same-sex marriages being legalised in England, Wales, and Scotland in 2013, and in Northern Ireland from 2020.

Decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland

We helped bring about legal and safe access to abortions in Northern Ireland. From April 2020, women there will able to make their own choices about their bodies without fear of prosecution.

Banning creationism in schools

Our ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign in 2014 now means every state school in England is required to teach evolution, and there’s a ban on creationism or intelligent design being taught as scientifically valid.

Humanists taking part in Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph

We won the right for humanists to take part in Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph in 2018 after decades of campaigning for non-religious war veterans to be recognised alongside religious veterans.

Making Relationships and Sex Education compulsory in English schools

We were a major influence in making the Government introduce compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in all English schools from 2020 so that all children will learn what’s needed to grow up happy, healthy, and safe.

Non-religious pastoral care in NHS hospitals

Since 2015, hospitals must now provide pastoral care for non-religious patients after we worked with NHS England to amend their guidance. We’re working to extend their availability across both hospitals and prisons.

Non-religious worldviews equal to major religions in RE

Non-religious worldviews must be treated equally to major religions in RE after we won a legal case in the High Court in 2015. This prompted the Welsh Government to change the law to do the same.

Shutting down illegal religious schools

In 2018 we got the Government to commit to shutting down illegal religious schools where children are at risk, after we exposed some schools’ alarming practices.

Humanist care in the Ministry of Defence

In 2023, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that it will recruit non-religious pastoral support officers for the first time, to operate alongside religious chaplains.

Legal recognition of humanist marriages

We achieved legal recognition of humanist marriages in Northern Ireland and Jersey in 2018 and Guernsey in 2021 so that more people can have a legal marriage that reflects their deepest beliefs.

Saving the lives of non-religious asylum seekers

Our asylum support is helping save the lives of non-religious asylum seekers at risk of persecution. We’re also training Home Office staff on the grounds of asylum for humanists and non-religious people at risk.
Other recent and ongoing successes
Other recent and ongoing successes which have come about as a result of our campaigning, or in coalition with partner groups, include:

Achievements since 1896
Historically we’ve had even more achievements since 1896 which have come about as a result of our work either alone or in coalition, including:
  • 1896 – Union of Ethical Societies formed with focus on ‘right living’ without religion
  • 1911 – First ever global conference against racism hosted by us in London
  • 1945 – Founding of UNESCO by our President Julian Huxley, originally intended to promote humanism and peace internationally through arts and culture
  • 1955 – Humanist Housing Association founded to ensure fair access to housing to non-religious people
  • 1965 – Agnostics Adoption Society founded to open adoption to the non-religious
  • 1967 – Abortion made generally legal in Britain, homosexuality decriminalised in England and Wales, death penalty brought to an end, and Family Planning Act makes the pill widely available for the first time
  • 1968 – First campaign for ‘Moral Education’ launched, predating modern subjects like PSHE and Citizenship
  • 1979 – Gay Humanist Group (now LGBT Humanists) founded to help organise and support LGBT community activism in response to Gay News blasphemy trial
  • 1998 – Human Rights Act makes freedom of religion or belief and freedom of speech and expression a legal right in the UK
  • 2006 – The UK Equality Act protects people from discrimination on grounds of ‘religion or belief’ in employment and the provision of services. We sat on the Government steering group for the new law
  • 2006 – We secured an amendment to the then Equality Bill to ensure that young people could no longer be expelled from their school on account of their religious opinions (for instance, if they attend a faith school and decide they do not share the religion of the school)
  • 2006 and 2010 – We helped with the passing of the 2006 and 2010 Equality Acts, bringing comprehensive equality legislation into English, Welsh, and Scottish law
  • 2009-10 – Our Atheist Billboard Campaign, which promoted the message ‘Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and decide for myself’ – opposing the labelling of children with religious or non-religious beliefs
  • 2010 – Equality Act 2010 outlaws discrimination in employment and services on grounds of ‘religion or belief.’
These are just a handful of examples – many more can be found throughout the campaigns’ pages of our website.