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Wales Humanists: News

Success as Humanists UK returns to party conferences

Humanists UK made a buzz returning to the party conference scene this year. Staff attended the Conservative and Labour Party conferences, with an exhibition stand and fringe event at both. Humanists UK had great success in meeting over 100 MPs and peers, including many ministers, and greeting and recruiting members. Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats similarly had a stand and two fringe events at the Liberal Democrats’ Conference.

We regularly attend party conferences in order to meet with parliamentarians and other influential stakeholders to advocate for humanist issues and engage with our party-political members and supporters.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson with Justice Secretary Dominic Raab MP. Credit: Ben Page

At the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, we held a ‘humanist wedding reception’, with bubbly and cake for all. The event was cohosted by Conservative Humanists, and bought together key speakers to urge for legal recognition of humanist marriages. Speakers included Crispin Blunt MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group; Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK; Hannah McKerchar, humanist celebrant; and James Baird, Chair of Conservative Humanists.

At the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, we held our regular packed-out breakfast fringe event, the Humanists UK Breakfast with a brilliant line-up of humanist speakers including Jeff Smith MP, Dame Angela Eagle MP, Rachel Hopkins MP, and Andrew Copson, Humanists UK Chief Executive. Julie Morgan MS, Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Social Services, also spoke about the valuable contribution of humanism to Wales. There the panel discussed topical humanist issues of the day, such as humanist marriages and inclusive assemblies.

At both conferences, our team on the exhibition stands were kept busy meeting with key parliamentary figures, and speaking with and recruiting members. Our petition at both stands collected hundreds of signatures calling on the UK Government to legally recognise humanist marriages in England and Wales.

Humanists UK Breakfast at Labour Conference

Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats (HSLD) held two fringe events at the Liberal Democrats conference, which was held online this year due to Covid. The first was joint with the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum on the Forgotten Human Right: Freedom of Religion or Belief. This explored how the fundamental right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, or belief protects everyone, whatever their beliefs, and identified that the right is increasingly attacked around the world. The event was chaired by Wera Hobhouse MP, the Equalities Spokesperson, and included Marguerite Ohan, from Christian Solidarity Worldwide; and Emma Wadsworth-Jones, from Humanists International.

The second event was titled Why Aren’t School Assemblies Inclusive?, which explored All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group Vice Chair Baroness Burt’s Education (Assemblies) Bill, which had its second reading last month. The event discussed how the Bill would make assemblies in schools with no religious character inclusive for all students, regardless of their religion or belief, and why this matters. Speakers included Baroness Burt, HSLD Co-President; Reverend Stephen Terry, Chair of the Accord Coalition, which campaigns to end religious discrimination in state schools; and Lee and Lizanne Harris, who had to go to court to assert their right not to have a religion they don’t hold imposed on their children.

As a charity, Humanists UK is not party political and works with politicians and others from all the major parties.

Notes:

For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

That’s humanism! Stephen Fry and Humanists UK explore humanism in new social media campaign

Humanists UK has teamed up with its patron Stephen Fry to explore humanist ideas about some of life’s big questions with a new educational campaign entitled That’s humanism!

The four videos, entitled ‘How can I be happy?’, ‘What should we think about death?’, ‘How do we know what’s true?’ and ‘What makes something right or wrong?’ are a revival of Humanists UK’s popular campaign of the same name in 2014, which reached over 2 million people.

Over four weeks, Humanists UK’s social media will be dedicated to That’s humanism!, releasing one video in the series per week alongside fresh stories, graphics, and insights from patrons and members of Humanists UK into the humanist approach to life. The campaign aims to connect with the many millions of non-religious people who already hold humanist beliefs and values, but don’t yet know there’s a name for them – humanist! – as well as a community of like-minded people.

A satisfying approach to life

In the first video, ‘How can I be happy?’ Stephen Fry explains that the humanist approach to life places responsibility for finding and creating meaning on human beings, rather than looking outside of humanity for some grand cosmic plan or ‘meaning of life’. Each of us has to decide for ourselves what gives us fulfilment and what makes us who we are. 

How can I be happy?’ will be followed by three further videos each week on a Tuesday. Across the four videos, Stephen examines life’s biggest questions and brings to light how a humanist perspective grounded in rational thinking and kindness can be empowering, motivating, humbling, or even liberating.

Watch ‘How can I be happy?‘ now and share our That’s humanism! campaign on Twitter and Facebook!

Humanists are people who shape their own lives in the here and now, because we believe it’s the one life we have. In the first video, Stephen goes on to explain:

‘Humanists do not see that there is any obvious purpose to the universe, but that it is a natural phenomenon with no design behind it. Meaning is not something out there waiting to be discovered, but something that we create in our own lives…’

‘We may find meaning through our family, our career, making a commitment to an artistic project or a political reform, in simple pleasures such as gardening, in hobbies, or in a thousand other ways giving rein to our creativity or our curiosity, our intellectual capacities or our emotional life. The time to be happy is now and the way to find meaning in life is to get on and live it – as fully and as well as we can.’

Launching the campaign, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘In 2014, our That’s humanism campaign was a big hit – rapidly reaching over 2 million people around the world soon and drawing hundreds upon hundreds of new members to Humanists UK.

‘Seven years on, over half the UK population now says they have no religion and a quarter live by humanist beliefs and values, but maybe haven’t heard of the term ‘humanism’. It’s this last group we’re trying to reach today. We know from our experience that humanism strikes a chord with many people when they hear of it – many suddenly realise that they have been humanists all their lives, connected to a rich history and a vast international community with the same approach to life and a similar vision for a fairer society. We hope that many thousands more people will come to that realisation once again as a result of the revived campaign.’

For more information, head to humanists.uk/thatshumanism

Notes: Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

Humanists UK’s latest That’s humanism! videos were animated by Liangliang Luo of xMx Design, and Raj2016 in 2021. The videos were narrated by Stephen Fry and scripted by Andrew Copson in 2014 as part of the original That’s humanism! campaign.

Nichola Raihani explains the evolutionary origins of cooperation in the biggest Voltaire Lecture to date

Professor Nichola Raihani (L) receives the 2021 Voltaire Medal, presented by Professor Alice Roberts (R)

Nichola Raihani, Professor of Evolution and Behaviour at UCL, and author of The Social Instinct: How Cooperation Shaped the World, on Wednesday night delivered the Voltaire Lecture 2021 on the same title, in an event viewed by over 1,000 people worldwide and chaired by Humanists UK President Professor Alice Roberts.

Describing human cooperation as ‘our superpower’, Nichola noted that it is a defining characteristic of our species, arguing that the act of teaching and even the menopause itself – both almost unique to humans in the mammal class – are quintessentially cooperative, and evolutionary advantageous. She demonstrated how humans sometimes use instances of cooperation – such as generous giving, especially when visible to others – in the same way male peacocks develop ostentatious feathering, while cautioning that generosity and cooperation being evolutionary advantageous to the cooperator does not mean these acts are done cynically, or even consciously. And she paused to reflect on abuses and ‘victims’ of a cooperative spirit, seen in cartels, cronyism, and nepotism, and the effects of failure to cooperate, as seen in environmental and ecological destruction, arguing that cooperation must move past the locally cooperative behaviours we’ve evolved, and consider how we can cooperate more effectively at a larger, even global, scale.

Following the lecture and an expansive question and answer session, Alice Roberts presented Nichola with the Humanists UK Voltaire Medal, for demonstrating that we need not think of cooperation, altruism, or empathy as inhuman, or unnatural instincts, behaviours, or desires, and for her research and promotion of science with the potential to make very significant impact on how we see the human being.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘Science increasingly validates the humanist intuition that to be cooperative – to think for yourself, and act for everyone – doesn’t require fighting against our human nature but the opposite. Professor Raihani’s Voltaire Lecture and her new book are an outstanding contribution to this growing field. If humanity can harness our evolved headstart and learn to cooperate more widely – while avoiding cooperation’s unwanted pitfalls – we can bring about the kinder, more rational, more tolerant world humanists seek.’

Notes:

About Professor Nichola Raihani

Nichola Raihani is a Royal Society University Research Fellow and Professor in Evolution and Behaviour at University College London (UCL). Her group’s research focuses on the evolution of social behaviour in humans and non-human species.

She has been widely published in scientific journals, won the 2018 Philip Leverhulme Prize in Psychology for her research achievements, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology in 2018. She is also the author of The Social Instinct: How Cooperation Shaped the World (Penguin, UK, 2021) and has appeared on several podcasts and radio shows, including BBC Radio 4’s Hacking the Unconscious, and Thought Cages and RSA’s Bridges to the Future.

About Professor Alice Roberts

Alice Roberts has been President of Humanists UK since January 2019. She’s Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, Director of Anatomy for the NHS Severn Deanery School of Surgery, and holds honorary fellowships at Hull, York Medical School, and the University of Bristol.

She combines her academic career with one as a science presenter on television. She has appeared as a human bone specialist on Channel 4’s Time Team and in various projects on BBC2, including Coast, Don’t Die Young, The Incredible Human Journey, Wild Swimming, Digging for Britain, Horizon, and Origins of Us.

She is an honorary fellow of the British Science Association, a member of the Advisory Board of the Cheltenham Festival of Science, Patron of the Association of Science and Discovery Centres, and a member of the Council of the British Heart Foundation.

She has co-authored The Little Book of Humanism published in 2020, and The Little Book of Humanist Weddings, published today.

About the Voltaire Lecture series

The Voltaire Lecture explores ‘any aspect of scientific or philosophical thought or human activity as affected by or with particular reference to humanism’. The Voltaire medallist has made a significant contribution in one of these fields.

The lecture and medal are named for the philosopher Voltaire and the Voltaire Lectures Fund was originally established by the legacy of Theodore Besterman, biographer of Voltaire.

About Humanists UK

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

Compulsory school worship undermines new curriculum, Wales Humanists tells Senedd Committee

The legal requirement for schools to carry out a daily act of Christian worship will undermine the aims of the new Curriculum for Wales and should be scrapped in favour of inclusive assemblies, Wales Humanists has told a Senedd committee.

The new Curriculum for Wales is due to come into force from 2022. It explicitly requires schools to teach about non-religious perspectives like humanism alongside world religions, in religion, values and ethics (RVE) lessons. This teaching must be done in an ‘objective, critical, and pluralistic’ way. But, in response to a consultation on the issues the Children, Young People, and Education Committee should prioritise over the new Senedd term, Wales Humanists said that the worship law will ‘impair the implementation’ of the RVE curriculum. This is because, by requiring Christian prayer, it ‘seeks to impose a particular religious perspective’ on pupils.

The UK is the only sovereign state in the world where Christian worship is imposed as standard in all schools, including those without a religious character. Parents are legally permitted to withdraw their children from these sessions, and in England and Wales, sixth-formers may withdraw themselves. But the process can be difficult and isolating, and withdrawn children are rarely provided with a meaningful alternative to worship. What’s more, according to a recent YouGov poll, most parents (65%) aren’t aware of the law. This makes it extremely unlikely they will be able to exercise their rights on the matter. When made aware of the law, 60% of parents think it shouldn’t be enforced.

Wales Humanists’ consultation response also highlighted the threat compulsory Christian worship poses to children’s rights. It also noted that the UN Children’s Rights Committee have called for the worship law to be repealed. The Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021 places a duty on schools to ‘promote knowledge and understanding of the UN Conventions on the rights of children and persons with disabilities’. It is therefore essential that the legal requirements imposed on schools do not violate children’s rights.

Last week, a Bill proposing to replace compulsory worship with inclusive assemblies that are suitable for pupils from all backgrounds regardless of religion or belief passed its second stage in the House of Lords. The majority of peers spoke in support of the change. However, if it were to become law, the Bill would only apply to England. For this reason, Wales Humanists are lobbying the Welsh Government to make a similar change in Wales.

Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick commented:

‘By introducing the Curriculum and Assessment Bill, the Welsh Government has already acknowledged the importance of inclusive education about religion and belief. It has also committed to children’s rights by placing a duty on schools to promote knowledge and understanding of the UNCRC. But the outdated collective worship law actively undermines these positive steps by violating the freedom of religion or belief of children and their families.

‘We urge the Senedd’s Children, Young People, and Education Committee to press the Government to address this contradictory policy and replace compulsory worship with inclusive assemblies that are suitable for all children regardless of background.’

Notes:

For further comment or information in Wales, please contact Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick via kathy@humanists.uk or phone 07881 625 378.

Read the consultation response.

Read our most recent article on the Second Reading of the Education (Assemblies) Bill.

Watch the Second Reading of the Education (Assemblies Bill).

Read the Education (Assemblies) Bill.

Read our article on the new poll finding majority of parents don’t think the collective worship law should be enforced.

Read our recent story on why new RVE guidance risks continuing exclusion of humanists.

Read our article on the UN Committee pressing the UK to repeal collective worship laws.

Read more about our work on collective worship.

In 2019, Humanists UK launched a groundbreaking resource hub called Assemblies for All, providing hundreds of free inclusive assemblies for schools.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

Humanists UK warns that new Borders Bill could breach human rights

Humanists UK has expressed concern about the Nationality and Borders Bill in response to an inquiry by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The Bill has recently passed the second reading in the House of Commons.

The Bill would introduce a temporary protection order, rather than granting asylum, for those who have entered the UK by irregular means. Humanists UK believes this runs counter to the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention 1951. The Bill also seeks to amend the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 to allow for the deportation of asylum seekers before the conclusion of their cases. Humanists UK opposes this as it is unfair and undermines the principle of non-refoulement.

The Bill will impose unfair barriers upon asylum seekers, including humanists who face the death penalty in 13 countries. It proposes raising the bar of what is considered ‘a well-founded fear of persecution’. But Humanists UK believes that the Home Office should instead consider how it can improve the quality and accuracy of its decision-making. This is especially true with regard to the level of understanding of non-religious beliefs and the persecution of the non-religious globally, which is currently severely lacking.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘There are some very serious questions that the Government needs to answer before pushing ahead with this Bill. We are concerned that, in its current form, it might not be compliant with the UK’s human rights obligations or the Refugee Convention. We urge the Government to think again about its approach to asylum reform.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read the Nationality and Borders Bill.

Read more about the inquiry by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Humanists UK’s response to the consultation will be published by the Committee in due course.

Read more about our international campaign work.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

Government consults labelling for non-stunned meat

The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has launched a consultation on the introduction of a new labelling system for meat products. This includes considering whether the system should indicate if the animal was stunned before slaughter. Humanists UK, which campaigns to repeal religious exemptions to animal welfare legislation which allow animals to be slaughtered without pre-stunning, has welcomed the consultation. Method of slaughter labelling would allow consumers to make informed choices about the food they eat.

Current animal welfare laws mandate that all animals must be stunned so that they are insensible to pain before the lethal cut is made. But there are exceptions to this for religious slaughter, which are used in the preparation of halal and kosher meat. Around 80% of animals undergoing halal slaughter are actually stunned, as certain stun methods are accepted by many halal certification bodies. All kosher meat is unstunned. Much unstunned halal and kosher meat enters the general market for consumption by people other than Muslims and Jews. It is estimated that 118 million chickens, three million sheep and goats, and 24,000 cattle were slaughtered without pre-stunning in 2018 across England and Wales.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We are pleased that DEFRA has launched this consultation. Every major animal welfare and veterinary organisation in the UK opposes non-stunned slaughter. They have arrived at this position after careful consideration of the scientific evidence, which shows that stunning significantly reduces the distress and suffering caused to the animal by the slaughtering process.

‘While we appreciate the desire of religious groups to observe dietary requirements connected to their faith, this has to be balanced against competing animal welfare considerations. The introduction of method of slaughter labelling will not in any way impact upon the rights of religious communities. But it will give consumers the information they need to make informed decisions in accordance with their own conscience and beliefs.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read the Government’s statement regarding method of slaughter labelling.

Read more about this consultation.

Read more about our work on animal welfare.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

Humanists respond to crisis in Afghanistan

Photo credit Andre Klimke via Unsplash.

Take action today by writing to your MP to urge them to advocate for a humanitarian response to the crisis.

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has been devastating for millions of people, with many losing their lives, livelihoods, or being internally displaced.

The crisis is particularly devastating for women and girls. They now face being denied the right to education, being denied employment, being unable to leave their homes without a male chaperone, and being forced to wear a full face covering when they do.

It is also devastating for minorities, including LGBT people, religious minorities, and the non-religious. Even before the Taliban took over, it was already the case that blasphemy and apostasy were punishable by death. Sadly it is likely that such laws will be more widely used and enforced.

At Humanists UK, we have been doing whatever we can to urge the UK Government to do what it can to support the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people. We have been acting in concert with Humanists International in this.

We have been liaising with the Foreign Office about the need for the UK to do whatever it can to protect the human rights of women and girls. This includes by increasing funding and support for local NGOs. We have also asked them to support NGOs and human rights defenders that promote democracy, children’s rights, freedom of religion or belief, education, health care, and other vital needs. And we hope that the UK will call for accountability and sanctions against actors and governments directly or indirectly supporting the Taliban.

We have also asked the UK Government to use international levers to uphold Afghans’ rights and safety. That includes through the UN Human Rights Council and the Security Council. We are pleased to see the UK supporting an emergency session of the Human Rights Council next week. We hope to see it use the Security Council to bring a resolution to bring sanctions against those breaching international law, and to mandate that UN agencies and other humanitarian groups should have full and free access to those in need.

We have also alerted the Government to particular humanist activists who need safe haven. And we have been in correspondence with the Home Office about the need for any UK resettlement programme to include the non-religious among those who are prioritised. The non-religious community in Afghanistan may appear to be very small. But that is simply a reflection of how severe the persecution they have always faced has been.

And we have been urging our members and supporters to write to their MPs, making the same asks.

This weekend was also the General Assembly of Humanists International. Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK, is also presently the elected President of Humanists International. Speaking in that capacity as he opened the Assembly, Andrew commented:

‘[We must now] think of the people of Afghanistan, where the advance of the Taliban all over the country has ushered in the end of hopes for freedom. The things most valued by our humanist movement – freedom of thought, speech, and choice; human rights including of women, LGBTI+ people, and children; knowledge, rationality; human empathy – are the things most hated by the Taliban and those who have allied or will ally with them. I know that all national humanist organizations will be urging the governments of their countries to take whatever action they can – unilaterally and multilaterally – to secure the human rights and equitable treatment of everyone within Afghanistan.

‘I know too that we will all be increasing our support for Afghan refugees – both humanists and others – who have fled or are fleeing the utter darkness of the regime that their homeland will now suffer again. And we will be urging our governments to do the same. Our growing horror at the rise of totalitarian regimes of all kinds must not extinguish our hope that a better world is possible. But it is an urgent call to action that none of us can ignore.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read more about our work on international campaigns.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

Professor Nichola Raihani to deliver Voltaire Lecture 2021

Humanists UK has announced the Voltaire Lecture 2021 – The Social Instinct – will be delivered by Nichola Raihani, psychologist, Professor of Evolution and Behaviour, and author of a 2021 book by the same name. Following the lecture, taking place on Wednesday 22 September, Raihani will be presented with the Voltaire Lecture Medal by Humanists UK President Professor Alice Roberts.

In her Voltaire Lecture, Raihani will illuminate the role of cooperation in the human story: why we live in families, why women experience the menopause, and why we routinely help complete strangers. She will also explore the dark side of cooperation, looking at how cooperation creates victims, where cooperation fails, and why we sometimes cheat.

Professor Raihani will also introduce attendees to other cooperating species, from the pied babblers of the Kalahari to the cleaner fish of the Great Barrier Reef. She will lead on an exhilarating, far-reaching, and thought-provoking journey through all life on Earth, with profound insights into what makes us human and how our societies work.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘The Voltaire Lecture is our longest-running lecture: a history of big ideas stretching back decades. For over 50 years, audiences have heard from brilliant and inspiring thinkers, including Professor Sir David King, Barbara Wootton, Steven Pinker, Bonya Ahmed, and Sir Ludovic Kennedy.

‘The Voltaire Lecture Medal is an opportunity to recognise people we believe have important things to say: about the world, about philosophy, about society, or about human nature. We’re delighted that Nichola will be our 2021 Voltaire Medallist, and we look forward to welcoming our audience to the lecture in September.’


Notes:

About Professor Nichola Raihani

Nichola Raihani is a Royal Society University Research Fellow and Professor in Evolution and Behaviour at University College London (UCL). Her group’s research focuses on the evolution of social behaviour in humans and non-human species.

She has been widely published in scientific journals, won the 2018 Philip Leverhulme Prize in Psychology for her research achievements, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology in 2018. She is also the author of The Social Instinct: How Cooperation Shaped the World (Penguin, UK, 2021) and has appeared on several podcasts and radio shows, including BBC Radio 4’s Hacking the Unconscious, and Thought Cages and RSA’s Bridges to the Future. You can find out more about Nichola’s research and connect with her on Twitter: @nicholaraihani.

About Professor Alice Roberts

Professor Alice Roberts has been President of Humanists UK since January 2019. She is Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, Director of Anatomy for the NHS Severn Deanery School of Surgery, and holds honorary fellowships at Hull, York Medical School, and the University of Bristol.

She is an honorary fellow of the British Science Association, a member of the Advisory Board of the Cheltenham Festival of Science, Patron of the Association of Science and Discovery Centres, and a member of the Council of the British Heart Foundation.

She combines her academic career with one as a science presenter on television. She has appeared as a human bone specialist on Channel 4’s Time Team and in various projects on BBC2, including Coast, Don’t Die Young, The Incredible Human Journey, Wild Swimming, Digging for Britain, Horizon, and Origins of Us.

About the Voltaire Lecture

This explores ‘any aspect of scientific or philosophical thought or human activity as affected by or with particular reference to humanism’. The Voltaire medallist has made a significant contribution in one of these fields.

The lecture and medal are named for the philosopher Voltaire and the Voltaire Lectures Fund was originally established by the legacy of Theodore Besterman, biographer of Voltaire.

It has been delivered by Professor Sir David King, Baroness Wootton, Professor Steven Pinker, Professor Richard Dawkins, Natalie Haynes, Michael Foot, Kenan Malik, Bettany Hughes, Nick Cohen, Dr Henry Marsh, Bonya Ahmed, and Sir Ludovic Kennedy.

– – –

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Find out more about Humanists UK’s events.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

Northern Ireland Humanists announces five year anniversary celebration

Northern Ireland Humanist patrons Laura Lacole (L) and Tim McGarry (R).

Northern Ireland Humanists will be celebrating its five years of work advancing humanism, rational thinking, and kindness in Northern Ireland with a special anniversary event on 31 August.

The event, which is being hosted by the comedian and Northern Ireland Humanists patron Tim McGarry, will also see the launch of a brand new report examining the incredible impact humanist campaigning has had on the legal and social landscape of Northern Ireland in recent years.

Northern Ireland Humanists is a part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. It brings together Humanists UK’s growing number of members, supporters, and activists in Northern Ireland to put humanism into practice through work in schools, humanist ceremonies, pastoral support, and campaigns for a more secular, inclusive society. While Humanists UK’s presence in Northern Ireland dates back to 1896, it was in 2016 that the movement first came together as a nationwide entity.

Since 2018, following a successful legal case taken by model Laura Lacole and footballer Eunan O’Kane, humanist marriages have had legal recognition in Northern Ireland and have been growing in popularity ever since. Lacole, a patron of Northern Ireland Humanists, will speak to Tim McGarry about her experiences and discuss the incredible growth of humanist ceremonies in the three years since. The event will also hear from the volunteer team leading Northern Ireland Humanists’ activities, plus humanist campaigners working on the repeal of blasphemy laws and an end to divided schools, humanist historians, non-religious pastoral carers, and humanist celebrants.

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator said:

‘Five years ago when we first founded Northern Ireland Humanists, we set ourselves big ambitions – an end to divided schools, winning legal recognition for humanist marriages, and legalising same-sex marriage and abortion. People in 2016 would scarcely believe how far we’ve come in just five short years!

‘Northern Ireland is changing. It is becoming a kinder, more tolerant, and more inclusive place. This event is our opportunity to celebrate the progress we’ve made and look ahead to the future too.’

Tickets to Five Years of Northern Ireland Humanists are free but registration in advance is essential.

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at boyd@humanists.uk or phone 07918 975795.

Successful Northern Ireland Humanists campaigns include:

Separately, an independent review of education will be looking at a single education system for Northern Ireland, which is something Northern Ireland Humanists actively campaigns for.

Northern Ireland Humanists is part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

Faith to Faithless to hold national Apostasy Conference

This August will see delegates turning out in their hundreds for a national Apostasy Conference, organised by Faith to Faithless, the Humanists UK support programme for so-called ‘apostates’ (people who leave high-control religions and cults). The online conference will take place over four days, and will feature in-depth talks and roundtable discussions on the key issues faced by apostates.

The main event of the Apostasy Conference 2021 takes place on August 18, and will feature talks given by the UK’s leading experts on apostasy. Topics will include the rights of apostates to access services, an overview of the systemic barriers they face, and some of the latest data informing the work of Faith to Faithless. Delegates will also hear powerful testimonies and stories from apostates themselves on where they found their access to services was seriously lacking.

Leading up to the main event, Faith to Faithless will also be hosting interactive roundtables on 13, 14, and 17 August, where attendees will be encouraged to participate in breakout rooms to discuss different key issues. This includes the latest research into the kinds of abuse apostates suffer, how service providers can improve provision and awareness, and the needs of apostates when ‘coming out’.

Since 2017, Humanists UK and Faith to Faithless have provided direct support to over 1,000 apostates, trained 293 service providers, and supported over 30 humanists fleeing persecution abroad to secure asylum in the UK.

Announcing the conference, Imtiaz Shams, co-founder of Faith to Faithless, said:

‘When we set up Faith to Faithless, we wanted to give apostates a voice – and to strip away the barriers that prevent them from living free, full, and happy lives. Since 2017, we’ve supported over 1,000 apostates and chipped away at some of those systemic barriers.

‘Our Apostasy Conference is an important platform for us to connect many more people with the stories of apostates and the issues we face. We want everyone who is struggling with leaving a religion to know they’re not alone, to know where they can come for support, and ultimately, to find a safe path to the kind of life they want to lead.’

Registration for the Apostasy Conference and roundtable events is free. Book your place now.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Community Services Teddy Prout at teddy@humanists.uk.

Faith to Faithless is Humanists UK’s support programme for so-called ‘apostates’ and those who leave high-control religions. The service is led by apostates themselves, who have knowledge and experiences of apostate communities facing serious and systemic issues.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

Government publishes Bill designed to limit judicial review

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street.

The Government has today published its plans to shake up judges’ powers and limit the public’s ability to challenge official decisions. The Judicial Review and Courts Bill has been introduced into Parliament. It aims to change the process of judicial review – a mechanism that allows citizens to legally challenge the Government’s decisions. Humanists UK has expressed its concern at the proposals which it says will risk undermining scrutiny and the rights of victims.

Under the proposed reforms, public bodies that are found to have breached the law may not have to correct their unlawful actions swiftly. Judges will be capable of leaving the unlawful conduct, which led to the legal case occurring in the first place, remaining in effect. In 2015 new Government guidance said that non-religious beliefs could be excluded from RE. Three humanist families successfully challenged this. But had these reforms been in place then, it could have meant that the curriculum would not have to change for the particular pupils affected.

The Bill would also restrict the ability of potential refugees to apply for asylum in the UK, even if their case had been handled unlawfully. What’s more, some commentators have warned that this reform could open the way for other  areas of law to be taken outside courts’ supervision. They would be made immune to scrutiny.

The Government’s proposals come after it commissioned an Independent Review of Administrative Law. Humanists UK submitted evidence to support the existing framework of judicial review. The Review rejected the Government’s most extreme idea and cautioned against wholesale reform. Further, more than 200 charities, trades unions, and human rights organisations have joined Humanists UK’s coalition calling for the protection of judicial review and human rights.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said: 

‘These plans to erode judicial review will be of great concern to all who support transparent decision-making and justice. If enacted they would amount to a significant blow for accountability and may be a charter for officials to make unlawful decisions. The plans include removing the retrospective effect of legal rulings and suspending the effect of any quashing orders. That might not only allow officials acting unlawfully to do so with impunity. It might also weaken the ability of victims to challenge the injustices they have endured.

‘What’s more, the Government is hinting at the prospect of even more radical reforms later on. This may include taking entire subjects outside the scope of courts’ scrutiny. This sets a dangerous precedent for the rights of ordinary citizens. We strongly urge the Government to reconsider these proposals. Instead it should focus upon strengthening our human rights and access to justice. The ability of ordinary people to challenge official decisions has long been the bedrock of accountability and good governance in our country. These plans risk moving away from this respected tradition and are a cause for great alarm.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read the Government’s Bill.

Read the full list of coalition signatories.

Read Humanists UK’s response to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on judicial review reform.

Read Humanists UK’s response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights call for evidence.

Read about Humanists UK’s response to the Government’s Independent Human Rights Act Review.

Read more about our work on human rights and equality.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

Dweud wrth Lywodraeth Cymru bod perygl y bydd yr addysg Crefydd, Gwerthoedd a Moeseg newydd yn parhau i eithrio dyneiddiaeth

Mae Dyneiddwyr Cymru wedi dweud wrth Lywodraeth Cymru bod perygl y bydd y canllawiau newydd ar addysgu Crefydd, Gwerthoedd a Moeseg yn parhau i eithrio dyneiddiaeth.

Cafodd Deddf Cwricwlwm ac Asesu (Cymru) gydsyniad brenhinol ym mis Ebrill. O dan y Ddeddf, mae’n rhaid i addysg Crefydd, Gwerthoedd a Moeseg – yr enw newydd ar gyfer addysg grefyddol – gynnwys addysgu am ‘argyhoeddiadau athronyddol anghrefyddol’. Mae’r Ddeddf hefyd yn dweud y caiff cynrychiolwyr anghrefyddol hefyd ymuno â chyrff yr awdurdodau lleol sy’n goruchwylio ac yn datblygu maes llafur Crefydd, Gwerthoedd a Moeseg. Adnabyddir y rhain fel Cynghorau Ymgynghorol Sefydlog a Chynadleddau Maes Llafur Cytûn.

Ond, mewn ymateb i ymgynghoriad cyhoeddus, mae Dyneiddwyr Cymru wedi codi pryderon y bydd y diffiniad o argyhoeddiadau athronyddol anghrefyddol a ddefnyddir yn y canllawiau yn achosi dryswch i athrawon. Nid yw’r canllawiau yn enwi dyneiddiaeth, er gwaethaf y ffaith mai dyma’r brif farn anghrefyddol yng Nghymru. Yn hytrach, mae’n cyfeirio at argyhoeddiadau nad ydynt yn grefyddol, ond y gellid eu coleddu am resymau crefyddol neu anghrefyddol. Yn rhyfedd, mae’r rhain yn cynnwys y farn nad yw cosb gorfforol yn dderbyniol. Mae Dyneiddwyr Cymru yn credu y gallai hyn arwain at barhau i eithrio dyneiddiaeth o blaid credoau na ddylid eu cynnwys fel arfer yn addysg Crefydd, Gwerthoedd a Moeseg.

Mae’r canllawiau hefyd yn defnyddio diffiniad o grefydd sy’n canolbwyntio ar draddodiadau undduwiol ac yn eithrio crefyddau dharmaidd (fel Hindŵaeth a Bwdhaeth). A phrin yw’r canllawiau ar sut i gynllunio neu addysgu mewn ffordd ‘wrthrychol, feirniadol a phlwraliaethol’. Yn wahanol i Addysg Grefyddol, ni fydd hawl i dynnu’n ôl o addysg Crefydd, Gwerthoedd a Moeseg. Heb hyn, mae Dyneiddwyr Cymru yn pryderu y gallai athrawon fradychu rhyddid crefydd neu gred disgyblion a’u teuluoedd drwy ddarparu cwricwlwm unochrog.

Dywedodd Kathy Riddick, Cydgysylltydd Dyneiddwyr Cymru:

‘Dywedodd Llywodraeth Cymru mai un o’r prif resymau dros newid y gyfraith ar addysg Crefydd, Gwerthoedd a Moeseg oedd sicrhau ei bod yn cyd-fynd â’r Ddeddf Hawliau Dynol. Er mwyn gwireddu hyn, mae’n rhaid sicrhau bod dyneiddiaeth yn cael ei gynnwys ar sail gyfartal â chrefyddau yn y cwricwlwm. Fodd bynnag, mae’r canllawiau hyn yn defnyddio diffiniadau dryslyd o argyhoeddiadau athronyddol nad ydynt yn grefyddol ac nid ydynt hyd yn oed yn sôn am ddyneiddiaeth fel enghraifft. Rydym yn pryderu’n fawr na fydd y canllawiau hyn yn helpu athrawon na’r cyrff sy’n gyfrifol am ddatblygu’r maes llafur. Yn waeth na hynny, gallai arwain at eithrio dyneiddiaeth a dyneiddwyr yn yr un modd ag yr oeddent yn cael eu heithrio cyn i’r Ddeddf gael ei chyflwyno. Yn y bôn, mae hyn yn tanseilio union ddiben y cwricwlwm newydd.

‘Rydym yn galw ar y Llywodraeth i ddiwygio’r canllawiau i’w gwneud yn amlwg bod yn rhaid addysgu Crefydd, Gwerthoedd a Moeseg mewn ffordd “wrthrychol, feirniadol a phlwraliaethol”. Ac er mwyn ei gwneud yn glir bod yn rhaid addysgu dyneiddiaeth ym mhob ysgol er mwyn cyrraedd y safon hon.’

Addysg perthnasoedd a rhywioldeb

Ochr yn ochr â’r ymgynghoriad ar addysg Crefydd, Gwerthoedd a Moeseg, mae’r Llywodraeth wedi bod yn cynnal ymgynghoriad ar y Cod a’r canllawiau newydd ar addysg perthnasoedd a rhywioldeb. O dan y cwricwlwm newydd, bydd addysg perthnasoedd a rhywioldeb priodol i oedran yn orfodol i bob disgybl 3-16 oed, heb hawl i rieni dynnu’n ôl. Mewn ymateb i’r ymgynghoriad hwn, croesawodd Dyneiddwyr Cymru yn gryf y ffaith bod y canllawiau’n dweud bod yn rhaid addysgu addysg perthnasoedd a rhywioldeb mewn ‘ffordd niwtral, ffeithiol’. Dywedodd y dylai hyn helpu i atal y defnydd o adnoddau gwreig-gasaol, ffug-wyddonol ar sail ffydd. Mae’r rhain yn cynnwys A Fertile Heart, a gondemniwyd yn ddiweddar gan Lywodraeth y DU ond sy’n dal i gael ei addysgu mewn llawer o ysgolion ledled Cymru. Roedd ymateb Dyneiddwyr Cymru hefyd yn canmol cynnwys bywydau LHDTC+ yn benodol yn y Cod Addysg Perthnasoedd a Rhywioldeb. Mae hwn yn nodi’r cynnwys y mae’n rhaid i ysgolion ei ddarparu i gyflawni eu rhwymedigaethau cyfreithiol i ddarparu Addysg Perthnasoedd a Rhywioldeb.

Fodd bynnag, nododd Dyneiddwyr Cymru fod angen i gynhwysiant LHDTC+ gael ei blethu’n llawnach i’r ddogfen. Ar hyn o bryd, ni sonnir am rywedd a rhywioldeb yn unrhyw un o’r datganiadau dysgu. Mae llawer o fylchau mewn cynnwys hefyd, gyda materion pwysig fel hawliau plant, mathau o gamdriniaeth, atal cenhedlu, ac erthyliad heb eu cynnwys. Dywedodd Dyneiddwyr Cymru fod yn rhaid mynd i’r afael â’r rhain er mwyn sicrhau bod pob dysgwr yng Nghymru yn gallu cael Addysg Perthnasoedd a Rhywioldeb o ansawdd uchel.

Nodiadau:

I gael rhagor o sylwadau neu wybodaeth yng Nghymru, cysylltwch â Chydgysylltydd Dyneiddwyr Cymru Kathy Riddick yn kathy@humanists.uk neu ffoniwch 07881 625 378. Yn Lloegr, cysylltwch â Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham yn ruth@humanists.uk neu ffoniwch 07725 110860

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