Monday, April 26, 2010

Doubt, questioning, evidence, reason...progress

As someone who very strongly believes in questioning, doubt, scepticism, naturalism and reasoning I was very interested to receive the email below* from the British Humanist Association ( I responded to the 'doorstep questions' in their manifesto as follows:


1. Should government departments treat humanist, secular and religious organisations equally in policy making, funding decisions and consultations?


2. Should religious organisations be contracted to deliver public services?


3. What do you think the government's policy should be on faith schools?

No publicly-funded school should be run by a religious organisation. Schools should teach about religions, comparing examples which originated in each continent, but should not deliver religious instruction in any form or encourage adherence to any particular religious belief.

Privately-funded schools run by religious organisations should reflect the inclusive nature of British society and become part of the Local authority admissions system. This non-discriminatory approach should be extended to staff who must not be discriminated against in faith schools due to their own faith either in seeking employment or during employment.

4. What do you think about exemptions for religious organisations from aspects of antidiscrimination and equality legislation?

There should be no religious exemptions from equality and anti-discrimination legislation

5. Would you vote to retain or remove bishops from the House of Lords?


6. How would you vote on abortion / assisted dying for the terminally ill?

In favour of both

7. Will you defend the Human Rights Act?


8. Do you think dialogue work that doesn't include non-religious people (e.g. 'interfaith' work) is desirable?

No - dialogue should include non-religious people.

9. Do you think that religious leaders should have privileged access to policy and decision makers?


10. Do you think that publicly funded faith schools should be allowed to discriminate in their admissions and employment?


*I am delighted to enclose the British Humanist Association’s (BHA) General Election Manifesto. The BHA is the national charity representing the interests of the large and growing population of ethically concerned non-religious people living in the UK. It exists to support and represent people who seek to live good and responsible lives without religious or superstitious beliefs.

The numbers of such people are undoubtedly growing and current figures (from the British Social Attitudes survey of January 2010) suggest that 43% of the population is happy to self-identify as non-religious, with the numbers of those not practising or affiliated to a religion much higher.

The BHA is deeply committed to human rights, equality, democracy, and an end to irrelevant discrimination, and has a long history of active engagement in work for an open and inclusive society. In such a society, people of all beliefs would have equal treatment before the law, and the rights of those with all beliefs to hold and live by them would be reasonably accommodated within a legal framework setting minimum common legal standards.

The Manifesto set out the BHA’s vision on a number of core areas of work, from human rights to faith schools to free speech. These are all important issues for the millions of non-religious people in the UK.

We have included a number of questions in the Manifesto for your consideration and we would appreciate it if you could take a few moments to consider the questions and email us your answers to We will use collate the answers for information and may pass them on to another organisation who is mapping the views of PPC’s on various issues.

Yours sincerely,
Andrew Copson
Chief Executive


  1. Why shouldn't religious organisations be contracted to deliver public services, if they agree not to evangelise? The majority of the taxpaying public are thists.

  2. Public services should not be delivered, even on occasion, by religious organisations because such services are for all people, whereas one's religion should be a private matter for individuals. Why should a religious organisation want to do such a thing one wonders??


Genuine, open, reasonable debate is most welcome. Comments that meet this test will always be published.