News for October

Chris Smith writes: After the business of the AGM, SHG member Geoff Berriman presented “Torture for Humanists”.

Although Geoff agreed that torture is invariably wrong when it is used because of someone’s beliefs, or to change a person’s belief, he challenged our facile acceptance of the assertion that torture is always wrong.

He proposed that if torture is used to get information from a criminal – and then eases the suffering of a victim (and the victim’s friends and family) – it is justified.  The human rights of the victim are more important than those of the criminal.  Geoff gave provisos such as confidence in the guilt of the (so far un-convicted) villain and the example known as The Frankfurt Kidnapping was described to support this view.  In that case the threat of professionals being brought in to administer extreme pain led the person who had collected the ransom money to reveal where the kidnapped boy was held.  Sadly the boy was already dead, asphyxiated by tape over his mouth and nose.  It is not known whether the death had been intended or was incidental to an intention to keep him quiet.  The family had the small consolation of being able to have a funeral for the boy.  Unlike some of the families of the victims of “Moors Murderer” Ian Brady.

After consideration (and speaking only for myself) I recall that hard cases make bad law, think that arguing back from an outcome which may have been quite different weakens an argument, and that torture is always wrong.

Thanks to Geoff for making us think around this very difficult topic.

Our next meeting is 15 November, 0730 at the Lantern.  Steve Hurd will tell us about developments of the Uganda Humanists Schools Trust.  The committee proposes that we will make a collection for the Trust during the meeting.  I can personally confirm that it is a very appropriate and relevant charity.

That will also be the last date for booking (and menu choices) for the festive meal at lunchtime on Sunday 16 December, Riverside Inn, Cound.

SACRE representative’s report

Chris reported that the relatively new Telford and Wrekin SACRE met in September, previously it was a joint SACRE with Shropshire.  They want Humanism included in the next agreed syllabus; as soon as possible they want some “core Humanist beliefs” for a one page document summarising main religions/belief systems.  SMSC was mentioned as being important, Spiritual, Moral, Social, Cultural education; this seems to be the fashion rather than straight RE.

In addition the SACRE is developing a Beacon award to schools attaining certain standards for RE. They have included the Humanist logo, along with the usual religious one, on the award. Successful schools would hold the award for two years initially and would include the award on letterheads so it would have wide distribution.  In addition at June’s meeting Linda Senior, of Ludlow and Marches Humanists, attended the SACRE meeting on Chris’s behalf.  They both went to the September meeting and that seems to have been acceptable.  A more active SACRE will need more people to go into schools etc.  This is amazing progress after years of stagnation and frustration!  Both Chris and Linda will go to the BHA SACRE reps meeting in November.

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