Shropshire Humanist Group at the Shrewsbury Cultural Diversity day, Saturday 23rd July

Cultural Diversity DayThe Shropshire Humanist Group has a table/stand at the Shrewsbury Cultural Diversity day on Saturday 23rd July in the Square in Shrewsbury from 12 noon until 4.30pm.

We are there to reflect our humanist support for human rights, our stand against discrimination and to emphasise that, although we live without religion, we support religious freedom as well as the freedom to live without religion.

‘There is a threat to British values – the British government’

I am including this to raise awareness of the issue. The new Government is undertaking laws against freedom of speech. Given that this government is committed to promoting ‘faith’, it’s not too difficult to see that those who criticise religion can easily be labelled ‘extremist’. Unlike most democracies, we don’t have a constitution and a court that can rule such laws unconstitutional.

Caroline Lucas MP writes: A Conservative government has been in power for less than a week, and already our fundamental human rights are under threat.
It has been announced today that the Queen’s Speech will contain plans for banning orders intended to limit the “harmful activities” of extremists. The detail of the plans are chilling.
They are part of a strategy to promote “British values” including freedom of speech and democracy, yet they’ll actually prevent people from exercising those very values. According to the proposals, anyone who undertakes activities that cause harassment, alarm or distress, could be faced with a high court order requiring them to submit anything they plan to publish online, in print, or even on social media, to the police.
That means actions like placing 200 body bags on the beach in my constituency of Brighton Pavilion, as Amnesty International did last month, could be prevented, and Amnesty subjected to police censorship. That act was distressing because it brought home the reality of the suffering endured by migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean. But it was also powerfully important in raising awareness, and encouraging moves to prevent further tragedies.
The planned banning orders for “extremists” are particularly concerning. They are intended to hit not only organisations that incite hatred on the grounds of gender, race or religion, but also those who seek to “undermine democracy”. Does that mean campaigners like the Electoral Reform Society, who call for an overhaul of our democratic systems as they stand, could be outlawed? The phrasing is simply too vague to rule it out.
The national extremism database currently includes the names of people who have undertaken such “extreme” activities as organising meetings on environmental issues. That suggests people like me, who push for strong action on climate change, could be outlawed if we so much as come together to plan a protest. Read more…

Systematic discrimination against the non-religious is happening all over the world. And Britain faces a crossroads.

British Humanist Association ‘Systematic discrimination; in flux.’

From Humanist Life:

That is how the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) described the United Kingdom in its annual Freedom of Thought Report, which arrived last week for Human Rights Day on 10 December. It is the authoritative annual report into the legal status of and discrimination against the non-religious around the world.

In Saudi Arabia, atheism is now ‘terrorism’; in Malaysia, ‘humanism and secularism as well as liberalism’ have been singled out by the leader of the nation as prime causes of moral degradation. In 13 countries, atheism is punishable by death. This represents one end of the spectrum, and it would be tempting on the basis of this comparison to view Britain as a paradise for non-believers. But the reality isn’t quite so; only nine countries support full legal equality for religious and non-religious alike, IHEU finds.

As in previous years, the UK has been given an amber rating, signifying ‘Systemic Discrimination’, because of entrenched problems such as discrimination in admissions and employment by state-funded ‘faith’ schools, the presence of established churches in England and Scotland, and reserved seats for bishops in the House of Lords.

The UK was also one of only a handful countries this year to receive the special ‘In Flux’ rating because of conflicting signs about the future of discrimination against the non-religious in Britain. Despite the distance we’ve travelled to ensure that most non-religious people can live happily, confidently, and without harassment in their everyday lives, systemic problems remain, and 2014 was a year of marked attempts to politicise issues around religion or belief, as well as for claiming special significance for Christianity in Britain. And in parts of the country such as Northern Ireland, religious influence over politicians still remains the primary roadblock to sexual health rights for women and marriage rights for gay people.

The BHA will of course continue to work towards a secular state ensuring equal treatment of everyone, regardless of religion or belief. You can help this work by becoming a member, if you haven’t done so already, or by encouraging your friends to sign up. Your membership directly empowers our work financially – running campaigns can be expensive – just as your support infuses our work with energy and vitality.

The Copenhagen Declaration on religion in public life

A message from Stinus Lindgreen, President of the Danish Atheist Society:

At the international atheist conference “Gods & Politics” that took place in Copenhagen in June 2010, one of the results was the formulation of the “Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life”. The goal was to formulate a number of statements that reinforce the positive values of atheism and secularism and which can be used to show other people what we want to accomplish. The declaration was adopted by the approximately 300 participants at the conference.

The Copenhagen declaration formulates a number of principles such as equal treatment of all life stances, the right to freedom of expression, and rejection of discrimination. The Copenhagen declaration can now finally be found on the website http://copenhagen-declaration.org/

We would like as many organizations as possible to show their support. If your group supports the declaration, we will list you on the homepage.

Please note that this is not a dogmatic program but an invitation to debate. Some groups have already made amendments to the declaration, but so far no one has opposed the general idea of the document.

A Facebook group called “Support the Copenhagen Declaration” has also been initiated. This is an opportunity to personally support and inform about the Copenhagen declaration.

We hope that you will join us in working for a more secular global community.

Comments here or to Sue Falder.

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