Here you’ll find the latest news snippets we have picked up on. Please contact us if you think there is something we should feature here.
Below is the latest Humanist viewpoint published on Friday 4 September in Warwickshire newspapers.
An overwhelming case for change
Local Humanists have welcomed the news that relatives of people who have brought legal cases on assisted dying are for the first time making a joint appeal for an inquiry into the current law in England and Wales, saying there is an overwhelming case for change. An open letter demands that parliament look again at the issue five years after a private members bill was overwhelmingly rejected.
The Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, the new co-chair of an all-party parliamentary group on the issue, said that there was growing support in parliament for a “tight” change in the law to give terminally ill people a choice over how and when their lives end. “We need to make clear that we are not looking here for a massive change. We are looking for very, very tight reform. I think that it would be for someone who is within six months of the end of their life, with very strong safeguards, the decision being made by a high court judge and two doctors”
Lord Falconer, who was Lord Chancellor in Tony Blair’s cabinet, has also said the law needs to be reviewed. “The law is an absolute mess and totally lacks compassion.”
It has now been half a decade since parliament last examined legislation to legalise assisted dying, and 15 years since it formally scrutinised the evidence. In that time, the number of British people travelling to Dignitas in Switzerland for medically assisted suicide has skyrocketed. Successive countries, including Canada, Germany, Italy, and parts of the United States and Australia have legalised assisted dying, demonstrating that such changes can be achieved in a safe and compassionate way. There has also been a significant shift in medical opinion and from within the disability community.
An opinion poll last year showed that more than 90% of the UK population believed assisted dying should be legalised for those with terminal illnesses and incurably suffering, and 88% considered it acceptable for people with dementia to receive help to end their lives, provided they consented before losing their mental capacity.
The signatories to the open letter are uniting to call for a review into one of the most morally unjust laws in our country.
Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists
The following was published in the Warwickshire press Friday 7 August
Are more religious schools what we need in an increasingly secular society?
It is to be hoped that one good thing to come out of our present crisis will be a determination to to stir up our entrenched ways of organising society. Let us, citizens and government, take a step back and resist having as our main objective a return to the pre-virus status quo and instead make progress towards a more cooperative, tolerant and equal society.
There are so many issues to address but one of particular interest to Humanists is the promotion of a truly secular society. It is a particular anomaly that while we have one of the least religious populations we have so much of our way of life influenced by religion.. The churches , while their adherents have dwindled, continue to hold considerable sway. One thinks of the House of Lords with its contingent of bishops there as of right and a powerful presence in gaining religious exemptions from general non-discrimination requirements.
Of considerable importance is the religious hold on education. A high proportion, particularly of primary schools are run by the churches but paid for by the state. Control includes selection so that schools can legally discriminate in favour of their members. Instead of recognizing this anomaly and at least gradually changing the system the Government is actively expanding it and approval has been given for another 19 faith schools, 14 Christian, three Islamic and two Sikh.
Even in schools not run by religions they still have a say. The law requires a daily act of collective worship for all registered pupils in all maintained schools. Worship isn’t defined in the legislation, but official guidance says “it should be concerned with reverence or veneration paid to a divine being or power” and should be of a “broadly Christian character”.
This may have appeared to make some sense in 1944 when the law was introduced. But such a requirement is clearly contrary to the beliefs and practices of the majority of pupils and parents served by schools in today’s religiously diverse and largely irreligious society.
An attempt in the House of Lords to remedy this anomoly. The Education (Assemblies) Bill 2020, introduced by Lib Dem peer and National Secular Society patron Lorely Burt, sought to amend the current legal requirement for a daily act of collective worship in non-religious state schools . It would be replaced with a requirement to provide inclusive assemblies that develop the ‘spiritual, moral, social and cultural education’ of pupils regardless of religion or belief. Surely a reasonable request but It was not supported by the Government and is not likely to succceed.
But if Britain is to become a more peaceful and tolerant place, self-serving religious demands need to make way for a more inclusive and secular model of education. Children of all faiths and none should be educated together including lessons on ethical and moral citizenships Religious education is the job of parents or the churches not of the state.
Brian Nicol (Dr)
Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists
Laura Gimson on CWR speaking in favour of legalising Humanist weddings
I hope that you and your family are well and surviving these strange times.
You may have heard on the news today, of the 6 couples, who have appeared at the High Court today, asking that that their humanist weddings be given full legal status.
Couples who have humanist weddings just want the same legal recognition that’s offered to every religious person in the UK; of their love and commitment to each other. But instead, tens of thousands of humanist couples are being denied proper legal recognition of a ceremony that is more personal and more reflective of their values than the registry office. That’s thousands and thousands of people facing a discriminatory and unnecessary decision – to go to a state registrar for an unwanted second legal ‘ceremony’ or to remain ‘unmarried’ in the eyes of the law.
Since 2013 – following a parliamentary vote – the Government has had the power to give legal recognition to humanist marriages. They just have not used it.
That’s why it’s taken years of tireless campaigning – and six ordinary couples, who are all sick and tired of these unjust and discriminatory laws – to take this matter further.
Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists would love to hear that you can support our campaign to gain full legal recognition for humanist weddings.
With thanks and best wishes,
“The BHA has rebranded!
Arguably a good move; their old brand was rather diluted.”
And also this
On 23 June at 11:00, Humanists UK is holding a national memorial ceremony to help those who have experienced loss due to the coronavirus pandemic and to mark three months since the start of the UK lockdown. The ceremony will offer an opportunity to reflect on what we have been and are still going through.
C &W Hums 9th Zoom meeting. Wednesday 170620
Here are some of the items that were in our 9th gathering:
Marcus Rashford scores, a remarkable intervention from an articulate, sincere, impressive character. He cut through politics to deliver an appeal, that was based in his own experience of hardship.
Dexamethasone challenges our spelling, although Audrey knew how to spell it. A gleam of hope for some. We wait for scientists to make progress, with the vaccine for example.
Norwegian humanists have confirmation ceremonies, should we? George Broadhead sent an email to point out that Norway Humanists is the biggest national humanist group. We talked about the Norwegian Humanists way of having a confirmation ceremony. Sound like its religious equivalent? Should we be wary?
Have a look at the Norwegian Hums Website, it has ‘5 good reasons to choose humanistic confirmation’.
We hope to make contact with our Norwegian humanist cousins and attempt to get one of them to join our Zoom gathering next week.
Last week, John G told us about his (colourful) piano teacher, this week, we may meet him! But we didn’t, contact problems probably, we’ll try again soon.
John says that his piano tuner (should you need a good one) is Ben Truehalf, on 07438302957.
Nature Notes from Andrew. Progress on replacing equipment stolen. What do you do when you have too much concrete delivered? There are still cuckoos calling in Binley Woods
The weekly quiz from Brian GB. Harder than usual (personal opinion from 4/10 scorer) “there is still too much football” was one view. Brian does a great job with this, it’s appreciated.
Our work with the local SACRE Jane Sault described the work she does with the Warwickshire SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education). Govts can’t make up their minds, sometimes it’s considered appropriate/vital to include ‘other world views’, at other times it’s not appropriate. Fortunately our Warwickshire SACRE holds to the former line. Some of us have trained as Humanist School Speakers and we get invited into schools to talk about humanism. You could train too, when virus days recede.
What is the latest news of Mubaruk Bala? The Nigerian humanist who is under arrest and in great danger. In the UK, Govt and Opposition figures have raised the question, we will follow this case.
Choral music came from The London Humanist Choir and a rendition of the Maori ‘Pokarekare Ana’. John G. recalled how he had sailed into New Zealand, singing this song chorally, beautifully. Audrey waved, red Christmas baubles, which she claimed were from New Zealand and highly appropriate.
Fortunately, at this point, our time was up.
C & W Humanists Zoom Gathering 3rd June 2020
Here are discussion points from our gathering yesterday, first some issues taken from Humanists UK web pages:
· Leading Anglicans, including a former Bishop, part of the ‘Accord Coalition’ have criticized the Church of England’s report called ‘Children and Youth Ministry’. Whilst the church argues that it’s involvement in schools is benevolent and selfless, the report reveals another less benign motive ‘faith based admissions are an enormous missional opportunity’. The Accord group criticizes the guidance ‘religious discrimination in admission policies to promote pew fodder’. What a wonderful phrase! What’s needed is for the church educational network to have at its heart, the needs of all the children in the community not its empty church pews.
· Hum UK’s campaign for all illegal faith schools to be investigated is shown to be vital. Since last September, another 13 illegal schools have been identified and are under investigation by OFSTED.
· When it comes to the rights of the child, there no room for complacency in the UK. Kids Rights Index places us 169 out of 182 in its international league table. In particular the group judges that the UK fails in 3 areas: the right to education; the right to protection and enabling an environment for Child Rights.
· We took a moment to reflect on the death of George Floyd, expressing our shock at his murder by police. American Humanists say this ‘Humanism and Social Justice go hand in hand. We call on all humanists and all Americans to do everything in their power to stand and fight the systemic racism in American society and the police brutality that it engenders’.
We heard from Jane Sault about a presentation on Humanism being prepared for RE teachers in C & Warwickshire. There was discussion about a definition of humanism.
(Jane could you post the working definition so that others can comment? Thanks.)
We heard music from a local fiddler Nigel Ward, recorded that afternoon because Nigel doesn’t have Zoom access. BUT. He does have a wonderful violin, circa 1850 and its tone, was remarkable. Thanks Nigel.
We fought bitterly with each other, to complete Brian GB’s Quiz. Jacqueline was the highest achiever. Congratulations Jacqueline, thanks Brian.
Andrew Ireland gave us his kind of weekly nature talk, including bank reinforcing and whitethroat spotting. He’s our own Chris Packham, did you have a punk phase Andrew?
Apologies to those who couldn’t log in to our zoom session, there was an issue with the link details. We’ll work at this and become more accessible.
These are my recollections of the gathering, please dispute or add to them on our FB pages.
If you would like to join our zoom meeting next week, Wednesday 10th June, please let us know and we’ll provide log in details.
Below is the Humanist viewpoint which was published on 29 May in the Warwickshire press
It’s time we all talked more openly about dying
One offshoot of the current pandemic that might be termed beneficial is to bring to the fore the importance of talking more openly about dying, and making helpful preparations in advance. For too many years, there has been a resistance to talk about death and dying. However we are all going to die; that is one of the certainties of life! So why not talk about it? Is there a feeling that talking about death makes it more likely to happen? Or just that it is an unpleasant topic best avoided for as long as possible.The reality is that we all fear death ,or at least, the manner of our going, but talking about it should make the prospect easier to live with.
Philip Larkin in his poem Aubard put it this way. Thinking of our death is
…a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with…
What Larkin was doing of course was to try and dispel his fears by talking about death and I hope it helped. There are a good many studies that demonstrate that if we can overcome the reluctance to bring up the topic of death, our own or other peoples, it can be very helpful in lessening our own fears and enable us to comfort other people who may perhaps be grieving the death of a loved one. The growth in the availability of counselling of various sorts is a welcome development over the last few years.
One way to start is the prosaic one of thinking about your funeral. Would you like a cremation or burial? If you have a favourite song or piece of music or poem or someone who you would like to contribute or read something, make sure your next of kin knows about it If you would like to take planning a little further Humanist celebrants offer a pre-planned funeral ceremony service. You can talk through your ideas with a celebrant who can make helpful suggestions. Once finalised, your ceremony information will be stored securely until needed.
Along with other preparations such as an up-to-date will and a registered Power of Attorney to take care of your affairs if you are not able to do so yourself, pre-planning should make you happier about what is inevitably to come. it will also be of great help to your family at a difficult time.
Dr Brian Nicol
Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists
THE iconic London landmark, the Conway Hall which has been the centre of freethought events for decades, is in danger of closing if cash needed for its re-opening at the end of the COVID-19 crisis is not found.
In a “Doors Open“ crowd-funder recently launched, the Conway Hall said that the drive to raise cash is part of a national initiative by the Music Venue Trustto prevent the permanent closure of hundreds of independent venues.
“We took the necessary steps and closed Conway Hall to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in order to safeguard our staff, volunteers, audiences and communities. This has meant cancelling for the foreseeable future all our physical talks, concerts, courses, exhibitions, literature events and collaborations with like-minded charities and community groups.
“You may not know that Conway Hall Ethical Society is an independent charity and receives no regular government, Arts Council, or National Lottery Heritage funding. Everything we do is dependent upon our commercial activity, such as venue hire – which is currently at a standstill – and the generosity of our members and supporters like you.
“Since the lockdown closed our doors, our staff and Trustees have been doing everything possible to address the financial shortfall. Our members and supporters have also been amazing and donated around £4,000. Unfortunately, this level of generosity needs to be increased if we are to survive.
“We estimate that we will lose around 25% of our income. With no money coming in during this time we still need to pay staff, provide an online programme of talks and concerts and keep things going. Even once we are allowed to reopen we will need time and money to reconnect with our audience, resume our educational, artistic and community work and restart all our other areas of activity, including reopening our beautiful art deco Library once more.
“We have launched this new fund – Doors Open – that could provide us with a lifeline. We know this is a time of uncertainty. However, if you can afford to help, your donation – however large or small – will play a vital role in sustaining Conway Hall as an independent venue and the place where ethics matter in the heart of London.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive messages we’ve received so far and we are thankful that we can count on the support of so many of you. Together, I know we can get our Doors Open once more.”
As of May 29th almost £13,000 of a target of £15,000 had been raised.
The Conway Hall said: ” If we hit our target, and we can prevent the closure of our venue, everything above the amount we need will be donated to the Music Venue Trust GMV Crisis Fund to protect other venues similar to ours, right across the country.
From The Freethinker
Today, the advice from the Govt and its medical advisors was quite clear, maintain social distance, to keep the virus away, especially if you are elderly or have underlying health problems.
That being so C & W Humanists have cancelled the meeting planned for this Thursday. 19th March
Our apologies for this situation but we know you will understand.
Our next Meeting of Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists is on
Thursday 19th March 2020 at 7 for a 7.30 start.
Venue: Waverley Day Centre, Waverley Road, KenilworthCV8 1JL.
** Please make a note on your calendar now! **
Richard Moore, Deputy Chief Constable, Warwickshire Police will talk to us about issues facing the Police, including the rise of knife crime and how they survive reductions in funding.
We will have the usual format of an introduction by our chairman, Bob Jelley, to include notices, then the talk with some time for questions afterwards, followed by light refreshments and a chance to socialise.
There will be a voluntary collection to defray costs.
Laura Grimson, local Humanist UK Celebrant just won Best Celebrant Prize 2020.
Well done Laura!
This Thursday, 13th February, doors open at 7 p.m. for our
C & W Humanists meeting, at Waverley Rd, Kenilworth.
Brian Goredema- Braid will lead on:
‘Is Humanism elitist?’
Also hear about the up coming ‘ Sacred Places’ project in Coventry. We are minded to support it, what do you think?
Controversy regarding the OHCHR definition of anti semitism, would you support it?
Our next meeting is on March 19th, Richard Moore, Deputy Chief Constsble of Warwickshire will lead a discussion about policing (watch where you park).
News about local humanists work.
Chaplain for a mayor?
Can a Padre be a humsnist?
Hope to see you on Thursday.
The viewpoint below was published in Warwickshire newspapers on Friday 17 January.
Let’s achieve legislation for Humanist marriages this year
One of the things high on Humanists’ New Resolutions list this year is to achieve the long awaited legal recognition of Humanist marriages, without couples having to go to a registrar.
In England and Wales, the Marriage Act 2013 created a new category of legally recognised marriage in England and Wales – ‘marriages according to the usages of belief based organisations’. This category was created by the UK Parliament so that the Government could give legal recognition to Humanist marriages whenever it chose to do so. But since then nothing has happened. That means that over 1000 couples a year are having a ceremony that is very meaningful to them but which is not legally recognised. This is not acceptable and we have long urged the UK Government to act swiftly to rectify it.
We are encouraged by Humanist supporters in the House of Lords. A new bill, proposed by the cross bencher Baroness Meacher, proposing legal recognition of Humanist marriages in England and Wales came ninth in the private members’ bill ballot last month. The bill proposes to give legal recognition to marriages by Humanists UK celebrants. Baroness Meacher previously led amendments to the 2013 Marriage Act in support of the same outcome.
This proposed bill is not the first time that peers have intervened on Humanist marriage, with large cross-party support being evident in Parliament last year. We have to ask why, in England and Wales, Humanist marriages are not legally recognised, despite the law required for them to do so being on the statue books for more than six years?
We want the law throughout the UK but also the Crown Dependencies to allow Humanist celebrants to conduct legally recognised marriages, as it does in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Jersey. This would give non-religious people the same choice that religious people have, of a meaningful ceremony conducted by a person who shares their values and approach to life. Non-religious people in many other countries, from the Republic of Ireland to Australia to New Zealand to the USA already enjoy this choice and take full advantage of it. For example in Scotland where they gained legal recognition in 2005, numbers have risen from 85 in the first year to over 6,000 in 2018 – some 22% of the total. The Humanist Society of Scotland provides more marriage ceremonies than the Church of Scotland or any other religion or belief group. In the Republic of Ireland Humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2012. In 2018, nine per cent of legally recognised marriages were Humanist, placing the Humanist Association of Ireland only behind the Catholic Church and civil marriages.
This is an outstanding human rights issue affecting thousands of couples and the Government should go ahead and resolve it immediately.
Dr Brian Nicol
Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists
For that day the rain ceased, the sun shone and the various uniformed youth marched smartly to the band. The clergy, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, voiced the prayers of the faithful and wee placated our Humanist souls with thankful hearts.
The Last Post was sounded then two minutes silence, broken only by the bark of a dog. There was a palpable sense of wholesomeness during that brief time. Then the Reveille .. There was a reading by a stately lady pastor, Eniiwagu Etomi who added an international essence and charm to the overwhelming sadness of the day.
A solemn laying of the wreathes with accompanying hymn, assisted by the Marshal and cadets. (I personally needed help as the array of wreathes was high on the stand).
When all has passed down the slope, in the footsteps of the now fading band, we gathered on the steps of the Memorial, to inspect the large number of tributes laid there. We had with us, a uniformed member of the Royal Army Medic Corps and once spotted by the crowd, he bravely faced the onslaught of ‘selfie seekers’ and one old soldier who recognised the cap badge.
The crowd went away, well satisfied that they had been involved in a thoughtful ceremony.
supporting non-religious people in hospitals and other settings
Wednesday, 18 September 2019 7.30–9.30pm
149–153 Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham B13 8JP
Religious people have ready access to pastoral support in hospitals, prisons and other institutions. But what about people who have no religious belief? It is important for people to have the option to receive support from a like-minded person at a time of crisis. There is a huge imbalance, though, in the provision: about a third of people in prison and between 22% and 45% of people in hospital say they have no religion, yet all except one of the 800-odd paid chaplains are religious, as are 99% of the thousands of volunteers. Humanists UK is trying to redress this, so that everyone can benefit from pastoral support appropriate to their needs, values and beliefs.
At this meeting, Simon O’Donoghue, who leads Humanist Care, the pastoral arm of Humanists UK, will be joined by two of our members who are pastoral support volunteers.
Please note that the Moseley Exchange building is fully accessible, with disabled access to meeting rooms via a lift, and with hearing loops.
Hope to see you there!
‘What Science has to say about evolution, creationism, the age of The Universe and the biological processes which have produced homo sapiens.
How this has contradicted directly what many religions taught.’
My lifelong interest in science developed further when reading physics and meteor astronomy at Manchester University. When a lecturer at Coventry University I concentrated on small computer systems.
On Thursday 7th March:
‘Are Faith Schools Dividing Society’
Presented by Dr. Ruth Wareham, Humanists UK’s new Education Campaigns Manager.
Venue: Conference Room, Sydney Stringer School, 2 Primrose Hill Street, COVENTRY, CV1 5LY
Stoke Green, Coventry, has just welcomed its own Green Man, alongside a new avenue of trees, which will in time, replace some elderly horse chestnuts. Thanks to Bob Jelley for photo.
On Remembrance Sunday local Humanists were represented in wreath laying at ceremonies in Coventry, Bedworth, Leamington, Nuneaton, Rugby and Warwick.
Many thanks to Bob Jelley for organising this and all the volunteers taking part.
Humanists UK invited for the first time to participate in Remembrance service at the Cenotaph. Click here
Ban hymns and prayers in schools say academics. See TES article here
Ireland set to hold blasphemy referendum on 26 October
Full story from NSS here
First humanist head of an NHS Chaplaincy and Pastoral Support team
Full story click here
Serving vicar wins Secularist of the Year. Click here for full story.
Humanists UK expresses dismay at BBC Religion and Ethics Review
The Grenfell Tower National Memorial Service included people of no faith
At the Grenfell Tower National Memorial Service held at St Paul Cathedral this morning it was announced that the service was for people of all faiths and none.
That it included people of no faith was also mentioned on the BBC TV’s lunchtime news bulletin.
Does this mean that the statistics showing a majority of UK citizens have no faith (53% according to the latest British Social Attitudes survey) are now accepted? Let’s hope so.
Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists
The Pink Triangle Trust
Joan Bakewell wins Humanist of the Year 2017 award. Click here for Humanists UK article.
George Broadhead comments in our December newsletter.
GIVE AS YOU LIVE. How you can directly help the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust. All you have to do is go shopping! It’s easy, click here
IHEU Freedom of Thought Report click here
Archbishop of Canterbury attacks non-church schools. Humanists UK report here
NSS accuses Welby of ‘cynical abuse of religious privilege’ over Lords education debate.
NSS Report here
Latest British Social Attitudes reveals 71% of young adults are non-religious, just 3% are Church of England.
See full Humanists UK report here
See our latest post for Dr. Brian Nicol’s opinion piece on faith schools.
Ofsted head criticises segregation as Islamic school is taken over. NSS report here.
Noel Conway’s assisted dying hearing concludes in High Court. Humanists U.K. report here
See our post for George Broadhead’s thoughts.
CAMP QUEST UK SUMMER CAMP FOR FREETHINKING KIDS
AGE 7 – 11
May 28th – 31st 2017
AGE 12 – 18
August 20th – 26th 2017
For more information visit
Running camps in the UK since 2009, Camp Quest UK provides a varied, stimulating and nurturing environment for young people.
We mix physical activities like archery and climbing with mental activities like philosophical discussion and craft.
Our staff are volunteers who want to give young people a place to ponder the bigger questions in life among similarly inquisitive peers.
“Camp Quest was the first place I’ve felt like I fit in” – Lucy, a camper
BHA responds to Archbishop’s general election letter here
C&W Hum’s George Broadhead comments – ‘The Church of England is clearly rattled at the increasing proportion of the population that have no religious beliefs (as all polls and surveys show), its own steady decline in adherents and the increasing secularisation of the country. All this despite the continued privileges it enjoys and the extensive support it gets from the Establishment and the media.’
Irish police investigate Stephen Fry over a complaint of blasphemy. NSS report here
BHA report here
The latest The Birmingham Humanists Courier! paper.li/brumhums/13094
Happy faces at the Bistro Pierre, Leamington for our New Year dinner. Many thanks to Andrew for organising this.
What does Trump’s victory mean for Humanists?
Check out our topical guest blog written by Julian Webb, Membership Administration Officer for the Atheist, Humanist, and Secular Students and member of Exeter Humanists. We like to cover the major events in world politics! click here
“Schools should be inclusive and open to all” says Dr Brian Nicol. Read more in our latest blog post. Click here
Many thanks to Andrew Ireland for arranging our recent Walk & Lunch social. Here’s three of our walkers catching the sun.
“Being religious or spiritual is linked to being more depressed” Dr Raj Persuad
News of C&WH member John Gainer
We are pleased to hear from John that he is back home after spending six days in hospital for a hip operation. The op was successful and his recovery is going well. Best wishes to you, John and we hope you are up and about soon.
Secularism: freedom, fairness and human rights
A short video from the NSS click here