Coventry & Warwickshire Humanist

December 2017

Issued by Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists

4 Collett Walk, Barrowfield Lane, Kenilworth CV8 1GZ

Website: Twitter: @CWHums

FB and Newsletter Editor: Derek Franklin

Tel: 01926 258413


A self-governing voluntary association affiliated to the International Humanist and Ethical Union [IHEU] and to the National Secular Society [NSS].

freedom / happiness / virtue

Humanists raise a glass to Joan Bakewell

Humanists don’t always have things to celebrate but this year’s Humanist of the Year award is an exception. Members of our local group were delighted to raise a glass to a role model when it was announced that the 2017 award was to be made to the broadcaster and peer Joan Bakewell .

Previous winners of the award include Pakistani human rights activist Gululai Ismail, biologists Richard Dawkins and Alice Roberts, novelists Terry Pratchett and Philip Pullman, and most recently Lord (Alf) Dubs, Joan’s fellow stalwart of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group.

Joan first became well known as one of the presenters of an early BBC 2 programme, Late Night Line-Up when Frank Muir dubbed her “the thinking man’s crumpet” and the moniker stuck. Joan has promoted Humanist values, not just in Parliament, where she has made over 140 speeches on progressive causes since 2011, but in homes across the UK through her long career in public broadcasting. Her history of programme-making for the BBC includes a number of eye-opening documentaries that challenged, informed, and stimulated the British public, on subjects like sex, race relations, religion and the death penalty. Joan’s support for Humanism in practical ways goes back many years and she has recently taken on the important role as the first woman Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, working in partnership with Conservative Party MP Crispin Blunt to coordinate work across both Houses of Parliament.

On receiving her award, Joan said she aimed as much as possible to promote “a multitude” of voices in society, commenting “I want to hear from everyone. I want to hear from people I disagree with. I want everyone to be equal, everyone to be challenged.” After a rousing speech on the value of freethinking and Humanism, she concluded, “I hope I represent you well. Humanists are people of principle and courage leading good lives, and I hope to be your voice in Parliament.” A role model indeed.

George Broadhead. Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists

Will you help a worldwide humanist campaign?

On December 4th the Dutch Humanist Association will launch a worldwide campaign “What’s their crime?” According to the 2017 edition of Freedom of Thought Report of IHEU (live on 5 December), nonbelievers are criminalized in 85 countries.

The campaign puts the spotlight on refugee nonbelievers who had to fear for their lives in their homeland. They give a personal face to countries in the report which are the most hostile to nonbelievers.

In Afghanistan a joke about atheism can end in a lynching. But Morid (23) did not make a joke. He had to flee immediately when he did not believe. ‘In Afghanistan you never know who you can trust.’

In Bangladesh a death list with 85 religious-critical bloggers circulates. Saikat’s (27) name is on that list. ‘When my name and pseudonym were revealed in a press conference, I fled the same day.’ In Syria everyone must belong to a religious group. If you fall outside, you are outlawed. And that was the case for Ali (32). “Nobody asked for me, no one came to help and everyone would attack me if they could.”

Archbishop’s Shameful Attack on Religious Schools

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has been strongly rebuked by Humanists UK for saying that, in ‘schools that are not of a religious character, confidence in any personal sense of ultimate values has diminished.’

Speaking in a House of Lords debate on education this week, Welby said: ‘[The Church has made] a clear move towards schools that not only deliver academic excellence, but which have the boldness and vision to do so outside the boundaries of a selective system. The Church of England’s educational offer to our nation is church schools that, in its own words, are deeply Christian, nurturing the whole child spiritually, emotionally, mentally, as well as academically, yet welcoming the whole community. A major obstacle to our education system is a lack of clear internal and commonly held values. We live in a country where an overarching story which is the framework for explaining life has more or less disappeared.

‘We have a world of unguided and competing narratives where the only common factor is the inviolability of personal choice. Which means for schools that are not of a religious character, confidence in any personal sense of ultimate values has diminished; Utilitarianism rules. And skills move from being talents held for the common good which we are entrusted with as benefits for all, to being personal possessions for our own advantage. The challenge is the weak, secular and functional narrative that successive governments have sought to insert in the place of our historic Christian-based understanding, whether explicitly or implicitly.’

Humanists UK Chief executive Andrew Copson commented: ‘This is a shameful use of the privileged position that Anglican bishops enjoy in Parliament and an alarmingly wrong-headed and divisive attack on our shared values.

’It is incredibly worrying that the head of an organisation running a quarter of all state-funded schools in England can stand up and attack the values of hard-working teachers and governors, while also implying that the non-religious majority in this country exist in a moral vacuum.

‘In doing so, the Archbishop has effectively outed himself as someone who is deeply prejudiced against both non-Christians and non-Church schools. This is not to mention his appalling attempt to mis-sell the inclusivity of Church schools, most of which continue to religiously discriminate against children in their admission arrangements.
What trust can we place in Church schools to promote the British values of ‘mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faith and beliefs’ if the head of the Church falls so short of doing this himself? He should apologise.’

Teacher Wins Tribunal Case After Being Unfairly Dismissed By Faith School In Religious Discrimination Dispute

A teacher has won her tribunal against the religious nursery she was employed at, after it was deemed that her dismissal amounted both to harassment and to direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief and sex. Humanists UK, which campaigns against religious schools discriminating against teachers, has welcomed the tribunal’s decision.

The 24-year-old teacher, Zelda de Groen, was accused of ‘living in sin’ by her bosses at the Charedi Jewish nursery in North London, after parents raised concerns she was cohabiting with her boyfriend outside of wedlock.

Initially de Groen was advised by a senior leader of the nursery to lie to prying parents about her living situation, and was also told that having children outside of marriage would ‘not be tolerated’ by the school. A few days later, after attempting to seek an apology for her mistreatment, she was abruptly disciplined and, shortly after, dismissed from her position for bringing the nursery into disrepute.

Stating that de Groen had been subjected to ‘undoubtedly humiliating, degrading and offensive’ treatment, the tribunal panel ruled that,

‘(de Groen) was being probed about her private life in ways which suggested she was behaving badly and foolishly. It is repugnant to generally accepted standards of morality to require someone to lie, especially about matters so concerned with their protected human rights.’

The tribunal also concluded that a male teacher would not have been subjected to the same ordeal as de Groen.

Humanists UK has long campaigned against the discrimination suffered by teachers at the hands of faith schools, many of which wrongly see such discrimination as lawful. In 2013 the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the Catholic Education Service co-published a booklet stating that anyone considered to be in a ‘non-chaste’ relationship may be subject to investigation and dismissal. And in 2007 the Archdiocese of Liverpool was reported to have sought legal advice to determine whether or not it could sack a gay headteacher who had entered into a civil partnership.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘We welcome Ms de Groen’s successful tribunal result, and are sorry that she was subjected to this treatment in the first place. Sadly, we are concerned that other similar cases are going unreported, and that teachers are being forced out of work on similar grounds right around the country.

‘Schools should not need to be told that discriminating against well-meaning teachers on the basis of their religion or what they do in their private life is unacceptable, but unfortunately it seems that some do. The Government must move to clarify the law immediately so that no more teachers are treated in this way.’

More religious schools undermining British values, warns Ofsted
Ofsted has warned that an increasing number of conservative religious schools are spreading beliefs that clash with British values and equalities law.

In its Annual Report, launched today, the schools regulator says the proportion of independent schools judged less than good increased this year from 31% to 40%. It said a number of these are “highly conservative” Christian, Jewish, or Muslim faith schools, and in some cases, the premises are unsafe or squalid.

The Report says inspectors have found “sexist and sectarian literature” in some schools and warns that the most basic checks are not always in place.

It says to function effectively, “British society depends on some fundamental shared values as well as a culture of mutual tolerance and respect. But we have found an increasing number of conservative religious schools that are spreading beliefs that clash with British values and equalities law.”

The report also calls for additional powers to tackle the growing menace of unregistered and illegal schools.

The report states that “Current legislation is inadequate to tackle unregistered schools. It limits our powers and allows institutions to exploit loopholes about definitions of education. The existence of unregistered schools is possible because there is no requirement to register a child as home educated, so there is no record of children who have never been in school.”
Ofsted has previously warned that “flimsy” laws mean that children are sometimes left in “shocking” conditions.

Almost ten years ago the Jewish Chronicle first raised the issue of children disappearing from the education system at age 13 and being “systematically undereducated in secular studies” in unregulated schools. Since then the National Secular Society has repeatedly called on the DfE to confront the problem, warning that allowing children from minority faith backgrounds to languish in illegal religious schools amounted to “the bigotry of low expectations”.

In January 2016, the Department for Education set up a special task force dedicated to investigating illegal schools.

The taskforce has so far identified 291 suspected unregistered schools ¬– a high proportion of which are faith schools – and issued warning notices to 38 schools which it suspects are operating illegally. Thirty-four settings have closed or ceased operating illegally. Despite this no founders of unregulated religious schools have been prosecuted.
Stephen Evans, chief executive of the NSS, said: “All schools should prepare pupils for life in modern Britain by giving them a good understanding of the basic values that underpin a free, equal and tolerant society. There’s no reason why children from conservative religious backgrounds shouldn’t receive the same standard of education as all other children. Too many religious schools are failing their pupils by shielding them from the social realities of modern life and preparing them only for life in insular religious communities.
“Meanwhile, unregistered schools are an endemic problem that requires a robust response. Criminal offences are being committed and children and young people’s rights are being fundamentally undermined. This abuse of children ¬¬– and on such an industrial scale – shames Britain. All relevant agencies must work together to tackle this problem once and for all.”

Another Bible contradiction or inconsistency
1 Peter ii. 13 & Romans xiii. 1, 2. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man.
Acts v. 29 ; Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.


Green drinks

Local humanist friends are invited, along with other green thinking and socially aware people e.g Friends of the earth, Greens, etc, to Green Drinks every 1st Wed evening of the month, 7.30 onwards, at The Engine, 8 Mill End, Kenilworth CV8 2HP. Next meeting Wednesday 3rd January 2018. Look forward to seeing you. In case of re-arrangement and for any other queries contact Tracey Drew or phone 01926 857782