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Coventry & Warwickshire Humanist

June 2017

Issued by Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists

4 Collett Walk, Barrowfield Lane, Kenilworth CV8 1GZ

Website: cwhumanists.org Twitter: @CWHums

FB and Newsletter Editor: Derek Franklin

Tel: 01926 258413

Email: cwhumanists@gmail.com


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

freedom / happiness / virtue
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Thought for the Day

The National Secular Society has criticised the BBC for allowing the Today programme’s first Thought for the Day slot of June to be used to promote Church of England as a platform for its latest evangelism initiative campaign.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby spoke on Radio 4 about the Church’s ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ campaign, which invites “more people to come to know Jesus Christ”.

NSS campaigns director Stephen Evans said, “It’s bad enough that the BBC dedicates part of its flagship news programme to offer an unchallenged platform for religion, but allowing Thought for the Day to be used as free advertising slot for the Church of England really takes the biscuit. It further calls into question the appropriateness of this anachronistic and discriminatory slot.”

In February, the BBC slapped down the new Today programme editor after she suggested Thought for the Day should be opened up to humanists.

Shortly after her appointment, the NSS wrote to Sarah Sands, urging her to use her influence as editor to rethink the slot.

Despite sitting within the Today programme, Thought for the Day is produced by the BBC’s religious affairs department – and the BBC has repeatedly insulated Thought for the Day from any reform.

The slot’s editorial policy explicitly discriminates against the non-religious as they are the only group barred from contributing.

In its letter to Ms Sands, the NSS suggested that Thought for the Day should be opened up to non-religious contributors, turning the daily segment into an “ethical current affairs reflection slot.”

Otherwise, the discriminatory slot should be renamed ‘Religious thought for the day’ and moved away from Radio 4’s flagship news programme and into a more suitable timeslot reflecting its niche status, the NSS said.

NSS campaigns director Stephen Evans said: “It’s bad enough that the BBC dedicates part of its flagship news programme to offer an unchallenged platform for religion, but allowing Thought for the Day to be used as free advertising slot for the Church of England really takes the biscuit. It further calls into question the appropriateness of this anachronistic and discriminatory slot.” Despite sitting within the Today programme, TFTD is produced by the BBC’s Religious Affairs department – and the BBC has repeatedly insulated TFTD from any reform.

The slot’s editorial policy explicitly discriminates against the non-religious as they are the only group barred from contributing. Otherwise, the discriminatory slot should be renamed ‘Religious thought for the day’ and moved away from Radio 4’s flagship news programme and into a more suitable time-slot reflecting its niche status, the NSS said.

The National Secular Society has backed calls for TFTD to be converted into a “philosophy slot”, open to non-believers and believers alike.

The NSS has objected numerous times over the past half century to the exclusion of non-believers from TFTD, but it now seems as though the BBC will not even consider objections to the programme, raising questions about how it handles criticism.

The BBC has announced that it will not “revisit” the issue of non-religious voices on TFTD.

Humanists for Science

More than a million people in over 600 cities across the globe took part in April in an international March For Science to celebrate science and the role it plays in everyday lives.

Robert N Proctor, a historian of science at Stanford University, stated that the March for Science was “pretty unprecedented in terms of the scale and breadth of the scientific community that’s involved” and was rooted in “a broader perception of a massive attack on sacred notions of truth that are sacred to the scientific community”.

That event reminded me that, a while back, I became a member of Humanists4Science, via its Facebook page, and I would urge you to join too. Science needs defending more than ever, and groups such as these are deserving of all the support they can get.

Established in 2007, H4S is for humanists with an active interest in science. It believes that science is a fundamental part of humanism but also that it should be directed to humane and ethical ends.

Humanists4Science’s mission is “to promote, within the humanist community, the application of the scientific method to issues of concern to broader society” and its vision is “a world in which important decisions are made by applying the scientific method to evidence rather than according to superstition.”

H4S take a naturalistic view and believe, like 62 percent of the UK population, “that science, the scientific method and other evidence provides the best way to understand the universe.”

H4S are affiliated to the British Humanist Association, and In 2011 H4S achieved its aim of including “science’ & ‘scientific evidence” in the BHA Strategy and ‘scientific method’ in the BHA definition of Humanism.

Barry Duke – Editor, the Freethinker

From The NSS Newsline

The Manchester bombing will not be the last Islamist atrocity in this country, to say nothing of the rest of the world. The struggle against the warped ideology which sustains extremism will likely consume generations of effort. There are, therefore, no easy answers. At the very least we offer our thoughts and solidarity to the victims and their families, and those who woke up in hospitals on Tuesday morning with life-altering injuries or to the news that their children or parents were dead.

Many have said that the attack, and the decision to target young children, was ‘incomprehensible’. But it was not. There is no excuse for thinking that. Anybody who has been paying attention to Islamic extremism should know exactly why they do this. They are motivated by the worst possible interpretation of Islam, but it is Islamic.

We are not afraid of naming and confronting Islamist ideology, and we have no sympathy for those who obfuscate or deny the roots of jihadist terror. Our allies in this are many, and they include Muslim reformers and secularists. But there can be no denying the scale of the challenge. Terrorism is far from being the only problem Islamist ideology poses to our way of life and our values. Surveys of Muslim opinion both around the world, and here at home, bring disturbing results, on everything from women’s rights to suicide bombing. It is this entire spectrum of belief and behaviour that the secularist movement must confront.

Parliamentary candidates offer support for faith schools, non-stun animal slaughter and circumcision

The National Secular Society has criticised prospective MPs for offering their support to non-therapeutic male circumcision, religious slaughter of animals without stunning, and faith schools.

Many former MPs seeking re-election have signed up to a document, called ‘The Ten Commitments’, produced by the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

The Board of Deputies is asking MPs to “Defend the right to a Jewish way of life” by allowing the slaughter of animals without pre-stunning and defending the medically unnecessary circumcision of young boys.

The document also asks MPs to affirm “the importance of faith schools within the education system.”

The Society said, “Religious freedom is not a totally unlimited and unqualified right. Religious freedom should not override the rights of young children to be free from unnecessary and potentially harmful surgery, and it should not override animal welfare standards that have overwhelming support in society. We urge candidates to consider these issues and the widespread public opposition to allowing religious animal slaughter without pre-stunning.”

Conservative PPCs Bob Blackman and Jonathan Reynolds, as well as Labour candidates Kate Osamor, David Lammy, Ann Coffey, Mike Katz, Karen Buck, Mike Gapes, Jonathan Reynolds and Blair McDougall have all signed the Ten Commitments pledge so far.

Belgium’s Wallooon region to end slaughter of animals without pre-stunning

A committee of the Walloon Parliament has voted to ban the slaughter of animals without pre-stunning, a move welcomed by secularists and animal rights campaigners.

The Parliament’s environment committee voted unanimously to end non-stun animal slaughter, following a recommendation by Piet Vanthemsche, a leading veterinary surgeon. The full parliament will vote on the proposal later this month.

If approved, the ban would come into effect in September 2019.

EU law requires animals to be “stunned (made unconscious) prior to killing, so that death should be painless.”

In Belgium, as in the UK, the only exceptions to this requirement are for religious communities, in order to meet Jewish and Muslim religious requirements.

All kosher and some halal food is prepared without stunning of animals prior to slaughter.

The European Jewish Congress has reacted angrily to the decision and described it as “scandalous”.

Dr Moshe Kantor, president of the congress, said, “We call on legislators to step back from the brink of the greatest assault on Jewish religious rights in Belgium since the Nazi occupation of the country in WWII.

He said that the decision “sends a terrible message to Jewish communities throughout our continent that Jews are unwanted.”
Dr Kantor vowed to “not rest until this ban is overturned and Jews in Europe are able to practice their most basic religious rights.”

Stephen Evans, National Secular Society campaigns manager, said it was “disappointing to see religious leaders deploying such alarmist rhetoric in order to influence animal welfare policy.
“In 21st Century Europe, there’s no good reason why animal welfare should be subservient to religious dietary rules. Requiring all animals to be effectively stunned before slaughter would remove unnecessary suffering – and is therefore the humane thing to do.”

Casework focus: community schools and religious takeovers

Parents and staff regularly contact the NSS over concerns related to religious influence in their schools. Campaigns officer Alastair Lichten looks at a typical example of the casework we receive and what lessons can be learned.

A small rural primary school near Bath looks set to become the latest of hundreds of community schools to be taken over by a Church of England Multi-Academy Trust (MATs). Bathampton Primary is moving to join the Bath and Wells Multi-Academy Trust – a MAT run by the diocese, which promotes a “distinctly Christian ethos”.

These ‘mixed’ trusts, containing a combination of religious and non-religious schools, allow religious groups to take over community schools, and there are few meaningful ways to protect the non-religious ethos of these schools once they are absorbed.

The school has co-opted as a community governor who just so happens to be local priest – said by one parent at the school to be “particularly evangelical”. He regularly leads assemblies and the school website says “in particular he wants to maintain and strengthen good links between the church and school”.

Priests and religious leaders may have all sorts of skills which would allow them to be competent community or parent governors. But how confident can we be about their commitment to preserving a school’s community, secular ethos, when a governor is a member of a religious organisation (e.g. a diocese) which wants to take over the school.

The National Governors’ Association model code of conduct suggests that governors should “declare any conflict of loyalty at the start of any meeting should the situation arise” and should always “act in the best interests of the school as a whole and not as a representative of any group”.

A parent who raised concerns with us said they had “been concerned about the schools links with the church for some time”. The school does not have a large enough hall for whole school assemblies so relies on the local church to provide adequate space for various events. An act of generosity that we might welcome, as long as it wasn’t leveraged by the church for improper access to the school.

Bathampton Primary School is the only non-faith school of nine primaries within three miles, with the nearest being twenty minutes’ drive away. Parents who wish their children to be taught in a secular environment free from the influence of one particular religion will now have no choice whatsoever.

While the school won’t officially become a faith school or acquire a religious ethos/designation upon conversion – something the current governing body stress they are opposed to – this could change in future. The MAT claim to have no such plans and have made the right noises about protecting the school’s community ethos. However it is established CofE policy to treat such non-faith schools under their control as part of their ‘mission’.

Parents concerned about similar takeovers and wishing to challenge them can basically have three aims:
Stopping the takeover; possible but very difficult to achieve, unless there is a non-faith based MAT willing to take over the school or significant opposition to academisation.
Drawing enough attention to the problems so that the religious MAT is limited in its ability to impose its agenda on the school, and more of its community ethos is protected.
Drawing attention to the wider issues with academisation/religious taking over community schools.
In this case, parents contacting the NSS decided to focus on aim number 2. The school is under a lot of pressure to academise, and joining the religious MAT would be their only option; something one concerned parent called a “tragedy”. The situation on the ground always matters, and the best way to protect a community school’s ethos is vigilance and good communications.

In the case of Bathampton, parents told us that, whilst they do still have concerns over what influence the MAT may try to exert in the long term, they do not believe that this is an attempt by the board to extend religious influence over the school.

The governors seem genuinely concerned, and even passionate, about preserving the community school ethos of the school. In the words of one parent: “Following the consultations I have at least some confidence that the school board is fully aware of the vocal parents who will hold them to account if the community ethos of the school is negatively impacted by joining the religious MAT.”
The earlier you can get involved in the consultation process the better. Although it doesn’t always feel that way, consultation processes must be “substantively fair and have the appearance of fairness”. David Wolfe QC gives a very clear definition of what that means on his ‘A can of worms’ blog – detailing some of the problems with academisation.

If your school is being academised, and you have concerns about it being taken over by a religious group, some options you might want to consider are:
Speak to the governing body. We always recommend good communications with the school. It is usually better to assume that the schools is acting in good faith (if a bit naïvely) rather than assuming any nefarious reasoning. Because those schools are under a lot of pressure to academies that is likely to be their main motivating factor.
Look out for a consultation and ask as many questions as possible. Decide on your aims, what you can hope for and what you might reasonably achieve.
Speak to local parents. It can sometimes feel like the school is trying to hide or downplay the involvement of a faith group in the proposed MAT. So don’t assume that everyone who may be concerned is aware of this, or that someone sharing the faith of the proposed Trust won’t also be concerned.
Contact your local paper and write to your MP and local education authority about your concerns.
Write to your local regional schools commissioner asking them to oppose the setting up of the trust or to impose stricter requirements to protect the community school ethos.
Provide us with any additional information that we can use to raise concerns/add to our research. Joining or supporting the NSS will increase our resources to advocate for a fair secular and inclusive education system.

Alastair Litchen, Campaigns Officer, NSS

Anonymous post spotted by Deborah Mc Taggart

Religious Quote: “Atheists are like fishes that deny the existence of water.”
Secular response: “Theists are like fish that are offered the ocean but refuse to leave their bowl.”

Bible Contradiction

KILLING COMMANDED BY GOD. Exodus 32 : v27 ; Thus sayeth the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and SLAY every man his brother , and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.
KILLING FORBIDDEN BY GOD. Exodus 20 : v13 Thou shalt not kill.

Intolerance and malevolence in the Koran and likewise in the Bible:

Don’t bother warning the disbelievers. Allah has made it impossible for them to believe so that he can torture them forever after they die. THE COW 2:6-7

Unto them that are without, all these things are said in parables: that seeing they may see and not perceive; that hearing they may hear and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted and their sins be forgiven them. {Jesus’ parable of the sower}: MARK ch4, v 11&12.

Here Jesus deliberately talks in unintelligible parables so that outsiders will not understand and be saved from the hellfire and brimstone he has waiting for them. Wot a nice chappie Tim Fallon’s buddy is.

Diary Dates

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 eve of the month, 7.30 onwards, at The Engine, 8 Mill End, Kenilworth CV8 2HP. Next meeting Wednesday 5th July. Look forward to seeing you. In case of re-arrangement and for any other queries contact Tracey Drew tracey@wildflower.plus.com or phone 01926 857782