Coventry & Warwickshire Humanist

April 2018

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

The UK is now ready to embrace a secular state

New research has found that almost three-quarters of young people in the UK say they have no religion.

According to academics at St Mary’s University Twickenham and the Institut Catholic de Paris (ICP) the decline of religiosity in the UK among young people is amongst the greatest in Europe.

70 per cent of 16-to 29-year-olds in the UK said they have no religion and 59 per cent said they never attend a religious service. Just seven per cent said they were Anglican, 10 per cent Catholic, and six per cent Muslim.

The figures reveal that the UK has the fifth least religious young adult population of anywhere in Europe, with only the Czech Republic, Estonia, Sweden, and the Netherlands above.

The findings are consistent with previous research on the decline of religion in the UK. Last year the British Social Attitudes Survey found that 71% of 18-24 year-olds said they belong to no religion, while just 3% said they are Church of England and 5% Catholic.

This is surely an important reminder of the need for a rethink of religion’s public role, not least the public funding of faith schools.

Separating religion from public life is the only way to protect everyone’s right to freedom of and from religion fairly.That means it’s the right thing to do no matter what such researches as this find. But this is the latest in a series of reminders that the way the UK treats religion in public life is inconsistent with the views of its people – particularly the next generation of citizens and parents.

Those who defend the establishment of the Church of England, the presence of bishops in the House of Lords or faith groups running large numbers of publicly-funded schools are going to be left making increasingly tenuous arguments in the years ahead. Politicians should take note: the UK population is ready to stop deferring to them and embrace a secular state.

George Broadhead

Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists

This was published in the Courier series of newspapers in Kenilworth, Leamington and Warwickshire Friday 6 April. The title is the newspaper’s.

Humanists UK’s exposé on illegal faith schools

Over the last few years, we have led the national campaign demanding greater action against illegal religious schools. Working closely with former pupils of these schools, we have forced the authorities to pay attention to their appalling experience of indoctrination, isolation, and abuse.

As a direct result of our work, Ofsted now has a dedicated team of inspectors investigating illegal schools. Hackney Council – where thousands of children are trapped in such settings – have held a public inquiry, taking forward all the recommendations we made to them. But for these schools to be shut down, we believe the Government needs to change the law – which it is currently opposed to doing.

In recent weeks, we have been working with the BBC on an in-depth investigation on illegal religious schools.

We’ve passed on information from our whistleblowers to reporters about the whereabouts of illegal schools and the experience of pupils within them, and we’ve exclusively revealed to the BBC the historic inaction of the Department for Education in tackling the issue.

Humanists UK is the only organisation actively speaking up for the thousands of children trapped within illegal religious schools, and their stories must be known.

Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy, Humanists UK

NSS criticises admissions policies that push parents into church

The National Secular Society has criticised policies that require parents to attend church to get their children in to local schools after a poll showed public disapproval of ‘cheating’ the system.

A YouGov survey revealed that 56% of people in the UK believe it is ‘unacceptable’ for parents to attend a church in order to get their child into a faith school. Only 22% think it is ‘acceptable’.

Those most likely to find the practice ‘unacceptable’ are the elderly, with 70% of those over 65 disapproving compared with 18% finding it ‘acceptable’.

In contrast, only 37% of people aged 18-25 think it was wrong. Twenty-four per cent said it was acceptable and 39% said they didn’t know.

Conservative and UKIP voters were slightly more likely to condemn the practice than others.

The figures are a blow to government plans to allow new faith schools to select 100% of their pupils based on the religion of the parents.

In 2013 the Sutton Trust found six per cent of all parents with a child at a state school admitted to attending church services specifically to get their child into a faith school, with wealthier families more likely to do this.

Most parents do not consider religious instruction to be a priority when selecting a school for their children. In 2013 a YouGov survey found that 70% would choose a school on the basis of its academic standard; 23% would choose on the basis of ethical standards; five per cent would choose on the basis of giving a ‘grounding in faith tradition’; and only three per cent for ‘transmission of belief about God’.

The NSS is campaigning to end faith-based discrimination at state schools, where surveys show that the majority of the public oppose faith-based selection. According to a survey by Populus, 72% of voters oppose state faith schools being allowed to discriminate against pupils on religious grounds in their admissions policy, including 68% of Christians.

Alastair Lichten, the NSS’s education and schools officer, said: “No parent should be pushed into a church simply to get access to their local schools. We see a lot of this in our casework and need to empathise with those who feel pushed into this position.

“That more affluent families are more likely to do this helps explain the social and economic discrimination which comes along with religious discrimination in school admissions. At every turn, faith based admissions simply create confusion, consternation and inequity.”

Faith Schools

I support the National Secular Society’s campaign to end the segregation and discrimination in our state schools. The idea that we should be segregating children based on the religious beliefs of their parents is wrong, outdated and damaging to our society. It is extraordinary that, in 21st century Britain, we should allow taxpayers’ money to be spent on state schools that discriminate against children based, not on their ability or need or where they live, but simply on their parents’ religious beliefs. While many parents believe faith schools are better than other schools, the evidence is clear that this is simply not true. Only faith schools that use faith as a way to select more academic pupils by the back door get better results. Faith schools serve no purpose other than to divide our children and our communities and they should be consigned to the rubbish bin of history.

Julia Hartley Brewer, Broadcaster and journalist

Ireland plans to end religious discrimination in school admissions

The National Secular Society has called on the Department for Education to “follow the lead” of Irish ministers who are preparing to end a rule which encourages faith-based school admissions.

According to Monday’s Belfast Telegraph, the Irish government’s plans to lift the so called ‘baptism barrier’ are “at an advanced stage”. The barrier allows church-run schools to prioritise pupils for admissions based on the faith they have been baptised into.

The Department of Education in Dublin told the paper that minister Richard Bruton is expecting to announce proposals to carry out the plan shortly.

Churches run approximately 96% of Ireland’s primary schools and 50% of its secondaries. The Catholic Church runs around 90% of the country’s primary schools. The schools have legal protection for the ‘baptism barrier’ under Ireland’s Equal Status Act, which the government is now expected to change.

Bruton has previously said the admissions rules are unfair and put some parents “under pressure to baptise their children in order to gain admission to their local school”.

Catholic interest groups are expected to oppose the measure vociferously. A report in The Irish Times in January suggested several were prepared to take cases to court if the government tried to alter the current rule.

The news comes as ministers in England prepare to lift the cap on faith-based admissions to new faith schools. In February Damian Hinds, the education secretary, told The Sunday Times he would abolish the current rule that new faith schools must admit no more than 50% of children on the basis of their parents’ religion.

The NSS is campaigning against that change, and education and schools officer Alastair Lichten said Ireland’s stance should prompt a rethink.

“It’s incredible that the Irish education minister is looking to remove a faith-based barrier to school admissions just as the secretary of state for education in England seeks to erect more of them.

“The Irish are well placed to recognise the harm and injustice of divided and sectarian schooling. England’s DfE would do well to follow their lead and seek a move towards an inclusive education system where children are schooled together, irrespective of their parents’ religious outlook.”

Ireland’s government is also planning to ask parents to decide who should run Catholic primary schools. The move could mean a number of those schools being handed over to multi-denominational patrons.

Earlier this year the Irish government announced that schools would be expected to offer alternatives to religious instruction, which has tended to be dominated by Christian doctrine.

Last year Ireland indicated its willingness to tackle the Catholic Church’s control of hospitals when the minister of health said there would be “no religious involvement” in a new publicly-funded national maternity hospital.

The country is also due to hold referenda this year on repealing its blasphemy law and eighth amendment, which outlaws abortion in almost all cases.

Abner Kneeland

In APRIL, 1774, Abner Kneeland was born in Massachusetts to a Congregationalist family.

As a founding member of the Universalists, Kneeland served as a Universalist minister from 1804 to 1829. When freethinker Frances Wright embarked on her famous lecture tour, becoming the first woman to speak in public in the United States, New York City halls were closed to her. (Another fine example of Christian love)

Kneeland invited her to speak from the pulpit of his Second Universalist Society in New York City in 1829, consequently lost his position and was later dis-fellowshipped by the church.

Kneeland’s lectures against Christianity in August 1829 were published as “A Review of the Evidences of Christianity.” Kneeland founded a group of freethinking New Yorkers, which met in Tammany Hall for a decade. Kneeland’s Rationalism of the Enlightenment made him a leading proponent of universal public education & the Workingmen Party.

Moving to Boston in 1830, Kneeland founded the Boston Investigator, the oldest 19th-century freethought newspaper in the United States. His Sunday lectures to the First Society of Free Enquirers attracted hundreds, as well as the attention of influential critics.

Kneeland was charged with blasphemy in 1834 for saying he did not believe in God, undergoing three trials. The prosecuting attorney for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts told the jury that if Kneeland was not punished, “marriages [will be] dissolved, prostitution made easy and safe, moral and religious restraints removed, property invaded, and the foundations of society broken up, and property made common.”

His appeal to the state Supreme Court concluded with a split verdict of guilty in1838. Kneeland, despite the intervention of prominent Americans, served a 60-day sentence.

Kneeland moved to the Iowa territory, co-founding a freethinking settlement known as Salubria (near present-day Farmington) and becoming chair of the Van Buren County Democratic convention in 1842.

An anti-infidel opposition party burned Kneeland in effigy and defeated his ticket, which was known by missionaries as “Kneelandism.” His versatile writings included a popular spelling reader, an annotated New Testament, an edition of Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, and the 2-volume The Deist (1829).

Kneeland, who died in 1844, wrote in a letter to Universalist editor Thomas Whittemore: “Universalists believe in a god which I do not; but believe that their god, with all his moral attributes, (aside from nature itself,) is nothing more than a chimera of their own imagination.”

The letter was published on December 20, 1833 in the Investigator, and this led to him being tried and convicted of blasphemy.

Source: Freedom From Religion Foundation

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 2nd May 2018. Look forward to seeing you. In case of re-arrangement and for any other queries contact Tracey Drew or phone 01926 857782