Newsletters from 2016

Coventry & Warwickshire Humanist

December 2016

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

Publicity for Humanist Ceremonies

Part of this film was featured on the Sky News “Sunrise” programme on Thursday 8th December which was all about Humanist ceremonies and included an interview with the Chief Executive of the Humanist Society of Scotland. Humanist weddings have been legally recognised in Scotland since 2005 and demand for them now exceeds that for all individual religious denominations.
George Broadhead, C&WH
Help stop sabbatarians spoiling Sunday swimming
The National Secular Society is appealing to the Great British public to help a fundraising effort to open a swimming pool on the Isle of Lewis on Sundays, which councillors are currently refusing to open on the Sabbath.
Local campaigners have started a fundraising drive to open the Ionad Spòrs Leòdhaisa Sports Centre, and are halfway to reaching their target of £11,400 – needed to fund a 12 month trial for Sunday opening.
The local council is refusing to open the pool on Sundays, citing cost reasons, but they have rejected cost-saving suggestions like closing the pool during the week in little used hours to allow it to be open for three or four hours on a Sunday. The Council has faced numerous accusations of using the cost argument as a cover for religious objections to the pool opening on the Sabbath.
Families into Sports for Health (FiSH) said their survey showed 71% of the sports centre’s users were “supportive” of the proposal to open for some hours on Sundays. In September Elma Macleod of FiSH said, “Overwhelming evidence from the users of ISL now shows a strong demand for seven day opening amongst the users of the facility.”
Campaigners argue that religious considerations on the Council are overriding the wishes of local people and in October Councillor Neil Beaton urged his colleagues to distance themselves from a “stifling sanctimonious Sabbatarian shroud”. Councillor Beaton wrote that “It was apparent from the e-mails and letters I received that preserving the Sabbath was the main objection” to Sunday opening, not the financial objections that were made. “Sadly there is a sanctimonious Sabbatarian shroud stifling parts of the Western Isles. This Council has to distance itself from these baleful influences and focus its attention on the wellbeing of its constituents.”
NSS spokesperson for Scotland, Alistair McBay, said: “If some fundamentalist Christians wish to observe the Sabbath then of course they can do so according to their custom and ritual, but to force everyone else who does not share their beliefs to observe it too is not acceptable.
The financial financial constraints advanced by the local council are simply a smokescreen for religious fundamentalism at work. The community on Lewis is not one homogenous group where everyone wants the same thing and lives by the same code, yet the Calvinist element on Lewis is determined to impose its unique brand of Christianity on everyone else and declare a part of the United Kingdom its own to govern according to its beliefs. We appeal to the council and fair-minded Brits of every hue to support these parents in their bid to pursue a healthy lifestyle for their families.”
Freedom of Thought report highlights the right to freedom from religion
The Freedom of Thought report highlights cases of individuals who have been targeted for expressing non-religious views, for ‘blasphemy’ or for promoting secularism.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), to which the National Secular Society is affiliated, has published its fifth annual Freedom of Thought report, drawing attention to cases of individuals around the world who face persecution for their lack of religious belief.
These include Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison in Saudi Arabia for alleged “blasphemy”, Mohamed Cheikh Ould M’kheitir, who is facing the death penalty in Mauritania for alleged “apostasy”, secular bloggers in Bangladesh facing vigilante killings, and Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Jakarta who has faced huge protests against him over blasphemy accusations.
Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s recently appointed Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, said that “narrowly defined views on religious freedom” led to discrimination against non-religious people.”The IHEU report is an important reminder that theright to freedom from religion or belief is as fundamental as the right to freedom of religion, and that the same human right protects freedom of non-religious thought and non-religious belief as well; and that for some humanists, atheists, free-thinkers and the unconcerned the protection of this right can mean the difference between life and death.”
Writing in the report’s introduction, Shaheed sharply criticised blasphemy laws and discrimination against and persecution of apostates. “While anyone can run afoul of these laws, and often there are allegations of the use of such laws for political purposes, these laws potentially automatically criminalize dissent and free-thinking, and victimize ‘non-believers’, humanists and atheists. What is even more shocking is the cruelty with which those who are accused of violating these laws are often punished– by state agents or by non-state actors, including neighbours and relatives.”
According to IHEU’s research blasphemy is outlawed in at least 59 countries, which punish the ‘crime’ with a prison term or the death penalty. 22 countries have laws against apostasy, and “at least 13 countries provide for the use of the death penalty for blasphemy or apostasy.” IHEU president Andrew Copson said “the rights and equality of the non-religious are under threat” and that “Serious damage is being done to the brand of democracy, to secularism, and there are new threats to all our liberties.”
The report uses a ‘traffic light’ system to rate countries on discrimination against the non-religious in four sections; constitution and government; education and children’s rights; family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals; freedom of expression and advocacy of humanist values.
Bob Churchill, author of the report, said: “At that most serious end of the scale, we record how numerous states continue to systematically exclude or persecute non-religious people, or suppress a range of views that include humanist values, political secularism, and critical discussion of religion. These violations affect many millions of people who are directly discriminated against by the state, are marginalized or outright persecuted socially”.
The report warned that populist movements “linked to conservative religious values are attempting to (and in some cases are already succeeding) re-establish or entrench privileges for religion in the public sphere, or attempting to restrict the rights and liberties of all in the name of religious values.”
New Year Dinner
Our New Year celebration is being planned, and I am pleased to report that the popular Bistro Pierre in Leamington has been booked again.
The previous problems with bill splitting have been addressed, and there are plans to avoid a repeat of previous irritations with payments, when we are ready to leave.
The meeting time is 7 pm for 7.30 on Thursday January 12th 2017, and the address of Bistro Pierre is 28 Park Street Leamington Spa CV32 4QN.
We need to order our menu choice a few days beforehand, and I recommend the Party Menu which has special offers. Please let Andrew (02476441009) know your selection in good time. Members should let us know ASAP if they want to join us by emailing or contacting Andrew direct.
The Party Menu can be viewed from the website, click here, or Andrew could send one to you if you so request.
Do try to join us – it will be an enjoyable occasion!

Coventry & Warwickshire Humanist

November 2016

Issued by Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists,

4 Collett Walk, Kenilworth CV8 1GZ

Online : Twitter @CWHums

FB and Newsletter Editor Derek Franklin
Tel: 01926 (Kenilworth) 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


Latest Humanist opinion contributions to the Courier Series of newspapers in Warwickshire.
Humanists are very concerned that the principle of integrated education is under attack like never before in this country with the Government recently announcing plans to remove any limitations on the extent to which new faith schools can discriminate against children through religion.
Until now, a 50% cap on religiously selective admissions had been in place for all new faith schools but now the Government is pushing for absolute selection by religion as a result of lobbying from the Roman Catholic Church and the Office of the Chief Rabbi.
Despite the Government’s claim that this is about ‘CHOICE?’, there is clear evidence that faith schools worsen social segregation in their local areas and reduce the ability of parents to find a good local school. In some parts of the country, they make it next to impossible for non-religious parents to send their child to any schools in their local area, forcing them to travel long distances at great expense during work hours.
Humanists believe that children from different backgrounds mixing, playing, and learning together is a good thing and that discriminating against children by their parent’s religion is wrong.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph after the Government’s announcement, Professor Ted Cantle CBE, the leading expert in community cohesion and intercultural education, commented: “As someone whose work is concerned entirely with the promotion of community cohesion and integration, THE GOVERNMENTS PROPOSALS TO DROP THE CURRENT REQUIREMENT FOR NEW RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS TO KEEP AT LEAST HALF OF THEIR PLACES OPEN TO LOCAL CHILDREN, REGARDLESS OF RELIGION OR BELIEF, IS INCREDIBLY WORRYING. Indeed, to give you an indication of the significance of this 50 per cent cap, and the damage that will be caused by dropping it, it represents the only measure of any substance, really in the history of the modern education system, that has directly sought to address the segregation that has been and continues to be caused by religious selection in schools.”
George Broadhead, Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists

Say not the struggle nought availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.
These opening lines of the Victorian poet Arthur Clough’s uplifting poem have been very much on my mind recently. For Humanists and others who hold to the virtues of rational thought and tolerance these are depressing times. First the level of the debate over Brexit and the emotions aroused and now the success of Donald Trump plumbing the depths of lies, bigotry and misogyny.
We are it appears in the era of ‘post-truth’ which the Oxford Dictionary defines as an adjective “ relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” We are also faced with growth of the ‘alt-right’ dedicated to extreme conservative and reactionary viewpoints outside main stream parties and using social media to spread their poisonous message and gather popular support.
So it is easy to despair about the world and wonder about the viability of decent human values that we rely upon to live a civilised life. However we must overcome this despair and gather our forces for the fight back. The values exposed by Donald Trump and the far right must not be accepted as the new ‘norm’. All progressive forces must unite. This is most obvious in America where the calls for mass resistance have already started calling for millions of people to come together to defend institutions and the rule of law.
Here too we must be vigilant and refuse to roll over in the face of growing racism and intolerance, but unite to confront the proponents of post-truth with a united front dedicated to promoting respect for truth and liberal values that hitherto have served us so well.
Dr Brian Nicol, Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists

Published in the Warwickshire Courier Series of Newspapers. Humanist Opinion: The British Faith Schools Menace.
Schools should be inclusive and open to all
If the UK is to be a truly democratic society then the Government must be open to changing its views on particular issues when it is clear that its current policies are against the wishes of the majority of its citizens are increasingly a non-religious society as is shown by poll after poll, and the favoured approach is a secular one in which the Government upholds the right to worship but gives no special favours to religious bodies in general and the Church of England in particular. Unfortunately we are a long way from that position and Churches enjoy a range of privileges from automatic inclusion in the legislature and the, not unconnected, exemption of Churches from laws that apply to everyone else.
However it is education in which a lack of secularism impinges most on the lives of British citizens. Schools with a religious character, or ‘faith schools’ as they are commonly known, account for around a third of our publicly funded schools. This seriously limits choice for parents who do not share the faith of the local school and do not want a religious education for their children. The National Secular Society has been campaigning for many years against faith schools which are a major divisive element in our society at a time when more than ever polices should be directed towards cohesiveness .
Totally ignoring this need and in the face of public opinion, it is extraordinary that our Prime Minister, a devout Christian, has chosen to put her own opinions ahead of those of the public at large by announcing the establishment of another hundred faith schools and changing the entry criteria to allow these state funded schools to take in only pupils of their favoured faith. This is a retrograde step of the first order.
By all means let us have variety in school provision but whatever their source or specialisation they should be inclusive and open to all.

Dr Brian Nicol Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists


The Bible? Not on my desert island, say majority of Britons
For almost 75 years Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs has been a reassuring weekly fixture following an unchanged format, part of the fabric of the nation. But the pace and reach of social change appear to have left Desert Island Discs behind.
A new poll suggests that only 31% of people in the UK would like a copy of the Bible to take to a desert island. The Radio 4 programme’s imaginary castaways are given a Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare, along with their choice of eight pieces of music, another book and one luxury item.
Reflecting the increasing secularity and diversity of British society, the poll found that 56% of respondents would not choose to take a Bible, and another 13% were unsure. Fewer than one in three welcomed the inclusion of a Bible in their musical and literary accompaniments to a solitary existence. There was a noticeable generational difference: 18% of 18-to-24-year-olds would choose a Bible, compared with 39% of over-65s.
This is yet further evidence, if any were needed given the finding of numerous other opinion polls, that the British are becoming increasingly less religious, and casts further doubt on the persistent claims by some politicians that Britain is still a Christian country.
George Broadhead.
Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists.
Many thanks to George and Brian for the contributions contained in this newsletter.
DF. Editor

Coventry & Warwickshire Humanist

September / October 2016

Issued by Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists
Newsletter editor: Derek Franklin

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


freedom / happiness / virtue

Marking the end of an era for C&W Humanists
We hope all members will be able to join us to celebrate the work of Roy Saich and George Broadhead, our two founding members, who due to ill health will be hanging up their respective Secretary and Chairperson Hats at the AGM. Roy and George have worked tirelessly to promote the group for over 40 years, so for this special newsletter, we decided to get their views, reminiscences and personal reflections. Here’s an interview with them both.

In what year was C&W Humanists formed?
In 1975, a year after we moved to Kenilworth. We put an ad in a local paper which resulted in an inaugural meeting at our house in Kenilworth. Our original name was Warwickshire Humanist Group but as more and more members joined in Coventry, we later changed it to Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists.

What was the impetus that made you set up the group?
We were members of the British Humanist Association and were keen to set up one of its local groups.

What was it like in the early years? What sort of activities were you engaged in?
In the early years we met in members’ homes then, as we started to grow, we hired a meeting room in the Society of Friends house in Coventry. Later we moved to the Waverly Day Centre in Kenilworth. We have held regular meetings with guest speakers as well as socials. For many years running we set up a stall at the annual weekend Leamington Peace Festival in Jephson Gardens. We pitched a tent and as well as having lots of leaflets and badges and books for sale, one of our members offered “free arguments”! Quite early on, we offered Humanist ceremonies, mainly funeral but also naming (instead of Christening) in our catchment area, with six members acting as officiants. All funeral directors were notified about these and requests for them gradually increased. We received publicity via a regular Humanist column in the Kenilworth Weekly News, and in other papers like the Coventry Evening Telegraph as a result of letters and press releases. On one occasion a meeting in Kenilworth was attended by Rosemary Harthill, Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Times, and a photographer, which resulted in some excellent publicity in that paper. Currently some good publicity is achieved by monthly Humanist Opinion columns published in the Courier Series of newspapers in Warwickshire.

You also established the Pink Triangle Trust. Tell us a bit about the links you see between Humanism and LGBT rights.
In 1979 we co-founded, with four other gay Humanists, the Gay Humanist Group, later to change its name to the Gay & Lesbian Association (GALHA) and afterwards we became trustees of the LGBT Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT). We were both on GALHA’s committee and George acted as its secretary for twenty-five years. GALHA is no longer independent having become a section of the British Humanist Association. The Humanist movement has always been strongly supportive of LGBT relationships and rights.

How has being people without belief personally affected your lives?
Not at all.

Who do you think is the most interesting speaker the group has invited?
Undoubtedly the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell for whose talk we hired the large meeting room at the Friends’ meeting house in Coventry. Peter’s topic was “Organised religion is the biggest global threat to human rights”. This was publicised as a public meeting and was very well attended.

What battles do you think are left to fight for Humanism?
Overall getting politicians, educational establishments and the media to recognise Humanism as a worthy life stance and that a substantial part of the UK population live their lives without any religious beliefs.

What were the high points of running the group for you both?
Meeting and making friends with like-minded people.

Finally, what is your favourite Humanist motto or quotation?

Can we have two?

“My country is the world and my religion is to do good” – Thomas Paine, and

“The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here, and the way to be happy is to make others happy.” – Robert Green Ingersoll.

Articles published in the Warwickshire Courier Series newspapers

Not long after Ugandan independence I had a post as lecturer at Makerere University in Kampala. In good colonial tradition it still had a high table and on one occasion it fell to me to say grace. I responded with ‘For what we are about to receive we thank the labours of man’. This was greeted with a cheer by the students and made me aware that not all students brought up in religious schools were as grateful for the experience as perhaps they might have been. However in Uganda as in 19c UK education was largely left to the churches.

Phasing in Universal Primary Education in Uganda in 2000 created a huge follow-on demand for secondary schooling, which the government has only been partially able to meet. The residual need is being addressed by private bodies including the Uganda Humanist Schools Association which at last provides an alternative possibility for non-religious students. In support there is a fund raising body the Uganda Humanist Schools Education Trust.

All schools teach the Uganda national curriculum and prepare students for public examinations. At the same time, the Humanist schools aim to develop self-confident students who care for each other and for their local communities. The schools encourage students to be open minded and questioning. They are taught to respect evidence and to appreciate the need for shared human values. In order to foster a spirit of understanding, students are introduced to both religious and secular humanist philosophies.

Under the pressure from climate change the economy is suffering and schools rely more and more on charitable giving and overseas aid. Our local humanist Group supports a scholarship for one student. If anyone would like to make a donation to the Trust it would go to a very good cause.

Brian Nicol
Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists

The C of E’s educational empire-building continues with its recent announcement of plans to build more than 100 discriminatory Anglican ‘free schools’. These will have the legal right to select 50% of school places on the basis of religion.

As if that weren’t bad enough, other major players in our sorry ‘faith’ schools sector are pushing for that cap to be lifted. The Catholic Church, for example, is determined to be able to discriminate with 100% of places at its new schools. A national charity responsible for promoting ‘free schools’, the New Schools Network, has also called for a lift on the cap. This is all profoundly worrying. At a time when we need more than ever for people of all beliefs and backgrounds to mix together, we are seeing distressing moves towards segregation & discrimination. A Balkanised education system serves no one but the religious establishments which stand to profit from the takeover of education. Their expansion agenda represents a fundamental threat to the rights of children to determine their own beliefs.

Other Christian groups have also been taking advantage of the rise in British nationalism that followed the 23 June Brexit vote. Christian Concern, the fundamentalist Christian lobby group, has called for a rollback on decades of progress towards securing equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people. It would be irresponsible to be complacent about the threat they could pose. As ever, Humanists are determined to fight for a fairer education system and for human rights and equality for everyone in Britain, regardless of religion or belief.

George Broadhead
Chair, Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists


‘Long-term trend away from religion looks set to accelerate’: BHA comments on release of latest British Social Attitudes Survey

August 8th, 2016 sees the publication of the latest annual results from NatCen Social Research’s British Social Attitudes Survey. The question in the survey about religious belonging records 48% of the population as being of no religion, a one percent decline from the year before, and three percent down on 2009. The Telegraph reports this as ‘show[ing] decades of decline in religious affiliation appearing to level off.’ But the British Humanist Association (BHA) has commented that the long-term trend is clearly still one of moving towards an ever-less religious population. The Telegraph cites the leading sociologist Professor Linda Woodhead as saying that the long-term trajectory is still downward. ‘The decline of religion particularly Christianity and the rise of no religion has always been a very slow, long-term process. We shouldn’t be looking to see a collapse in numbers in a few years, we have got to look at the long-term picture. But I can’t imagine any factor that would lead this long-term trend to change. If you look at the things that really matter to people – what they do with their babies, how they get married and how they deal with their dead – the rise of non-religious funerals, civil weddings and non-church baby-namings is very steady as well. The move from CofE to nones continues.’

It also cites fellow academic Dr Abby Day as saying that the churches face a ‘demographic time bomb’, because ‘There is a huge difference between the [more religious] pre-war and [less religious] baby-boomer generations. I think this could be the pause at the edge of the cliff.’

BHA Director of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘NatCen Social Research has said that the number of non-religious people has not increased since 2009, but this number similarly declined from 46% to 40% between 1998 and 2005, before springing up to 51% in 2009. The long-term trend is clearly away from religion, and with the oldest generation being far and away the most religious generation, this looks set to accelerate. ‘As the population becomes less and less religious, it becomes increasingly unjustified that religious schools are able to segregate children in admissions policies, that ever more public services are contracted out to discriminatory religious groups, and that 26 Church of England bishops sit and vote in the House of Lords. Politicians must realise the demographics will make change in all these areas inevitable.’
Diary Dates for 2016

C & W H Meetings are at the Waverley Day Centre, 65 Waverley Road, Kenilworth, CV8 1JL. Entrance is via the side door only.

Please note the following remaining 2016 meeting dates in your diary now: 15th September (AGM). There is a meeting arranged for 17th November but in the event of the group not electing a new Chairperson and/or Secretary this will be cancelled and different arrangements will be made.