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BHA: Parliament calls humanists to give evidence on the “Big Society”

Parliament calls humanists to give evidence on the “Big Society”

A parliamentary inquiry has called on the British Humanist Association (BHA) to give evidence on the government’s “Big Society” agenda. The BHA is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people, and it is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for a secular state.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson will give evidence in a session for parliament’s Public Administration Select Committee’s inquiry looking at the impact of the “Big Society” proposals from the humanist as well as religious perspectives. Other witnesses are the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester and convenor of the Bishops in the House of Lords; Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi; and Charles Wookey, Assistant General Secretary, Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

Mr Copson said, ‘Government rhetoric on the “Big Society” has focused on the central place ‘faith’ and ‘interfaith’ activity have to its policy, probably to the exclusion and detriment of many within so-called ‘faith’ groups and certainly to the wider society and social cohesion. We will be making the case for the government and others to recognise the value of communities as a whole and the contributions that humanists, as well as religious people, make to their communities.’

In March, the BHA submitted written evidence to the Committee’s Inquiry. Discussing that memorandum, BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips said, 'Unless the “Big Society” and any related initiatives are secular, that is, neutral on matters of religion and belief, treating all people equally regardless of belief, and without privilege or discrimination, then it will fail to be inclusive and may serve to divide rather than to unite society. It is also important that social and public policies focus on the real needs and contribution of individuals and not the perceived needs of specific identity groups.'

Notes

The BHA will be giving evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee’s ‘Smaller Government: “Bigger Society”? Inquiry in a session beginning at 9.45am on Thursday 30 June.

For further comment or information contact Naomi Phillips on 07540 257101 or naomi@humanism.org.uk

Some figures on religion or belief in the UK http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-belief-surveys-statistics
The British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA) has been published annually by the National Centre for Social research since 1983. The 27th report was published in 2011:
• Those who profess no religion have risen from 31% to 51% between 1983 and 2009.
• In 1983 66% identified as Christian, in 2008 the number was 43%.
• In 2008 37% of the UK population are sceptical, 35% are definite or doubtful.
• In 2009 only 17% of the British population attended religious services at least monthly, and only 11% attended at least weekly.
• Those self-described as members of the Church of England consist of 20% of the population in 2009 (40% in 1983). In 2008, it was found that 49% of this group never attend services; only 8% of people who identify with the Church of England attend church weekly.
• 62% of people in Britain never attend a religious service.

Read the BHA’s written evidence to the PASC “Big Society” inquiry http://humanism.org.uk/_uploads/documents/bha-submission-pasc-inquiry-big-society-final-03-11.pdf

Read more about the BHA’s position on the “Big Society” and localism http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/bigsociety-localism

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.-----------------------------------------------------------------------
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