The British Humanist Association has expressed regret and concern at remarks made by Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government writing in the Telegraph, in which he stated that Britain was a Christian country, and ‘we should, however, recognise that long-standing British liberties of freedom of religion have been undermined in recent years by aggressive secularism, especially in the more politically correct parts of the public sector.’
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson criticised the Secretary of State’s claims:
‘The Minister’s views are deeply misguided and he is simply incorrect – only a minority of people in Britain are practising Christians and over half of the population sees itself as non-religious according to the latest British Social Attitudes survey. Although Christianity has undoubtedly had a sometimes positive influence on the cultural and social development of Britain, it is far from being the only influence. Many pre-Christian, non-Christian, and post-Christian forces have shaped our society for the better and Christianity has often had ill effects. So, on a purely factual level Eric Pickles remarks are simply untrue.’
‘As opposed to advocating for a more level playing field for those off all religions and none by stating thatChristian Churches have a unique position in British society and a particularly strong claim to be heard, he is supporting the increasingly strident lobbying of a minority of Christians for more influence in our public life and greater privilege for those with Christian beliefs. His views give us fear for future policy initiatives shaped by these destructive ideas.
‘A politician and a government that tried to make Christianity and Christian beliefs the foundation of British values or a social morality would be building on seriously unstable foundations. All the evidence is that religion makes no difference in terms of a person’s social and moral behaviour – the same percentage of religious as non-religious people do volunteer work, for example. And people certainly don’t want to see it have more influence in government – in a 2006 IpsosMori poll, ‘religious groups and leaders’ actually topped the list of domestic groups that people said had too much influence on government.
‘His remarks are deeply concerning for anyone who values reason and evidence in public policy and fairness and secularism in our political life.’
For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07738435059
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.
Head of Public Affairs, British Humanist Association
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