Monthly Archives: October 2011

Italy: Annual celebrations by Survivors Voice Europe in Rome

Dozens of lanterns were lit up and sent flying in the beautiful roman sky towards the Castle of the Angel. Picture by Davide Servadio.

Friday 28th and Saturday 29th October in Rome there have been a series of events as part of the annual celebration organised by “Survivors Voice Europe” with the help of, part of the Italian Radical Party and supporter of the Secular Europe Campaign.

An important panel discussion on the theme “Science, Secularism, Religion” took place on Friday 28th afternoon in the Conference Hall of the Italian Chamber of Deputies in Rome, chaired by journalist Federico Tulli and transmitted by Radical Radio.

The conference was an occasion for several representatives of different associations to discuss the issues around secularism and human rights, in the eve of the annual demonstration of the survivors of clergy sexual abuse taking place outside the Vatican on Saturday 29th October.

Italian MP Maria Antonietta Farina Coscioni, President of the Association “Luca Coscioni” denounced the obstacles to freedom of scientific research, created by religious lobbies, not only in Italy, but also in the European Union, restricting the ability to effectively conduct scientific medical experiments, as we have seen recently with the rulings around Stem Cell Research.

Dr Edward Presswood, hospital doctor in London, spoke on behalf of the Secular Medical Forum, a new organisation in the UK that campaigns for a secular approach to current major health issues, opposing genital mutilation of children, denouncing the desire of religious lobbies to control our bodies.

Italian MP Maurizio Turco denounced that in a time of severe public spending cuts, Italian politicians of all parties don’t want to even discuss cutting the subsidies given to the Vatican, which are 6 billion euros per year. Secularism, as a term, keeps being qualified with adjectives that only serve to weaken it, like “healthy secularism”, or “just secularism”, and recently from the leader of the opposition “adult secularism”.

Marco Tranchino, co-ordinator of the Secular Europe Campaign since 2008, told the attendees how that coalition for secularism grew from 5 or 6 UK groups to over 90 associations in 15 EU Countries. The adjective used by the Vatican to describe the secularism we promote is “aggressive”, but we are just staunch defenders of human rights. Human rights without other qualifiers, while the Vatican only promotes those rights that it defines as “authentic”. As secularists we have always been on the side of the survivors of clergy sexual abuse, demanding that Church officials should not be above the law and their crimes punished by the civil authorities.

Naomi Phillips, Head of Public Affairs of the British Humanist Association, sent a message in support of this important panel discussion, denouncing the multitude of groups working in coalition against secularism to take away hard fought for freedoms and rights. The need for secularism across Europe has never been more urgent and the promotion of science as the best way to discover and understand the world around us is vital.

Sue Cox, founder of Survivors Voice Europe, used her knowledge as a medical practitioner to research and demonstrate how the sexual abuse of children creates long term brain damage and reduces the life span of the victims. Survivors Voice Europe is allied with humanists and secularists and demands a secular investigation into the cover up of the child abuse of catholic clergy.

Ton Leerschool, co-founder of Survivors Voice Europe, explained how their organisation is growing and now have contacts from all around the world. An important part of what they do is psicological help offered through the site, trying to empower the victims of sexual abuse and transform them in survivors.

Keith Porteous Wood, Chief Executive of the National Secular Society, explained in his message the work done at the United Nations to expose the church’s culpability and neglect. The Vatican’s supposed reforms are often just cosmetic, seeking to reassure the media that the problem has been addressed when in fact nothing has really changed, with the Church’s own interests before those of the children. The NSS produced a devastating 50 page report for the Council of Europe on the Church’s wholesale culpability over mental, physical and sexual child abuse in Ireland over many decades. A copy was sent to the Irish Government at the very time it issued its unprecedented rebuke to the Vatican.

Raffaele Carcano, head of the Italian Humanists (UAAR), also sent a message of support on behalf of the italian non believers, which are growing in numbers and now estimated as 10 millions. But while secularism is spreading among the Italian citizens, paradoxically the politicians of all parties have been approving laws (from RE in state schools to IVF treatment) that have made Italy less secular and more distant from the achievements of the other EU Countries. Sadly the requests of the Vatican find the support of almost all political leaders.

The conference ended with the commitment to keep working together, locally and in the EU, networking and building the movement that is so important to build the pressure to make real progress as never before.

Saturday 29th October victims of catholic clergy sexual abuse arrived in Rome from all around Europe for the annual celebration.

A touching meeting was held in the morning, hosted in the conference room of the Radical Party, where all the victims had the chance to tell their stories and share their feelings, and update each other about the work done since last year.

In the afternoon, the annual demonstration outside the Vatican took the form of a celebration of survival, with music and dance. The display of banners and placards was staged between St Peter’s square and the Castle of the Angel.

Hundreds of tourists stopped by to read the placards that, in all european languages, explained the unspeakable abuses committed by catholic priests and nuns and the appalling crimes committed by the Vatican officials trying to cover up the scandal and protect the pedofile clergy rather than putting the defence and security of children first.

The hearing and speech impaired survivors from the “Provolo” Institute in Verona held their banners asking the Vatican to finally co-operate with the civil authorities.

Sue Cox and Ton Leerschool spoke to the crowd and renewed the commitment to fight for justice, demanding a secular investigation into the abuses and the cover up.

The demonstration ended at the sunset, with dozens of lanterns lit up and sent flying in the beautiful roman sky towards the Castle of the Angel, with children and parents joining in with the music, in communion with the survivors asking for the truth and justice to prevail.


UK: Proposals to make worship optional in schools rejected by Peers

The law in England and Wales states that children at all publicly-funded schools “shall on each school day take part in an act of collective worship”.

Peers in the House of Lords have rejected moves to make collective worship in schools optional, rather than compulsory.

One of the amendments would have given community schools the freedom to decide for themselves whether or not to hold acts of religious worship. A second amendment would have given pupils the right to withdraw themselves from worship, where it is conducted by the school. A further amendment would have allowed 15 year old or older pupils to withdraw themselves, building on the National Secular Society’s (NSS) success in 2006 in introducing sixth form pupils’ self-withdrawal.

The amendments were moved by NSS Honorary Associate Lord Avebury during Report Stage of the Education Bill. Moving the amendments, Lord Avebury said: “It is time for the long-standing tradition which no longer reflects the beliefs of more than a tiny fraction of the people to be jettisoned”.

Speaking in the Chamber, Lord Avebury set out a formidable list of reasons why requiring schools to conduct a daily act of religious worship is no longer appropriate. Not least of these were numerous references to the high rate of schools’ non-compliance with the law, showing it to be unenforceable and unpopular. Ahead of the debate, copious evidence of this was sent to the Education Minister by the NSS, at the request of the Department for Education. England and Wales are alone among Western democracies in requiring such enforced worship in community schools. The Joint (Parliamentary) Human Rights Committee endorses the proposal to bring down the age of self withdrawal.

Lord Avebury said: “By all means continue the valuable tradition that assembly is a time for considering the moral and ethical values of our civilisation. […] Let us do that in a way that is itself inclusive and not one that requires children and teachers to participate in behaviour that excludes many of them at the beginning of the school day.”

Speaking in support of the amendments, Baroness Turner (another NSS honorary associate) said: “The law as it stands is the legacy of a society unrecognisable from the pluralistic Britain today where citizens hold a wide variety of religious beliefs—including no religious belief. This Bill presents an opportunity to reform an outdated and overly prescriptive law. The amendments, which I think are reasonable and moderate, are intended to offer greater freedom and choice in regard to worship in schools.”

Opposing the amendments, Baroness Trumpington suggested “it did not matter if pupils were bored, did not like going to chapel or were not interested in religious matters at the age of 15, 16 or perhaps even 17. That daily event gave each pupil a background to which they could return in later life. It was very important to have.”

Also opposing the amendments was The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds. He said “We do not want to marginalise worship or spirituality within the life of our schools. […] When the nation faces a time of crisis or indeed of joy and delight, it tends to do so in terms of prayer. Children need to know what prayer is about, and one of the best ways for that to happen is through the worship that takes place in both church schools and community schools.”

In a reminder of why disestablishment remains a key NSS objective, Baroness Butler-Sloss said “It is important that we all remember that the Church of England is the established church of this country. That is why we have the Prayers that we have every day [in Parliament]. It is appropriate that that should be recognised in schools.”

The Lord Bishop of Chester suggested the amendments were “tarred with secularist intent.” He did however concede that there is a case for a “cool, considered look at the provisions of collective worship.” He said: “The amendments push too quickly in a particular direction. There is a case for a proper review and full consultation in due course. However, let us not be misled. Collective worship is exactly that: worship appropriate to the collection of people who are present.”

Speaking on behalf of the Government, Lord Hill of Oareford made it clear that the Government did not support the amendments. He said “Our starting point is that the requirement is long-standing. It is difficult to dissociate that from the history of the country and the role that the church has played over a long period in individual schools and also collectively in society.

“The Government believe that the experience of collective worship makes a contribution to the spiritual and moral development of young people, not just for those who attend religious schools.”

Lord Hill made reference to the British Household Survey of 2010 and said “more than 70 per cent of people said that their religion was Christian, and we think it right, therefore, that these values should underpin the ethos of our schools.”

Lord Avebury suggested that the Minister, who had completely ignored the evidence, was simply doing as he was told. He urged the Minister to “seek the views of teachers, parents and pupils” and to come back with amendments of his own at Third Reading if he found arguments to reform worship were endorsed by those who are being forced to take part in rituals they do not agree with.

Stephen Evans, Campaigns Manager at the National Secular Society said “It is disappointing to hear the Government repeat the same old tired justifications for insisting on a daily act of Christian worship”

The amendments were pragmatically drafted not to argue for an end to all worship in schools, simply to allow schools that wish not to hold worship the freedom to choose for themselves. It is perhaps an indication of the influence wielded by the Church of England that the Government weren’t willing or able to make even the smallest concession, in the face of such reasonable amendments.”

“The law requiring worship will eventually change; it is just a question of when. It is important that people make their views know to their MPs as it will clearly take a massive groundswell of public opinion to give the Government the backbone to stand up to the Church on this issue”

Precise numbers for the vote are not available as the division was voided after three minutes because of a procedural error, but while those supporting Lord Avebury would not have won, there was a gratifying number of supporters in his lobby.

Read the debate in full at Hansard

Read Our collective worship campaign briefing

Using the arguments in the briefing, please contact your MP to express your objections to compulsory worship in schools.

National Secular Society | 25th October 2011

Italy: Science, Secularism, Religion – discussion


ROME, Friday 28th October – 16.00
Italian Chamber of Deputies
Via del Pozzetto 158 (close to Piazza San Silvestro)   and   Survivors Voice Europe

invite you to the discussion

Science, Secularism, Religion


Maurizio Turco
MP with the Radical Party, President of

Sue Cox and Ton Leerschool
Founders of Survivors Voice Europe, associations of the survivors of catholic clergy abuse

Marco Tranchino
Organiser of the Secular Europe Campaign

Edward Presswood
Hospital doctor in London. Member of the National Secular Society and of the Secular Medical Forum

Keith Porteous Wood
Chief Executive of the NSS, National Secular Society, which he represented in the UK Parliament and in the EU Parliament, and also in the European Council and in the United Nations.

Maria Antonietta Farina Coscioni
MP with the Radical Party, Honorary President of the Association “Associazione Luca Coscioni”

Federico Tulli, journalist of Left

There will be a translation service from and to English.

Registration is required to attend this event, as it is hosted in a hall of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. Please book a place by Thursday 27th October at 12pm sending an email to : 

Men are kindly reminded that wearing a suit and a tie is also required.

ROMA venerdì 28 ottobre ore 16.00
Camera dei Deputati
Via del Pozzetto 158 (adiacenze Piazza San Silvestro)   e   Survivors Voice Europe

ti invitano all’incontro

Scienza, Laicità, Religione


Maurizio Turco
deputato radicale, Presidente di

Sue Cox e Ton Leerschool
Fondatori di Survivors Voice Europe, associazione di sopravvissuti alle violenze sessuali del clero

Marco Tranchino
Promotore della Secular Europe Campaign

Edward Presswood
Medico ospedaliero a Londra. membro della National Secular Society e del Secular Medical Forum

Keith Porteous Wood
dirigente della NSS, National Secular Society che ha rappresentato presso i parlamenti e i governi del Regno Unito e dell’Unione europea, nonché presso il Consiglio d’Europa e le Nazioni Unite.

Maria Antonietta Farina Coscioni
deputata radicale, Presidente onorario dell’Associazione Luca Coscioni

Federico Tulli, giornalista di Left

Sarà disponibile un servizio di traduzione simultanea da e per l’inglese.

Essendo una sala della Camera dei deputati per accedere è necessario prenotarsi entro giovedì 27 alle ore 12 inviando una mail a : 

Si ricorda che per gli uomini è necessario indossare giacca e cravatta.


UK: the Government explains why it wants to keep the Church of England in the House of Lords

The Bishops see their role as speaking for those of all faiths’ – the Government explains why it wants to keep the Church of England in the House of Lords

Asked why it had proposed reserved seats for Church of England Bishops in a reformed House of Lords, the government provided a number of unconvincing reasons, including that the ‘Bishops see their role as speaking for those of all faiths’. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has criticised the response and said that the Government ‘is yet to provide a proper justification’ for its proposals.

Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) the Rt Hon Lord Warner of Brockley asked a written question of the Government, after the APPHG had made a submission strongly criticising the proposals to retain reserved seats for the Bishops to the parliamentary Joint Committee looking at the draft House of Lords Reform Bill.  
House of Lords Reform Bill [HL]
Asked by Lord Warner
To ask Her Majesty’s Government why reserved places for Church of England Bishops are included in a partially appointed and smaller House of Lords in their draft House of Lords Reform Bill.[HL12294]

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): The Church of England is the established Church in England and the relationship between Church and state is an important part of the constitutional framework that has evolved over centuries. The Government consider that, in a mainly elected House of Lords, it was right to maintain their presence, which provides an important dimension to the legislative process.

The Bishops see their role as speaking for those of all faiths. Religious belief has an important role in many people’s lives and it is desirable that this should be reflected in the House of Lords’ considerations.

In the event of a wholly elected second Chamber, there would be no reserved places for Church of England Bishops.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘The Bishops may well believe that they ‘speak’ for those of all faiths but there are many, including Anglicans, who would disagree. The claim that Bishops are uniquely qualified to provide ethical and spiritual insights is factually incorrect and offensive. Far more troubling, however, is the tacit implication that the Bishops’ absurd claim that they ‘speak’ for all religious people has had some influence on the government’s proposals. Further, with every indication that religion is becoming increasingly less important to people and with the numbers and proportion of non-religious people growing year on year, the government’s reasoning is even less convincing.

‘It is also implied that there is some constitutional reason for having reserved seats for the Church of England in parliament, and that simply is not the case. The Government must be aware of that, since it gives no constitutional reason not to have automatic places for Bishops should the chamber be elected. In other words, the Government is yet to provide a proper justification for creating a new, independent and unaccountable bloc for Church of England in Parliament through proposing to retain the deeply undemocratic reserved places for the Church of England in our Parliament.’

British Humanist Association | 24th October 2011



The BHA and the APPHG have submitted separate evidence to the Joint Committee.

An ICM survey conducted on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust in March 2010 found that 74% of the British public – including 70% of Christians – believe it is wrong that Bishops have an automatic right to a seat in the House of Lords

In a 2006 ICM poll, 42% of people questioned said that the Government paid too much attention to religious groups and leaders

Some further figures from other polls

For more information read the BHA’s briefing on Bishops in the Lords

Key points include:

  • The presence of Church of England Bishops in the House of Lords as of right entrenches a privileged position for one particular branch of one particular religion that cannot be justified in today’s society, which is not only multi-faith but increasingly non-religious.
  • The claim that Bishops are uniquely qualified to provide ethical and spiritual insights is factually incorrect and offensive.
  • The presence of Church representatives in the legislature has ceased to be an accurate reflection of UK society and, indeed, increasing numbers of people are opposed to political privileges for religion


EU Commission protecting religious privilege from scrutiny

Humanists complain to European Ombudsman: “EU COMMISSION DEFYING LISBON TREATY”

The European Humanist Federation has accused the European Commission of refusing to comply with the Lisbon Treaty. It has lodged a complaint with the European Ombudsman.

Article 17:3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (introduced by the Lisbon Treaty) requires the EU to conduct a ‘regular, open and transparent dialogue’ with ‘philosophical and non-confessional organisations’ no less than with the churches and religious organisations. The Commission has for many years routinely conducted ‘dialogue seminars’ with the two conferences of European bishops.

In March the European Humanist Federation (EHF), the main body representing nonreligious people in Europe, proposed a dialogue seminar for the first time, seeking to discuss the problems arising from religious exemptions in EU directives against discrimination. The Commission refused to discuss the subject. Attempts over the last four months to obtain a shift in the Commission’s position, culminating in a letter to President Barroso himself, have produced no result.

“The Commission is refusing to let the EHF meet the officials who deal with policy on nondiscrimination,” said David Pollock, President of the EHF. “Yet the official in charge is aware of the difficulties, as was clear when he spoke at a recent meeting in the European Parliament. The Commission’s incomprehensible excuse is that we want to talk about religion or philosophy and that this lies outside the Commission’s area of competence. Of course it does – but (as we have pointed out in vain) what we want to discuss is not religion but human rights, equality and non-discrimination, and these lie squarely within the Commission’s competence. Exactly the same problem arose last year over a conference the Commission proposed to subsidise for us, with the result that it was never held.

“For too long,” said Mr Pollock, “we have suffered disdainful treatment from the Commission that stands in marked contrast to their receptive attitude to the churches. It took years of pressure while the Commission organised annual summit meetings with the churches before they created a parallel meeting for non-confessional organisations. “We did not want to make a public complaint but we were left with no other recourse. This is either incompetence by the Commission or, we fear, an attempt to protect religious privilege from scrutiny.”

European Humanist Federation | 19 October 2011


  • David Pollock, President: 0044 20 8800 3542 / 0044 7866 806 932 /
  • Pierre Galand, Vice-President: 0032 4755 58754 /
  • Pierre-Arnaud Perrouty, secretariat: 0032 4841 83535 /


You will find at :

(a) the EHF’s letter to President Barroso, our complaint to the Ombudsman and our previous
correspondence with the Commission

(b) information about the EHF and about the size of the non-religious population in Europe;

(c) details of the exemptions for religion in the EU non-discrimination directives;

(d) evidence of the Commission’s competence in the areas proposed for the dialogue

(e) the source for the Commission official in charge of non-discrimination being aware of the

(f) a link to the website of the relevant Commission office and details of the religious

Scotland: A secular state should defend religious freedoms

The Most Rev David Chillingworth and Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams. Image: Anglican Communion News Service

The same-sex marriage issue requires considered thought

IN THE Scottish Episcopal Church, we’re thinking about our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage and other related issues. The definition of marriage set out in our Canons is that, “marriage is a physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman”. That is the position of our church. It’s a difficult issue for us – as it is for all churches and faith groups. We have among our membership people who feel passionately that change is needed – and those who feel equally strongly that we should resist any attempt to broaden society’s understanding of marriage. The consultation period is very short. Among the things we shall say will be that if – and it’s a big “if” – we were to consider changing our canonical definition of marriage, that would require a two-year process in our General Synod, the outcome of which could not be predicted with any certainty.

We haven’t got involved in public debate about this. We’ve been asked for our view and we shall give it in a considered manner – believing that the time for public debate comes later. However, it seems to me that some of the points being made – particularly comments from our ecumenical partners in the Catholic Church – raise significant issues about how we understand the relationship between church and state. They also raise important questions about the nature of the church itself.

The suggestion has been made that the Scottish Government does not have a mandate to introduce legislation which is of such fundamental significance for our society. The implication is that these are “non-negotiable” areas. If the Scottish Government was proposing to legislate to enshrine in law discrimination on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, colour or race, I would publicly oppose their moral right to do so. But that is not the nature of these consultation proposals.

So what does this say about the relationship of church and state in modern society? I have often said that I am a supporter of the secular state because it sustains a proper separation between legislature, judiciary and church.

In my Irish background, I have experienced both the confessional state which was the Irish Republic in my childhood and the Northern Irish mirror image – the sabbatarian “lock up the playgrounds on Sunday” society. Neither was healthy. A secular state should defend religious freedom – but it will not make any assumptions about religious faith nor defer to it.

If, following the consultation period, the Scottish Government and parliament feel that they should legislate in this way, I believe that it is their right to do so. It is clear that there would be an “opt-out” protection for those who cannot accept this. Churches and faith groups would have to decide whether they wished to use or to stand outside the provisions of such legislation.

But there is a further issue here which is about the very nature of the church. I believe that the church must and should be an unequivocal supporter of marriage and family life.

But Jesus did not call the church into being as a citadel of orthodoxy. He was constantly criticised because he spent time with people who didn’t fit the conventional patterns and were deemed unacceptable by others. He told stories about nets and fishing, about lost sheep and banquets where the guests were to be gathered from the highways and byways.

The Scottish Government’s consultation challenges us to think seriously about our society, its values and its patterns of family life. It challenges churches to reflect on what it means in today’s secular society to call people to uphold marriage and family life. And if there is a mandate for us in the churches, it is to try and build communities of faith which honour the way in which we believe Jesus responded to people in their diversity.

 Scotsman | The Most Rev David Chillingworth | 13th October 2011

• The Most Rev David Chillingworth is Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Read the bishop’s full statement on his blog

Poland: Liberal maverick to push for secular Poland after win

Janusz Palikot from Palikot's Movement Party looks on during news conference in Warsaw October 10, 2011. Credit: Reuters/Kacper Pempel

An ultra-liberal party that surged from nowhere to third place in Poland’s election plans to shake up the political system with demands for the repeal of restrictions on individual freedoms and an end to the Catholic Church’s privileges.

Janusz Palikot, a wealthy former vodka tycoon, has stormed into parliament with 10 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election at the head of a motley crew of political novices that includes Poland’s first transsexual lawmaker, Anna Grodzka.

A tired but jubilant Palikot, a former member of Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s ruling center-right Civic Platform that has won re-election, said on Monday Poland was ripe for change.

“We’re fighting a culture of delegalisation. In Poland, you go to jail for insulting the President, for a word, for insulting religious feelings, insulting an official,” the 46-year-old divorcee and father of four told reporters.

“You go to jail for drinking beer and then walking with your bike. You go to jail for smoking a joint. For abortion. This is a nihilist policy which hurts people.”

Palikot’s Movement, as the party is known, has tapped into a rich vein of disaffection, especially among young people, by supporting gay rights, abortion, public funding for in vitro fertilization and legalisation of soft drugs.

legalization Palikot said more Poles would have backed his new party but they decided to stick with Tusk’s party for fear of inadvertently helping Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s nationalist-conservative Law and Justice party back into power.

Kaczynski espouses the traditional Catholic and patriotic values that Palikot’s supporters reject.

“That means about a quarter of Poles wants major changes. They want a secular state, a friendly state,” said Palikot, who studied philosophy.


Palikot has scandalized conservative Poles with stunts such as waving a dildo and a toy gun at a news conference to publicize a rape case against a policeman, and with his outspoken call for an end to the Catholic Church’s privileges.

The church is revered by many Poles for its role in helping to end decades of communist rule and it has carved out a powerful role in democratic Poland.

But Palikot wants to end tax exemptions for priests and public funding for religion classes in state schools.

“The church did not succeed in this election,” said Andrzej Rychard Of the Polish Academy Of Science, commenting on Palikot’s breakthrough and Kaczynski’s failure to oust Tusk.

“I am quite sure that the less the church engages in politics the better for itself … That said, the new mood for more secular, liberal trends in society is not represented in all social strata and regions of Poland that are more conservative, so the Palikot offer is not for everybody.”

Palikot is now trying to project a more serious image and says he is ready to discuss cooperation or even joining a coalition with Tusk’s PO.

Tusk’s party allies have suggested that they would rather turn to their pre-election partner, the Peasants’ Party.

The two parties presided over strong economic growth over the past four years but their critics say they ducked serious reforms that would put public finances on a sounder footing.

Palikot said the slim four-seat majority secured by the two ruling parties in the new lower chamber, or Sejm, would allow smaller, conservative fractions in each party to hijack more ambitious efforts to change.

Reuters | Chris Borowski | 10th October 2011

UK: Government proposals create a new, independent and unaccountable bloc for Church of England in Parliament

Government proposals to keep reserved seats for Bishops in the House of Lords go against what people want and create a new, independent and largely unaccountable bloc for the Church of England in Parliament, suggests evidence provided the British Humanist Association (BHA) to the Joint Committee scrutinising the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill and White Paper.

The BHA’s submission argues that the proposals, presented to Parliament by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in May, do not simply maintain the status quo but give new powers to the Church of England, decrease accountability and even increase proportionately the number of Bishops to have an automatic place in a reformed chamber. The BHA has strongly criticised proposals which would exempt Bishops from the rules on serious offences, leaving them unaccountable to Parliament on the most serious matters.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘At the same time as the Government sets out its plans to create a more democratic and accountable House of Lords, it proposes to retain the deeply undemocratic reserved places for the Church of England in our Parliament and to ensure they sit on a different basis from others, with different rules. Astonishingly, that even includes exempting the Bishops from the serious offence provision and those on expulsion and suspension, meaning that on the most serious matters, Bishops in the House of Lords will be accountable to the Church of England and not to Parliament. We believe these and other proposals to retain a privileged place for the Church are not legitimate and cannot be justified, and we urge the Joint Committee to reject them.’

An ICM survey conducted on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust in March 2010 found that 74% of the British public – including 70% of Christians – believe it is wrong that Bishops have an automatic right to a seat in the House of Lords


For further comment or information, contact Andrew or 020 7079

The BHA will publish its submission when it has permission from the Joint Committee.

Some further figures from other polls
42% of people questioned said that the Government paid too much attention to religious groups and leaders (ICM December 2006)

For more information read the BHA’s briefing on Bishops in the Lords

Key points include:
– The presence of Church of England bishops in the House of Lords as of right entrenches a privileged position for one particular branch of one particular religion that cannot be justified in today’s society, which is not only multi-faith but increasingly non-religious.
– The claim that Bishops are uniquely qualified to provide ethical and spiritual insights is factually incorrect and offensive.
– The presence of Church representatives in the legislature has ceased to be an accurate reflection of UK society and, indeed, increasing numbers of people are opposed to political privileges for religion

British Humanist Association | 6th October 2011

Italy: Second Annual Survivors of Catholic Clergy Abuse Day


Just as we promised!!!!

In Rome for the 2nd Annual celebration for the survivors of catholic clergy abuse.

On Saturday 29th October 2011 survivors from all over the World will gather again in Rome to celebrate our survival!

Last year on this date was the first time that many of us had been able to speak about our abuses in public.
With survivors from twelve countries, that day was life changing for us, and Survivors Voice Europe was born!

After suffering the worst betrayal of body and trust,we are further abused by being silenced or dismissed, manipulated and disregarded, principally by the catholic church. On that same weekend in 2010, the Chilean miners were rescued from underground,and the World celebrated.We were also delighted for them.But for our lives, despite suffering years in a black hole of torment and abuse by the catholic church, there was NEVER a celebration. So on that day in 2010 we declared that the last Saturday of every October will be “ANNUAL CELEBRATION DAY FOR CATHOLIC CLERGY ABUSE SURVIVORS” and every year we will be back!
Please mark this new annual event in your diaries!

This event is about making connections, renewing relationships with survivors from all over the World,together celebrating our lives, but also reminding the World of the churches continuing shameful role.For many of us, 2010 was life changing, and throughout this year our connections have been cemented,and new ones made.
This event is not to be missed!

Since our meeting last year,we have created even more connections, from Colombia,Australia,Iceland,Poland, Latvia, and we will gather together again, in the sight of the vatican, and show them our growing strength.We will be joined by other supporters, often incensed by what they have witnessed,standing alongside us.
We will begin the day with a meeting of us all in the headquarters of the Radicali Italiani, and end the day with a party in the Piazza Castel St.Angelo.
After all these years in the dark, it is time to step into the light and the music! And show the World that we have survived and are stronger today than yesterday.
Come and join us and help us celebrate

The vatican is NOT invited! We don’t want to see any of them. Last year the papal spokesperson Frederico Lombardi patronised us, lied to us and misrepresented us,
We will NOT be abused by them again!
So we are telling the vatican to STAY AWAY — You are NOT welcome —- this is OUR party!

Along with the co-founders of Survivors Voice Europe, our members from many countries,we are grateful for the support and presence of some of our dear friends.

  • The brave deaf and speech impaired survivors from the Institu Provolo Verona, who continue to inspire us.
  • Tommaso Dell’Era and the others at La Colpa.
  • The Radicali party, who give us continued support and involvement.
  • Keith Porteous Wood executive director of Britain’s National Secular Society,who works tirelessly for this cause in the United Nations and the Council of Europe, and has asked that the vatican should be made to answer to the UN for their crimes against children
  • Roberto Mirabili of Caramela Buono, Italy’s largest child abuse organisation, ?ghting for justice for children, and abuse survivors.
  • Britain’s Secular Medical Forum, doctors against religious exploitation of children.
  • Marco Tranchino, organiser of the Secular Europe Campaign, Marco is an activist and he organised last year’s “Protest the Pope” campaign, when twenty-thousand people marched through London, and dedicated it to the survivors of catholic clergy abuse.


Friday 28th October from 21-00 -  informal gathering at the “Spanish Steps”

Location Piazza Di Spagna, Rome

all welcome

Saturday 29th October from 9-00 till 14-00  –  Survivors Meeting!

Location Radicali Italiani, Via De Torre Argentina 76 (3rd floor)
( A note to the press: you are very welcome to join us, but the primary purpose of this meeting is for survivors to meet and tell their stories,information gained there can only be published with their permission)

Saturday 29th October from 18-00 till 22-00 –  PARTY!

Celebrate the 2nd Annual Survivors of catholic clergy day.
Location  Castel Sant Angelo Piazza Pio X11
Casual meetings with the press.


See also: Question & Answers around this event.

UK: Scrapping the Human Rights Act would be ‘an international embarrassment’

Theresa May at the Conservative party conference.

Scrapping the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) would be an international embarrassment for the UK, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has said as it urged parliamentarians from across the political spectrum to defend the law.

The BHA has spoken out following remarks calling for the abolition of the HRA made over the weekend at the Conservative Party Conference by both the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Home Secretary, Theresa May, who said she would ‘Like to see the Human Rights Act go’.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips commented, ‘The Human Rights Act is a vital piece of legislation for all of us, and its implementation confirmed the UK’s place as a world leader in protecting and promoting people’s fundamental rights and liberty.

‘The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law through the HRA provides the clearest legal protection of universally recognised human rights and freedoms. With serious threats to its existence coming from people in the highest political positions of power, it is more important than ever for civil society and parliamentarians from across the political spectrum to make clear their support for the Act, and even to strengthen and develop it further.’

Ms Phillips continued ‘Scrapping the Human Rights Act would be deeply embarrassing for the UK internationally, and would seriously undermine efforts to make British society fair, free and where everyone is equal before the law.’


Read the comments by the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister

For further comment or information, please contact Naomi Philips on 020 7079 3585.

British Humanist Association | 3rd October 2011

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