humanity-454880_1920Community Involvement

Farnham Humanists has members who are officiants for Baby Namings, Civil Partnerships, Weddings and Funerals – click on ceremonies for more information

Humanist chaplaincy – prisons and hospitals

Prison Humanist Chaplaincy support –  David Savage and Alec Leggatt of Farnham Humanists met the C of E Chaplain of Send Woman’s’ Prison for a friendly and constructive meeting about establishing a non-religious chaplaincy role. We will develop this role, providing the prison with Humanist books, leaflets and attending the Prison’s regular ‘Faith Fairs’, as well as visiting individual prisoners when requested. As far as we are aware this is the first time there has been an agreement to establish a non-religious chaplaincy role in prisons in England.

Humanist Chaplaincy support – Leaflets have been provided to the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice in Farnham describing what Humanist support could be provided as an additional option to religious chaplaincy. So far only one patient has requested and been provided with support.

In April 2009 David Savage responded to Mike Penning, Shadow Secretary for Health on the all party consultation on the provision of chaplaincy and spiritual care within the NHS. David’s key points are that ‘pastoral and spiritual care’ should be for all in the NHS irrespective of their religion or belief and should be provided by all, irrespective of their religion or belief. At present this care is often seen as for the religious by the religious.

Attendance at Remembrance Day ceremonies

For several years now Farnham Humanists have laid a wreath at the cenotaph in Farnham on Remembrance Day in memory of all those who gave their lives for the UK including non-religious believers.

The Council is trying to make progress but it is not always clear if the Council recognise that religious
organisations often want to maintain and promote discrimination. Preventing discrimination in the
governance, employment practices and actual provision of Council services provided by third parties is an
important area of attention.

There has been some, but slow, progress in getting the Council to consider ‘religion and belief’ rather
than ‘faith’. This difference is important. Ending discrimination based on ‘faith’ can mean ensuring
organisations do not discriminate between religions but continue to discriminate between religious and
non-religious people.

David Savage has pointed out that the Council have been using totally wrong and misleading data on
religion or belief in its equality documents. It stated that ‘around 20% of the Surrey population do not see
themselves as Christian, but as coming from other faith groups…’ It is difficult to understand how such
misleading information could be approved by Council. Their own web site of Census data shows only
3.1% are other faiths. Census data is itself inaccurate because it asks the leading question ‘what is your
religion’. The Council asks this leading question in asking Surrey residents about religion and belief. We
have provided the Council with the BHA’s excellent ‘Guidance on Equality of Religion or Belief’.

In April 2010 Farnham Humanists attended a Council sponsored religion and belief workshop. We
requested that our humanist celebrants be allowed to place leaflets in Registry Offices. This request
appeared to be well received but we have had no official response to date.

Waverley Borough Council’s Faith Forum (since 2009)

In February 2009 David Savage wrote to Waverley Borough Council in response to their consultation
on the Borough’s equality and diversity policy and requested that Farnham Humanists is included as a
member of a Critical Partner Group. He highlighted that we are a group with non-religious beliefs who
support human rights and within this want to help reflect and respect the diversity in our community. We
also want to support the council in ensuring there is no discrimination based on religion or belief (as well
as disability etc) in governance, employment and provision of services.
Waverley Equality Consultation letter

Following a request to join from Farnham Humanists, Alec Leggatt has been attending Waverley’s
Faith Forum on our behalf since Summer 2009. Alec writes in April 2010 “I have attended three of the
meetings so far. The forum is well supported with the Council leader and the CEO attending. Most faith
communities attend and I have received a warm and respectful welcome.

The forum is fairly new and is taking time to find its identity and certainty of purpose. At the very least it
enables the different faiths and Humanism to learn more about each other. Further than that it is intended
to form a link between the Council and various belief communities in the Borough. My attempt to discard
the term “Faith” from the title in favour of “Religion and Belief” – the wording now preferred in
legislation. – has failed, but the Council use the better wording in their literature.

The forum was asked about prayers before Council meetings. It recommended a few moments silence for
private reflection instead of open prayer and I agreed with this.”

South East England Faith Forum (SEEFF) (since November 2008)

David Savage and Jennie Johnson attended the inaugral SEEFF event on 26th November 2008 as the
only Humanists out of a 100 or so present.

The Government have put considerable funding into SEEFF, partly to encourage the development of
‘Faith Based Welfare’, a scheme for religious organisations to provide public services.

Religious organisations providing public services may be satisfactory if their governance, employment
practices and actual provision do not discriminate based on religion or belief. We fear that such
discrimination will occur. This fear exists because religious organisations have fought against a code
ensuring these provisions.

In November 2009 Farnham Humanists put a motion to the SEEFF Board to say ‘That SEEFF would
not practice or promote discrimination based on religion or belief’. The Board rejected this motion. They
are now considering if it is appropriate to allow Farnham Humanists to be members of SEEFF. We await
developments. In the meantime we continue to be invited and attend meetings e.g. the last one in April
2010.

Talks to schools – Farnham Humanists have provided talks to schools. Follow the link to find the transcript of recent talks by Jim Herrick
Humanism talk in Farnham school
Humanist talk to Bedales School 11th May 2009

 

Support to RE in Surrey (through SACRE)

Religious Education is the only subject that does not have a national curriculum for all state schools. Each
Local Education Authority has a Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) which is
responsible for providing the RE syllabus for local community and voluntary controlled faith schools (not
voluntary aided faith schools which are allowed to produce their own e.g. including a single faith
syllabus).

The 1996 Education Act states that each SACRE should be made up of 4 groups:

  • A=religions other than Church of England,
  • B=Church of England,
  • C=Teachers and
  • D=elected local councillors.

The Government’s 1994 guidance on RE explicitly stated that the inclusion of representatives of belief
systems such as Humanism in Group A would be illegal.

The British Humanist Association campaigns for all pupils to study a reformed national curriculum
subject of “Belief and Values Education, or Philosophy”. Whilst this is the long term aim, in the short
term the BHA has been campaigning for Humanists to be included as full voting members of SACREs.
The BHA argues that the 1998 Human Rights Act and the 2006 Equality Act requires that references to
‘religion’ in existing law should be read as references to ‘religion and belief’ and thus Humanists should
be included on the same footing as religious members in Group A.

In February 2010 the Government issued new guidance on RE which removed the explicit bar in the 1994
guidance to Humanist membership and replaced it with a case study of a SACRE co-opting a Humanist
representative in Group A “in the interests of inclusion”. The new guidance also re-affirmed that pupils
should examine both religious and non-religious perspectives.

The BHA is using the new guidance as an opportunity to encourage all SACREs in England and Wales to
appoint a Humanist to their Group A. Currently there are 170 SACREs in England and Wales, of which
80 have some form of Humanist association. This varies from Humanists who are only allowed to observe
meetings to a Humanist being the chair e.g. the Brent SACRE has voted the Humanist as chair for the
second time.

Farnham Humanists applied for membership of the Surrey SACRE in 2004 and attended several meetings
as an observer. The opportunity to present a Humanist membership case to the SACRE was taken up in
November 2005 following which in 2006 Farnham Humanist member Jennie Johnson was allowed to
become a temporary SACRE member (with no voting rights) unlike the religious members who have full
status. Jennie’s temporary membership of Surrey SACRE formally expired in February 2007. Jennie has
been recently informed verbally that she can continue to be a co-opted temporary member.

Farnham Humanists believe that Humanism (or similar) should be represented on the SACRE and taught
in RE so as to inform children about non-religious ethical world views as well as religious ones.
Humanists have always worried that too close an identification of morality with the six world religions
usually studied in RE might lead to those students who not share religious beliefs (65% of 12-19 year olds
do not describe themselves as belonging to a religion according to 2004 DfES Research Report 564)
thinking that morality also has little to do with them.

Further “the usual contemporary justifications for RE in the school curriculum – its contribution to social
cohesion and mutual understanding, its presentation of a range of answers to questions of meaning and
purpose, its role in the search for personal identity and values – can best be served by also including
humanist perspectives”.

The Surrey SACRE produced an Agreed RE Syllabus in 2007 for Surrey Schools (Maintained and
Voluntary Controlled) which used the Government’s 2004 Non-Statutory Framework for guidance. The
latter recommends the inclusion of “secular worldviews such as Humanism” in school RE “as
appropriate”. The Surrey syllabus now includes a few phrases such as “religion or belief” and
“non-religious ethical worldview” which were not present in the old syllabus, but Humanism still isn’t
mentioned.

SACREs also grant determinations to schools to allow them to hold acts of collective worship which are
not “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character” – in Surrey currently 3 schools in Woking with a
significant proportion of Muslim pupils have permitted determinations.

Following a request from the Surrey SACRE,  Jennie Johnson provided a talk in February 2009 on “What
it means to be a Humanist in Surrey today”

What it means to be a Humanist in Surrey today

Jennie attended a NASACRE (National Association of SACREs) training day in London in February
2010 for religious members of SACRE and was encouraged by the inclusivity of the example school
assemblies given e.g. use of the words “And if you want to you can make your thoughts into a prayer…”
rather than insisting the whole school recites a prayer together.