Humanists say community cohesion report is 'a mixed bag'

By staff writers
June 17, 2007

The British Humanist Association has welcomed parts of the report published late last week by the UK government's Commission on Integration and Cohesion, but has warned that from its point of view there are important omissions and some flaws in a number of the recommendations.

Naomi Phillips, BHA Public Affairs Officer, commented: "The key proposals made generally support the humanist conception of an open and inclusive society, based on cooperation, equality and social justice. We are also pleased that the report recommends that the Government engage with humanists, warns against making a fetish of faith in social cohesion work, and endorses the universal importance of the Golden Rule, 'do as you would be done by'.”

However, Ms Phillips continued: "Unfortunately, the Commission has not paid nearly enough attention to issues of education in its report, and the omission of any discussion or recommendations on state-funded religious (or ‘faith’) schools is a massive disappointment."

Speaking on behalf of the BHA, Ms Phillips warned also of a contradiction within the report of very great importance for the future: "The report states that over half of people feel that some groups get an unfair priority when it comes to public services, but at the same time recommends ways for Local Authorities to contract out public services to religious organisations."

She continued: "A policy of sectarian welfare provision along religious lines would surely increase that perception of inequality in public services and damage work towards social cohesion and integration. This is an area which the BHA will be looking into more fully over the coming months and we will be encouraging the Government to eschew any such policy."

The British Humanist Association opposes the privileging of religious interests through public political and economic mechanisms, but seeks to work constructively with people of all faiths and none on issues of common concern and social justice.

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