Tories in unholy row over disparaging the non-religious

By staff writers
October 19, 2007

Conservative leader David Cameron's wish to persuade the public that his new-style Tories love everybody has hit a bump in the road after accusations that one of its leading members launched an intemperate attack on non-Christians at their recent party conference.

The chief executive of the British Humanist Association, Ms Hanne Stinson, a long-standing equalities campaigner, is asking the Conservatives to apologise after what she describes as "an unprovoked attack" by the Rt Hon John Gummer MP made on BHA staff and volunteers at their conference stand earlier this month (October 2007).

Mr Gummer, a well known burger lover, Anglican-turned-Catholic and environmentalist, vehemently denies an outburst in which he allegedly said that he hated humanists and the BHA and that Conservatives were "a Christian party".

However Ms Stinson is holding her ground and says that there were witnesses. At Blackpool a fortnight ago, she says, "he was shouting that we, because of our beliefs about living a good life without religion, had no right to be there... He was spitting angry. It was peculiar behaviour."

The BHA is now asking if non-Christians are unwelcome at Tory events. The Conservatives say they "welcome people of all faiths".

There are a number of Conservative members of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, which talks amicably with religious as well as non-religious people. It recently had a Christian and a Muslim speaker.

The British Humanist Association has members in all the main parties. For the first time it took stands at this year’s Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Party conferences.

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