THE BILL OF RIGHTS is returning to Westminster in the coming weeks, having been shelved when Liz Truss was Prime Minister. The Bill – known as the Rights Removal Bill by its critics – threatens to impose barriers against ordinary people, making it difficult to challenge public authorities when human rights violations take place. Humanists UK is concerned about the impact the Bill may have on humanists and non-religious people.

The Bill, which was first introduced to Parliament in June this year, would repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA), which has been the pinnacle of many hard-won rights for humanists over the past two decades. This is because the HRA enables public bodies to read the non-religious into relevant legislation or policies that only specify ‘religion’.

This is how humanist marriages became legally recognised in Scotland in 2005. In 2018, a judge in Northern Ireland came to the same conclusion, bringing about legal recognition for humanist marriages there. Similarly, in 2018 the Welsh Government concluded that humanism had to be included in RE equally to the major religions, which led to the rolling out of a new, inclusive syllabus this year.

The previous draft of the Bill, proposed when Boris Johnson was Prime Minister, was set to take away this part of the HRA. Humanists UK is now seriously concerned that this may also be true of the new draft.

Humanists UK leads a coalition of over 250 charities, trades unions, and human rights organisations calling for protection of the Human Rights Act and judicial review. It is believed to be the largest ever UK coalition of groups to campaign on human rights.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented: “We are extremely disappointed to hear that the Rights Removal Bill will be making a return. Not only does the Bill repeal the Human Rights Act, it may specifically remove the power from public bodies to interpret the law in ways inclusive of the non-religious.

“The Bill was rightly shelved because it was subject to criticism from all quarters. It should stay in the dustbin. We will continue to work with other groups and humanists in Parliament to oppose it.”

* More information on the coalition to protect human rights and judicial review here.

* Source: Humanists UK