One rule for them…….

Our Government disdains fairness, and that applies to the non-religious too. Opinion piece Barking & Dagenham Post 19.1.22

Rule-makers flouting lockdown rules gets people riled. Trashing of human rights law gets fewer  headlines but should also cause outrage.  Fairness and human rights are two sides of the same coin. 

A Government bill, published in October, is designed to stop ordinary people from questioning Government decisions through the courts. If passed it will rob us of power to challenge the Government through judicial review. It’s described by Tory MP David Davies as ‘un-Conservative and undemocratic’ (Guardian 25.10.21).

The bill goes hand in hand with proposals to grab more power and push back on human rights, announced by Justice Secretary Raab in December. There is a three month public ‘consultation’ period.  The plans fly in the face of the independent review commissioned by the Government, so don’t hold your breath expecting a re-think.

Anyone out of favour with Government Ministers will suffer. From refugees to anti-racist and environmental campaigners, to the non-religious.  Why the non-religious? Because reasonable changes in the law for equal treatment of, say, teaching of non-religious world views in schools, and access to pastoral care in hospitals, have only been achieved through the levers of judicial review and the Human Rights Act.

One example of ongoing unfairness is Government refusal to recognise Humanist marriages as lawful in England and Wales. They were legalised in N Ireland in 2018, and in Scotland in 2005, where they now outnumber religious marriages. Every religion enjoys this right, even the Aetherius Society, whose founder claimed contact with martians.  But it looks like the Government has dug in its heels for Humanists. Their constitutional proposals now threaten blocking us getting justice through the courts on this, and many other issues.

Last May Prime Minister Johnson solemnised his marriage to Carrie Symonds in a Catholic ceremony at Westminster Cathedral. But Humanists, who have no religion, are still deprived of the opportunity to solemnise their marriages in accordance with their beliefs in a place of their choosing. A bit like cheese and wine parties during lockdown, it’s one rule for them, another rule for us.

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humanists

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