Secularist priorities for the Labour Party
Speaking at our No Prayer Breakfast fringe event at Labour Conference, Angela Eagle MP implored those present to make their voices heard within the Party on the issues they care about. Although not speaking in her position as chair of the National Policy Forum, such a request from Angela strongly implies that action to change Party policy on key humanist and secularist issues may not fall on deaf ears.
And the issues and the policies to change are many.
Topping the list at conference were faith schools discriminating against pupils and teachers, and concerns about what children and young people are actually being taught (or not) by many faith schools – not least in the new government-supported, and highly deregulated, religious Academies and Free Schools. Unfortunately previous Labour governments actively gave faith schools of all different types wide permission to discriminate and to teach a curriculum highly skewed towards the religion of the school.
Selection, discrimination, narrow religious curricula. That should not be what a Labour policy towards state-funded schools looks like.
The handing over of public services to religious groups which are allowed to discriminate against staff on religious grounds and proselytise in the provision of services, despite working under contract with the state, was another hot issue at conference.
Our ‘Secular Public Services’ pin badges were extremely popular with delegates and it’s a simple message – public services should be shared, work on the basis of equality and human rights, and never be used as a vehicle for evangelical religious groups to proselytise to often vulnerable people. Labour’s policy in the past has not been to protect the secular nature of public services but we think it absolutely should be.
There are many areas where we believe the Labour Party can and should look ahead and support the secularist position, whether that’s on constitutional reform, equal marriage, public services, education, women’s and LGBT rights, and more. Equality, non-discrimination, human rights, freedom of thought and speech, a rational and evidenced-based approach to policy making. These surely are Labour values as well as humanist and secularist values, and we think they should be enshrined in Labour policies.
But what should Labour Humanists’ priorities be, as we grow our supporter base working within the Party to affect real policy change for real equality?
Let us know what you would like to see us focus on. Tweet us @LabourHumanists or drop us an emailDon’t forget you can also show your support by joining us, for the equivalent of just £1 a month. Follow the PayPal link on our home page www.labourhumanists.org.uk.