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A Manifesto To Be Proud Of

April 16, 2015 10:00 AM

The Liberal Democrat manifesto was published yesterday.

There's plenty of meat in its 158 pages, but we hope these extracts demonstrate that our party is way ahead on the issues that matter to secularists and humanists:

MANIFESTO 2015. STRONGER ECONOMY. FAIRER SOCIETY. OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL

BRITAIN IN 2020: THE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT VISION

People will be more free. A second Freedoms Act will have embedded citizens' rights to freedom of speech and protest. The Human Rights Act will remain, with children's rights protected in law too. The culture of everyday sexism will be declining, with young people taught in school about respect in relationships and sexual consent. (p.14)

PROSPERITY FOR ALL: BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

2.9 Pride in creativity

We are proud of the arts in Britain and will support them properly, working to deliver access for all, regardless of income, ethnicity, gender, age, belief, sexuality or disability. (p.37)

AN OPPORTUNITY SOCIETY: WORLD CLASS EDUCATION FOR ALL

4.2 Driving up school standards

We will allow parents to continue to choose faith-based schools within the state-funded sector and allow the establishment of new faith schools. We will ensure all faith schools develop an inclusive admissions policy and end unfair discrimination on grounds of faith when recruiting staff, except for those principally responsible for optional religious education. (p.58)

4.4 Curriculum and qualifications

We will introduce a minimum curriculum entitlement - a slimmed down core national curriculum, which will be taught in all state-funded schools. This will include Personal, Social and Health Education: a 'curriculum for life' including financial literacy, first aid and emergency lifesaving skills, citizenship and age-appropriate sex and relationship education. To ensure all children learn about a wide range of religious and nonreligious world views, religious education will be included in the core curriculum; however we will give schools the freedom to set policy on whether to hold acts of collective worship, while ensuring any such acts are strictly optional. (page 60)

FREEDOM AND OPPORTUNITY: EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL

8.1 Equality and diversity

A fair society should treat its citizens equally and with dignity. In this Parliament, thanks to Liberal Democrats in government, there have been key advances in the fight for equality - like introducing same-sex marriage and banning age discrimination. But we must continue our work to fight prejudice and discrimination based on race, age, religion or belief, gender, sexuality and disability. We will enact the remaining unimplemented clauses of the Equality Act 2010.

To promote equality in relationships and for LGBT+ individuals, we will:

  • Permit humanist weddings and opposite sex civil partnerships, and liberalise the rules about the location, timing and content of wedding ceremonies.
  • Support schools to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying and discrimination, and to establish a tolerant and inclusive environment for all their pupils. We will remove schools' exemption from the bar on harassment in these areas while protecting the right to teach about religious doctrine.
  • Promote international recognition of same sex marriages and civil partnerships as part of a comprehensive International LGBT Rights Stretegy that supports the cause of decriminalising homosexuality in other countries.

To tackle the racial discrimination faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people we will:

  • Outlaw caste discrimination

To tackle religious discrimination and support faith and belief communities in working together we will:

  • Continue support for the Interfaith Network to promote strong and sustainable relations between different faith communities.
  • Support projects aimed at tackling intolerance such as Show Racism the Red Card and The Anne Frank Trust UK.
  • Work closely with faith and community organisations, such as the Community Security Trust (which works to protect the Jewish community against antisemitic attacks) and the Muslim Council of Britain, to prevent hate crime, including at places of worship like synagogues and mosques. We are determined to combat antisemitism and anti-Muslim hate in the UK and internationally.

To ensure the highest standards of equality and fairness in public services we will:

  • Maintain the Public Sector Equality Duty and encourage external providers to the public sector to follow best practice in terms of diversity.
  • Prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion in the provision of public services. (pages 105-109)

8.2 Freedom of speech and the free press

As the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris showed, freedom of expression cannot be taken for granted. In an open society, there can be no right 'not to be offended', which is why Liberal Democrats in government have strengthened the law to make it harder for prosecutions to be brought for using 'insulting words', and have led the way in protecting journalists' sources under the 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). (p.110)

8.5 Securing our rights and freedoms in law

800 years after Magna Carta, the need for written, legal guarantees of our rights and liberties has not gone away. We will:

  • Protect the Human Rights Act and enshrine the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in UK law. We will take appropriate action to comply with decisions of UK courts and the European Court of Human Rights.

Our Freedoms Act will:

  • Protect free speech by ensuring insulting words, jokes, and non-intentional acts, are not treated as criminal, and that social media communications are not treated more harshly than other media. (p.114-115)

SECURE COMMUNITIES: POLICING, JUSTICE AND THE BORDER FORCE

9.4 Tackling violence against women and girls

We will:

  • Ensure teachers, social workers, police officers and health workers in areas where there is a high prevalence of female genital mutilation or forced marriage are trained to help those at risk.
  • Require the teaching of sexual consent in schools as part of age-appropriate sex and relationships education. (p.121)

(9.7 - untitled)

We will:

  • Work with religious and community leaders, civil society groups and social media sites to counter the narratives put forward by extremists, and create the space for the expression of contrary viewpoints and religious interpretations.
  • Ensure efforts to tackle terrorism do not stigmatise or alienate Muslims or any other ethnic or faith group, and that government supports communities to help prevent those at risk of radicalisation from being drawn into illegal activity.
  • Review the process of assessing threats against different ethnic and religious communities to ensure all groups in the UK are properly protected. (p.125)

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: DEVOLUTION, DEMOCRACY AND CITIZENSHIP

When it came to reforming the House of Lords and giving citizens a stronger voice with Fair Votes, our proposals were blocked. We still believe these are essential changes and will continue our work to deliver them. (p.130)

10.1 Better politics

We will:

  • Reform the House of Lords with a proper democratic mandate, starting from the proposals in the 2012 Bill. (pages131-132)

BRITAIN IN THE WORLD: GLOBAL ACTION FOR SECURITY AND PROSPERITY

11.6 Standing up for Liberal values

Liberal Democrats believe British foreign policy and international aid should seek to advance human rights and democracy throughout the world. We believe all people - regardless of ethnicity, disability, age, belief, gender or sexual orientation - deserve a freer, fairer and more prosperous world.

We will:

  • Continue to support free media and a free and open internet around the world, championing the free flow of information.
  • Develop a comprehensive strategory for promoting the decriminalisation of homosexuality around the world, and advancing the cause of LGBT+ rights.
  • Prioritise support, protection and equal rights for women and girls, which is essential for effective, sustainable economic development. We will pursue an International Gender Equality Strategy, work to secure women's rights to education and freedom from forced marriage; and aim to end female genital mutilation worldwide within a generation.

The recent Islamic extremist attacks on journalists in Europe are a sharp reminder of the need to protect freedom of speech and belief internationally. We will appoint an Ambassador-level Champion for Freedom of Belief to drive British diplomatic efforts in this field, and we will campaign for the abolition of blasphemy, sedition, apostacy and criminal libel laws worldwide, having already been responsible for ending them in this country. (page 153)