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Agenda 2020 - HSLD's response

December 11, 2015 1:13 PM

HSLD has called for the party to

  • update its policy on disestablishment of the Church of England;
  • develop coherent and comprehensive policies for tackling institutionalised discrimination by the state against the non-religious;
  • set up a review of religion-based discrimination in school admissions, perhaps as part of a broader review.

Our response to the party's "Agenda 2020" consultation argues that the party last called for broad disestablishment of the Church of England in its 2001 manifesto, and that a review and restatement of this policy is long overdue.

We argue that the party's policy on discrimination by the state against the non-religious is largely piecemeal and adhoc, driven by amendments to conference motions, even though around half of the UK population are affected, and we list examples including:

  • the continuing ban on humanist groups conducting legally recognised weddings;
  • the state funding of religious chaplains in prisons, hospitals and the Armed Forces, all selected by and answerable to faith institutions even though the state is paying for them;
  • exclusion of non-religious belief groups from national events such as the national Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph;
  • special exemptions under the Equality Act that allow religious organisations who provide public services under contract to discriminate against employees, and service users, on the grounds of religion or belief or sexual orientation;
  • the marginalisation of non-religious beliefs in Religious Education at GCSE and A-level;
  • the obligation on non-denominational state schools to hold a daily act of collective Christian worship.

We argue that the party's existing policy on religion-based discrimination in faith school admissions is poorly-conceived and unworkable, because it would only allow local councillors to tackle problem schools by using the nuclear option of throwing them out of the state education system altogether, and that the October 2014 conference debate on equalities demonstrated a consensus in favour of a proper review of this policy.

To see our 7-page response in full, click here.