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BBC Trust says no to non-religious Thoughts for the Day

The BBC Trust today announced its findings on a number of appeals about the broadcast of Radio 4’s Thought for the Day and BBC editorial policy on non-religious content.

The Trust found that the editorial policy of only allowing religious contributors to participate on Thought for the Day does not breach either the BBC Editorial Guideline on impartiality or the BBC’s duty to reflect religious and other beliefs in its programming.

Just what we need – religious ‘policy advisers’

It’s tedious, hearing those in Parliament wittering on about “secularism”, when they clearly haven’t a clue what it means. But then, neither do a majority of religious leaders (including Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury) who complain about “aggressive secularism”.

Personally, I’m feeling quite aggressive about the latest threat to secularism; John Denham, the Communities Secretary, has announced that a new panel of religious experts has been set up to advise the Government on making public policy decisions. I’d hoped that that sort of nonsense would have been dropped when Hazel Blears departed, but no.

For celebration, amusement, or just to pass the time

A few of the stories that have caught my eye on the Interweb this week:

* As an antidote to the depressing news that a significant proportion of British people think that creationism ought to be included in school science lessons, we can celebrate a development in education. Evolution will be in the national curriculum for primary schools when the new version is published soon. Andrew Copson from the BHA wrote in the Guardian:

The new primary curriculum, together with the 2007 government guidance that prohibits the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in science lessons, should put English schools in the forefront of education about evolution. Coming in the month which marks the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species, and at a point when good science education is a matter of urgency, it could not be more timely.

* We will have to remain vigilant, however, when loonies of all sorts seek access to our classrooms. The Times Educational Supplement reported a couple of days ago that …

A school initiative that trains children in “energy therapy” has been criticised as unscientific by two senior academics.

Onward Atheist Soldiers?

PoppyAlthough there were representatives of other faiths at the Cenotaph this morning, the religious part of the remembrance ceremony was Christian, as usual. Today and on Tuesday (Armistice Day, 11th November), Christian ceremonial will predominate, regardless of the fact that services personnel are of all faiths and none, and that those who join them on Remembrance Day are also a diverse cross-section of society. To be wholly inclusive, such ceremonial should be completely secular, allowing those who are religious to have separate ceremonies afterwards.

Not many people will know that there is now a UK Armed Forces Humanist Association, which welcomes new members. Those who serve in the armed forces should not be expected to participate in religious ceremonial that has no relevance to them.

Lords call for more Humanist broadcasting

While the BBC Trust deliberates today on whether to allow more Humanist broadcasting, including Thoughts for the Day, Humanist peers debated the issue last night. One of the speakers, Baroness Massey of Darwen, said,

Humanism is growing in strength. It has growing public recognition in non-religious ceremonies such as marriages, funerals and baptisms. This has made significant contributions to public policy. The moral values held by humanists are weighed and considered. Humanism is a philosophy in its own right and is not a negative response to religion. The BBC needs in its programmes to give a perspective from the non-religious viewpoint.

There’ve been Humanist Thoughts for the Day on BBC Radio Suffolk since 1995, though the slot has been cut to Sundays only for a while now, presumably because it wasn’t popular.

In praise of humanist funerals

In today’s Guardian, Phil Hall writes about humanist funerals, and why he finds them much more satisfying than …

… religious funerals, where a stranger usually officiates and witters on about heaven, often fail to commemorate a life well lived properly. Religious funerals can be a whimpering anti-climax.

He goes on,

In contrast, the humanist funerals in our family were completely satisfying and eclectic. They looked backwards and allowed us to see the lives of our loved ones clearly. We did not need to look forwards towards some sort of puzzling postscript. Perhaps the last thing people want after a death, during the messy form of group therapy that is a funeral, is for some sanctimonious stranger to stand up and start talking about a the afterlife.

Emitos Girls Humanist Football Team, Uganda, needs money

Emitos Girls Humanist Football Club is a really special project running in Uganda. Supported by Women and the Free World Organisation (WOFEWO), the aim of the club is to empower and educate girls aged 12-20 years through football. The Central London Humanist Group is aiming to raise £3,700 for football kits, the costs of playing away and for 3 Workshops on reproductive health and HIV/AIDS through the International Humanist Trust, the charitable arm of the IHEU. Click here to donate now.

One Law for All London rally, November 21.

Maryam NamazieA message from Maryam Namazie of the One Law for All campaign about the rally on November 21:

I am now responding to Sharia-related comments and questions every day of the week until the One Law for All rally on November 21. You can see my responses for the past two weeks by visiting the One Law for All website. If you have any questions or comments, please email them to me or post them on the website and I’ll be sure to respond.

Also, don’t forget to tell everyone you know about November 21. It is an important day to raise our voices against Sharia and religious laws and defend humanity, secularism and universal rights, including the right to asylum for those fleeing political Islam. If you can’t get to London and want to organise something in your city, contact us so we can help you do so. Click here for more information on the London rally.