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Welcome to West Sussex Humanists

Humanism is the view that we can make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values, and live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs.

We represent the interests of the non-religious residents of West Sussex in local government, support Human Rights, and work towards equality and social cohesion.

West Sussex Humanists is also an umbrella organisation of local affiliated groups that meet regularly, currently Horsham Humanists and Chichester Humanists.

Our next meetings

13th November Horsham

Social meeting

The Anchor Hotel, Horsham

20th November Chichester

Social meeting

Chichester Inn

 

Humanists lay wreaths on Remembrance Sunday 2014 ...

Horsham

Remembrance day Nov 2014 070 (Small)

Midhurst

november ... 042 (Small)

Chichester

DSC01070 (Small)

The Chichester Observer made a video and wrote an article covering the laying of a Humanist wreath after the main religious ceremony. A transcript of the speech can be downloaded here.

In October 2015, Chichester City Council voted against a slight rearrangement of the religious ceremony to accommodate non-religious residents. In consequence, Chichester Humanists will not be laying a wreath this year as we are opposed to supporting religious privilege.

The Chichester Observer wrote a brief article which can be viewed here. Here are some reader's comments.

Details of the Council meeting, including the proposed alternative ceremony, can be found here.

Horsham Humanists laid a wreath at their local ceremony last year.

In September 2016, letters were to the armed forces associations consulted by Chichester City Council requesting an informal meeting to discuss Remembrance Sunday. None of them replied.

Councillors pray to God for guidance

In March 2015, the government introduced the Local Government (Religious Observances) Act allowing councils to hold prayers during their meetings, overturning a High Court decision in 2011 (see below).

West Sussex Humanists has sent all councils in West Sussex an email requesting their plans for prayers at future meetings. The results are shown below.

2015 Survey
Council Holds prayers? Comments
Adur DC No
Arun DC No

Arundel TC No

Bognor Regis TC Yes
Just before full council meeting in the council chamber
Chichester City Council Yes Just before council meeting in the council chamber
Chichester DC No

Crawley BC No

East Grinstead TC No

Haywards Heath TC Yes
Council Prayer read before every full meeting
Horsham DC Yes
Before council meetings
Littlehampton TC No

Midhurst TC No

Mid Sussex DC Yes
Council Prayer read at beginning of each full meeting
Petworth TC No

Selsey TC No

West Sussex CC No

Worthing BC Yes Just before full council meetings in the council chamber

In a 2012 survey, West Sussex Humanists found that 7 out of the 17 councils in West Sussex still hold prayers during or before council meetings. The table below shows the results.

2012 Survey
Council Holds prayers? Comments
Adur DC No
Arun DC Yes When chair asks for them
Arundel TC No
Bognor Regis TC Yes At full council meetings
Chichester City Council Yes Just before council meeting in the council chamber
Chichester DC No
Crawley BC No
East Grinstead TC No
Haywards Heath TC Yes
Horsham DC Yes Just before council meeting. Councillors can wait outside during prayers
Littlehampton TC No? May be introduced at the Annual Council
Midhurst TC No
Mid Sussex DC Yes
Petworth TC ? Has not replied to FOI request
Selsey TC No
West Sussex CC No
Worthing BC Yes Just before the council meeting in the council chamber

Emails were sent to councils still holding prayers, advising them of impending changes to the law. Some of the councils have moved prayers to just before the meeting starts.

The National Secular Society took Bideford council to the High Court on 2nd December 2011. The court ruled that councils have no right to hold prayers at formal meetings. The judge said that "I do not think that ... the religious views of one group of Councillors,  however sincere or large in number, [should] exclude or, even to a modest extent, to impose burdens on or even to mark out those who do not share their [religious] views and do not wish to participate in their expression of them. They are all equally elected Councillors."

West Sussex Humanists has asked all the councils above who still hold prayers at or before council meetings to cease this divisive practice, in the spirit of the judgement. If prayers are to be held before the meeting, they should not take place in the council chamber. A less attractive alternative is a period of silent reflection before the meeting.

In the meantime, Eric Pickles, Communites Secretary, unilaterally decided to overthrow the decision by fast tracking an addition to the Localism Bill. But the National Secular Society thinks that the Localism Bill has no jurisdiction over prayers. Unfortunately, in 2015 the government introduced the Local Government (Religious Observances) Act allowing councils to hold prayers during their meetings.

Andrew Edmondson presented the case against council prayers at the May 2012 meeting of Worthing Community and Equality Working Group (CEWG). This was followed by a lively discussion. Read the presentation and comments here.

The Mid Sussex Times and West County Times have printed these articles.

CouncilPrayersMidSussexTimesAugust2011150 CounclPrayersWestCountyTimesSeptember2011

Here is a cutting from an East Grinstead newspaper from 1984. Councillors had just decided to hold prayers at their town council meetings. Not everyone agreed though.

 

EastGrinstead1984

Compassion in World Farming talk at Chichester 20th May 2013

ChichesterHumanistsTalkCIWF20thMay2013debate

Phil Brooke of Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) gave a fascinating talk on animal welfare in farming and the role played by CIWF in reducing animal suffering.

 

SACRE meeting 4th March 2013

SACRE stands for Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education and is an unelected body that writes the local RE syllabus for schools and advises West Sussex County Council on matters concerning RE, including the daily act of worship.

For over 6 years I have been trying to join this group in order to represent the views of the non-religious residents of West Sussex. My applications in 2007 and 2010 were rejected for no given reason. According to the 2011 census, at least 25% of the population is non-religious. Also, 65% of 18-24 year olds are non-religious, according to the British Social Attitudes survey 2012. Religious practice is a declining minority occupation, with less than 7% of people regularly attending church.

 

Horsham Humanists talk with C of E Minister Hadge Hughes (November 2012)

HorshamHumanistsChristiansAndSecularism5thNovember2012debate

We began by discussing the attendance by atheist Simon Clare (of Horsham Skeptics in the Pub) at an Alpha course. Simon said that he could not judge the course without understanding its content and intention. Simon explained that the course began with a promise to answer all the questions attendees had, yet his own questions had never found an answer. Hadge shared his own similar concerns about the Alpha course, finding it to be a prescriptive rather than an explorative process.

It was clear from the outset that Hadge was a secularist and so the discussion turned to a more personal view of religion and belief.

 

Crime & Punishment 15th October 2012

We had a lively discussion with varying views expressed.

The following notes cover the topics discussed.

 

The Science of Purpose 16th July 2012

ChichesterHumanistsTalkRobertStovold16thJuly2012debate

Robert Stovold of Brighton & Hove Humanists posed the question "What is purpose, and can science study it?"

He began by arguing that, whilst human purpose cannot be directly observed, it can be inferred by its effects. Although scientists have never seen an electron, they can infer its existence by its effect on observable phenomena. Religious apolgists like mathematician John Lennox believe that science cannot answer the big questions. Others believe in intelligent design, where inferences are made about the design of a creator by observing certain organisms. Paradoxically, John Lennox believes both.

 

Chichester Humanists and Quakers discuss Conscientious Objection 16th April 2012

David Hibberd of Chichester Quakers gave an informative talk on what conscientious objection means for Quakers. The meeting was well attended and included other Quakers.

David also outlined what it means to be a Quaker. You can read a David's notes here.

 

Horsham Humanists meet the Unitarians 8th April 2013

DUNCAN VOICE representing the Unitarian Church of Horsham visited together with Patrick Wynn-Jones, Catherine Andrews and Carol Chambers, for a general chat about the Unitarian Church and their inclusive views.  The meeting was well attended and good discussions developed throughout a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

 

Brighton Science Festival talk: Darwin's Sacred Cause

DarwinsSacredCauseTalkFeb2012

Author James Moore, Professor of History at the Open University, gave a fascinating talk to a packed audience about how a hatred of slavery motivated Charles Darwin to investigate the origins of life and the racial differences in humans.  This was and still is a hot topic. Who said science was cold?

 

Paganism with Sadie Turner 19th November 2012

ChichesterHumanistsHumanistsAndPagansTalk19thNovember2012debate

Our guest was Sadie Turner, Regional Coordinator of the South East Pagan Federation. After a barrage of questions, Sadie eventually managed to give us an overview of Paganism.

She firstly described what drew her to Paganism. Brought up by non-religious parents, she joined a Brighton coven at the age of 19. Being a feminist, she was attracted to the feminine side and light found in Paganism, preferring the goddess to the traditional male god of Christianity. After many years, she now emphasises balance and nature.

 

Humanists & Catholics discussion 17th September 2012

ChichesterHumanistsGeoffPoulterTalkHumanistsAndCatholics17thSeptember2012debate

The aims of this well attended discussion between local Humanists and Catholics were to increase our mutual understanding, break down stereoptypes, find similarities and differences, and to consider secularism. Our special guests were Geoff and Gina Poulter of the local Catholic Bible School in Nutbourne.

 

Chichester Humanists and Baptists meeting 21st May 2012

Due to an emergency, the arranged speaker Ken Benjamin of Chichester Baptist Churches was unable to attend. At very short notice, two other members of Chichester Baptist Churches agreed to have an informal discussion with us.

We began by asking how the Baptist Church differs from the Church of England. Unlike the C of E, there is no overarching central authority. Each church is run along democratic lines.

 

Religious schools and school religion: talk given to Brighton & Hove Humanists 4th April 2012

Brighton & Hove Humanists invited me to give a talk on Religious Schools and Religious Education.

About 30 members attended the meeting in an ideal back room of The Lord Nelson pub. After the talk there was a drinks break, giving people the opportunity to have a chat.

 
Ceremonies
Poll
The non-religious should be represented on the Religious Education advisory council
 
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Comments
  • Thanks for the invite - I enjoyed myself! More...
    12.01.15 11:23
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