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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

Chichester Humanists discuss The Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything 19th March 2012

After discussing local and national news, members turned their attention to the topic of the evening: The Meaning of Life.

This was the shortest discussion so far, perhaps an indication that this is a question of more importance to those of a religious persuasion. The following points were made about the meaning of life for Humanists.

 

Free speech rally 11th February 2012

img_20120211_144317

West Sussex Humanists attended this important rally in support of free speech.

On a beautiful, freezing day outside the houses of parliament, we listened to moving speeches from speakers representing different organisations.

For more details and podcasts of speeches, visit the Pod Delusion website.

 

"Religion and our schooling system" The Argus 9th January 2012

TheArgusFaithInSchool9thJanuary2012

Word version here

 

Southwater Oasis Free School

This evening, a group of Horsham Humanists attended the public consultation for the proposed new free school Southwater Oasis Secondary.

The room was packed. After a presentation from HCT and Oasis, questions and comments were invited. Every one of them was critical. What a grubbing the two speakers got.

I managed to ask the following question. "Why are you proposing a Christian school rather than a fully inclusive community school, especially when less than 5% of people attend church monthly? Only 9% of Head teachers want more faith schools. 64% of the public don’t want any state-funded religious schools because they discriminate against a large proportion of children. For example, 65% of teenagers are non-religious, and others have different religious beliefs. How can they feel included in a school that prioritises Christian beliefs?"

 

Horsham Amnesty Talk 5th December 2011

HorshamHumanists5thDecemberJackieFryAmnestyBanner

Jackie Fry gave a most interesting talk about Amnesty International and the local Horsham Group. Read more details at www.HorshamHumanists.net
 

Chichester Humanists talk 17th October: Amnesty

ChichesterHumanistsTalk17thOctobert2011KathShakespeareAmnestyBanner

Kath began by giving a brief history of Amnesty, which was started in 1961 by lawyer Peter Benson after he launched an appeal for amnesty for two Poruguese students who were imprisoned for raising a toast for freedom.

Founded on universal human rights, Amnesty uses peaceful methods (such as letter writing) to free prisoners of conscience and improve their conditions. They also fight for human rights throughout the world and have 2.8 million members in 150 countries.

 

SACRE meeting 5th March 2012

As usual, I attended this meeting of the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) as a silent observer. West Sussex County Council (WSCC) has barred non-religious membership.

The meeting welcomed new member Jenny Cole, representing the Quaker movement. Humanists have a great deal in common with Quakers. Chichester Humanists has invited Chichester Quakers to give a talk on conscientious objection in April.

 

Horsham Humanists talk by celebrant Martin Wooller 6th February 2012

HorshamHumanistsMartinWoollerCelebrant6thFebruary2012debate

Martin Wooller, Humanist celebrant, gave a most interesting talk about his role in Humanist ceremonies: baby namings, weddings/partnerships and funerals.

After retiring early, Martin felt the need to contribute something to society and decided to become a Humanist celebrant. He also trains people to become celebrants. After 10 years, he considers this to be the most rewarding experience of his life.

 

NUT talk at Chichester Humanists 23rd January 2012

ChichesterHumanistsTalkChrisMilesNUT23rdJanuary2012Debate

Chris Miles, primary school teacher, NUT representative and secretary of the Joint Consultative Committee, talked to a well attended meeting about religion in schools.

After a brief personal description of her long involvement in teaching and the NUT, Chris considered the introduction of collective worship in schools.

 

Population Matters talk at Chichester Humanists 19th December 2011

ChichesterHumanistsTalk19thDecember2011EricRimmerHughRussellPopulationMattersDebate

Eric and Hugh gave a fascinating talk about impact of population growth. Read a summary of a similar talk they gave to The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution recently.
 

Abortion Rights talk 21st November 2011

ChichesterHumanistsTalk21stNovember2011KateSmurthwaiteAbortionRightsUKdebate

Kate Smurthwaite began by stating her position that a woman's body is hers alone and she has responsibility for it. A foetus is part of her body.

She went on to explain the two methods of abortion: drugs between 9 and 12 weeks, surgical between 12 and 24 weeks.

 

Faith vs Secularism Conference at Worth Abbey October 2011

Around 45 people attended this conference, which was jointly sponsored by South East England Faiths Forum (SEEFF) and Faiths in Sussex (FiS), and organised by Horsham InterFaith.

Henry Smith, MP for Crawley, gave the first talk. In his work as an MP, he enjoys meeting people from diverse backgrounds and has found that they share many desires for a better society. Educated in Philosophy, he believes in God but respects the rights of all people to hold religious or non-religious beliefs.

 
Ceremonies
Poll
The non-religious should be represented on the Religious Education advisory council
 
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