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 ...


Remembrance day Nov 2014 070 (Small)


november ... 042 (Small)


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.



Crawley Inter Faith Network meeting 2nd April 2011

Crawley Inter Faith (CIFN) has had some serious setbacks since I last attended almost a year ago. Crawley Borough Council has not renewed its funding for their development worker because of a failure to submit a required report about the previous year's work. The Chair, Mohinder Galowia, Hindu representative, was responsible for the delivery of this report and has subsequently resigned his position. As far as I am aware, there is now no Hindu representative on CIFN.

I was welcomed to the meeting, as usual, and listened to the two speakers give accounts of their backgrounds and how they try to contribute to society (the theme for the evening).


Chichester Humanists Meeting 15th March 2011

We met at our new venue, the Chichester Inn, in our own bar room. There were quite a few apologies, so we gathered around the open fire for more of a chat.

It was suggested that we invite a local celebrant, known to some members, to give a talk. We are also awaiting a reply from the NUT regarding a speaker on "faith" schools and related matters.


Chichester Humanists meeting 16th February 2011

After discovering that our venue, The Waterside Inn, has closed down since our last meeting, we eventually relocated to The Vestry. Future meetings will be held at The Fountain Inn, 29 Southgate, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 1ES.

We were introduced to six new members who all contributed interest to this relaxed meeting. One member described how his religious beliefs waned after studying philosophy at college. Other members described their isolation and rejection during childhood due to their atheism.

Several members described the dilemma of attending a Catholic church in order for their children to gain entry to the local Catholic school (the best in the area). Most members knew of similar experiences.

Some of the members are veteran Humanists, others are testing the water. What is vitalising are the varied viewpoints expressed. No dogmatic thinking here.


Horsham Humanists meeting 2nd February 2011

We welcomed an enthusiastic new member to the group. With each new member, the group is developing its identity.

We finalised the formalities of setting up the group and were informed that affiliation to the BHA is well underway. The extensive benefits of affiliation were discussed.

We looked at a preview of the new website which is about to go live. More features will be added when time allows.


Crawley Together Conference 2011

Around 200 people attended this conference at the Hawth centre, run by Crawley Borough Council.

Julian Dobson, of Urban Polinators, gave a talk entitled "More for less and partnership working". He showed how Twitter, Facebook and other online services can be used to share information and network with each other.

He said that the unemployed should be seen as a valuable resource that should be empowered to contribute to society, rather than waste time applying for non-existent jobs with the threat of withdrawal of benefits.


Should schools require Christian worship?

Read this interesting and topical article in the Guardian and take part in their Comments below.

SACRE meeting 7th March 2011

The meeting was dominated by anticipation of the declining significance of SACRE in the coming years, and perhaps it's eventual demise.

Members began by considering the possible relationship between SACRE and the Youth Council (school student representatives across the county). Some other SACREs do this. It was suggested that they could be consulted on specific issues; but other members thought it best to send them the agendas of meetings so that the Youth Council could choose items of interest.

Religious Education (RE) advisor Nigel Bloodworth stated that, from April, West Sussex County Council will no longer be giving subject advice (inlcluding RE) to schools. This means that there will no longer be an RE advisor, though Nigel will continue working as an officer for SACRE.


BBC Sussex Interview 13th March 2011


Gavin Ashenden interviewed Andrew Edmondson about the Census 2011 campaign, followed by Paul Bickley, senior researcher for the Christian think tank Theos. Download recording. This is a 36MB mp3 file.


2011 Census Campaign talk at Chichester University

BHA_UCSU_AHA (5 of 5)

Naomi Phillips, Head of Public Affairs for the British Humanist Association (BHA), gave a talk about the 2011 Census Campaign (see poster below) on Wednesday 23rd February at Chichester University.

This was the first public Humanist event to be held in West Sussex and was hosted by Chichester University's Atheist Humanist and Agnostic society (UCSU AHA) in association with Chichester Humanists.


Chichester Humanists meeting 19th January 2011

Our inaugural meeting of Chichester Humanists began with interesting introductions from the 10 Humanists present.

Two representatives of the Chichester University Atheist, Humanist and Agnostic society (UCSU AHA) were present and gave an account of the activities of their new group, which was formed in response to a strong Christian influence felt within the university. They have 56 members at present.


Haywards Heath meeting 13th January 2011

We started this friendly meeting with an introduction from a new member who gave an interesting account of student life at Warwick University as a member of their Atheist, Humanist and Agnostic society.

Our first business was to discuss the Census 2011 campaign, referring to the BHA campaign poster. We considered the implications of the erroneous Census 2001 statistic that 72% of the UK population are Christian, especially religious organisations taking over welfare services and more schools.


Horsham Humanists meeting 5th January 2011

This was our first meeting in the new venue, the B52s pub in Piries Place, which proved most suitable. It is also very convenient for parking.

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