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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

21st August Chichester

Social meeting

Chichester Inn, West St

 

11th September Horsham

Islam in the UK
Andrew Edmondson

The Anchor Hotel, Horsham

 

   

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

Haywards Heath meeting 9th December 2010

This was our first meeting in the Dolphin pub, which turned out to be an ideal venue for our fledgling group. We agreed that future meetings should start at 7pm. A larger venue will also be needed for certain events. A small entrance fee will be charged for meetings, rather than annual subscriptions.

We heard brief introductions from two new members who made positive contributions throughout the meeting. A few other new members couldn't make this meeting. It looks like this group will take off in 2011, along with Horsham and Chichester.

 

Horsham Humanists meeting 13th October 2010

This informal meeting was held at the home of a member, where we discussed a range of issues, especially science and education.

The nature of future meetings was considered. It was agreed that our intitial objective should be to establish a regular time and place to meet, and to build interest through advertising, including holding a stall at local events.

We learned that the local council has been contacted and may be willing to provide a suitable venue.

 

Haywards Heath Humanists first meeting 11th May 2010

Consuelo and I met at Cafe Rouge for an informal meeting.

I explained the sequence of events leading to the formation of West Sussex Humanists and the local member groups.

Consuelo contrasted living conditions and women's rights between the UK and Peru, her country of origin. After exploring various organisations, she found out about West Sussex Humanists (then Mid Sussex Freethinkers) through the internet.

She supports the Optimum Population Trust and recently took part in an event in London supporting One Law for All.

We will be working together to make more local contacts and help Haywards Heath Humanists the local representative group for the non-religious.

 

West Sussex SACRE Meeting 8th March 2010

SACRE advises West Sussex County Council (WSCC) on religious education (RE) and the daily act of worship in community schools. It meets 3 times a year. Read more about SACRE.

Today's meeting at Hazelwick Secondary School, Crawley, was the first to be held outside of Chichester. Every Spring meeting will be held at a different school in West Sussex.

 

Councillor Griffiths Ignores the Non-Religious of West Sussex

Councillor Peter Griffiths, Cabinet Member for Education and Schools in West Sussex, has once again prevented the non-religious from being represented on the local Religious Education (RE) council (SACRE).

Using the Freedom of Information Act, West Sussex Humanists have discovered that the RE advisor for West Sussex suggested that a Humanist and Buddhist could join the RE council together (read more). This was as far back as summer 2009.

 

Humanist representation on West Sussex RE Council

Today I have sent an email to Peter Griffiths (West Sussex Cabinet Member for Education and Schools) requesting, once again, that he appoint a Humanist representative onto the RE advisory council (SACRE).

In 2009, Mr Griffiths refused to allow the non-religious to be represented on SACRE, despite being sent a compelling case.

 

Horsham Humanists meeting 8th December 2010

We met for the last time in the home of one of the members. Future meetings will take place in a central venue to be decided soon.

This was an action packed convivial meeting in which the running of the group was discussed in some detail, along with a range of topical issues.

Damian Brewer, Equality & Diversity Officer for Horsham District Council, was in attendance and provided us with useful advice and contacts.

 

BBC Sussex interview with Sarah Gorrell about "faith" schools

Download

A short interview with Sarah Gorrell about "faith" schools (this is a 4.1MB mp3 file).

 

Crawley InterFaith Network Meeting 27th March 2010

This important meeting of Crawley InterFaith Network (CIFN) took place in Crawley Town Hall and was attended by about 40 people, including representatives of Crawley Borough Council.

After a few preliminaries, Mohinder Galowalia used a PowerPoint presentation to talk about Community Cohesion and how CIFN could contribute towards this.

 

Humanist Talk at Horsham InterFaith Forum

Horsham InterFaith Forum invited British Humanist Association representative Andrew Edmondson to give a talk entitled "A Humanist looks at Faith" on 27th February 2010.

The Unitarian Church hall was filled with a lively group of people of varying beliefs. Several Humanists attended.

 

Muslim women speakers at The Hawth

On 27th January 2010, Crawley Inter Faith Network (CIFN) organised a talk at The Hawth, in association with "Faith Matters" as part of their "Making your Voices Heard" project.

The two Muslim speakers were a human rights lawyer and a writer on issues of the Middle East, women and race. Both speakers were on tour from the USA.

 

DCSF publishes new Religious Education guidance

The long awaited Religious Education Guidance in English Schools 2010 has just been published by the DCSF (Dept. for Children, Schools and Families).

This replaces the so-called Circular 1/94 guidance that specifically forbade County Councils from including a Humanist representative on their Religious Education advisory body (SACRE).

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