Thursday, 23 May 2013

Marriage and Humanism

I've been getting confused messages about Humanist attitudes to Marriage recently, so thought I would put together some links to different views here.

On 13 May I received a message from BHA signed by Jim Al-Khalili: "On Monday and Tuesday next week, MPs will be debating the Marriage Bill currently before Parliament. Its main purpose is to extend marriage to same-sex couples but also being debated will be an amendment to give legal recognition to humanist marriages in England and Wales. This asked one to contact your local MP and urge them to vote for the amendment.
I did this, since it seemed a good thing. Humanist Marriages have been possible in Scotland since 2005. However I later learnt that this Humanist amendment was part of a series of amendments designed to derail the Gay Marriage bill, or delay its implementation. This strikes me as political naivety on the part of the BHA. (Jim Al-Khalili has also shown naivety on Twitter by reacting to an Onion magazine sketch, apparently not realising it was satire.)
Margaret Nelson of Suffolk Humanists has expressed a dissenting view about Humanist marriage here:
I find her arguments quite convincing. Her solution is: "Remove the right of anyone other than a registrar to conduct a marriage ceremony in the UK, but make same-sex marriage equal to opposite sex marriage. If you want any other form of marriage - religious, humanist, Jedi Knight - you can have a ceremony however and wherever you want, but it would have no legal validity. This would be like the systems that they have in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, where only civil wedding ceremonies are recognised. But that would be too simple and sensible, wouldn't it?"
Also having seen the formulation of the amendment it now seems to have been worded so as to give privileges to Humanists similar to those for the churches, to the exclusion of other groups. This is criticised here:
(Proposed Humanist Marriage Law Discriminatory). They observe: "So the proposal does not abolish religious privilege; it merely enshrines in law humanist privilege as well; it is discriminatory in favour of humanist and religious organisations against others."
I also got a lengthy reply from Amber Rudd the local MP. She made the point that "A fundamental change to marriage law of this nature would undermine the religious protections within the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, and would risk delaying implementation of same sex marriage ..." She also made a point similar to that expressed on the Atheist UK site.
 I feel that I have been let down and misled by the messages from the BHA on this.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Any Questions for Humanists?

Our next meeting is on the 13th June at the normal time of 7.00pm at the White Rock Hotel.

The subject this month is:  Any Questions for Humanists?

For any who are not familiar with this long standing radio programme, you can listen to the latest  episode on

Our variation on the standard format is that the questions will be put to the panel for an initial discussion in the normal way, but then it will be opened up to all for a general debate. I will act as chairman.

The questions can be on any subject from the purely local – ‘what is the value of the by-pass?’ – to the political – ‘should we vote to stay in Europe?’ – to the existential “What makes you happy?” but are best when they have some topical interest.

This is a bit of an experiment and I hope it will be a lot of fun..!!

Stephen Milton