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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


4th April

Horsham Humanists social meeting. Theme: What might a secular state look like?

18th April Chichester

 Our usual social meeting. All welcome. No fee.

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 this year.

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 and Horsham talks: Why evolution is true February 2016

ChichesterHumanistsWhyEvolutionIsTrue15thFebruary
Toby Wilsher and Sarah Sjoholm-Patience presented Chichester and Horsham Humanists with an overview of Jeremy Coyne's book "Why evolution is true" as part of Darwin Day celebrations.
 

Chichester Humanists talk 16th November 2015: How not to get Fooled by Myth and Quackery

The Paradox of Scepticism and the Dangers of Bogus Sceptics
A talk by author Richard Wilson
RichardWilson

Sceptics try to take a rational, evidence-based approach to life, yet for most of us, rationality is a constant struggle. Even those disseminating wholly bogus ideas, from corporate pseudo-science to paranoid conspiracy theories, have sought to appropriate the language of rational inquiry - with increasingly disastrous results. But what are the hallmarks of bogus scepticism, and how can we distinguish it from the genuine article?

In this interesting presentation, Richard highlighted the problems that can arise when peddlers of myth and quackery succeed in portraying themselves as sceptics. He used the tragic story of the AIDs epidemic to illustrate the harm done by people who present themselves as genuine sceptics and yet choose to ignore the overwhelming evidence.

Richard Wilson is the author of Don't Get Fooled Again: The Sceptics Guide to Life.
 

United Nations comes to Horsham: talk by Viv Williams, Chair of Chichester & District UN Association

HorshamHumanistsVivWilliamsUNA5thJanuary2015debate

The UN was formed in 1945 with 193 Member States.

The UNA aims to be the voice of the people of the UN. It is the UK’s leading source of independent analysis on the UN and a UK wide grassroots movement.

 

Morality and War talk by Flight Lieutenant Robin Crosse at Chichester Humanists 21st April 2014

ChichesterHumanistsRobinCrosseDefenceHumanistsApril2014debate

Flight Lieutenant Robin Crosse is a helicopter pilot and returned from Afghanistan a few weeks before giving a talk on War and Morality at the Chichester Inn.

Robin began with a PowerPoint presentation that outlined his views of war and its associated moral issues. He began with a personal history.

 

Rachel Bennett, Lead Chaplain for the NHS, talk at Chichester Humanists 16th Feb 2015

 ChichesterHumanistsRachelBennettNHSchaplain16thFebruary2015debate

Rachel Bennett is the lead Chaplain for Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. She is based in Worthing and was accompanied by Chichester NHS Chaplain Una Dalrymple. Rachel began her talk by asking us to recall our emotions when we were in hospital, either as a patient, friend or family member.

 

Imam Idris Nawab talk with Chichester Humanists 14th December 2013

Idris Nawab, Imam of Worthing Mosque, visited Chichester Humanists at our excellent alternative venue St Martin's Organic Wholefood Cafe. He was accompanied by Chairman Ali Abdul Rahman. Idris began some background information about bimself. Born and raised in a community school in Dewsbury, he attended a madrassa for 9 years from the age of 12, where he memorised the Koran.

 

Andrew Copson talk at Chichester March 2016

ExploringHumanismAndrewCopsonMarch2016debate

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association (BHA), gave an entertaining and inspirational talk on Humanism to regular members of Chichester Humanists and many visitors.

Before joining the BHA staff 11 years ago, Andrew studied Ancient and Modern History. He used this knowledge to help explode some of the myths surrounding Humanism: that it is a recent Western phenomenon reliant on religion for its context.

Andrew went on to describe the chief attributes of a Humanist.

 

Horsham hustings 1st May 2015

 

'The Nativity examined' talk by author and philosopher Jonathan Pearce

ChichesterHumanistsJonathanPearceNativity15thDecember2014debate

Jonathan Pearce is a teacher by day and philosopher by night. He has published many books, including The Nativity: A Critical Examination. His entertaining talk was accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation outlining 19 problems with the biblical accounts of the nativity.

 

Who is a Jew? talk by Ivor Richards at Chichester Humanists 18th August 2014

ChichesterHumanistsIvorRichardsJewishTalkAugust2014debate

Ivor Richards, vice president of the Sussex Jewish Representative Council, began by giving us a brief history of Judaism. It all started with Abraham 3500 years ago, who is said to have founded the world's first monotheistic religion.
 

Richy Thompson talk on faith schools and education at Chichester Humanists 17th February 2014

ChichesterHumanistsRichyThompsonBHA_February2014debate

Richy Thompson is the BHA campaign manager for education and faith schools. He began by giving us a brief history of faith schools in England. Contrary to the claims of some Christians, the Church of England was not always enthusiastic about education. In 1807 the Bishops in the House of Lords opposed free education.

 

Sussex Police Chaplain talk Horsham Humanists 4th November 2013

Rev Terry, Rector of the Parish of Aldrington, started by telling us a little of his journey to becoming a Rector and Chaplain from an early life with musical ambition and having no calling to the church, swapping to theology studies only because he chose to cease law training. 

 
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