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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

Horsham Humanists debate The Foundations of Humanism

Horsham Humanists discussed the foundations of Humanism at their new venue The Rising Sun. More details at www.HorshamHumanists.net
 

Secular Europe March 2011

West Sussex Humanists were proud to attend the Secular Europe march in London on Saturday.

SecularEuropeMarch2011

Distinguished speakers from across Europe gave impassioned speeches about the urgent need for secularism.

Andrew Copson of the BHA said ‘Secularism guarantees our freedom of conscience and our freedom of belief, humanist and religious alike. But all over Europe there are religious groups of all religions lobbying not just for the right to pursue their own vision of the good life as they see fit, which, if we do it without harming others is a freedom we all should enjoy, but working hard to impose their own values on us all.’

Read more at the BHA website.

 

Horsham Humanists debate the Right to Kill

Debate_righttokill

For more details about this talk, please visit www.Horsham Humanists.net

 

RE in the English Baccalaureate

A campaign is underway for the inclusion of GCSE Religious Education (RE) to be included in the new English Baccalaureate.

The BHA supports the inclusion of a subject such as Philosophy and Culture that includes religion and belief, provided that the current plethora of religiously biased local syllabuses are replaced by a national curriculum drawn up by academics.

Listen to a BBC Radio Sussex interview with Andrew Edmondson.

Download

This is a 6.5MB mp3 file lasting about 10 minutes (Download recording).

 

Chichester Humanists 21st June 2011

AreWeHardWiredToBelieveInGod21stJune2011Website

Our first organised talk "Are We Hard-Wired to Believe in God?" by NHS Psychological Therapist Martyn Frame was a resounding success and paves the way for a program of regular talks.

Over 20 people attended. As usual, we began the meeting by introducing ourselves. And what an interesting, diverse bunch of people, each with their own story. Some were non-believers for as long as they could remember, others struggled to break free of their religious past.

 

Chichester Humanists meeting 17th May 2011

This lively meeting welcomed three new faces and a few locals who overheard our conversation.

Most of the meeting was spent discussing our personal histories and the reasons we are interested in a local Humanist group. Humanists come from all walks of life and have a reasoned approach to dealing with the issues of life, the universe and everything. This meeting demonstrated that debating ethical and other human issues is far from dull.

 

Chichester Humanists talk 19th September: Dignity in Dying

ChichesterHumanistsTalk19thSeptember2011JohnKappDignityInDyingDebate
This talk attracted a number of new people to our growing group.

John Kapp began with a moving description of the death of his first wife from cancer. She died peacefully at home and had a "good death" as John explained.

On several occasions, John mentioned our reluctance to talk about death and palliative care in particular, even amongst health professionals and care staff. Having planned for his own death, John says that he feels more alive than ever.

 

Chichester Humanists talk 15th August: Being Gay in the UK

ChichesterHumanistsTalk15thAugust2011PeterCornwellReduced

Peter Cornwell of Worthing Pride gave us a well presented and interesting talk about the problems faced by the Gay and Lesbian community in the UK.

His approach was to outline the main historical changes to UK law. Queen Victoria was partlly responsible for the first anti-homosexual Act in 1885; this only applied to men, because she didn't think lesbianism was possible. A few years later, Oscar Wilde was put on trial.

 

Ray Marsh talks about Humanist Ceremonies

ChichesterHumanistsTalkRayMarshJuly2011Ray Marsh gave a most interesting and entertaining talk about Humanist ceremonies: baby namings, weddings/civil partnerships and funerals.

Ray has been a Humanist celebrant for 9 years and comes highly recommended. Like most celebrants, he conducts all three ceremonies.

 

RE syllabus heavily biased against the non-religious

ChichesterObserverJune2011

The following letter to the Editor was published in Mid Sussex Times on 3rd July 2011.  The article opposite appeared in the Chichester Observer before the meeting referred to in the letter.

EVERY FIVE years, West Sussex County Council (WSCC) is legally obliged to review its local Religious Education (RE) syllabus for community schools. Today, members of the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) met to discuss how to proceed towards the new syllabus in April, 2013.

As usual, I attended the meeting as an observer, unable to speak on behalf of the non-religious residents of West Sussex. WSCC has repeatedly refused to include a Humanist member of SACRE.

 
Our next meetings

13th November Horsham

Social meeting

The Anchor Hotel, Horsham

20th November Chichester

Social meeting

Chichester Inn

 

 

Haywards Heath meeting 14th April 2011

HaywardsHeatHumanistsApril2011

Our guest this month was former Haywards Heath resident Alan Palmer, active member of Central London Humanists (the largest group in the UK).

Alan was active in the United Reform church but became a Humanist after reading books like The God Delusion. In the last few years, he has built up the contact list of Central London Humanists to around 1000, with regular meetings of around 50 members from across London. He played a leading role in organising the Protest the Pope march and subsequently took part in several controversial debates with representatives of Opus Dei.

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