Bob Churchill - “Your Humanism Is a Thought Crime”

We originally had Andrew Copson coming to speak to us in November, but he had to call off his visit at the last minute to attend a court hearing relating to the case the BHA is pursuing against the government over the exclusion of humanism from the GCSE curriculum.

Instead, we had Bob Churchill, Director of Communications for the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), come to speak to us about freedom of thought and the work of the IHEU.

Every year the IHEU produces a Freedom of Thought Report, examining the rights and freedoms of the non-religious in every part of the world.  Each country receives one of five ratings, ranging from ‘Free and Equal’ (with sadly only 9 countries) through to ‘Grave Violations’ (33 countries).  Bob explained how these ratings are reached and the types of discrimination and legal barriers the non-religious face when expressing their lack of belief, and support for secularism and free thought.  (In case you are wondering, the UK falls in the middle ‘Systemic Discrimination category)

He then went on to detail some of the individual cases the IHEU has been involved in.  These were all deeply disturbing, and some, such as the killing of secularist bloggers in Bangladesh, were already familiar to many.  Seeing the hostility and dangers faced by Humanists in many countries of the world highlighted how fortunate we are in the West to be relatively free in expressing our Humanism.

Bob finished his talk by looking at the work of the IHEU at the UN.  Despite the freedom to criticise religion being clearly guaranteed, there has been a persistent campaign by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to outlaw blasphemy. At first they tried to outlaw it directly, and then when that failed instead tried to ban ‘Defamation of Religion’.  So far they have been defeated on that front too, but they still keep up their efforts to find a way of protecting religion from critisism, so the work of the IHEU is vital.

Bob was an excellent speaker, more than making up for the disappointment of Andrew Copson not being able to attend, and his talk was enjoyed by around 25 people.