We welcome the debate on the role of religion and belief in public life opened by the publication of the report Living with Difference: community, diversity and the common good.
The various Christian denominations dominate every aspect of social and cultural life in Northern Ireland to the exclusion of those who have other beliefs or none.
Fundamentalist Protestantism and dogmatic Catholicism, and their political adherents, stand in the way of progress to a more inclusive society in issues such as abortion, dignity in dying, equal marriage and education.
In particular, Humani supports the report’s analysis that Northern Ireland is not well-served by the current RE syllabus and is presently working with other faith groups to offer an alternative including comparative religion, philosophy and ethics.
Humani also welcomes the report’s support for replacing collective worship in school with a ‘time for reflection’ without religious overtones.
The report also supports Humani’s call for equitable representation for humanist chaplains working in hospitals, prisons and universities.
Humani welcomes the report’s acknowledgement of widespread dissatisfaction with the media’s handling of religion and belief and its call for humanists to be allowed to contribute to Thought for the Day.
The report is a starting point for a debate on the influence of religion in public life and begins to acknowledge the rights of those without a religious belief to equality in freedom of expression.
We hope our politicians will take note and start to dismantle religious privilege in our society.
Terry Moseley, Acting Chairman, The Humanist Association of Northern Ireland (Humani)