Evan Harris from The Guardian 18 September 2010 offers us a secularist manifesto.

He points out that secularism is misrepresented by religious leaders who wish to unjustly hold on to their privileges.  I would include religious mouthpieces which could be any preachy person in a congregation and say that the leaders take it on themselves to speak for everybody else in the religion which is not fair either.

One line stands out, "Protect free religious expression that does not directly incite violence or crimes against others or publicly and directly cause someone distress or alarm."  Religious texts get their power by telling you that they are inspired by something that knows better than you and that says that evil is allowed to happen for a greater good.  They get their power by asking you to feel God speaking to you through them.  This exalts your subjective notions.  Even without these things, they have an uncanny ability to influence.  For example, a normal person will throw away a text saying God said adulterous people should be stoned to death. They will be sick.  This is not happening generally.  You can even argue that their acceptance and going along with this does not respect the victims of such teachings, those who were intimidated, yes but also does not respect a God if there is one.  Not directly inciting violence is not enough.  The frog is in the pot.  The temperature is rising.


He writes,

Secularism is not atheism (lack of belief in God) and nor is it humanism (a nonreligious belief system). It is a political movement seeking specific policy end-points. Many secularists are religious and many religious people – recognising the value of keeping government and religion separate – are secular.

Secularism seeks to defend the absolute freedom of religious and other belief, seeks to maximise freedom of religious and other expression and protect the right to manifest religious belief insofar as it does not impinge disproportionately on the rights and freedoms of others. This is essentially a summary of article 9 of the European convention on human rights. In addition secularism aims to end religious privileges or persecutions and to fully separate the state from religion which is a necessary means to that end.

A manifesto for secularist change would look like this:

1. Protect free religious expression that does not directly incite violence or crimes against others or publicly and directly cause someone distress or alarm.

This is why secularists:

• Led the battle against Tony Blair's over-broad religious hatred bill working alongside some religious people who wanted the freedom to attack other religions and against some religious organisations.

• Achieved a singular success with the abolition of English Christian-only blasphemy laws.

• Seek to abolish public order offences that lead the police to question religious people for speaking their minds, short of direct abuse of someone else.

• Oppose a defamation of religion law that has been proposed at the UN by some Muslim-majority states.

• Oppose burqa bans except where it is necessary for security, safety or effective delivery of public services

• Support the right of Muslims to build mosques subject to normal planning rules

2. End discrimination against nonreligious belief systems or organisations by ending their exclusion from:

• Protected religious broadcasting slots.

• Committees that draw up the syllabus for religious studies.

• Bodies that advise the government on matters relating to religion.

3. End unjustified religious discrimination by:

• Stopping faith schools from sacking or rejecting a teacher based on his/her religion or marital status.

• Preventing state-funded faiths schools from discriminating against, and segregating, children on religious grounds.

• Allowing royals to marry Catholics by amending the anti-Catholic Act of Settlement.

4. Where religious organisations join others in delivering public services, ensure they do so without:

• Discriminating against their employees.

• Withholding services from users on religious or sexual grounds.

• Proselytising when delivering that service.

5. Limit the right of religious people delivering public services (for example marriage registrars, judges, pharmacists, or care workers) to conscientiously object to carrying out lawful parts of their job to rare and specific exemptions (eg doctors and abortion) agreed by parliament.

6. Allow for reasonable adjustment to cater for religious practice in employment or in facilities (eg Sikh turbans in the police force, the hijab or kara in uniform policies, and prayer facilities in the workplace) but not to extend this to a blanket religious exemption based on subjective feelings, nor to impose religious practice on nonbelievers.

7. Cease religious inculcation by the state by ending compulsory worship in schools and making religious education the study of what religions and other belief systems believe, rather than instruction in what to believe.

8. Disconnect religion from the state by:

• Disestablishing the Church of England.

• Ending prayer in the parliamentary or council chamber.

• Abolishing bishops automatically sitting in the House of Lords. We are the only country outside Iran to have reserved seats in parliament for clerics. Religious people can and do stand for election in the normal way.

9. Resist the imposition of parallel legal systems based on scripture, or the legal presumption that religious people are any more or less moral than nonbelievers.

10. Work to end segregation of people based on religious dividing lines.

None of this involves anything to do with doctrinal matters such as women bishops, gay priests or Latin masses, which are matters for religions. Nor does it involve the banning of religious opinion from the public square.

None of it engages with what families get up to in their home, or religious leaders within their own families.

If you agree with all the above, while you may be an ardent secularist, you are in no way "militant" or "aggressive". If you agree with only most of that manifesto, you may well be a vicar. If you oppose it all then you are probably archbishop material.

The worst excesses carried out in the name of secularism – neither of which are supported by UK secularists – involve a proposed burqa ban in France and bans on religious dress in Turkish universities. They are wrong but they hardly rank compared to what is carried out by religious regimes.


With regard to the Act of Settlement, it should go but not as long as a pope claims to be head of another state.  The popes used to rule the Papal States and this led to Catholics in Spain, France and England being invigorated in treason.


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