Leicester Secular Society
for an inclusive and plural society free from religious privilege, prejudice and discrimination.
(established 1851)
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Freethinker Magazine

Diary of Activities 2008

Latest News: See News panel on our home page


The idea of the Diary is to record details of the activities of members (and some others of like mind) relating to the purposes of the Society over the preceding months. I hope members will keep me informed of their doings so that we can provide a full picture of the range of work being done. This was introduced as an initiative of Allan Hayes in November 2006. Click here for the Diary for 2007.

January 2008

Programme of events for January

Sunday 6 January

Emergency General Meeting for members of the Society called on the Society's Development Group and the Leicester Rationalist Trust to meet to produce a way forward for regeneration of the Hall.

Sunday 20 January

Scaffolding erected for roof repairs to Secular Hall (see 24 Jan below). The Society is contributing £10,000 to the £26,000 cost - the rest comes from English Heritage and the City Council.

Monday 21 January

Allan Hayes speaks in the Faith Schools Debate in the series 'Faith, Ethics and Politics' organised by Christians Aware. See Programme page for details.

Tuesday 22 January

Joint meeting of Leicester Secular Society Development Group and the Leicester Rationalist Trust: it was agreed to press ahead and a Joint Working Party was set up.

Thursday 24 January

FEATURE by Tom Bennett in Leicester Mercury

Allan Hayes inspects the scaffolding
erected for the roof repairs


Its origins hark back to a time when Leicester was a centre of radical thinking and fierce debate on the burning issues of the day.

Now, Leicester Secular Society - the oldest in the world - is trying to raise £2 million to refurbish its 125-year-old home.

It is hoping the Lottery will come to the rescue of the grade II-listed Leicester Secular Hall, in Humberstone Gate.

Society president Allan Hayes said the funding was desperately needed to save the centre.

He said: "It will be more than a refurbishment, because this building has not really been updated since it was built."

When it first opened its doors in 1881, the hall finally gave a home to the city's radical thinkers.

In Victorian Leicester, secularist lecturers were often refused the use of halls because the venues were attached to churches.

Some took to using spare rooms in pubs, though other landlords were afraid they would lose their licenses for hosting non-Christian groups and refused.

One refusal too many led to engineer Josiah Gimson suggesting building a hall.

The hall features five terracotta busts of free-thinkers - Greek scholar Socrates, French satirist Voltaire and political thinkers Robert Owen and Thomas Paine.

The fifth bust is of Jesus, whose teachings are argued by secularists to be more moral than theological.

Work is currently under way to repair the roof of the hall.

The work, which will cost £26,000, is being funded by English Heritage, Leicester City Council and the society.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has already contributed £50,000 *, but the society fears those funds will soon be swallowed up.

The campaign has been backed by Leicester Shire Economic Partnership, the Victorian Society and Leicester South MP Sir Peter Soulsby.

Kishor Tailor, chief executive of the Leicester Shire Economic Partnership, said: "It is an important building and will play a big part in the regeneration of the area.

"We have offered our technical expertise and may be able to give small funds to assist with feasibility studies to get it through to Lottery funding."

A spokesman for the city council said the work was expected to be completed by spring.

President Allan Hayes said: "When the society started in 1851, those who did not belong to the established church suffered serious discrimination.

"People were sent to prison for criticising Christianity or advocating birth control - MPs could not take their seats without swearing a religious oath.

"Progress has been made, but the privileging of religious organisations and the encouragement of competing religious identities threatens to divide us along religious lines."

* Allan notes "There is one small error - we have not yet got the £50,000 from the Heitage Lottery Fund."

Monday 28 January

Allan Hayes speaks in the discussion of Religious Education, Humanism and the School Curriculum in the series 'Faith, Ethics and Politics' organised by Christians Aware. See Programme page for details.

LETTER by our Chairman, Michael Gerard in Leicester Mercury

FAITH SCHOOLS FRAGMENT SOCIETY: Alan Loasby (Mailbox, January 17) asserts "that faith schools spell choice".

This cannot be the case. Although he blandly states that people may change their residence if they find the local school professes a faith that they find impossible to agree with, this is a realistic option for the few.

If people are linked to a particular address through disability, job location, or family circumstances, they often are not at liberty to switch houses.

Most parents do not want to be linked to an ideology that is based on myth, as all religions seem to be.

It would seem reasonable, in view of the large number of uncalled-for pregnancies every year, to expect that schools do their utmost to ensure their teenagers emerge with a thorough understanding of contraception.

If the local secondary school happened to be Roman Catholic, there is a fair bet that children would be taught about evils of contraception.

We need schools that are based in broad, enlightened values.

If people wish their young ones to be taught a religion, they should do it at home.

"Faith" schools run the risk of becoming ghetto schools with their long-term effects of fragmenting further our "shattered society".

This drew the retort from a Mrs M, who attended an RC secondary school, that although she had been taught that her religion banned contraception, she was told the choice was her own, and that the different types were explained in Biology classes. John Stitch followed this up with "... a religion that can't even be bothered to stick to teaching it's own people the principles it supposedly stands for!"

EMAIL from Harry Perry to all members - attention anyone else reading this tonight!

Dear LSS Member

URGENT - Save Sayed Pervez Kambaksh

The Independent reports today on the threat of execution hanging over the head of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh.

Sayed is a young Afghan journalist who dared to download, print and circulate a document on women's rights from a Farsi website. He was arrested by the Afghan religious authorities last year, convicted of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to death. His conviction and sentence have just been confirmed by the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, and his execution could be imminent.

Please add your name to the Independent's petition to the British Government to pressure Karzai to drop the death sentence by going to this site:


Thank you


Wednesday 30 January

Our President Allan Hayes was appointed as humanist representative on the Leicester Agreed Syllabus Conference. This body is responsible for preparing the Agreed Syllabus in Religious Education binding on all Leicester state schools for the next five years, except for Voluntary Aided religious schools (made up of all the Roman Catholic schools, the Madani Islamic School and all but one of the Church of England schools). This is a significant breakthough following the recommendation in the 2004 Non-Statutary National Framework that there should be "opportunities for all pupils to study secular philosophies such as humanism".


February 2008


Programme of events for February

Friday 1 February

CONTRIBUTION from John Catt to a forum discussion following a feature by Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent in the Daily Telegraph about discrimination in the Scout Movement. John wrote:

Its quite simple I would suggest. If the scouts only want to admit children who believe in the supernatural then they should make this clear in their promotional literature. I believe currently they claim to be an "inclusive" organisation.

As I understand it they encourage children to take an oath that they don't believe in which would seem to contradict at least 2 of the Scout Laws.

1. A Scout is to be trusted.
7. A Scout has self-respect and respect for others.

[I can vouch for this being the practice in the swinging '60s when I was a member - known to be unreligious, attendance at church parades, spouting the promise of loyalty to G&Q and saluting the flag were mandatory conditions for participation in all the other activities. No doubt there were quite a few atheists like me helping to swell the churches congregations and coffers. FF]

The BHA has issued a Press Release.

Faith Schools Petition

The Government issued the response below to the petition against faith schools put on the 10 Downing street website by Allan Hayes. The petition was posted 18 Dec 2006 ; a year later, when it closed, it had 2040 signatures.

The petition was posted 18 Dec 2006 and closed on 18 Dec 2007.

Allan comments: Note that the government

  • does not deny that is promoting more Christian schools, it only denies that it has a target number.
  • adopts a simplistic faith in diversity as a way to raise standards: even it did why religious should it be religious diversity
  • parrots the Church in asserting that we have to thank it for providing schools when
    • from Tudor times to the start of the 19C most new schools were founded by wealthy patrons
    • in the early 19C the Church was already receiving government grants and extracting tithes
    • and the fights between the Church (seeking to control the system and emphasise conformity), the nonconformists, and supporters of a state system, held up the development of a school system that was fit for purpose and put us at a serious disadvantage compared with continental competitors

With regard to the last paragraph of the government's response:

  • Section 38 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 merely says that the governing body shall promote community cohesion. It does not say what this means and when pressed it seems to think that contacts between schools are sufficient to correct the damage caused by division.
  • In spite of what is said in this paragraph, faith schools are allowed to select by faith and how much it is practiced, indeed the government acknowledges the right of faith schools to have only pupils of their own faith.

Finally, there is no mention of the rights of teachers in faith schools

Allan's petition

We the undersigned petition the Prime to cease the creation of more faith schools, take existing public-funded faith schools from the control of religious bodies and convert them to unbiased schools for all.

One third of our state schools are controlled by the Church of England (with one quarter) and the Catholic Church.

Whatever contribution to education these schools make, the churches are also using them to promote their own interests.<.p>

The present government policy of not just accepting this but of promoting the creation of more Christian schools and responding to the understandable demands from other religions for fair treatment is leading towards serious religious, racial and social division.

We face the prospect of over half our state schools being controlled for admissions, employment and ethos by non-accountable religious bodies with their own agendas.

Faith schools are not gifts from the religions: all wages and salaries and almost all building costs come out of taxes.

The changes should cause no disruption to the educational performance of the schools since most staff could remain in post."

The Government's response

The Government has no target for the numbers of faith schools. Faith schools are one element of the Government's commitment to creating a more diverse system of schools in order to raise standards. This will help schools to feel responsible for their own future and develop an individual character and ethos, increase the range of approaches to problems and the dissemination of good practice, and offer a wider choice to parents and pupils.

The Churches have a long history of providing education in this country, and the foundations of many church schools provided the original land and buildings. Faith schools have an excellent record in providing high-quality education and serving disadvantaged communities, and are some of the most ethnically and socially diverse in the country. Their ethos is valued by many parents who are not themselves members of the faith in question.

The Government is aware of concerns about the effect of faith schools on community cohesion, and about whether faith schools' admission policies may sometimes contribute to selection of pupils. The Government is addressing these concerns. Under Section 38 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, the governing bodies of all maintained schools have a duty to promote community cohesion. The Churches have confirmed their commitment to this. The Act also rules out interviewing in admissions, and extends the rights of parents, the admission forum and the relevant faith body to object to admission arrangements. On receipt of an objection, the Schools Adjudicator may now make changes to any aspect of a school's admission arrangements if they are not in line with the mandatory provisions of the Code or are otherwise unfair or unlawful.

Back to Allan's comments on this.

Thursday 7 February

Allan Hayes contributes to the Institute of Ideas debate at the Bishopsgate Institute, London: Get out of my head! Education, indoctrination and the battle over faith schools.

Monday 11 February

LETTER by our member George Jelliss in Leicester Mercury

Dear Editor,

As a secularist I cannot let A. Hallam (26 January) get away with calling Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot "secular champions".

Secularism is about giving people freedom to hold whatever worldviews they choose, so long as they do not impose them on others. Our aim is that the state should be neutral, and base its policies solely on objective fact, not ideologies of whatever kind. Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot were ideologues, and very far from being secular humanists!

The true champions of Secularism are people like Tom Paine, Robert Owen, Charles Bradlaugh, G. J. Holyoake and George Eliot, to mention only British people with connections to this area.

Yours Sincerely

George Jelliss
(Leicester Secular Society)

In the paper however, George notes, the last paragraph and the mention of the Society were omitted.

Thursday 14 February

Feature in Leicester Mercury - PAIR TAKING HOPE TO EL SALVADOR

A pair of musicians are to take a set of violins out to a poverty-stricken Central American country.

Michael Gerard and Caroline Moles, of Clarendon Park, Leicester, will fly out to El Salvador with the instruments in their luggage.

In the past 30 years the country has been blighted by civil war, poverty and horrific human rights abuses.

The violins will be given to youngsters in the community of Nueva Esperanza - a self-sufficient settlement of 500 people launched to give refugees the chance of a better life.

The pair are joining members of the Birmingham-based Music For Hope project, which works with the community to encourage youngsters to get involved in music and culture.

The initiative has already sent out guitar strings, guitars and percussion instruments to replace the youngsters' battered equipment, as well as medicine, painkillers and bandages.

The Leicester couple will take out four violins, given to them by Braunstone violin maker and restorer Tim Batchelar.

Mr Gerard, who plays for Leicester folk band Greenshoots Ceilidh Orchestra and is a retired teacher, said: "I think this is a really good thing to do. The country went through a very traumatic time in the 1970s and 80s. There is a lot of poverty but the village we will be going to has been set up as a new settlement for refugees.

"This project is about giving people hope and a new start.

"I hope to learn some of their music while I am out there."

During their four-week stay, which begins next month, the pair will learn about life in the community that includes a school, clinic and co-operative farming.

Mr Batchelar, who has presented the pair with the violins, for a nominal fee, said: "These are violins that have reached the end of their useful life over here. They can't be sold but are still playable. It's a brilliant idea to take them to people who have nothing. If we did not give them away, then they would just be burnt."

Friday 15 February

Allan Hayes contributes the East Midlands Economic Network Bridge Building Intercultural Conference at Vaughan College, Leicester.


March 2008


Programme of events for March

Wednesday 5 March

National Secular Society reports: Abolition Of Iniquitous Blasphemy Law Is Approved In Parliament

Friday 28 March

LETTER by our LSS President Allan Hayes in Leicester Mercury

Will Vi Dempster (Mercury, March 25) tell us what is not divisive in admission rules and religious bias that result in children in Leicester Catholic schools being over 70 per cent Catholic and 90 percent Christian, while Madani High children are all Muslim.
Leicester is working on a new agreed syllabus in religious education for its community schools that will pay proper attention to the needs of children, non-religious as well as religious. Surely, it is better for children to grow up together, and in schools that do not practice religious discrimination?
What do the religious authorities have against it? They must argue their case since taxpayers pay almost everything for these schools.


April 2008


Programme of events for April

Tuesday 15 April

Article by Allan Hayes in National Secular Society Newsline: GOVERNMENT PUSH THROUGH NEW CofE ACADEMY IN LEICESTER.


May 2008


Programme of events for May

Thursday 1 May

Allan Hayes attends the launch of British Muslims for Secular Democracy at the Royal Society of Arts in London and makes useful contacts.

Saturday 31 May

Allan Hayes speaks about secularism and humanism at the Leicester Interfaith Fellowship annual seminar "Religion without fairy-tales, Science with soul".


June 2008


Programme of events for June

Thursday 19 June

A group of about 29 students from City of Leicester College with their teachers visit Secular Hall to hear about secularism and talk to members.

Friday 20 June

Report in Leicester Mercury about our member Helen Everett

A member of Leicester's Secular Society has been elected Chair of the Leicester City of Sanctuary Group.
Helen Everett was elected at the newly-founded group's first annual general meeting last month.
The City of Sanctuary movement was set up to promote a welcoming atmosphere for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing from danger in countries around the world.
With Leicester already having a large proportion of people from different ethnic backgrounds, the campaign aims to enhance the perception that the city is a haven where all people are welcome.
If you would like to help in any way contact Helen Everett at: helen . everett @ newitt.freeserve.co.uk (close spaces)

Saturday 21 June

Allan and Bessie Hayes attend the National Secular Society "End of Blasphemy Law" party in London.

Monday 23 June

Christians Aware visit Secular Hall to talk to school groups about secularism, humanism and Christianity - Eleanor Davidson gives the lead talk for the Society. The feedback from the school is encouraging.

Tuesday 24 June

Members of the Society speak at a meeting of the Leicester Social Forum on the future of Leicester Schools

Thursday 26 June

Allan Hayes participates in Community Cohesion Forum at the Athena Centre Leicester


July 2008

Programme of events for July

Saturday 5 July

Allan Hayes attended the first birthday party of the Council of Ex-Muslims in London

Friday 11 July

The Society's Development Group interviews the short list of three applicants for the role of Audience Development Consultant for the Society.

Saturday 12 July

Allan Hayes and John Catt attend a meeting in London of the Board of Trustees of the British Humanist Association.

Tuesday 15 July

Some context: While the economy tumbles, public sector workers in various unions are taking strike action for the first time in years over below inflation pay offers, wars continue and intensify in Iraq and Afghanistan - not to mention the impending one on Iran, etc., etc., the established church has important moral issues to debate at its Lambeth Conference - female and homosexual bishops.

LETTER by our secretary Harry Perry in Leicester Mercury (in response to the Bishop's weekly column the previous Saturday): C OF E PROBLEMS ONE BIG YAWN

Should we yawn, or should we thank the Bishop of Leicester for keeping us up to date on the slow-motion break-up of the Church of England (Mercury, July 12)
He and his aspiring Bishopess, Vivienne Faull, may be optimistic about its future but they are in a tiny minority. Falling congregations, increasing divisions, the predicted loss of their 26 bishop's seats in the House of Lords and Charles' ("Defender of Faiths") ascension to the throne all mean disestablishment will soon become inevitable.
Yet they continue to promote themselves as moral leaders of the nation. What bunkum - we all know they are 50 years behind the irreligious secularism of our society in the emancipation of women.
At the same time they seek further enormous sums of taxpayers' money to create yet more religious schools and want to get public money for providing welfare services traditionally (and laudably) undertaken on a voluntary basis.
As the Anglican's ship slowly sinks the last thing the Government should be doing is throwing our money to them as a life-line.
It's time to disestablish it, to end government funding of religious schools and to abandon proposals to give them public welfare services to run. Let our public arena and public services be free of religious privilege and dogma.

Thursday 17 July

Allan and Bessie Hayes attend an an Institute of Community Cohesion Masterclass, Tackling Extremism: monitoring local tensions at Woodland Grange, Leamington Spa.

Friday 18 July

LETTER by LSS President Allan Hayes in the Leicester Mercury

[Background: St Pauls Voluntary Aided Catholic School shares a site with the private Leicester Grammar School. The latter is moving to a new site and wishes to sell its land to a developer to build houses on. St Pauls wishes to buy this land but has not made a competive bid. It is trying to get the city council to subisdise it with money from the Building Schools for the Future programme]

Whichever way the future of St Paul's Catholic School is settled (Mailbox, July 15), it is the Catholic diocese that should pay, not the taxpayer through the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme.
Our community schools badly need that money, and they are schools for all, unlike St Paul's, whose entry criteria are heavily biased towards Catholic children (90 per cent of its pupils are Christian, 70 per cent are Catholic). Already, the taxpayer pays for all its salaries and wages and almost all its building costs.

Tuesday 22 July

National Secular Society reports: Bill abolishing Blasphemy Law receives Royal Assent.

Wednesday 23 July

Meeting of the LSS Board of Directors.

Friday 25 - Sunday 27 July

Allan Hayes attends annual conference of the Sea of Faith Network in Liverpool.

Tuesday 29 July

Allan Hayes has the First Person article in the Leicester Mercxury

The Church of England’s current difficulties seem nothing to do with most of us, but ... argues Allan Hayes It’s time to look hard at society and the Church.

The Church of England’s problems over homosexuality and women bishops are internal ones, but the Church forces itself on all of us, and its views affect us: it runs a quarter of the schools we pay for out of taxes; it has 26 bishops in the House of Lords; it has representatives on local authority education committees; it has privileged access to the media and government; it has a major influence on religious education in community schools; it is now trying to get the state to pay for it to run social services.
The Church of England and the Catholic Church together run one third of our state schools and, helped by government, they are getting more. This is provoking other religious groups – “if they have them then we should have them”. Demands for the other privileges of the Church of England will surely follow.
We are in danger of becoming a divided country: one where those outside the religions count for less; one where over half the schools are faith schools, most of them able to select or reject students and staff on religious grounds.
As for choice, if the best local school happens to be of religion X, how much chance will your child have of getting in if you are not a member of X and won’t sign up to support it? Since only faith schools can select pupils, other schools will be damaged, with serious social consequences.
Even when they are formally inclusive, faith schools still promote their religion. Children entering the Samworth Academy pass a big cross on the new parish church (itself part of the school) and a proclamation that the Academy is a Church of England School. In parish primary schools they pray at start and end of school and at lunch, and are encouraged get to know the vicar.
The 2001 Church of England report The Way Ahead (pdf), made clear that a major role for its schools must be to reach children and their parents who are not coming to church. This is not a proper use of our schools.
Last month the Church called on the Government to recognise its social work, but it went on to suggest yet more privileged access to government and decision making, and, in an obviously pre-planned response, the government announced a Faiths Taskforce and a consultative body Believing for a Better Britain.
Church members undoubtedly do valuable social work – this is welcome, but it must support the general provision that all use. It must not take resources from the latter and it must not be used by the Church to gain control and promote its views and religion.
It is time – for everyone’s benefit – to take a serious look at the role of religion in our society, and we must begin by looking at the Church of England.
Allan Hayes is president of Leicester Secular Society and a trustee of the Britiish Humanist Association.


August 2008

Programme of events for August

Wednesday 13 August

Development Group meets Mike Candler, Cultural Quarter Development Officer, to discuss possible uses of Secular Hall

Saturday 16 August

Allan Hayes and John Catt attend the Board meeting of the British Humanist Association in London.

Tuesday 16 August

Allan Hayes praises community schools in a letter in the Leicester Mercury:

Michael Brucciani's attack (Mailbox, August 4) on the moral ethos of our community schools needs an answer, even though it is ill-informed and prejudiced.
Teachers in our community schools work hard in helping to bring up children as good human beings, sharing common values and enriched by the insights and traditions of their different cultures.
Day by day practice in living together, in respecting and caring for one another and in making well-considered choices about what is right are important for this. These schools make a valuable contribution to community cohesion that is appreciated by parents of all backgrounds.
All is not perfect, but they have a lot to be proud of.
On a factual point: Mr Brucciani repeats the old misleading claim about paying twice without stating the amounts: in fact all salaries and wages and virtually all building and maintenance costs for faith schools are paid for out of our taxes.

Wednesday 27 August

Allan and Bessie Hayes attend the annual Intercultural Event at Leicester Constabulary Headquarters


September 2008

Programme of events for September

Tuesday 2 September

An intensive series of meetings about regeneration planning for the Secular Hall, involving the Society's Audience Development Consultant, Marion Blockley and President Allan Hayes.

  • Liz Blyth, Leicester City Council Cultural Strategy Manager;
  • Development Group meeting in Secular Hall;
  • Asaf Hussain, known locally for his Cultural Mosaic courses at Vaughan College;
  • Sarah Leavitt, Leicester Museums and Arts;
  • Judith Carstairs, Senior Building Conservation Officer;
  • Ross Willmott, Leader of Leicester City Council.

Wednesday 3 September

Meeting of Board of Directors

Sunday 14 September

Secular Hall open day: a great day, over a hundred visitors, music, displays, refreshments, tours of building, new members recruited.

Wednesday 17 September

Allan Hayes attended the Coventry University Faith and Cohesion Conference and the Leicester Agreed Syllabus Conference.


October 2008

Programme of events for October

Wednesday 1 October

Allan Hayes and John Catt attend the Business Networking day at the Walker Stadium. Useful contacts made in connection with Hall regeneration.

Saturday 4 - Sunday 5 October

Allan Hayes attends Board of Sea of Faith.

Wednesday 8 October

Allan Hayes attends Leicester Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) as humanist representative.

Meeting of Board of Directors.

Saturday 11 October

Allan Hayes speaks against faith schools at AGM of Comprehensive Future in London: matter refered to Steering Committee.

Thursday 16 October

Allan Hayes attends annual meeting for RE teachers at Beaumanor Hall.

Wednesday 29 October

Allan Hayes addresses a seminar on Justice and Suffering at the Islamic Higher Education Centre, Markfield.

Allan Hayes meets Rita Kisob of Leicester Business Link to discuss help with business planning.


November 2008

Programme of events for November

Saturday 1 - Sunday 2 November

Allan Hayes attends the annual Battle of Ideas in London, contributes to several discussions and makes useful contacts.

Tuesday 4 - Friday 7 November

Various letters to the Leicester Mercury in response to the Bishop's column Does Society Truly Want To Be Godless (pdf 187kb) of Saturday 1 November, which was a response to the There's probably no god bus ad appeal initiated last week by Ariane Sherine, Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association.

There's Probably No God.  Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

You choose, Bishop Tim from Harry Perry, 4 November:

Bishop Tim Stevens (Mercury, November 1) asks a good question: Does society truly want to be Godless?
He says society must choose between living under God's law or "at the mercy of human values and decisions". I couldn't have put it better myself.
God's law tells the Jews of Israel that they can steal Palestine from the Palestinians, by force. The-Bible-obsessed Christians of America show their agreement by providing the finance and weaponry to carry it out.
It is God's law that tells Muslims they must stone women adulterers to death, regardless they had been forced into loveless marriages under God's own sharia law in the first place.
It was God's Bible that allowed Christians to enslave millions of Africans to work in sugar plantations in the Americas. Likewise, the Dutch Reformed Church found in the Christian Bible complete justification for Apartheid.
Women in devout Muslim countries have their throats cut for showing their faces in public – sanctified by the Qu'ran. It is God's law that tells Indian Muslims to blow up Hindus because they are idol worshippers.
Abortion is forbidden to Catholics by their God, regardless that the pregnancy results from rape. God's law forbids Catholics from using condoms to prevent Aids. God's law tells Afghan Muslims they can shoot dead a young British charity worker because she is a Christian.
I could go on, but I think this makes the point. What can secularism offer in the place of God's laws? Yes, I'm afraid we can only offer man-made laws – created through a free democratic process and based on the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
So, I pose the same question as the Bishop: do you want to live at the mercy of God's laws or those created by human values and decisions?
You choose.

Enjoy your life from George Jelliss, 4 November:

The Bishop is being mischievous in interpreting the atheist bus slogan as asking people to "stop worrying" about their mortgages.
Clearly it is aimed at all the unnecessary worrying that God-belief engenders. Worries over whether enjoyment of pleasure is "sinful". Worries over what might happen in some mythical afterlife.
The slogan is not "enjoy life" but "enjoy your life" because it's the only one you have. Enjoyment comes from achieving things, not from mere self-indulgence.
As for trying to "airbrush God from public life", it is hardly possible to remove something that was never in the picture in the first place!

The beauty of human values from Dave Leighton, 4 November:

I have to offer an answer to Bishop Tim Stevens' question "do we really want to live in a world which is godless?" and answer it from an "ordinary Joe" perspective.
Yes, the Godless world is so much better being based upon a reasoned set of arguments and a challengeable position, than outright prejudice based upon unquestioning opinion of any faith.
I do not understand the issue about leaving society to the "mercy of human values". Surely that is what is great and beautiful about the human race – our capacity for goodness and thought, irrespective of God, especially in Leicester!
How can any major religious leader claim the right to decide what the nature of life will look like without deeply questioning what right they have to determine this?
I love living in Leicester, one of the most integrated societies in the world, what a statement of fairness and rationalism. How can one of our "faith leaders" make such crass statements about a set of views that may challenge his own. I am personally looking forward to the time when the views of Richard Dawkins are actually challenged rationally, not just with the bias of one religion.

Secular state offers freedom from Wilfred Gaunt, 4 November:

The original objective of secularism, as defined by Holyoake in the Victorian period, was the separation of Church and state.
This was to give people the freedom to follow their own faiths or none without state interference (on the United States' model) and to campaign against the intrusion of puritanical fanaticism into the laws governing the normal daily progress of people's lives.
Among other things, Sunday trading (shopping) was banned, as was the playing of games on Sunday. As a child, I had to put my toys away on Saturday night, and could only bring them out again on Monday.
Much medical and scientific research has been resisted in the House of Lords, purely on the basis of scriptural interpretation: not on the basis of need or democratic representation.
Naturally, the main campaigners for secular governance on this basis have been non-believers, and it has pleased the religious propagandists to therefore equate state secularism with no-god atheism.
They have almost succeeded in the nefarious miracle of convincing people that the secular ideals of freedom of thought, speech, and religion are anti-God.
My own copy for a bus advert would read: "Only a secular government gives you the freedom to follow your own faith." I agree with Wilfred that secularism is in the best interest of all kinds of believers. A secular state would uphold the everyone's freedom to believe as well as freedom from belief. A place where those of any religion and those happy without one can live in peace.

End privileges of the Church from Bill Hill, 5 November

Is the Bishop of Leicester really concerned that the atheists are getting some publicity (Mercury, November 1) or is he just peeved because we are paying for it?
To relate the current financial crises to believing in God is missing the point – many people are convinced that there is no God.
What really riles me, is that the religious seem to believe that atheists have a lack of moral judgement and are, therefore, inferior.
If he truly believes that adverts on buses will help us to have a "sense of solidarity" or, that we believe "in nothing" he really is desperate.
Atheists are people who have the capacity to think that the universe is, well, universal; and certainly not created in six days by a mythical being!
More to the point, I cannot see the justice in having unelected representatives of the Church of England attempting to rule us from Westminster. Atheists not only want to "airbrush God from public life" but, where it really counts, from Parliament.
The Bishop should encourage a level playing field, revelling in atheists having similar access to advertising – just as God does!
Perhaps a start could be made in the Mercury?

Odd situation from Frank Evans, 5 November

It is an odd situation in that the head of the Anglican Communion is essentially the product of Britain's Prime Minister.
It essentially amounts to the British Government running the Church. And it runs not just the church but, in a colonial sense, the entire Anglican Communion.
Perhaps those days are coming to a close.

Call for dialogue from Allan Hayes, president, Leicester Secular Society, 7 November

When 8,000 people give £116,000 to put notices on London buses that "there probably is no God..." it is surely better to recognise that there is a serious issue we need to talk about rather than escalate the matter into confrontation by painting the bogy of a godless world round the corner, as Bishop Tim did (Mercury, November 1).
Many people in Leicester will agree with the notice, including some in the Bishop's own Church. The question that needs to be asked is: "How do we live well together, enriched by our diversity, rather than divided by it?"
It is encouraging that religious bodies like the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the Salvation Army and the think-tank Ekklesia have welcomed the proposed bus-side message as a healthy encouragement for dialogue, but we must not get fixated on differences over God – creating goodwill and trust is better.
Leicester Secular Society has, for more than 150 years, provided a forum for people with different views. It has always encouraged dialogue and will continue to do this.

Wednesday 5 November

Allan Hayes speaks against faith schools at the Community Cohesion: a Retrospective Master Class run by the Institute of Community Cohesion in Coventry.

Saturday 8 November

Allan Hayes and John Catt attend the Board meeting of the British Humanist Association in London.


December 2008

Programme of events for December

The future news is yet to happen. If you are part of it please let us know!


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