While much of the Humanist Heritage website looks back to the earlier years of the organised humanist movement, recent decades have seen major successes across all areas of Humanists UK’s campaigning. Many of these areas, notably blasphemy, education, and humanist care, have been central to the work of the organisation since its formation as the Union of Ethical Societies in 1896. In many cases, efforts by individual humanists and ethical societies stretch back even earlier.
In-depth information on these more contemporary campaigning successes is available from Humanists UK’s main site, but below are some of the key wins of recent years.
2008 – Abolition of blasphemy laws
Campaigning by Humanists UK helps abolish blasphemy laws in England and Wales in 2008, ensuring freedom of expression is protected.
2011 – Charity Commission agree to recognise the advancement of non-religious beliefs for the public benefit as charitable
Humanists UK’s long campaign to allow the advancement of non-religious beliefs for the public benefit to be a charitable object achieves success.
2011 – Census Campaign
Humanists UK’s Census Campaign, encouraging people who are not religious to tick the relevant box on 2011’s Census form, sees the number of those who ticked ‘No religion’ rise from 15% in 2001 to 25% that year.
2012 – Scouts and Guides’ Promise
The Scout Association and Girlguiding UK work with Humanists UK to change their Promises, enabling non-religious young people and adult volunteers to join for the first time.
2013 – Legalisation of same-sex marriages
2014 – Banning creationism in schools
Humanists UK’s ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign means every state school in England is required to teach evolution, and is prohibited from teaching creationism or intelligent design as scientifically valid.
2014 – Thought for the Commute
Humanists UK’s ‘Thought for the Commute’ presents four humanist perspectives on one of life’s biggest questions: ‘What’s it all for?’ The campaign encourages everyone, whether religious or non-religious, to reflect on what helps create meaning in their own lives. It features George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Bertrand Russell, A.C. Grayling, Natalie Haynes, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Jim Al-Khalili on posters in 100 London Underground Stations, and across 300 buses in Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham.
2015 – Non-religious pastoral care in NHS hospitals
After Humanists UK work with NHS England to amend their guidance, hospitals must provide pastoral care for non-religious patients.
2015 – Non-religious worldviews equal to major religions in RE
Non-religious worldviews must be treated equally to major religions in RE after Humanists UK win a legal case in the High Court in 2015. This prompts the Welsh Government to change the law to do the same.
2017 – First legally recognised humanist marriage in Northern Ireland
2018 – Humanists taking part in Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph
Humanists UK win the right for humanists to take part in Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph, after decades of campaigning for non-religious war veterans to be recognised alongside religious veterans.
2018 – Shutting down illegal religious schools
In 2018, Humanists UK get the Government to commit to shutting down illegal religious schools where children are at risk, after exposing some schools’ alarming practices.
2018 – Legal recognition of humanist marriages
2018 – First humanist to head a Chaplaincy and Pastoral Support team in the NHS
The first humanist head of a pastoral support and chaplaincy team at an NHS Trust is appointed, recognising the invaluable work of non-religious pastoral carers, and allowing more people to receive humanist pastoral care.
2018 – Humanist campaigning ensures cap on religious free schools’ admission
After campaigning by Humanists UK, the Government decides to keep a 50% cap on admissions to religious free schools.
2019 – Humanists UK begins delivering training to Home Office staff on asylum claims
Building on years of work with non-religious asylum seekers at risk of persecution, Humanists UK begin training Home Office staff on the grounds of asylum for humanists and non-religious people at risk.
2020 – Making Relationships and Sex Education compulsory in English schools
Humanists UK are a major influence in making the Government introduce compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in all English schools from 2020 so that all children will learn what’s needed to grow up happy, healthy, and safe.
2020 – Decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland
2021 – Legal recognition of humanist marriages in Guernsey
Joining Northern Ireland and Jersey, Guernsey gives legal recognition to humanist marriages, giving more people the right to have a legal marriage that reflects their deepest beliefs.
2021 – Inclusive RE in Welsh schools
Wales changes the law on RE to make it fully inclusive of humanism, and to introduce inclusive RE in all schools.