8th April, 2021 1:00 pm
Southampton City Council has agreed to retake a decision to block humanists from becoming full members of the local religious education committee following a threat of legal action.
Humanist Mary Wallbank had applied to become a full member of Southampton’s Standing Advisory Council on RE (SACRE) over two years ago and said the decision not to admit her was a violation of her human rights. However, she has agreed to pause her legal action while the council reviews the decision in November.
Ms Wallbank said: ‘I was hugely disappointed that Southampton Council chose to block my bid to become a full member of the committee, particularly given that many of the positions for religious representatives are vacant and have been for some time.’
In the run up to the decision, a Church of England representative said the inclusion would be ‘slightly Trotskyist’ as humanists are campaigning for the abolition of SACREs.
However, Humanists UK denied this was the case.
Humanists UK education campaigns manager, Dr Ruth Wareham, commented: ‘We have always advocated in the strongest terms for the importance of good quality, inclusive education about religions and humanism. We hope that Southampton Council will drop this wrongheaded, discriminatory position and allow Ms Wallbank to participate as a full member.’
A council spokesperson said: ‘Southampton City Council has agreed to complete a thorough review of the application process to sit on Southampton SACRE, as it is some time since one has been carried out.
‘Whether any organisation is recommended for membership will depend entirely on the extent to which the organisation is deemed to represent one of the principal religious or belief views held by a number of residents in Southampton and the number of places available on the committee in that regard.’
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