The British Humanist Association has put up four large advertisements in Cardiff, London, Belfast and Edinburgh. The latest addition to the advertising battle between Christian and Humanist organisations bears the slogan: ‘Please Don’t Label Me. Let me grow up and choose for myself.’
For more informattion and images of the billboards visit: www.humanism.org.uk/billboards
The poster is located at 42 Merthyr Road in Cardiff:
It features a child appearing against a backdrop of ‘shadowy’ descriptions such as Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu or Sikh. These are mixed together with other labels such as Marxist, Anarchist, Socialist, Libertarian or Humanist.
Hear what members of the public think about the advert:
Richard Dawson, Vice President of the British Humanist Association, says:
‘We urgently need to raise consciousness on this issue. Nobody would seriously describe a tiny child as a “Marxist child” or an “Anarchist child” or a Post-modernist child”. Yet children are routinely labelled with the religion of their parents. We need to encourage people to think carefully before labelling any child too young to know their own opinions and our adverts will help to do that.’
RDFRS is the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Research and Science.
Blakeley Nixon is the Cardiff Humanist representative. Listen to his definition of what Humanism is:
The BHA is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious and promoting Humanism. It campaigns for inclusive schools with no religious admissions policies and balanced teaching about different beliefs and values. It has launched a fundraising campaign to coincide with the unveiling of the billboards which will raise money for the campaigns to phase out state funded ‘faith schools’.
Under the EHRC and Human Rights Act it is stated that all people, children and adults, have the right to ‘freedom of religion and belief’. It also states that the parent has the right to have their children educated in conformity with their beliefs. However Humanists believe this right is meant to protect people from state conformity and does not mean that the state needs to provide that education.
Humanists feel that by telling children they belong to a specific religion they believe there is something intrinsically different about other children and this is a barrier to interpersonal and social cohesion, as well as to mutual understanding.
Listen to a clip of Blakely Nixon putting forward the Humanist argument against faith schools:
The latest campaign follows a 14o,ooo pound aetheist advertising campaign on British buses and the London Underground which was launched in January. Slogans on the buses read: ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’
Ariane Sherine, the original creator of the bus campaign, said: ‘I hope this poster will encourage the government, media and general public to see children as individuals, free to make their own choices, and accord them the liberty and respect they deserve.’
The bus campaign was launched in October 2008 and aimed to raise just 5,500 pounds. Within four days it had raised 100,000 pounds in individual donations from the general public and went on to raise over 153,523 pounds, meaning it surpassed its original target by 2791%.
This campaign prompted outrage and retaliatory campaign from Christian groups. The 1990 Broadcasting Act made broadcast advertising on religious themes possible. The main poster being used in the latest campaign is a bus shelter nativity painting by the artist Andrew Gadd and it bears the slogan: ‘Christmas starts with Christ: Church 25/12’.
Lacking in the size of budget which backs the British Humanist Association, churches are encouraged to buy their own 105 pound bus advertising. People are also encouraged to launch their own free campaign through local notice boards, shop and house windows, church magazines and newsletters or printing out posters from the website.
Anna Moran is the press officer for the Archbishop of the Church of Wales. She discusses objections to the Humanist adverts:
Whilst Humanists say they are campaigning for children to be seen as individuals, free to make their own choices, religious organisations argue that such campaigns are in themselves a contradiction. An anonymous Christian blogger writes:
‘It would seem that the varied and expansive indoctrination of children within the media, education and commercialist systems are fine, as long as it has no positive reference to God. Not all indoctrination is equal it would seem, within the Humanist world view.’
It seems that this, like many arguments regarding religion, is a case were the two sides will not reach an agreement. As the subject continues to incite such passion, it is likely that this struggle will remain in the public sphere for all to see.