Humanist issues and the Deputy Leadership candidates

I’m not a Labour party member and haven’t been particularly following the Deputy Leadership elections, but there’s been plenty of discussion amongst B4L members. The Labour Humanist Group recently questioned each candidate on a series of issues of interest to humanists. Roughly paraphrased, the questions were:

#1 – What is your stance on faith schools?
#2 – What do you think of schools that declare their intent to ‘nourish’ religious children and ‘challenge’ non-religious children?
#3 – Would you repeal compulsory Christian worship in schools?
#4 – Do you support religious organisations taking charge of employment and other social services, if they would use their position to promote their own religious beliefs?
#5 – Do you support a fully-elected house of lords, with no religious privilege?
#6 – What is your view on assisted dying for the terminally ill?

I haven’t seen these questions asked elsewhere – good work, LHG! So, how do the various candidates compare?

Hilary Benn

#1 – answers oddly – his sentence is either badly constructed or deliberately worded as to be ambiguous. Wouldn’t scrap them, though.
#2 – blah
#3 – no, because more debate is needed as we ‘live in a Christian state’! WTF.
#4 – thinks religious discrimination is bad except ‘where this is part of our long standing culture’. See, it being long-standing makes it ok.
#5 – is in favour of fully-elected HoL, but doesn’t mention Bishops.
#6 – not yet persuaded due to potential abuse of system, although can see there is a strong case.

Hazel Blears

#1 – big fan of faith schools.
#2 – blah
#3 – flat out ‘no’, without reasoning
#4 – no – all should be ‘equitable’.
#5 – thinks there should be more faiths in the HoL (no comment on 100% elected) and adds she doesn’t support disestablishment of the CoE.
#6 – blah

Jon Cruddas

Blah #1-6. Says nothing at all. Well, maybe that he supports a 100% elected HoL, but that doesn’t really answer the question.

Peter Hain

#1 – result! Suggests faith schools perpetuate ‘sectarian division’. Says parents have ‘right’ to send their children to a school with a particular ethos – interesting choice of word, I think – but standards of curriculum must be upheld. Closest to an anti-faith-schools position of all candidates
#2 – hmm. Says ‘parents have the right to determine whether or not their children are taught particular religious beliefs at school’. Depends on definition of ‘taught’ – as general knowledge or as indoctrination? I’m unconvinced parents have any more ‘right’ to decide on the former than they do whether their child gets taught maths.
#3 – doesn’t believe it is for the state to compel acts of worship. Yay! This says nothing about individual schools, of course, but is nevertheless pretty good
#4 – no. ‘Everyone is entitled to equal access to all services’. Ruled out all faith-based exemptions in Ireland, too.
#5 – in favour of 100% elected. No comment on bishops.
#6 – blah.

Harriet Harman

#1 – seems to be skeptical, but makes a classic mistake in placing discrimination against religious belief on a par with discrimination against gender, race, age and disability. Religious belief is just an idea and doesn’t deserve such protected status. Your race, age, disability or gender say nothing about your ideas or opinions. Your religion does, and you can change it at will. Giving it special status is like allowing discrimination against people who dislike nuclear power, or vote Conservative. But she seems to broadly have the right idea, and wants to ensure faith schools wouldn’t divide the community.
#2 – same as Peter Hain. Unclear.
#3 – same as Peter Hain. Doesn’t believe it is for the state to compel acts of worship. Yay!
#4 – no place for discrimination. Didn’t think Catholics should get an opt-out on adoption agencies.
#5 – supports 100% elected HoL. No direct comment on Bishops, but says all ‘unquestionable rights’ are bad, religious or otherwise.
#6 – supports assisted dying! Only candidate to say this.

Alan Johnson

#1 – Thinks faith schools provide good education and services to community. When he mentions government policy he is supportive, but his own opinions suggest he wants them heavily regulated. Only person to really mention staffing discrimination issues – says schools must prove that staff need to be religious. Adds that he opposes religious exemptions generally.
#2 – Same as PH and HH. Unclear.
#3 – blah. Risky to read between the lines, but seems to think that allowing children to be withdrawn is sufficient.
#4 – blah.
#5 – Wants 80:20 split. Mentions Bishops and thinks it would be difficult for them to stay ‘in their current numbers’. Unclear what this means. Close to blah.
#6 – is skeptical.

I think Harriet Harman comes out top on Humanist issues, very closely followed by Peter Hain. Hazel Blears is at the bottom, and Jon Cruddas doesn’t get to play as he didn’t answer the questions.

Update: the BHA points out a proper writeup on Comment is Free, which happily comes to the roughly the same conclusions as me.