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Humanists to talk blasphemy issues at Wanstead Library

PUBLISHED: 14:30 08 February 2016 | UPDATED: 14:30 08 February 2016

Humanist speaker Bob Churchill. Picture: International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)

Humanist speaker Bob Churchill. Picture: International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)

Archant

People should be able to talk freely about religion without fear of persecution, a humanist speaker has said.

Bob Churchill, of secularist NGO International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), is due to give a talk entitled End All Blasphemy Laws Everywhere at The Churchill Room, Wanstead Library, Spratt Hall Road, Wanstead this month.

Mr Churchill, who has been invited by East London Humanists, said he will explore what some religious minorities and atheists have been subjected to around the world.

“Blasphemy laws exist in far too many countries,” he said.

“They affect the ability of religious minorities, and people that want to criticize and discuss religion, to ask questions.”

“It’s preventing people from making changes.”

The speaker, who says it’s “very important at a basic social level” to talk about religion, insisted secularism and religion could co-exist “side by side”.

“The whole purpose of secularism is to be neutral,” he said. “We’re not beating on religion, but there are countries that have religion built into their systems – we’ve seen people imprisoned for supporting atheism because of it.”

Mr Churchill said blasphemy laws are “damaging” even to religious majorities.

He said: “There might come a point where you think a policy is bad and these laws can prevent you from criticizing it.”

He added: “We shouldn’t think hearing things that question our most deeply held beliefs are a personal attack – it’s part of being able to interact.

“Some people may think they shouldn’t have to hear the bad, but we all hear things we don’t like all the time – and there’s no way to prevent it.”

The campaigner, who said the group was not against laws covering hate crime, urged people to come along to “stay informed” about blasphemy issues.

The free event takes place on Monday, February 22, between 7pm and 9pm. The group is inviting guests to join them at The George pub, High Street, Wanstead, after the talk.


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