Decision to deny humanists voice on RE in Southampton to be retaken after legal threat

Human rights, SACREs, and the law

People may have seen some recent media coverage about Southampton Council agreeing to revisit a decision blocking local humanist Mary Wallbank from joining Southampton’s Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE).

With the support of Humanists UK, Ms Wallbank is making a legal challenge on the basis that her exclusion violates human rights law.

Humanists UK explores the situation further on its website, where the organisation’s UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham comments, “… 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.”

Dr. Wareham was booked to be our speaker for the November 2020 meeting of the Ludlow and Marches Humanists. Unfortunately, COVID-19 derailed those plans. Let’s hope we have an opportunity to hear from Dr. Wareham when we are permitted to meet in person once again.

So what’s a SACRE and are humanists represented in Ludlow?

A SACRE – Standing Advisory Committee for Religious Education – is a local committee made up of teachers, councillors, and volunteer representatives of religious groups, which determines and manages Religious Education (RE) and collective worship in most local state schools.

Ludlow is covered under the Shrewsbury SACRE, where humanist representation is provided by Dr. Simon Nightingale, who is also Chair of Shropshire Humanists. Dr. Nightingale reports constructive participation on the committee, where he is able to provide meaningful input and ensure the humanist viewpoint is considered.

Learn more:

Example of recent media coverage from, April 7

Humanists UK response in the Southampton case

Humanists UK campaigns for reform of religious education

Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (Wikipedia)