Tony Pettengell may be right to worry about some of the things he mentions in his ‘Apocalypse now…’ article (Personnel Today, 5 June), but the amendment to the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations to include ‘any philosophical belief’ isn’t one of the them.
This amendment to the Equality Regulations in the Equality Act 2006 (which removed the word ‘similar’ from the phrase ‘any similar philosophical belief’ and specifically mentions protection for the absence of religion or the absence of belief) was simply designed to clarify that the non-religious, including humanists, have the same protection against discrimination on grounds of their non-religious beliefs as the religious have on grounds of their beliefs.
That was always the government’s intention anyway, and it’s also what is required by the EU directive on which the UK employment regulations are based, and indeed by the Human Rights Act, which also outlaws discrimination on the grounds of ‘religion or belief’. And there is plenty of human rights case law to confirm that ‘belief’ includes non-religious beliefs such as humanism.
If the various ‘cults’ (his word, not mine) mentioned are protected under the regulations, it would be as ‘religions’, rather than as ‘beliefs’. There is, as far as I know, no case law on any of the ‘religions’ cited, so it remains to be seen whether any of them would be accepted as a religion in the context of these regulations. But the amendment to the regulations won’t alter that decision either way.
Hanne Stinson, chief executive, British Humanist Association