Chichester humanists will not join Remembrance Sunday service

Humanist Andrew Edmondson 14LANOV9a-21 PPP-140911-195340006
Humanist Andrew Edmondson 14LANOV9a-21 PPP-140911-195340006

AN ARGUMENT over whether Chichester’s Remembrance Sunday service should be altered to make it less religious has reared its head for the second year running.

After holding a separate wreath-laying ceremony last year, Andrew Edmondson of the British Humanist Association said he felt frustrated the city council decided not to alter its service this year to make it less religious.

“Chichester Humanists will not be laying a wreath at this year’s ceremony because we oppose religious privilege in public life,” he said. “Chichester City Council is deliberately promoting religious privilege on behalf of its residents.”

Rodney Duggua, town clerk, was asked by the mayor to consult with a number of ex-service representatives and the local branch of the Royal British Legion about introducing a secular element to the service earlier this year. He said the suggestion was met with ‘universal objection’.

“The tenor of the feedback received indicated that whether people had faith or no faith, the words in the form of service, partly due to their familiarity, offered solace and comfort at this time,” he said.

In August, Mr Edmondson attended a finance meeting of Chichester City Council where a move to change the service was discussed and rejected by councillors.

“The president of the local Royal British Legion had indicated that if a secular service was introduced he would have to seek advice on the position of the legion taking part,” said Mr Duggua.

“The suggestion was made by a number of the ex-service organisations that the humanists could do as they did last year and lay a wreath at the close of the service, but this would not satisfy the point being made by Mr Edmondson about inclusiveness.”

He added the existing order of service followed a recommended order proposed by the legion several years ago at a national level.

“The hymns we sing were those used when the war memorial was unveiled in 1921,” he said.

Mr Edmondson said he had been seeking a ‘slight rearrangement’ of the service to accommodate ‘non-religious residents’ in the main service. He described the recent decision as a ‘missed opportunity’.

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