The Government has responded to an online petition on the 10 Downing Street website asking:”We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to recognise the moral and ethical values held by Atheists as on a par with with religions.”
“A large part of britain’s society is made up of secular atheists. However, when referendums and debates are taking place, there is hardly ever a representative of humanist views for example, meaning that many people’s values are not being appreciated, in favour of religious ones. I only ask that Atheist ethics are given fair and preportional representation in the consideration of legislation. We also ask that legeslation protecting religious views from attack, are equally applied to atheism and that remarks such as “Atheists are immoral” are treated in the same way as if ‘Atheists’ was replaced with ‘Jews’, ‘Muslims’ or ‘Christians’.”
The Government responded saying:
The Government respects the right of all citizens to freedom of belief, thought and expression. The moral and ethical values which underpin Humanism make an important contribution to British society. It is important that the diverse perspectives and needs of all communities are reflected in government policy, without excluding the shared values which underpin cohesive communities.
There are occasions when Government has conducted consultation exercises with faith communities, where there has been a specific relevance to faith related issues, or where a faith based perspective has been required. However, it continues to be a priority of Government to ensure that those without a faith perspective are also able to participate in constructive debate on a range of policy issues and to inform the development of legislation. The experiences which exist within the wide range of Atheist, Humanist and other secularist organisations make them key partners of Government and integral to the process of developing and implementing social policy.
Recent legislation countering racial and religious hatred only bans material or conduct which is threatening, and only if it is intended to stir up hatred of a group defined by its religion or belief. The right to freedom of speech, including robust debate and satirical comment, is safeguarded.