Secularist of the Year 2012 - Peter Tatchell   20 Mar 2012

The Peter Tatchell Foundation

Secularist of the Year 2012 - Peter Tatchell

Irwin Prize for defending the separation of religion and the state

London, UK - 19 March 2012

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has won this year's award for Secularist of the Year. He was presented with the £5,000 Irwin Prize by the author and freedom of expression campaigner Nick Cohen, at a ceremony in London hosted by the National Secular Society (NSS) on Saturday, 17 March 2012. The audience included prominent scientists, journalists, politicians and writers.

See the NSS website:

http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2012/03/peter-tatchell-named-secularist-of-the-year

Anthony Gajadharsingh, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said:

"We are delighted that our Director, Peter Tatchell, has been given this prestigious award. He has been a voice of human rights and secularism for more than four decades; challenging religious intolerance and defending freedom of belief for people of all faiths and none. While opposing special rights and privileges for religious organisations, the Peter Tatchell Foundation will continue to work for the human rights of everyone, believers and non-believers alike," he said.

Commenting on his receipt of the award, Peter Tatchell added:

"I feel very privileged and honoured to receive the Irwin Prize. However, compared to the heroism of secularists and humanists living under religious fundamentalist regimes, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, my own efforts are quite insignificant. I salute their courageous, inspiring work in defence of rationalism, scientific knowledge, freedom of expression and human rights.

"I pay tribute to my humanist and secularist colleagues in many countries, including Leo Igwe in Nigeria, Kato Mukasa in Uganda and George Thindwa in Malawi.

"Worldwide, organised religion is the single greatest threat to human rights; especially to the rights of women, LGBT people, atheists and minority faiths. Religious-inspired dogmas persecute Christians in Pakistan, Sunni Muslims in Iran, Shia Muslims in Bahrain and Jewish people in much of the Middle East. In many countries, atheists and apostates face discrimination, harassment, threats and violence from religious zealots. Some Islamist countries have the death penalty for Muslims who turn away from their faith. Even in the West, the religious right menaces freedom of expression and equality, with its demands for the censorship of the satire that targets religion and with its campaigns in defence of gender and sexual orientation discrimination.

"Secularists support the separation of religion and the state. With no established state religion, there is equality for people of all faiths and none. Secularism is the best guarantor of religious freedom. It is in the interest of people of all faiths, as well as the interests of non-believers. People are entitled to their faith but they are not entitled to insist that their religious values are the law of the land," concluded Mr Tatchell.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said:

"We are very pleased to have been able to reward Peter's lifelong commitment to human rights and to honour his support for a just and inclusive secular society. He has been active in many progressive campaigns over the past forty or more years, not least on gay rights, and has had to endure much public and press abuse because of it. But he has persevered and now he has made the unprecedented transition from public enemy number one to national treasure."

Mr Sanderson said in his introduction to the presentation:

"I'm very pleased to see that at last he (Peter Tatchell) has been recognised as a true secularist and someone who has given much to the cause....

"Of course, you'd have had to live on the moon not to have been aware of Peter's many campaigns to drive forward human rights. He is an international player and perhaps his most famous confrontation was that with Robert Mugabe, the tyrant of Zimbabwe . This resulted in him being badly beaten by Mugabe's thug-like minders.

"Peter is a fighter for civil liberties, criminal justice, democracy, free speech, LGBT rights, sex education and social justice.

"He has also faced physical attack in Russia and regularly finds himself the subject of attack in the streets and on public transport. His home is a fortress, but his determination remains resolute.

"The NSS first came across Peter when, in 1998, he audaciously climbed into the pulpit at Canterbury Cathedral and interrupted the Archbishop mid-flow. He wanted to call him to account for his antipathy to gay rights, something the Archbishop had consistently refused to address.

"Peter was charged under an obscure piece of legislation: the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860. It uniquely protects churches from "riotous, violent, or indecent behaviour" and prosecutes anyone who "shall molest, let, disturb, vex, or trouble" a priest. The reverse, of course, doesn't necessarily apply. For all those who have been molested, let, disturbed or troubled by a priest, there's little redress - particularly given that the worst offenders are secreted away by the Pope in the Vatican, beyond the reach of those troublesome international arrest warrants.

"It is a law that uniquely protects churches and chapels - in other words a religious privilege - and it was at that point that we took up his cause. A conviction could have resulted in a substantial prison sentence.

"The magistrate could not avoid finding Peter guilty but showed his contempt of the law under which Peter was convicted by fining him a derisory £18.60, the year the Act was passed expressed in pounds and pence," said Mr Sanderson.

Clive Bone, the former councillor at the centre of the Bideford council prayer victory in the High Court was awarded the £1,000 Simon Biber Memorial prize for Special Achievement.

Previous winners of Secularist of the Year are:

2011 - Sophie in 't Veld MEP (presented by A. C. Grayling)
2010 - The Southall Black Sisters (presented by Dr. Michael Irwin, accepted by Pragna Patel)
2008/2009 - Evan Harris MP and Lord Avebury (presented by Richard Dawkins)
2007 - Mina Ahadi (presented by Joan Smith)
2006 - Steve Jones (presented by Dick Taverne)
2005 - Maryam Namazie (presented by Polly Toynbee)

(University of Auckland)

Add a comment

Bookmark and Share

News

NZ welcomes interception of IUU fishing vessels

23 May 2015 News
Foreign Minister Murray McCully has welcomed the news that two well-known illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing vessels,... more

Archives New Zealand to rebuild Christchurch facility

22 May 2015 News
22 May 2015 The Budget confirms $6.1 million in operating funding over the next four years and $13 million of capital funding from... more

Business

NZ consumer confidence slips in May

22 May 2015 Business News By Tina Morrison
May 22 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand consumer confidence slipped in May as sentiment about current and future conditions eased. The... more

Consumer NZ vs Qantas

20 May 2015 Business News
Article - BusinessDesk   Consumer NZ ramps up campaign to get Qantas's Jetstar to drop pre-ticked booking forms May 20... more

Living

NZ Surfer Daniel Kereopa in New Documentary

23 May 2015 Lifestyle
The pride and glory of winning The Ultimate Waterman is relived for Kiwi Daniel Kereopa in a documentary that went live online this... more

Britain remembers the ANZACs - 100 years on

25 Apr 2015 ANZAC By Charlotte Everett
100 years after allied forces landed in Gallipoli, 25 April – ANZAC Day – has been commemorated in the UK officially for... more

Property

New guidance on home construction

22 May 2015 Property
Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith today released at the Certified Builders’ Association conference in Christchurch... more

Goodman Property lifts FY earnings 5.4% on revenue growth

20 May 2015 Property By Paul McBeth
  Goodman Property lifts FY earnings 5.4% on revenue growth, cost clamp down May 20 (BusinessDesk) - Goodman Property Trust,... more

Migration

Migrant exploitation Bill passed

30 Apr 2015 Migration
The Immigration Amendment Bill (No 2) which cracks down on employers who exploit migrant workers passed its final reading in... more

NZ migration hits new annual record in March

23 Apr 2015 Migration By Tina Morrison
April 23 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand migration hit a new annual record in March, as more students arrived from India and China and... more

Travel

Border clearance levy to be introduced

21 May 2015 Travel & Tourism
New Zealand Government Hon Nathan GuyMinister for Primary IndustriesHon Nicky WagnerMinister of Customs 21 May 2015 Border clearance... more

Two new tourism projects to receive funding

20 May 2015 NZ Tourism
  Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key has today announced the Government is investing in two new tourism projects in... more

Sport

Lord's century for Kane Williamson

23 May 2015 Cricket
DAY THREE First Innings: England 389 (Root 98, Stokes 92, Buttler 67, Ali 58; Henry 4-93, Boult 4-79) v BLACKCAPS 523 (Guptill 70,... more

BLACKCAPS tour of England: First Test at Lord's Cricket Ground

22 May 2015 Cricket
First innings at stumps on Day One: England 354-7 in 90 overs (Root 98, Stokes 92, Buttler 67, Ali 49*; Henry 3-93 on Test debut) DAY... more

Columns

Gordon Campbell on Budget 2015

22 May 2015 Opinion By Gordon Campbell
From the outset, the slogan for yesterday’s Budget - “The Plan Is Working” – begged to be mocked.... more

Gordon Campbell Key’s abuse of secrecy over Iraq & The TPP

30 Apr 2015 Opinion By Gordon Campbell
  For the past week or so we’ve been hearing a lot about the child-like side of our Prime Minister. So I guess we... more

Kiwi Success

Top biology student off to Denmark Olympiad

21 May 2015 People
Sixteen-year-old Waikato Dio student Nikita Lyons is one of four students representing New Zealand at the International Biology... more

New High Commissioner to Tonga

15 May 2015 Appointments
Foreign Minister Murray McCully has today announced diplomat Sarah Walsh as New Zealand’s new High Commissioner to... more

Recruitment

NZ's growing ICT sector drives more diverse economy: Joyce

15 May 2015 State of the Market Report By Paul McBeth
  NZ's growing ICT sector drives rapid economic diversification, Joyce says May 15 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's information... more

5,500 more doctors and nurses in our hospitals

15 May 2015 Recruitment
  Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says a record number of doctors and nurses are working in District Health Boards across the... more