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

15,000 fewer people dependent on benefits

17 Apr 2014 News
New Zealand Government 15,000 fewer people dependent on benefits Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the latest benefit ... more

Govt to establish Food Safety Science & Research Centre

16 Apr 2014 News
  Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye today announced that expressions of interest... more

Business

Air NZ says claims withdrawn as other airlines settle in Oz

17 Apr 2014 Business News
Article - BusinessDesk   Air New Zealand says claims withdrawn as other airlines settle over cargo cartel, seeks costs April 17 ... more

Genesis Energy soars on debut, other gen-taliers rise

17 Apr 2014 Business News By Suze Metherell
  Genesis Energy soars on debut, leading fellow energy companies higher April 17 (BusinessDesk) – Shares in the partially... more

Living

The Taite Music Prize: IMNZ announces this years winner

17 Apr 2014 Entertainment
The winner of the fourth annual Taite Music Prize 2013 is Lorde for her album ‘Pure Heroine’ released on Universal Music... more

3 Mile Limit Movie Continues to Win Awards in the U.S

15 Apr 2014 Lifestyle
New Zealand movie ‘3 Mile Limit’ has won Best Feature Film at both the North Hollywood and Charleston International Film... more

Property

NZ house values rise at slowest annual pace in 6 months in March, QV says

7 Apr 2014 Property
April 7 (BusinessDesk) – New Zealand property values increased at the slowest annual pace in six months in March as lower... more

Auckland landlords lead in capital gains

28 Mar 2014 Property
Three-bedroom houses in Glen Innes giving an annual capital gain of 18.9%, followed by New Windsor. Auckland landlords are making... more

Migration

New working holiday agreement between New Zealand and Croatia launched

28 Mar 2014 Migration
Citizens of Croatia aged between 18 and 30 will soon be eligible to apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa, giving them the... more

New Zealand immigration hits ten year high

28 Mar 2014 Migration
New statistics have shown net migration to New Zealand to be at a 10 year high, with China becoming the largest source of new... more

Travel

Chinese company to build $200M hotel on Auckland waterfront

16 Apr 2014 Travel & Tourism By Suze Metherell
  Company linked to one of China’s richest women to spend $200 mln on Auckland hotel April 16 (BusinessDesk) – Fu... more

SmartGate opens to arriving UK & US travellers

3 Apr 2014 Travel & Tourism
Customs Minister Maurice Williamson today announced SmartGate is now open to United Kingdom and American travellers on arrival. The... more

Sport

Dan Carter: All Blacks's goal is back-to-back World Cups

17 Apr 2014 Rugby By Oliver Brown
New Zealand No 10 is loving his sabbatical, including a trip to the Masters, however his only motive is to return fit and fresh for... more

Seeds March to Quarters at Skycity NZ Badminton Open

17 Apr 2014 Sport
TOP SEEDS CONTINUE MARCH TO QUARTER FINALS AT SKYCITY NZ BADMINTON OPEN Top seeds dominated in this morning’s 3rd round... more

Columns

Gordon Campbell: drone strikes & Judith Collins‘ last stand

17 Apr 2014 Opinion
Reportedly, US drone operators refer to their kills as "bug splat” - mainly because when the carnage is viewed on their... more

Gordon Campbell on the life & ACC work of Sir Owen Woodhouse

16 Apr 2014 Opinion
With the death of Sir Owen Woodhouse, the founding father of the Accident Compensation Scheme, New Zealand has lost one of the... more

Kiwi Success

BNZ names Anthony Healy as new CEO, replacing Thorburn

17 Apr 2014 Appointments
April 17 (BusinessDesk) – Bank of New Zealand, the local unit of Australia’s third-biggest mortgage lender, named the... more

Kiwi alpinist is finalist for prestigious award

26 Mar 2014 People
NZ Alpine Club Kiwi alpinist is finalist for prestigious mountaineering award New Zealand Alpine Club President John Cocks has today... more

Recruitment

Growth seen further lifting average wage by $7,500

15 Apr 2014 Recruitment
  The average annual wage is expected to increase by $7,500 to around $62,200 a year by 2018 if New Zealand achieves its ... more

NZ employment confidence lifts in 1st-qtr

31 Mar 2014 Recruitment
Article - BusinessDesk   NZ employment confidence lifts in 1st-qtr, current job opportunities seen less negative March 31 ... more