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

10 year passports will be delivered early

24 Aug 2015 News
10 year passports will be delivered early Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne today welcomed the Government Administration Select ... more

One month left for councils to get digital enablement plans sorted

19 Aug 2015 News
New Zealand Government Hon Amy AdamsMinister for Communications 19 August 2015 Local authorities have four more weeks to submit a... more

Business

NZ wool prices unchanged at auction amid Chinese uncertainty

28 Aug 2015 Business News By Tina Morrison
  NZ wool prices unchanged at auction amid Chinese uncertainty Aug. 28 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand wool prices held steady at... more

NZ dollar bounces from six-year low

25 Aug 2015 Business News By Paul McBeth
Article - BusinessDesk   NZ dollar bounces from six-year low after market volatility takes a breather By Paul McBeth Aug. 25 ... more

Living

It’s Snoopy’s Birthday!

10 Aug 2015 Entertainment
20th Century Fox is celebrating Snoopy’s birthday ahead of the release of the first animated Peanuts movie SNOOPY AND CHARLIE... more

NZ's Sola Rosa Sound System heads to London - interview with Andrew Spraggon

6 Aug 2015 Entertainment By Charlotte Everett
Sola Rosa Sound System comes to London on 20 August – NZNewsUK London Editor Charlotte Everett had a chat with frontman Andrew... more

Property

Auckland house price growth stalls in July: Barfoot

5 Aug 2015 Property By Tina Morrison
  Auckland house price growth stalls in July as properties 'fully priced', Barfoot says Aug. 5 (BusinessDesk) - Auckland house... more

Site purchased for Pt Chevalier Kindergarten

31 Jul 2015 Property
New Zealand Government   Hon Nikki Kaye Associate Minister of Education   31 July 2015   Site purchased for Pt... more

Migration

NZ net migration reaches new annual record in June

21 Jul 2015 Migration By Paul McBeth
  NZ net migration reaches new annual record in June, swelled by Indian, Chinese students July 21 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand... more

NZ migration rises to new annual record in May

22 Jun 2015 Migration By Suze Metherell
  NZ migration rises to new annual record in May, closing in on Treasury's upside scenario June 22 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand... more

Travel

Air NZ to continue alliance with Cathay Pacific

25 Aug 2015 Travel & Tourism By Joshua Riddiford
Air NZ to continue alliance with Cathay Pacific, targets Asian tourists Aug. 25 (BusinessDesk) - Air New Zealand's has had its... more

Partnerships push New Zealand’s profile abroad

25 Aug 2015 NZ Tourism
25 August 2015 Campaigns promoting New Zealand as an outstanding visitor destination reached more than 1.2 billion people globally... more

Sport

All Blacks squad for Rugby World Cup 2015 announced

30 Aug 2015 Rugby
30 August 2015 The All Blacks squad for Rugby World Cup 2015 has been announced with the All Blacks selectors selecting a squad... more

Gold medals for Austria and Slovakia after close slalom

30 Aug 2015 Sport
Winter Games NZ Gold medals for Austria and Slovakia after close fought slalom at Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2015 A world class... more

Columns

Gordon Campbell on the flag campaign

25 Aug 2015 Opinion
Gordon Campbell on the flag campaign So far, the public has treated the government’s flag campaign with something between... more

Gordon Campbell on Donald Trump, and Dr Dre

19 Aug 2015 Opinion
Gordon Campbell on Donald Trump, and Dr Dre   For the past few months, you, me, and Rupert Murdoch have been waiting for the... more

Kiwi Success

Former cricketer Simon Doull signs with NZME

19 Aug 2015 Appointments
Former cricketer and established broadcaster Simon Doull signs with NZME 19 August 2015 – New Zealand Media and Entertainment... more

New ECan commissioner appointed

6 Aug 2015 Appointments
Elizabeth Cunningham has been appointed as a commissioner at Environment Canterbury (ECan), Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and... more

Recruitment

Eleven straight quarters of job growth

5 Aug 2015 Recruitment
The latest labour market data shows continued job growth, with 7,000 more people employed over the last quarter and 69,000 more New ... more

NZ unemployment rate rises to 5.9% on weaker jobs growth

5 Aug 2015 Recruitment By Paul McBeth
NZ unemployment rate rises to 5.9% as jobs growth lags behind growing population Aug. 5 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's jobless rate... more