Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson (image above) was invited to, and attended, the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla at Westminster Abbey on 6th May. He tweeted 'Attended the coronation today as part of civil society, invited by the UK Government to represent @Humanists_UK. Pleased at this national recognition for all the good work humanists do in our communities and contribute to the life of our society. I think the invitation reflects appreciation of the significance of the humanist approach to life and so it was welcome. Humanists contribute a great deal to life in the UK and humanist ideas bring fulfilment and moral support to millions. But of course, the ceremony itself was one of exclusively Christian worship and this was a shame. In a diverse, mostly non-religious society, state occasions would be better if they reflected our shared values rather than unshared beliefs. Hope this will come to pass in future.'
So was Andrew right to attend the Coronation?
Aaron says 'No'
Humanists UK, the national organisation that advocates for a secular state free of religious privilege, made the decision to be a part of this event, signalling its approval. I don't support the monarchy, but I don't support protest either, and so I wouldn't have actively campaigned to block it or interfere. After all, the majority of Brits like this kind of stuff. But I think absence was a better choice, as indeed it was for me. A family 'appointed by God', who are considered to 'better' than their 'subjects', living a life of wealth and privilege whilst being undemocratic in every sense – what part of this is okay from a humanist point of view?
If someone personally likes the pageantry, ceremony, or unifying nationalism that comes from these events then that, I guess, is fair enough. But when you represent a humanist organisation, I feel that attendance is completely off target. How can you ever campaign against it in the future? I'm sure Andrew Copson wrestled with his conscience on this one but I'm not sure how to square this circle.
David says 'Yes'
Aaron makes some good points above, but I believe that Andrew Copson was absolutely right to attend the Coronation and I am proud of the fact that he was there, representing humanists. Humanists can object to certain aspects of it, as Andrew did in his tweets, but the fact that humanism was recognised in this way is a fantastic advance. It would have been churlish to boycott the event. Charles is our head of state. It was a high honour indeed for Andrew to be invited to this ceremony on our behalf, along with representatives from many other worldviews. Humanism needs to be at the heart of our national life – not just a pressure group carping from the sidelines. So I say, well done Andrew.