It all began when the fledgling United Kingdom Armed Forces Humanist Association (UKAFHA) asked the British Humanist Association (BHA), though its local groups, to campaign for those of no religion to be included in Remembrance Day Services across the country and to lay wreaths on its behalf. Dorset Humanists decided to approach the organisers of the Bournemouth service and having worked for about two and a half years for inclusion, it has been agreed by the Council and participants in the service (and parade) that Dorset Humanists will make a contribution as do local religious leaders.
The service is led by a Church of England clergyman along national guidelines formulated by Churches Together in England and Ireland and the Royal British Legion. The guidelines are flexible according to local preferences. In Bournemouth the service has been modified over the years to permit leaders of other religions to make short addresses and our aim was to persuade them to let the Chair of Dorset Humanists to do the same.
A meeting was called at which David Warden and Richard Scutt were able to present our case to Council officials, Rev.Dr. Ian Terry (who leads the service) and around 15 representatives of groups including Veterans associations, War Widows, Cadets, Guides and Royal British Legion. We were given a fair hearing and all present were given the chance to question us. After an hour or so of lively discussion and with considerable support from Rev. Terry in particular, the meeting decided that our proposal was accepted in principle. It now remains for the details of the address and the entry in the printed Order of Service (hundreds of which are handed out to attendees) to be agreed.
We are, at the time of writing, one of two groups (the other is Oxford Humanists) who have achieved this seemingly small but very significant concession. The BHA and UKAFHA are delighted and will encourage other local groups to do the same. The BHA is campaigning to get inclusion in the national ceremony at the Cenotaph though to date, Government ministers have stubbornly refused.