A “Protest the Pope” march brought ten times as many people as expected to a rally opposite Downing Street, in London on Saturday, 18 September. [Photos] Media reported as many as 12,000 people at the rally, which was organized by a coalition including many IHEU member organizations in Britain. Protestors objected to the government funding the Pope’s visit and criticized the Vatican’s position on issues including family planning, homosexuality, condoms, women’s rights, and the child abuse scandal in the Church.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society (NSS), expressed the joy of many at the protest’s popularity: “This day was maybe a turning point for the secularist movement in Britain, when at last people brought their worries about intrusive religion on to the streets. Let us hope that the passion we saw today will translate into an invigorated and expanded secular movement in Britain and the Government will see that any attempt to force religion into our lives will be fiercely resisted.”
Speakers at the event included: Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association and vice president of the IHEU; atheist author Richard Dawkins; Maryam Namazie of IHEU member organization, One Law for All; Terry Sanderson, NSS president; and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
Noting that Vatican representatives had said of the Pope’s visit that going to Britain was like landing “in a third world country” and that the country was “a moral wasteland”, Copson added that “Last night, in Westminster Hall, speaking to the political elite of our country, the Pope questioned whether secular democracy alone could have any values at all.
“I just want to mention what it is that we who are here today support – the values that get us marching.
“We support equality.
“We support human rights.
“We support secular and liberal democracy.
“And we support justice, even if that justice is inconvenient for the power and reputation of churches and clergy.
“Those are real moral values – values to live by in the twenty first century and the values you are supporting by being here today.”
–thanks to National Secular Society for photos. To see more pictures go to: http://www.secularism.org.uk/protest-the-pope-rally-sees-thou.html