Leicester Secular Society refuses to leave God out of campaign
By Peter Reeve
Leicester Secular Society today vowed to continue its poster campaign on census responses to religion – despite warnings the wording could be offensive.
Buses in Leicester have been carrying the society's posters with the slogan: "If you're not religious, for God's sake say so."
The society wants non-believers to tick the "no religion" box on this year's census.
But the British Humanist Association (BHA), which had planned to use the same slogan for a national poster campaign, said it had been forced to change the wording.
It was told by the Committee of Advertising Practice that the original wording had the potential to cause widespread and serious offence.
As a result, the British Humanist Society posters – which will be displayed on more than 200 buses in London, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham, Cardiff and Exeter – will now carry the slogan: "Not religious? In this year's census, say so."
Dr Emma Chung, president of the Leicester Secular Society, said they would be continuing with their poster campaign, despite the CAP's recommendation.
The society also intends handing out British Humanist Society leaflets with the original "for God's sake" slogan on them.
Dr Chung said: "Buses in Leicester have been carrying these ads for nearly two weeks with no complaints from the public.
"Our advertisements are intended to be a humorous way of drawing people's attention to a serious issue.
"Leicester has a well-earned reputation for tolerance and I am sure that apart from a few zealots, the majority of religious people have a sense of humour."
Dr Chung says that during the 2001 census, many people felt compelled to answer "Christian" when it came to their religious belief, either out of habit or because they felt they ought to.
But she says doing so leads to inaccurate figures, which are then used to justify policies that "do not reflect the real demographics of our society".
Andrew Copson, BHA chief executive, said: "This censorship of a legitimate advert is frustrating and ridiculous.
"The blasphemy laws in England have been abolished but we are seeing the same principle being enforced nonetheless."
But the CAP insisted it had not banned the British Humanist Association from using the "for God's sake" slogan, merely given it advice.
A spokesman said: "Leicester Secular Society, just like the British Humanist Association, are not duty-bound to take our advice.
"We may or may not investigate if we get any complaints about Leicester Secular Society's poster campaign, but at this stage we have not received any complaints."
The British Humanist Association is a national charity which champions atheists and agnostics.
Its work is based on improving human welfare, happiness and fulfilment.
The National Secular Society is a pressure group which fights for the rights of atheists and agnostics.
I was wondering why Leicester didn't appear in the list of cities where buses would be carrying posters with the amended wording. Now I know. Although, as a regular bus passenger (at least twice a day) I've yet to see one of these posters inside or on the outside of a bus in Leicester. As soon as I do, faithful reader, I'll let you know of course.