It’s that time of year again…

Before you berate me for hopeless romanticism or being a sucker for the marketing message, let me just clarify: it’s time for the London demonstration for a Secular Europe! For those unfamiliar with the event, I should explain that it isn’t an anti-religious march but a demonstration against the privileged access of religious groups to political institutions in Europe. It’s held in solidarity with demonstrators in Italy who protest each year against the undemocratic influence of the Vatican in Italian politics. I attended the demonstration last year and I shall be there again today. If you are interested in finding out more or coming along, a letter from the organisers is included below:

Dear friends,

Join us and march for human rights this coming Sunday 14th of February at the “NO VATICAN – London for a Secular Europe” demonstration.

The Central London Humanist Group will be proud to be leading this event in partnership with the British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society, the Rationalist Association, Peter Tatchell’s OutRage!, the One Law for All campaign, the Protest the Pope campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.

We are protesting in solidarity with Italian secularists the Vatican’s insidious interference in the politics of Europe. We are not opposing any person’s right to freedom of expression or the right for freedom of religion and belief, quite the contrary.

The reason for this event is the behaviour of the Vatican. So we will start our demonstration outside Westminster’s Catholic Cathedral. Then we will march to the Italian embassy to show solidarity with this weekend’s “NO VATICAN” protest in Rome. The Italian demonstration is organised by Italian secularists. Italy suffers painfully from the toxic effects of  Vatican interference in Italian politics.

The Vatican will not relinquish its power and privileges. We have no reason to believe it will change its behaviour or that it will voluntarily stop using its privileged access to the levers of political power. We therefore demand that there be a clear separation between church and state. We call for an end to Vatican interference in our DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS.

The Pope should not be allowed to meddle in Europe’s democratic system. Not in Italy. Not in Britain.
We are NOT challenging the Pope’s right to express his views.
Our demand is for a transparent and democratically accountable secular Europe. We ask the Italian government and all European governments to stop their cosy collusion with the Catholic Church. The Vatican is not a European State like any other and should not be engaged with as if it were. It is an ecclesiastical monarchical state, created in 1929 and with only a few hundred citizens. It is neither a member of the European Union nor of the United Nations but has carved out various agreements for privileged access and special treatment.

Program of the demonstration – Sunday 14th February 2010:

– Assemble: 1pm at Westminster Cathedral (note: not the Abbey. Meet in Ambrosden Ave, by the side of the Cathedral)
– March: from Westminster Cathedral to the Italian embassy
– Rally: 3pm – 5pm at the Italian embassy (Grosvenor square)

Speakers at the Italian embassy (3pm) :

* Bob Churchill (British Humanist Association),
* Derek Lennard (Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association)
* Maryam Namazie (One Law for All)
* Gerard Phillips (Protest The Pope)
* David Pollock (European Humanist Federation)
* Terry Sanderson (National Secular Society)
* Peter Tatchell (OutRage!)
* Josh Kutchinsky (Central London Humanist Group)

You can find templates for placards on the websites below or make your own placards to say “NO! to the Vatican” and promote a secular society where human rights are paramount and no group can be above the law.

You can invite others to join at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=415005340443 and http://www.meetup.com/Central-London-Humanists/calendar/12192702/

If you can’t make the protest (or this just isn’t your sort of thing)  you can still show support and have your shout by RSVPing ‘No’ and leaving a comment on the “wall” on facebook.

If mobility is an issue, please come directly to the Italian embassy just before 3pm, where the representatives of the partnering organizations will deliver their speeches.

I can reassure you that the march will be a fantastic event for children. This demonstration will be peaceful and colourful and there will be no need to worry at all. To keep everybody safer, there will also be St John Ambulance advanced first aiders walking at the side of the march together with the MetPolice officers, while the traffic will be shut to let us walk safely towards the Italian embassy.

Thank you for your support!!

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