Equalities & human rights chief told to apologise for bias against non-believers

TREVOR Phillips, the chair of Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), is in hot water with the British Humanist Association following “biased” comments he made in a recent interview.

Phillips is reported to have stated:

Our business is defending the believer. The law we’re here to implement recognises that religious identity is an essential part of this society. It’s an essential element of being a fulfilled human being.

According to this report, the BHA described Mr Phillips’ comments as “divisive and sectarian”, and has called for a an apology.

Trevor Phillips

Legally, the EHRC’s duties apply equally to the non-religious and religious. But the BHA says this is widely overlooked.

Phillips also reportedly made “a number of acerbic comments” about those who are critical of religious beliefs, suggesting, without supplying any evidence, that such people wanted:

To drive religion underground.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson, commented:

Trevor Phillips is the head of a commission which is responsible for the legal rights and interests not just of religious people but of non-religious people too. When he suggests that having religious belief is essential in order to be fulfilled as a human being, he is belittling them.

Copson continued:

If [the EHRC chief] made such divisive comments on grounds of race, saying ‘it’s my job to stand up for white people’, he would rightly be excoriated. But somehow the fashionable sentiment that religion is good and non-religious people are hectoring and oppressive – when in fact the opposite is often the case – makes him think that this particular sort of bigotry is okay. It isn’t.

Mr Phillips states that the Commission’s role is in ‘defending the believer’ and that his ‘real worry’ is unfair treatment of religious people. He should tell that to the non-religious parent who can’t get their child into the local school while Christian neighbour can, or the child expected to worship in school against his or her wishes, or the employee refused promotion by a religious employer contracted to provide a public service on behalf of the state because he or she doesn’t believe in God.

He continued:

With ill-informed remarks like these coming from the head of the Commission, non-religious people must have diminishing confidence that it is concerned with or even understands their interests.

The BHA has lodged a complaint against EHRC chair Phillips through the Commission’s official complaints channel, in particular asking for an apology from for misrepresenting his role and the role of the Commission.

The BHA is also calling for the training of Commissioners, including Phillips, so they will be aware of their statutory duties in relation to the protection of people against discrimination, whatever their beliefs.

Such comments as Mr Phillips’ appear to condemn criticism of religions, running counter to the EHRC’s responsibilities to protect the human right to freedom of speech, says the BHA – which stresses that it seeks to work positively with religious as well as non-religious groups in ensuring a level playing-field for all in public life.

A while back, Phillips fell foul of gay rights organisations when the EHCR appointed an evangelical Christian, Joel Edwards. He later expressed his regrets over the appointment, saying:

I want today to acknowledge the real hurt and pain this has caused many in the LGBT communities. And I want to acknowledge my own failure to understand it wasn’t just a few strong voices from lobby groups but the voice of many in the community. I wish that we had handled this differently and that I knew then what I know now.


I supported the appointment of Joel Edwards and I continue to support his work today.

27 responses to “Equalities & human rights chief told to apologise for bias against non-believers”

  1. Broga says:

    This prejudice is ingrained in someone like Philips. He, and others of his ilk, assume that religion is right and if you are not religious you can be ignored. His prejudice is so much part of him I suspect he doesn’t know what he is doing most of the time. The idea that atheists would object to this bigotry would come as a shock to him.

    The same approach is inherent in the religious Mafia of the BBC. They think they are entitled to ignore a very large part of their audience.

    I’m delighted Philips has been critcised by the BHA and I think his overt prejudice raises very serious questions about his fitness for his job.

  2. Brian Jordan says:

    He’s come very near to calling atheists subhuman. I’ve come very near to citing Godwin’s Law.

  3. Daz says:

    You’d think that the head of a commission dealing with equality would know the definition of the word ‘equality’, wouldn’t you. It’s not like it’s a hard concept to grasp. You’d also think he’d be aware of the irony implied by Orwell’s ‘some are more equal than others’. Ho-hum.

    OT, but for those with access to BBC iplayer, there was a moving documentary last night, Abused: Breaking the Silence, about yet another disgraceful Catholic cover-up.

  4. remigius says:

    Broga. I totally agree. The ideal person to hold that position should be a mixed-race, agnostic hermaphrodite with a limp.

  5. Daz says:


    Well, we’re all mixed race if you go back enough generations. I believe that if there were a god, its presence would be unprovable; so I’m at least technically an agnostic. I have a limp. (Broke me knee in a motorcycle accident.) I’ve also been told to go fuck meself on many occasions, which must mean I’m hermaphroditic.

    Can I have me first pay-cheque in advance please? I’m a bit strapped…

    BTW, Bob “I’m so persecuted” Hutton seems to think that Phillips’ statement was anti-Christian. Go figure.

  6. J Roberts says:

    I have made a complain, and I encourage as many as possible to do the same. Then they might wake up to the fact that they are also specifically tasked by the Equality Act of 2010 to protect non believers.

  7. JR says:

    On the other hand and Barriejohn, has provided the link. Philips was criticised for his remarks this weekend, regarding the intolerance and political gain of some high profile christians. I notice that there were thousands of red arrows criticizing Philips in the Daily Mail. However, concern regarding the appalling way some elderly are treated in this country, received far less attention. I sometimes wonder, whether the whole red arrow comment question interaction in the Daily Mail,is a fix.

  8. asquith says:

    Phillips is a bellend, and I have no idea how he came to be respected and treated as though he were some kind of authority (a bit like Rowan Williams really).

    He should have a look at this:

    That is all I ask for.

    The fact is that secular states do not persecute religions, they simply don’t privilige them, which offends faithheads because they are used to receiving preferential treatment. It should be obvious that a state like the USSR, which went out of its way to try and destroy religion by means of state power, is not on the agenda of the so-called new atheists (aka the ones who won’t sit in a corner and shut up while the godly authorities talk bollocks and pray.

  9. The Woggler says:

    I don’t wish to drive religion under ground. I just want people to be educated to see for themselves what a complete pile of bullshit it all is.

  10. Daz says:

    Actually, it’s the fundies and such who want religion underground, though they don’t consciously realise it. They want to be the persecuted minority, who have to meet secretly in cellars and all that. Of course, if they ever came face to face with real persecution, they’d pee ’emselves, but they love the story-book romantic ideal of it.

  11. remigius says:

    OK Daz the job’s all yours. However as a hermaphrodite, technically half woman, you’ll be receiving a lower salary. If you don’t like this you can always take the matter up with the head of the EHRC.

    Erm, that’s you.

  12. Broga says:

    @Brian Jordan: Philips wrote:

    “Our business is defending the believer. The law we’re here to implement recognises that religious identity is an essential part of this society. It’s an essential element of being a fulfilled human being.”

    Your are right. He does come close to calling the non religious sub human. He says that atheists cannot be fulfilled human beings. It doesn’t occur to him that celibate priests, if such exist, must be even less fulfilled. Or does he regard religious and often ignorant fundies fulfilled human beings when atheists are not. What chance would an atheist or gay, never mind atheist and gay, person have of getting fair treatment from this ineffective, inefficient and profligate organisation. I see they have wasted vast sums of public money but say they are putting systems in hand to deal with this.

    How long, in fairness to everyone, can this man be allowed to keep his job? He is a an expensive failure in running his organisation and his prejudice is exposed for all to see. He should, as they say, “Consider his position” and very soon.

  13. Dave Gilbert says:

    And don’t forget, Trevor Philips is the informed brother that said the Muslim Community is the most integrated minority in the Country. Ahem…bigotry in Tower Hamlets, 7/7, Glasgow airport…anybody?

  14. Stonyground says:

    I would say that it was an essential element of being a fulfilled human being to have outgrown the infantile world view that is promoted by most religions, by the age of twelve.

    As for Phillips, he is head of the equality and human rights commission and does not appear to know what the word equality actually means.

  15. barriejohn says:

    Dave Gilbert: I posted a link to that above. He may well have a point regarding the bellyaching Christians in Britain, but they are used to their privileged position both here and in the USA. If he thinks that the Mohammedans would be conciliatory and accommodating if in the majority then he need look no further than Saudi Arabia, Indonesia or Pakistan!

  16. Daz says:


    Thanks. For my first act, I shall make pi equal three. Then I shall make one shilling equal 12p, thus gaining myself the love of Daily Express readers everywhere…

    Oh, wrong kind of equal? Damn.

  17. JohnB says:

    Daz – Thank you so much for the link to “Abused: Breaking The Silence”.
    Moving, indeed! How wonderful that some thoughtful, decent, & brave men have presented such a formidable challenge to the sheer nastiness of the Roman Catholic establishment. We’ll just have to wait, I guess, for the emergence of similar courage amongst the abused & brainwashed masses of so many other denominations, sects, and religions.

  18. AgentCormac says:


    Good point.

    Incidentally, I’d say it’s also an essential element of being in a position of public responsibility to have an unbiased, non-discriminatory attitude. The same would be true of an open mind, beliefs that weren’t offensive to a large section of society and, perhaps most importantly, half a bloody brain!

    Quite frankly, Trevor Philips should do the decent thing and go.

  19. Newspaniard says:

    @AgentCormac. Go? On his salary? With his “job-for-life”? Without anyone able to sack him? You are kidding… Ask again in 30 years.

  20. barriejohn says:

    Here’s a story which has caused much mirth here at Barriejohn Towers!

  21. AgentCormac says:

    Just wishful thinking, Newspaniard.

  22. barriejohn says:

    Jack Van Impe – a “fulfilled human being” – in full flight. Sorry if I’m ploughing a lone furrow here, but it just amuses me no end when these “people of faith” even pretend to be able to present a united front!

  23. Brian Jordan says:

    Ah, the Good Doctors!

    Jack Van Impe and his wife have received doctorate degrees from Pacific International University, an unaccredited Christian university.
    There’s a lot of them about. Sadly.

  24. barriejohn says:

    I noticed that, Brian – doctors my arse!

  25. Bubblecar says:

    This clown shouldn’t be in the employment of an Equality and Human Rights Commission at all, let alone in charge of it. Kick him out pronto, please.

  26. barriejohn says:

    And what would he do then, Bubblecar? Think of the poor children!