Why a humanist federation ?

Many people are humanist without knowing it. They believe that religion is above all a matter of private concern and that only separation between the state and religions can provide an impartial framework to accommodate everybody, religious or not.

The European Humanist Federation (Fédération Humaniste Européenne), based in Brussels, was created in 1991 and unites more than 50 humanist and secularist organisations from about 20 European countries. It is the largest umbrella organisation of humanist associations in Europe, promoting a secular Europe, defending equal treatment of everyone regardless of religion or belief, fighting religious conservatism and privilege in Europe and at the EU level.

EHF's work is justified by two main realities : the persistence of religious conservatism in European countries and the existence of a strong lobbying of extremist religious organisations towards European institutions.


Persistence of religious conservatism 

Secularization is growing in Europe. But a closer look at several European countries shows that the separation of their governments from religion is far from guaranteed and that religious conservatism impedes social progress. This is the case in Italy, Ireland, Poland, Malta, Cyprus, Greece and Slovakia for instance but also in many more. 

In these countries, humanist and secular organisations are fighting for public decisions and policies to be based on reason rather than on dogma.


"Christ, yes. Divorce, No." - A poster in Malta during the  referendum  on legalizing 
divorce (Malta- May 2011)

Demonstration against Corpus Christi, a play considered as "blasphemous" 
by neo-nazi activists and orthodox priests (Athens, October 2012)

Extremist religious policy activism at EU level 

Although the European Union is founded on the shared principles of human rights and the rule of law, in practice EU decision-making is subject to strong lobbying by conservative religious organisations trying to impose their views on issues like women’s reproductive and sexual health and rights, LGBT rights, euthanasia, freedom of expression, etc. 

These groups present themselves as “human rights oriented” and against discriminations, sometimes in a very deceptive way. They use human rights terminology to fight against contraception, abortion, freedom of speech, gay marriage/adoption or stem cell research. They present themselves as victims of discrimination which they call “Christian persecution” or “christianophobia”. They hide behind “religious freedom” to implement their conservative agenda and to limit human rights and equality.

This urgently needs to be counter-balanced. This is the task of the EHF and its member organisations which propose ambitious and progressive policies to European decision-makers with full respect for equality, freedom of choice and freedom of belief for all. 

Humanist services

But humanism is also about values, about how to conduct one’s life in the best possible way, promoting peace, freedom, equality and solidarity. So beside this advocacy work, our organisations are active on the field of values and education and offer various forms of social help, including funerals and other non-religious ceremonies

What do we want ?

Complete separation between religion and the State throughout Europe and at EU level as the best way to guarantee freedom of religion or beliefs;

Protection of freedom of religion and belief, which includes the right not to believe and the right to change your belief;

Protection of freedom of thought and speech, which implies opposition to laws prohibiting “blasphemy”;

Equal treatment for all and non-discrimination on all grounds (ethnic or national origin, religion and belief, disability, age, gender, sexual orientation, etc);

Specifically, the promotion and protection of women’s sexual reproductive health rights when and where they are threatened.

What do we do ?

We use our ethical, legal, political and scientific expertise to propose changes in European and international public policies when our values are at stake;

We promote individual freedom and oppose the influence of religious conservatism on European policies;

We work in partnership with a large network of associations - including progressive religious organisations - with which we share goals and interests to promote fundamental rights in Europe and oppose conservative religious lobbying;

We support our 55 member organisations based in more than 20 European countries in the challenges they are facing at a domestic level;


Where are we active ?

The EHF is recognised as an official partner of the European Union (EU) under the Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). We are therefore regularly consulted by the EU Commission, Parliament, Council and the European External Action Service  (EEAS).
The EHF is aso Member of the Advisory Board of the European Parliament Platform for Secularism in Politics (EPPSP), the Parliament's cross party platform on secularism.

At the EU level, we also work with the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).
We collaborate with the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
Since 2014, we have also been active at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations where we have a consultative status. Our work towards the UN is made in close collaboration with the International Humanist and Ethical Union