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Providing a voice for humanist and non-religious individuals in the Ministry of Defence

Celebrant Services including weddings, funerals and key life events.

Non-religious (NR) pastoral support when you seek answers to those big questions or you need a non-judgemental listening ear.

Non-religious remembrance services, speaking events, or World Humanist Day ideas. 

Who we are

Humanists and Non-Religious in Defence (HAND), founded in 2010, is a Diversity and Inclusion Network of the Ministry of Defence (MoD, UK). HAND was established to promote serving personnels Humanist and non-religious worldviews as being equal to those of major world faiths and to ensure compliance with the Equality Act (2010) and the Defence Diversity and Inclusion Strategy (2018).  HAND also works closely with Defence Humanists, a section of Humanists UK, led by Dr Roger Hutton and supported by Patrons AC Grayling, Dan Snow and Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou. Defence Humanists exist to support serving and retired military personnel, their families and MoD Civil Servants.

Our history

The HAND network originated as the UK Armed Forces Humanist Association (UKAFHA) and later became the Defence Humanist Network (DHN) to include MOD civil servants before renaming as the Humanist and Non-religious in Defence (HAND) network in 2021.

The need was identified as non-religious members of the UK Armed Forces had seen a steady increase in numbers, accounting for 37.2% of Regular and 29.1% of Reserve members according to the UK Armed Forces Biannual Diversity Statistics: 1 October 2022. 2023 recruitment figures indicated 54% of the Army, 62% of the Royal Navy, 67% of the Royal Marines and 63% of the RAF were non-religious.

Celebrant Services

The HAND network provides members of the MOD community with non-religious ceremonies (Humanist weddingsfunerals and naming ceremonies) through Humanist Celebrants.

HAND also provides non-religious variations of ceremonies and events that have traditionally had religious themes, such as Remembrance Day. Our services adhere to the Royal British Legion guidelines which ensure the service is inclusive of the whole community, in honour of the diversity of those who gave their tomorrow for our today . Since 2018, Humanists have been represented at the national Remembrance ceremony, a step towards its original design of the Cenotaph which was for people  "from all parts of the empire, irrespective of their religious creeds"

Two Brides
Therapy Session

Non-religious pastoral support (NRPS)

HAND advocates that Service Personnel in need of Pastoral care support should be able to choose to speak to someone who shares their worldview and that the MOD should provide a service mirroring that offered in NHS trustsHM Prison Services and UK Universities.

Official, non-religious pastoral networks currently exist in a number of other military organisations including the DutchNorwegian and Canadian Armed Forces however, currently the MOD only employs religious Chaplains as the providers of officially recognised Defence pastoral services for UK Defence personnel.

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