The happy smiley children used by humanists in a don’t-label-me-as-religious billboard campaign actually come from an evangelical Christian family.
The images used by the British Humanist Association (BHA), as part of a nationwide advertising drive, were bought from a stock photo library and the BHA had no way of knowing the children’s background.
The children’s father, Brad Mason, said: “It is quite funny, because obviously they were searching for images of children that looked happy and free.
“They happened to choose children who are Christian. It is ironic. The humanists obviously did not know the background of these children.”
Mr Mason added: “Obviously there is something in their faces which is different. So they judged that they were happy and free without knowing that they are Christians.
“That is quite a compliment. I reckon it shows we have brought up our children in a good way and that they are happy.”
The Times reports the two children are Charlotte, aged eight, and Ollie, who is seven-years-old.
Andrew Copson, the BHA’s Director of Education and Public Affairs, said: “It doesn’t matter whether the children are the children of Christians, Hindus or humanists – that’s precisely one of the points of our campaign”.
Mr Copson added: “People who criticise us as if we’d said that children raised in religious families couldn’t be happy or that no child should have any contact with religion or learn anything about it at all should take the time to read the adverts and think about their message rather than rely on their own assumptions.
“The message of the posters is that the labelling of children by their parents’ religion fails to respect the rights of the child and curtails their autonomy.
“We are saying that religions and philosophies (and ‘Humanist’ is one of the labels we use on our poster) should not be foisted on or assumed of young children and that young people have the right to choose for themselves in line with their developing capacities as they grow.
“That’s very far from saying that any possible reference to religion should be prohibited in the home!”
The posters are part of a campaign which promotes getting rid of faith schools.
Billboards proclaiming: “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself” were placed in major cities across the UK last week.
The posters show the children surrounded by religious names including “Protestant child” and “Buddhist child” alongside other descriptions such as “Marxist child” and “Anarchist child”.
Richard Dawkins, the atheist campaigner, said at the launch of the campaign: “Nobody would seriously describe a tiny child as a ‘Marxist child’ or an ‘Anarchist child’ or a ‘Post-modernist child’.
“Yet children are routinely labelled with the religion of their parents. We need to encourage people to think carefully before labelling any child too young to know their own opinions and our adverts will help to do that.”
But Christians said the ideas behind the campaign are flawed.
Paul Woolley, who is Director of Theos, a theology think-tank, said the campaign “assumes that there is a position of philosophical neutrality out there, a value-neutral cultural space in which children can grow up”.
Mr Woolley added: “The question is not whether or not we want children to grow up with values or no values, but which values we want to nurture in them.”
And Revd Jan Ainsworth, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, writing on the Guardian website, said: “It is surely central to the role of a parent, whether committed to a religious faith or not, to want to pass on to their child the things they value most, the beliefs and world view that shape how they live.
“It is also consistent with that role to want to have those beliefs and world view acknowledged and affirmed as part of their children’s education.
“That is why we have a diverse range of schools within the state sector, from which parents can choose.
“And they choose Church of England schools in their tens of thousands because we offer a balanced education within a Christian framework. We aim to develop in children the ability to make informed choices in life.”