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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Freedom of expression

The National Secular Society robustly challenges religious threats to free expression. The Society's 140 year campaign to abolish the blasphemy law in England succeeded in 2008 and we continue to campaign to resist blasphemy laws in other parts of the world where in some places conviction can carry the death penalty.

Our latest campaign sets out to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act to remove the word 'insulting'. We believe the removal of 'insulting' would afford greater protection to freedom of expression – for both the religious and non-religious.

We campaign vigorously against all attempts to restrict free speech and artistic expression, and in 2006 were instrumental in ensuring the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill was amended to protect free speech.

We campaigned when attempts were made to ban the showing of Jerry Springer the Opera on the BBC, and the show was eventually broadcast.

The NSS has been in the forefront of efforts to oppose the modification of the United Nations Human Rights Charter by Islamic nations that would render it ineffective, and even counterproductive, in the area of free speech.

The current attempt to make 'defamation of religion' a crime would prevent and punish any criticism or questioning of religious belief and practices - even those that contravene current Human Rights.

If religion — any religion — is off-limits for open debate we are in a very dangerous situation. And if it is off-limits because of perceived threats from radicals, then it is even more dangerous. It is capitulation to terrorism.

Everyone should be allowed to speak freely, whatever their beliefs as only in the public arena can contentious ideas be debated and, if necessary, exposed and countered.

Read our briefing paper on Freedom of Expression

Related News

Quebec ‘hate speech’ law will target “people who would write against … the Islamic religion”

Quebec ‘hate speech’ law will target “people who would write against … the Islamic religion”

Wed, 02 Sep 2015 10:38

The Quebec National Assembly is considering a bill that would be used to criminalise criticism of Islam under the aegis of banning "hate speech".

Petition calls for Bangladeshi police chief to resign after he warned secularists not to insult religion

Petition calls for Bangladeshi police chief to resign after he warned secularists not to insult religion

Tue, 18 Aug 2015 13:53

A petition has been started calling for the head of Bangladesh's police to resign after he told secularists not to 'cross the line' by insulting religious feelings, days after Niloy Neel was killed.

Free speech campaigners demand to know why play on Islamic extremism was cancelled

Free speech campaigners demand to know why play on Islamic extremism was cancelled

Tue, 18 Aug 2015 13:39

Index on Censorship and English PEN have called for answers after 'Homegrown', a play about radicalisation, was cancelled by the National Youth Theatre shortly before its first performance.

McConnell vows to “preach the same message” after first court appearance for anti-Islam sermon

McConnell vows to “preach the same message” after first court appearance for anti-Islam sermon

Fri, 07 Aug 2015 07:49

Pastor James McConnell has said he will carry on preaching his message about Islam, after his first day in court over an allegedly 'offensive' sermon.

UAE makes ‘offending God’ illegal

UAE makes ‘offending God’ illegal

Wed, 05 Aug 2015 12:02

The United Arab Emirates has passed an 'anti-hatred' law which it has claimed will help tackle discrimination, but which outlaws 'insulting' religion.