1. Skip to content

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.

One recent success was our campaign to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act to remove the word 'insulting'. The removal of the word 'insulting' affords greater protection for the freedom of expression of both the religious and non-religious alike.

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

UK government must ensure it protects free speech with new counter-extremism plans

UK government must ensure it protects free speech with new counter-extremism plans

Wed, 18 May 2016 16:02

A broad coalition of campaign groups including the National Secular Society has warned that proposals contained in the Queen's Speech could criminalise a "wide swathe of speech."

NSS: Efforts to better integrate religious minorities must include a reappraisal of faith schools

NSS: Efforts to better integrate religious minorities must include a reappraisal of faith schools

Tue, 10 May 2016 06:57

The National Secular Society has welcomed comments from Trevor Phillips calling for the "active integration" of religious minorities but warned that this cannot be done without tackling faith schools.

Turkey sentences opposition journalists to prison over Muhammad cartoon

Turkey sentences opposition journalists to prison over Muhammad cartoon

Fri, 29 Apr 2016 12:22

Two Turkish journalists have been sentenced to two years in prison for republishing a cover of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with a cartoon of Muhammad.

Bangladeshi government must act over killings and defend free speech

Bangladeshi government must act over killings and defend free speech

Wed, 27 Apr 2016 14:07

The National Secular Society has written to the Bangladeshi High Commission criticising their government's inaction over a spate of Islamist killings.

‘Blasphemy’ accusation after academic calls for separation of religion and politics

‘Blasphemy’ accusation after academic calls for separation of religion and politics

Mon, 18 Apr 2016 14:47

A Kuwaiti philosopher was questioned over blasphemy charges after she said that religion and politics should be separate and that placing the Koran above the constitution was "undoing" democracy.