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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.

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

NSS welcomes calls for more sophisticated approach to extremism and radicalisation

NSS welcomes calls for more sophisticated approach to extremism and radicalisation

Thu, 25 Aug 2016 15:03

The NSS has tentatively welcomed parts of a report by the Home Affairs Committee on counter extremism and radicalisation. Aspects of the report have been criticised by free speech and counter-extremism advocates.

Defend Free Speech coalition challenge government failure over extremism orders

Defend Free Speech coalition challenge government failure over extremism orders

Wed, 13 Jul 2016 13:41

Security minister Karen Bradley MP has faced strong criticism in a letter from the Defend Free Speech coalition, following her appearance before the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

European Commission announces online crackdown on “hate speech”

European Commission announces online crackdown on “hate speech”

Thu, 02 Jun 2016 15:45

Tech companies including Facebook and Twitter have signed up to a new European Commission plan designed to clampdown on online "hate speech."

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.