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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

New Charlie Hebdo editor speaks out to defend secularism

New Charlie Hebdo editor speaks out to defend secularism

Mon, 19 Jan 2015 16:13

Gérard Biard, editor of Charlie Hebdo, has spoken out on the virtues of a free press and on the importance of satirising religion.

Sky News cuts-off live interview and “apologises” for airing image of Prophet Mohammed

Sky News cuts-off live interview and “apologises” for airing image of Prophet Mohammed

Thu, 15 Jan 2015 11:50

Caroline Fourest, former writer for Charlie Hebdo, was cut off during a live interview with Sky News as she held up a copy of the Charlie Hebdo magazine front cover.

Egyptian cleric warns of “new wave of hatred” over Charlie Hebdo cartoon

Egyptian cleric warns of “new wave of hatred” over Charlie Hebdo cartoon

Tue, 13 Jan 2015 16:20

The Egyptian Grand Muftihas criticised Charlie Hebdo's decision to print a new cartoon featuring the Prophet Mohammed and warned of a "new wave of hatred."

BBC restrictions on depicting Mohammed must be abolished, says NSS

BBC restrictions on depicting Mohammed must be abolished, says NSS

Fri, 09 Jan 2015 10:38

The National Secular Society is calling on the Government to compel the BBC to remove a restriction on any depiction of the prophet Mohammed.

IHEU report reveals extent of global discrimination against non-believers

IHEU report reveals extent of global discrimination against non-believers

Thu, 11 Dec 2014 12:26

The International Humanist and Ethical Union's second annual report on the state of human rights for non-believers, atheists and agnostics around the world has found a global "trend towards targeting 'atheists'."