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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

Pakistani twitter users call for hanging of ‘blasphemer’

Pakistani twitter users call for hanging of ‘blasphemer’

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 14:55

Many Pakistanis and other Muslims from around the world called for the execution of a secular writer for blasphemy over the weekend, causing #HangAyazNizami to trend on Twitter.

43% of universities restrict speech that might “offend” religious people

43% of universities restrict speech that might “offend” religious people

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 16:07

University administrations are becoming increasingly "censorious", with 43% of universities censoring speech that might "offend" religious people, according to online magazine Spiked.

Legacy of Charlie Hebdo honoured in event at Parliament

Legacy of Charlie Hebdo honoured in event at Parliament

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:01

Members and supporters of the National Secular Society gathered in Portcullis House on Wednesday night to discuss the future of free speech, two years after the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

MP says Government's silence over Louis Smith heralds "unwritten blasphemy law"

MP says Government's silence over Louis Smith heralds "unwritten blasphemy law"

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 14:53

Charles Walker MP has criticised the media for unleashing "a torrent of venom" against Louis Smith, and said the Government was "nowhere to be seen" when it should have been defending free expression.

Bangladeshi society being destroyed by Islamic fundamentalism, says exiled writer

Bangladeshi society being destroyed by Islamic fundamentalism, says exiled writer

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 10:38

Exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, who lives under constant protection, has told AFP that Islamic fundamentalism has destroyed Bangladeshi society.