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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

Georgian blasphemy law to impose fines for insulting religion

Georgian blasphemy law to impose fines for insulting religion

Mon, 08 Feb 2016 14:58

Plans in Georgia to pass an anti-blasphemy measure with punitive fines for 'offences' have drawn criticism from a non-Orthodox bishop, and from an MP of the ruling coalition.

Victory for free speech as Pastor James McConnell found not guilty over “grossly offensive” sermon

Victory for free speech as Pastor James McConnell found not guilty over “grossly offensive” sermon

Tue, 05 Jan 2016 11:23

The National Secular Society has welcomed a court's ruling that Northern Ireland Pastor James McConnell is "not guilty" for a sermon he uploaded online that was critical of Islam.

Verdict delayed in prosecution of "offensive" Northern Ireland preacher

Verdict delayed in prosecution of "offensive" Northern Ireland preacher

Wed, 16 Dec 2015 16:47

The judge presiding over the trial of Pastor James McConnell – accused of sending a grossly offensive message by uploading a sermon critical of Islam – will not give a verdict until 5 January 2016.

National Secular Society defends cinemas’ freedom not to screen religious adverts

National Secular Society defends cinemas’ freedom not to screen religious adverts

Mon, 14 Dec 2015 13:38

The NSS has defended cinema chains' freedom to refuse religious or political advertising after the Equality and Human Rights Commission accused them of "failing to uphold Britain's long tradition of freedom of expression."

Muslim Reform Movement embraces secularism and universal human rights

Muslim Reform Movement embraces secularism and universal human rights

Tue, 08 Dec 2015 11:58

A coalition of Muslim writers, activists and politicians has launched a "Muslim Reform Movement" rejecting violence and calling for a defence of secularism, democracy and liberty.