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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

Effort to repeal New Zealand blasphemy law delayed

Effort to repeal New Zealand blasphemy law delayed

Wed, 24 May 2017 15:19

An attempt by Labour MP Chris Hipkins to remove anti-blasphemy laws from New Zealand's statute book has failed after National Party and Maori Party MPs voted it down.

Campaigns against blasphemy laws gather steam following Ahok conviction and Fry investigation

Campaigns against blasphemy laws gather steam following Ahok conviction and Fry investigation

Wed, 10 May 2017 10:24

Indonesia, Denmark and New Zealand are facing calls to repeal their blasphemy laws, following the conviction of Jakarta's former governor for blasphemy and an investigation into Stephen Fry.

Calls for abolition of Irish blasphemy law following investigation of Stephen Fry

Calls for abolition of Irish blasphemy law following investigation of Stephen Fry

Mon, 08 May 2017 09:18

The National Secular Society has called for the repeal of Ireland's blasphemy law after Irish police dropped an investigation against Stephen Fry over a complaint of 'blasphemy' related to an interview aired in 2015.

Death sentence for Saudi ‘apostate’ amid surge of violence against atheists across Islamic world

Death sentence for Saudi ‘apostate’ amid surge of violence against atheists across Islamic world

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 15:19

A Saudi trial based "heavily on Koranic law" has resulted in a death sentence for a 'mentally ill' man who denounced the Islamic 'prophet' Mohammed.

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.