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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

Queen’s Speech: concerns over illiberal Government counter-terror plans

Queen’s Speech: concerns over illiberal Government counter-terror plans

Wed, 27 May 2015 13:23

The National Secular Society has expressed concern over new "anti-extremism" plans announced in the Conservative Government's first Queen's Speech.

Government’s anti-extremism plans will have 'chilling effect' on free speech

Government’s anti-extremism plans will have 'chilling effect' on free speech

Thu, 14 May 2015 12:55

The National Secular Society has expressed concern at the Government's new proposals to challenge extremism and radicalisation.

NSS joins calls for Government to recognise global discrimination against atheists- as third Bangladeshi blogger is hacked to death

NSS joins calls for Government to recognise global discrimination against atheists- as third Bangladeshi blogger is hacked to death

Tue, 12 May 2015 13:44

The National Secular Society is calling on the Government to do more to tackle global discrimination against non-believers, secularists and humanists- after a third Bangladeshi secular blogger was murdered.

Bath Student Union says decision to cut Jesus and Mohammed sketch was “in line with normal practice”

Bath Student Union says decision to cut Jesus and Mohammed sketch was “in line with normal practice”

Mon, 11 May 2015 13:03

Bath Student Union has defended their decision to cut 'blasphemous' material from a student group's comedy show, saying that it is "normal practice" for Student Union officers to edit scripts.

British Muslim Youth object after cancellation of debate following police intervention

British Muslim Youth object after cancellation of debate following police intervention

Tue, 05 May 2015 11:39

A Muslim youth organisation has complained that a debate they had arranged with ex-EDL leader Tommy Robinson was prevented from taking place by South Yorkshire Police and the Rotherham Borough Council.