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Newsline 22 December 2017

  

As the end of the year draws near, your NSS campaigns team have as busy as ever, despite hopes for a quiet last week before Christmas. Our successful campaigning has led to Amazon UK withdrawing infant circumcision training kits from sale after we raised concerns about the wholly unregulated area of non-therapeutic religious surgery on children.

And in the same week that the BBC announced it would increase its religious output, we've called on the Beeb to explain why it acted as a propaganda arm of the Church of England after it broadcast the Today programme live from the Archbishop of Canterbury's Lambeth Palace.

In his end of year message, our chief executive, Stephen Evans, celebrates the role of secularism in bringing peace and goodwill to all humans and takes to task the minority of Christians who use the Christmas period to attack those who challenge their sense of entitlement. Secularism, he explains, like Christmas, is something we can all appreciate, whatever our religious beliefs.

Our offices will be closed until 2 January, but there will be a special Newsline with the top 10 blogs of 2017 and we'll be back in the New Year, with plenty to look forward to. If you're not already a member, why not make it your New Year's resolution to support the NSS? You can start a regular donation from just £1 a month, and together we can make a fairer secular democracy for all.

All that remains to say is a big thank you to all our members and supporters for your support throughout the year, enjoy the Christmas holiday and have a happy New Year.

  

News & Opinion

 

Success! Amazon withdraws infant circumcision training kits following NSS campaign

Amazon UK has withdrawn infant circumcision training kits from sale over child safety concerns after an NSS request to do so.

 

BBC should portray religion in critically-informed way, says NSS

The NSS has said the BBC should portray religion fairly after it pledged to increase the religious content in its programming.

 

NSS challenges BBC Today’s “PR exercise for C of E”

The NSS has written to the BBC over an episode of Radio 4's Today show which it called a "PR exercise for the Church of England".

 

Secularism is a challenge to religion’s political power and privilege, not people of faith

Some Christians use the Christmas period to attack secularism for its challenge to their sense of entitlement. But Stephen Evans says the faithful have far more to fear from religious fanatics than secularists.

 

Faith ethos loophole risks undermining sex education, NSS warns

The Government has launched a consultation on guidance which will allow sex education to be taught from a religious perspective.

 

Children’s rights paramount as trans parent gets visitation appeal

A judge has ruled that a transgender parent can appeal to have contact with her children, despite a religious community's opposition.

 

Only reform of the law can tackle the Church's temptation to cover up abuse

After three weeks of damning evidence at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Richard Scorer says mandatory reporting of institutional abuse is necessary to prevent churches from covering it up.

 

NSS book review series

Stuck for a last minute gift idea? Nothing says "Christmas" like an exploration of 'the vicious circle of Islamist and far-right extremism', a dark counterfactual celebrating the power of resilience and redemption in the face of theocratic oppression, or the definitive biography of NSS founder Charles Bradlaugh.

  

Tickets are now on sale and nominations are open for Secularist of the Year 2018. The awards ceremony and social reception will be held on Saturday 24 March in central London. Member tickets are £40. Join us to celebrate the outstanding groups and inspiring individuals advancing secularism and related human rights.

Find out more...

  

Quotes of the week

"If we let ourselves be intimidated out of discussing these issues, it's children who will suffer."
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief, on the threats she's received for criticising private faith schools

"Modern religion can be about charity and community. But it can also be about heresy, apostasy, misogyny, excommunication and violence. If we are to live with, talk about and respect religious belief, then we must also criticise, question and make fun of it, as we might any other belief."
David Aaronovitch responds to the BBC's pledge to pay more attention to religion

"The courts don't believe in god and shouldn't treat religious cases differently."
Adam Wagner, human rights barrister and founder of Rights Info, responds to a ruling that a transgender parent from an orthodox Jewish family can appeal to have contact with her children

  

Essay of the week

There's a war on secularism, not Christmas
By Nicky Pessaroff, for Las Cruces Sun-News

Nicky Pessaroff on how the myth of a 'war on Christmas' is used as a "means of eroding the separation between church and state, of conflating religious worship and secular Americanism".

Why does the UK allow schools to discriminate due to religion?
By Eithne Dodd for RightsInfo

The UK is one of very few countries which allow state schools to discriminate on the basis of schools. Eithne Dodd explores the background and the human rights implications of our current faith school system.

  

NSS speaks out

The Independent covered Amazon's decision to withdraw infant circumcision kits from sale at our request. The story was then picked up very widely locally, nationally and internationally, for example in The Guardian, The Sun, the Birmingham Mail and the Washington Post.

Meanwhile our chief executive Stephen Evans spoke on LBC about the intimidation of Ofsted's chief inspector over her criticism of faith schools. He appeared on BBC Three Counties to discuss religious sensitivities at Christmas time. He was quoted in a Mail Online piece on the BBC's policy on religion and appeared on BBC Radio York to discuss the same subject.

And our president, Keith Porteous Wood, discussed the fallout between George Carey and Justin Welby over the former's handling of a sex abuse case on BBC South East Today.

  

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