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Challenging Religious Privilege

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Newsline 5 January 2018

  

Happy new year. At Christmas religious voices tend to get particular attention in the public sphere, but on Christmas Day a significant poll found broad support for secular principles among the British public. We're on the side of the comfortable majority who say religious beliefs should be separate from political decision making and religious clerics should have no automatic right to seats in our legislature.

And we have much to do in 2018, starting this month when we send copies of our report on disestablishment to every MP. The secular voice will be important during the EU withdrawal process – in the year of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some MPs are eyeing up the chance to increase religious discrimination.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse and the Commission on Religious Education will produce major reports. Religion looks set to play an unjustifiably central role in events to mark the 100th anniversary of the first world war armistice. And as always we'll be keeping a close eye on developments in the UK's public services, particularly our schools. Thank you for your support as we get ready for the year ahead.

  

News & Opinion

 

Religion and politics should not mix, says British public

A majority of Brits want religion kept out of politics and bishops to lose their automatic right to sit in the Lords, a survey has found.

 

It's time to disestablish the Church of England

As the NSS prepares to send a major report on the subject to MPs, Prof. Steven Kettell says the establishment of the Church of England is incongruous with the beliefs and attitudes of the people it affects.

 

Unstunned meat widespread in UK supermarkets, NSS research reveals

Meat from animals which have not been stunned before slaughter is widespread in UK supermarkets, NSS research has found.

 

Yes, secularism is good for gender equality

Western academics who claim that secularism undermines women's rights are not merely wrong; their assertions are a slap in the face of women fighting for their rights under religious tyranny, says Megan Manson.

 

The Minister for Faith went on a tour of Anglican cathedrals and all we got was a lousy report

Stephen Evans questions the point of a Minister for Faith and says his recent tour of all of England's Anglican cathedrals was a waste of ministerial time and taxpayers' money.

 

Case study: Difficulty exercising the right to withdraw from collective worship

Thanks to campaigning by the NSS, sixth formers have the right to withdraw themselves from collective worship. But faith schools often make this nigh-on-impossible, as this pupil's story from one academy shows.

 

Coroner faces legal threat over refusal to prioritise religious burials

The NSS has expressed its support for a coroner in North London who has refused to prioritise religious burials over others.

 

Nominations open for Secularist of the Year prize

A reminder to our supporters that nominations are open for the 13th Secularist of the Year prize, and tickets for the awards luncheon are on sale.

  
  

Quotes of the week

"It's a conservative religious mentality that is losing the argument, that is losing ground as ideas and information find their way to every smartphone and campus."
Bob Churchill, IHEU communications director, describes the resurgence in anti-atheist rhetoric and violence around the world

"The threat and infliction of violence was constant. You couldn't escape it – it was completely normalised."
'Peter', a survivor of Andrew Soper's abuse, describes life at the Catholic school in London where Soper was headmaster

  

Essays of the week

The Islamic Republic of Iran is doomed
By Ray Takeyh, for Politico

It is possible that Iran's Islamist regime will survive this latest challenge to its authority – but even then, the Iranian theocracy will not be the same.

Salmaan Taseer — champion of secular democracy
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan, for Daily Times

The best tribute to the assassinated Salmaan Taseer would be to separate religion from politics.

Faith schools' failings shouldn't be brushed off under a smokescreen of 'religious freedom'
By Andrew Copson, for TES

The education system must champion the interests of children rather than deferring to religion.

  

NSS speaks out

Our president Keith Porteous Wood appeared on Sky News on New Year's Day to discuss the Archbishop of Canterbury's new year message. On Christmas Eve our chief executive Stephen Evans discussed Britain's drift away from Christianity, and the need to reform religion's public role, on LBC.

  

In case you missed it

At the end of 2017 we ran a Newsline special, featuring our top 10 blogs of 2017.

  

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