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National Secular Society

For Freedom And Fairness


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Newsline 26 January 2018


Sometimes events remind us how entitled some religious hardliners can be. As our chief executive Stephen Evans writes this week, in the last few days we've seen the religious demanding to get their way on a deluge of issues. And on several of them, they've succeeded.

The leaders of a primary school in Newham had to back down from even having limited restrictions on children wearing the hijab or fasting during school hours. A local authority has backtracked on its decision to stop supplying un-stunned meat to its schools (though we hope this is only temporary). The minister responsible for faith schools met with Orthodox Jewish leaders who refuse to compromise on sex education and appeared sympathetic to their concerns.

Meanwhile Islamist apologists are mobilising against the appointment of Sara Khan as a Government counter-extremism adviser. And a coroner in North London faces calls for her to be dismissed because she upholds the principle of equal treatment for all people in her jurisdiction.

Our only hope is to continue to remind all citizens in our country that they have religious freedom, but it comes with responsibilities. We say religion mustn't entitle people to get their own way at others' expense. And that's why we will continue to push back against religious hardliners from all sides.

Our campaigning is wholly supported by our members and donors. If you're not a member but value the important work we do, please consider joining or making a donation today.


News & Opinion


School ‘intimidated’ into lifting restrictions on hijab and fasting

A top-rated primary school that restricted hijabs and fasting has been forced to back down on its policies following a campaign of "intimidation".


Religious bullies are on a roll. It’s time we all stood up to them

Amid a series of concessions to religious hardliners, Stephen Evans says those brave enough to resist their demands need much more support.


Faith School Admissions: Four Myths Busted

Megan Manson takes on common myths about the 50% cap on children admitted on religious grounds to faith schools.


Why are journalists dancing to the Islamists’ tune over Sara Khan?

Islamists and their apologists have dominated coverage of the Government's appointment of Sara Khan, says Chris Sloggett. Journalists should stop indulging them just because they shout loudly.


Creationist appointed to South Lanarkshire education committee

The NSS has called for reform of council education committee structures in Scotland after an "active" creationist was reappointed to one.


Council votes to continue giving worshippers free parking

The NSS has criticised a council in Surrey which has decided to continue exempting worshippers from parking charges.


Secularist of the Year 2018

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...


Conference on 21st Century RE for All

Thirty years after the introduction of a national curricular entitlement for all pupils, the religious education syllabus is still decided locally by committees of faith representatives, or worse, by religious bodies responsible for running faith schools.

This one day conference will explore the future of religion and belief education in schools, and how we can create a truly balanced and non-partisan approach.

Find out more...


Quotes of the week

"Suppose you were a white supremacist who wanted to keep Muslim children down. Or suppose you were a Machiavellian middle-class parent, who wanted to handicap the competition your child would face when the race for university places began. In either case, you would be delighted by what is happening at St Stephen's primary school in Newham."
Nick Cohen says "two Muslim cultures are emerging in Britain"

"Mary Doe must make decisions regarding her health based on the best scientific understanding of the world, even if the science does not comport with the religious or political beliefs of others."
The Satanic Temple's lawsuit challenging a restrictive abortion law in Missouri lists the "religious beliefs" of the plaintiff

"Damian Hinds attended a grammar school in Cheshire, a religious one to boot. He has advocated more Catholic schools, and with power at his fingertips he can lift the admissions cap tomorrow – no new laws needed. Why anyone would think it good value to build faith-only places in an increasingly secular world is beyond me, but he has the power."
Laura McInerney, former editor of Schools Week, writes about the new education secretary in the Guardian

"Sara is a great person and this will upset some truly awful people."
James Bloodworth's instant and prophetic reaction to the appointment of Sara Khan


Essays of the week

Thou shalt not… challenge the status quo
By Katie Laing, for Hebrides Writer

Observance of the 'Sabbath' is an increasingly important political issue on the Isle of Lewis. Campaigners are angry that they are not being treated equally to those whose religious beliefs they don't necessarily share. But those who speak up have invoked the wrath of the church machine.

Hijabs sexualise little girls and school heads are right to ban them
By Nimco Ali, for the Evening Standard

Putting children in a hijab is akin to dressing them in high heels and make-up. But in the current climate of hyper-political correctness, with strident liberals on one side and ill-informed knuckleheads on the other, we have lost the ability to think straight.


Keep the cap on faith-based admissions

We've produced a template letter to make it easier to tell your MP you oppose lifting the 50% cap on faith-based admissions. Religious discrimination in school admissions is unjustifiable; here's why we oppose extending it.


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