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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Religious influence in Parliament

We campaign against the growing influence of religion on Government and the increasing desire of the current Government to involve religious bodies and individuals in the decisions of state, often in the name of multiculturalism or the 'Big Society'. We believe this puts the large minority (maybe even a majority) of the population who are not religious at a disadvantage.

Involving religious leaders also assumes that everyone of a particular religion speaks with one voice and these leaders represent a whole community. In some cases, women and minorities are effectively voiceless as are those who see themselves as belonging broadly to a certain culture but who are not religious.

A secular government is the only way of ensuring that every citizen is treated equally.

Claims by religious leaders that Christianity is being sidelined or excluded from public life conveniently ignore the facts that one in three schools is a faith school, that there are 26 unelected bishops in the House of Lords and that religions get special tax exemptions, among other things.

Religious apologists sometimes argue that this is a Christian country with a Christian Head of State and that Christianity should therefore have a privileged position in public life (which, they argue would benefit other religions too, although they are not clear on exactly how). They resist, and lobby to change, laws that do not suit their prejudices, forgetting that it is the Queen who gives royal assent to these laws.

While the NSS does not deny the Christian heritage of the UK, basing legislation and policy-making on a position that looks to the past rather than being informed by the present is not acceptable, especially as the associated privileges claimed disadvantage so many of the population, both those of other faiths and none.