NSS calls for action on religious homophobia in report to UN

Posted: Wed, 18th Jan 2023

NSS calls for action on religious homophobia in report to UN

The National Secular Society has highlighted the role of religion in discrimination against LGBT people in a submission to the United Nations.

It said the UK's established church, education and charity sector enable "state-condoned homophobia".

The NSS called for the government to tackle religious threats to LGBT equality in response to a call for evidence from the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender (IE SOGI).

The IE SOGI is examining the relationship between freedom of religion or belief and discrimination against LGBT people. They will present their findings to the UN Human Rights Council later this year.

The NSS raised the following issues:

Established church

The doctrine of the Anglican church holds that gay sex is a sin and same-sex marriage is incompatible with scripture. This was most recently reaffirmed by the archbishop of Canterbury at the Lambeth conference last year.

The NSS said the government must take the necessary steps to disestablish the Church of England and abolish the bishops' bench, as it is unacceptable for any institution acting as part of the state to uphold homophobic values.


State-funded faith schools are permitted, under government guidance, to teach relationship and sex education (RSE) in line with their "distinctive faith perspective on relationships". This allows many schools, especially Catholic ones, to teach that homosexuality is wrong.

The issue also extends to nonreligious schools. In 2019, Parkfield School was targeted by Muslim activists for its 'No Outsiders' programme, which promoted LGBT rights. Last year, Khakan Qureshi, a gay Muslim man, received death threats after telling pupils at Wood Green Academy that Islam and homosexuality are compatible.

The NSS said the government must ensure schools are fulfilling their legal requirements under the Equality Act 2010 to teach inclusive RSE, without intimidation from religious fundamentalists.


"The advancement of religion" is a recognised charitable purpose in UK law. The NSS highlighted how this enables charities to promote homophobia as part of their religious doctrine. This includes charities which conduct so-called 'conversion therapy', such as Core Issues Trust.

The NSS said organisations which promote homophobia should not be permitted to register as charities.

Equality Act exemptions

The NSS said the government must re-examine exemptions for religious organisations in the Equality Act. It argued that while some exemptions may be reasonable, they are too often used to discriminate against LGBT people. In 2015, for example, a gay vicar who claimed his bishop had discriminated against him by denying him a post as a hospital chaplain lost his case at an employment tribunal.

NSS: State should not "endorse or condone" religious homophobia

NSS head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "All too often, freedom of religion or belief is interpreted as the right for beliefs to be protected, rather than people.

"Such an approach is frequently detrimental to oppressed groups including LGBT people.

"While religious people should be allowed to follow their beliefs, those beliefs must not be imposed on anyone. Nor should the state in any way endorse or condone homophobia, including religious homophobia.

"A secular democracy, which gives no privilege to religious ideas, is the best means of tackling tensions between religious freedom and the right of LGBT people to live free from discrimination and violence."

Image by rihaij from Pixabay

What the NSS stands for

The Secular Charter outlines 10 principles that guide us as we campaign for a secular democracy which safeguards all citizens' rights to freedom of and from religion.

Tags: Charity, Disestablishment, Faith schools, LGBT