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Newsline 11 January 2013

January is renewal time for NSS membership.
Members who pay an annual subscription (rather than paying by standing order) are due to renew their membership this month. We hope you will stay with us as we struggle to hold back the tide of religious demands for privilege. If you joined us after September last year, your subscription is already valid until January 2014. Join and renew here.

Catholic midwives try to extend the “conscience” exemption in Abortion Act

Catholic midwives try to extend the “conscience” exemption in Abortion Act

News | Thu, 10 Jan 2013

Two Scottish Catholic midwives who didn't want to supervise staff who carried out abortion procedures have appealed to the Court of Sessions after their arguments were rejected in a judicial review last year.

Secularists: put your principles into action and support the NSS

Secularists: put your principles into action and support the NSS

Opinion | Thu, 10 Jan 2013

With so much at stake, we are eagerly awaiting the result of the four European Court cases that will decide whether Christians are entitled to special treatment at work.

We believe that the British courts were right to reject these cases.

Although they were presented in the press as "Christian persecution", they were nothing of the sort. For every privilege that religious believers gain in the workplace, someone else is going to be disadvantaged.

The National Secular Society was the only organisation that intervened in these cases to argue that the courts had got it right. And we will continue to argue this, because the Christian activists behind these challenges to equality law are not going to go away. They will bring one case after another in the hope that eventually they will secure the privileged place for themselves that they feel is theirs by right.

The NSS throughout its long history has supported progressive causes, and we will go on doing so, particularly when religion is standing in the way of human rights and fair treatment for all. We will, as we have done in the past, support the call for full gay equality, for the right of women to decide for themselves about family planning and abortion.

We will continue to escalate the call for disestablishment of the Church of England, for an end to bishops in the House of Lords, for an end to the vast amounts of money being spent on religious propaganda and separatism in our state education system. In these times of financial strictures there is no justification for the state to pay the salaries of clergypeople in hospitals, prisons and the armed forces (and increasingly in schools, too).

We need to reinforce our struggle against the so-called "sharia courts" operating in this country that continue to mete out injustice and inequality to women and children. We need to protect free expression from the demands of religious leaders who want to outlaw criticism of their beliefs.

We can only fight these battles with your help. The NSS depends entirely on its members for its existence. We receive no outside support.

But as much as the financial contributions that members provide are essential, we need to be able to show that there is a significant body of support for our aims and objectives. Please consider joining if you aren't a member, rejoining if you are a lapsed member or renewing if needs be. Don't watch from the sidelines – be part of the struggle for a secular society.

Members who are paying an annual subscription (rather than paying by standing order) are due to renew their membership this month. If you joined after September last year, your subscription is good for the coming year.

We certainly hope you will stay with us as we fight to hold back the tide of religious demands for privilege.

You can do all this simply, quickly and securely with your credit card here. If you'd prefer to send a cheque, our address is NSS,25 Red Lion Square,LondonWC1R 4RL.

We've got another big year coming up and the strength of our voice is crucial. Please be part of it. Put your principles into action today.

Join or renew your membership to the National Secular Society

Take part in the Scouts and Girl Guides consultations on the promise

Take part in the Scouts and Girl Guides consultations on the promise

Opinion | Tue, 08 Jan 2013

Despite describing themselves as "open and inclusive" organisations, both the Scouts and the Girl Guides currently insist that new members take a 'Promise' that includes a religious oath. However, this could all be about to change.

The Scouts have launched a consultation to ask their members, and the wider public, whether an alternative non-religious version of the Promise should be developed for those who feel unable to make the existing commitment.

The Girl Guides have also launched a consultation to discuss the wording of their Promise. This consultation is also open to the general public and they're particularly keen to hear from parents, potential members, volunteers and supporters.

We have longed campaigned for an end to the exclusion of the non-religious in the Scouts and Girl Guides. Most recently, in November 2012, we launched a petition calling on the UK Scout Association to open up Scouting to all. We also wrote to Girlguiding UK (pdf) asking them to do the same. Finally, it appears public pressure is paying off.

The Scout Promise requires scouts to "to do my duty by God". The Girl Guides promise includes the line "to love my God". We argue that the current wording acts as a religious barrier to full membership to a significant proportion of young people – and potential volunteers.

The Scout Association and the Girl Guides, which are not religious organisations, have made efforts to accommodate followers of many different religions, and we argue that they should now do the same to welcome people of no religion.

If you agree that the Scouts and the Girl Guides should be welcoming to non-religious — and not expect young people to lie about their beliefs in order to join — please take part in these important surveys. With your help, 2013 could be the year that our campaign to make the Scouts and Guides more inclusive finally succeeds.

Take Part!

Scouts:
Full information about the Scouts consultation
The Scouts consultation will remain open until Thursday 31 January 2013.

Guides:
Full information on the Guides consultation

The Guides consultation will remain open until Sunday 3 March 2013.

Also see: Girlguiding UK Promise Consultation Frequently Asked Questions

Secularist of the Year – make sure you’re there!

Secularist of the Year – make sure you’re there!

News | Thu, 10 Jan 2013

Tickets are still available for the premier secular event of the calendar – Secularist of the Year. Make sure you're there!

Obama calls religious opt-out in new defence bill “unnecessary and divisive”

Obama calls religious opt-out in new defence bill “unnecessary and divisive”

News | Wed, 09 Jan 2013

President Barack Obama called a conscience clause for military chaplains in the National Defence Authorization Act "unnecessary and ill-advised."

USA enacting more and more legal restrictions on abortion

USA enacting more and more legal restrictions on abortion

News | Wed, 09 Jan 2013

In 2012, 19 states in the USA enacted 43 provisions that "sought to restrict access to abortion services," according to the Guttmacher Institute.

One Law for All’s ‘Sounds of Freedom’ Song Competition –calling for entries.

One Law for All’s ‘Sounds of Freedom’ Song Competition –calling for entries.

News | Thu, 20 Dec 2012

The One Law for All campaign is inviting musicians and songwriters to create and submit their original material for a song competition.

NSS Speaks Out

The NSS was quoted in the Times Educational Supplement on the topic of unfair "faith schools" admissions policies, a story that was subsequently picked up by the Daily Mail.

The TES also quoted Terry Sanderson on the topic of nativity plays.

Scottish spokesperson Alistair McBay had a letter in the Dundee Courier, this letter and this letter both in the Scotsman, and this one in the Scottish Herald.

Keith Porteous Wood was on the BBC World Service talking about religion in the workplace and also on BBC 3 Counties radio. Terry Sanderson was on BBC Radio Kent talking about the girl guides consultation on their promise.

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