Trouble reading this email? View newsletter online.

Newsline 19 April 2013

Becoming a member of the National Secular Society is a declaration of your support for the separation of the state from religious institutions. Make a stand for freedom, fairness and human rights by adding your voice to the call for a secular society. Join today.

Read this week's Newsline in full (pdf)

Concerns remain over non-religious Academy’s revised admissions policy

Concerns remain over non-religious Academy’s revised admissions policy

News | Sat, 13 Apr 2013

A non-religiously designated academy in Solihull that planned to give priority in admissions to pupils from two religiously selective 'faith' schools has revised its decision.

It’s not fair! Why has Ireland got Ruairi Quinn, while we’re stuck with Michael Gove?

It’s not fair! Why has Ireland got Ruairi Quinn, while we’re stuck with Michael Gove?

Opinion | Mon, 15 Apr 2013

If only the UK had an education minister like Ireland's Ruairi Quinn.

Mr Quinn is, bit by bit, challenging the stranglehold that the Catholic Church has over education in the Republic.

He does it in a proper, diplomatic way, of course, but he has already begun a long-term process of taking some of the country's schools out of Catholic control and handing them over to more ecumenical interests.

Now Mr Quinn has set the cat among the pigeons by questioning the amount of time that is spent teaching religion in Irish primary schools.

According to the Irish Department of Education's rules, 30 minutes a day – two and a half hours a week – is devoted to religion, compared with 60 minutes per week each for science and physical education (PE). But a recent Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) survey found over 70% of teachers were spending more than the required time on religion. The extra time usually goes on preparing children for First Communion and Confirmation.

Mr Quinn last week faced an unreceptive – bordering on hostile - annual conference of the Catholic Primary School Managers Association. He asked them: "Can we really afford to continue providing a mere 60 minutes, per week on scientific instruction or, for that matter, 60 minutes per week of PE?" He suggested that preparation for the sacraments could take place in the parish, outside school hours.

Needless to say, his speech did not go down very well with the Catholic education hierarchy, who take for granted that the nation's schools at their disposal as a means of propagating their religion.

CPSMA vice chairperson Fr Denis McNelis, said they were happy to talk about the timing and method of the teaching of religion, but "I think there would be widespread disapproval on the part of parents and most teachers if we were to go down the road of removing entirely sacramental preparation from the school".

Of course, the Catholic Church has always put huge emphasis on its influence in education.

It realised centuries ago that you need to get at children before they are at an age when they might be able to resist religious indoctrination. They need to be told that they are Catholics at a very early stage in their lives and the message must be reinforced relentlessly.

School – particularly primary school – is the perfect place for this brainwashing to be accomplished. For the rest of their lives they will regard themselves as "Catholic", even if they never set foot inside a church again..

Every concordat that the Vatican manages to wangle with a state will always give them privileged access to education.

The Church will say: "If we didn't provide it, there would be no education." This may be true in some parts of the developing world, but the quid pro quo is that the Church then uses its schools for relentless indoctrination and evangelisation.

Ruairi Quinn hopes to challenge this, although the Catholic Church in Ireland still controls almost all the schools in the country (despite these being publicly-funded schools) and will not give them up without resistance. The minister told reporters after the conference that while he had no current plans for changes to existing arrangements, he insisted the question he was posing was not "rhetorical". He added science was important and "it all starts in primary."

Irish primary pupils spend 4% of their time on science – half the international average – and 10% on religion, more than double the global norm.

The recommended minimum one hour a week for PE is the lowest of 30 EU countries.

Mr Quinn is an astute politician. He won't have a face-to-face confrontation with the Church but they must now be aware that he's got them in his sights.

I repeat, somewhat ruefully, where is the UK's Ruairi Quinn?

Poll shows we’d ask ‘deceased loved ones’ for advice before we’d ask a clergyperson

Poll shows we’d ask ‘deceased loved ones’ for advice before we’d ask a clergyperson

News | Thu, 18 Apr 2013

A Yougov poll commissioned for this week's Westminster Faith Debate has revealed the lack of extent to which people turn to religious leaders for "moral guidance".

Saudi religious police aren’t funny

Opinion | Wed, 17 Apr 2013

By Terry Sanderson

If you are going to have a special police division to enforce morality in a country that is already very religiously conservative, then they are bound to make frequent idiots of themselves.

In Saudi Arabia, where religious mania seems to be a requirement of citizenship, the religious police have just forcibly evicted three men from an annual cultural festival and sent them back to Abu Dhabi from whence they came.

The men had been deemed "too handsome" and that women would find them irresistible, according to the Arabic language newspaper Elaph.

"A festival official said the three Emiratis were taken out on the grounds they are too handsome and that the Commission [for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices] members feared female visitors could fall for them," Elaph reported.

No doubt the gentlemen in question were highly flattered to be chucked out of the country on such grounds and will find the reputation that follows them of no handicap whatsoever in their future romantic endeavours.

But stupid and authoritarian as the Saudi religious police may be, they aren't very funny if you get on the wrong side of them, as many women who have accidentally allowed a few strands of hair to fall from their veils know to their cost.

And nor were they particularly amusing when they refused to allow school girls to leave a burning building in case men should see them without face coverings. That incident resulted in fourteen deaths and many horrific injuries.

The religious police are an indication of a country that has profound sexual hang-ups inspired by extremist religion.

On this occasion it was men who fell victim to the puritanical foolishness, but in the main it is women who must put up with the minute-to-minute control of their lives by this bullying and brutal brigade.

Appeal: Modernising Leicester Secular Hall

Appeal: Modernising Leicester Secular Hall

News | Thu, 11 Apr 2013

Leicester Secular Society has launched an appeal to raise funds for the modernisation of Leicester Secular Hall. Besides Conway Hall in London, the Secular Hall is the only remaining dedicated secular building in the country.

NSS Speaks Out

Keith Porteous Woodwas on Russian TV commenting on the decline in religious observance in the UK. Keith also wrote this article about protest and free speech for the Politics.co.uk website.

Terry Sanderson was interviewed on BBC Surrey about religious conflict in the workplace.

Can Prince Charles become ‘Defender of Faith?’

During April 2013 free access is available to an academic journal article by NSS Council member Norman Bonney on some constitutional issues concerning the monarchy and religion.

Norman Bonney's book 'Monarchy, Religion and the state: civil religion in UK, Canada, Australia and the Commonwealth' will be published in Autumn 2013 by Manchester University Press. More information here.

This email has been sent to you by National Secular Society in accordance with our Privacy Policy.
Address: 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL, United Kingdom.
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7404 3126

Please Note: Newsline provides links to external websites for information and in the interests of free exchange. We do not accept any responsibility for the content of those sites, nor does a link indicate approval or imply endorsement of those sites.

Please feel free to use the material in this Newsline with appropriate acknowledgement of source. Neither Newsline nor the NSS is responsible for the content of websites to which it provides links. Nor does the NSS or Newsline necessarily endorse quotes and comments by contributors, they are brought to you in the interests of the free exchange of information and open debate.