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Newsline 28 April 2017

With a General Election fast approaching, we've written to the major parties this week calling on them to make manifesto commitments along the lines set out in our recent report on the need to rethink religion and belief in public life. A Britain fair for all is only possible with secular reforms, and we've set out some policy proposals below - ask your local candidates to support them!

Also this week, the Church of England called for an end to the right of withdrawal from religious education. We've launched a campaign calling for fundamental reform of the subject to make it broad, balanced and impartial, before we can even consider parents losing their right to opt out.

If you'd like to get involved with our work, there's no better way than coming to work for us! We're hiring for a new Campaigns and Communications Officer. The deadline for applications is the 5th May.

Join us today if you aren't already a member.

Why We Need A 21st Century RE For All

Why We Need A 21st Century RE For All

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 11:58

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the National Curriculum. One subject alone remains set apart from this - religious education. We're calling for an overhaul of the subject.

As a nation we’re thinking about our future, here’s our secular manifesto for change

As a nation we’re thinking about our future, here’s our secular manifesto for change

Opinion | Thu, 27 Apr 2017

Ahead of the General Election we're calling on political parties to embrace a series of secular reforms, drawn from our recently published secular manifesto, that make society, our education system, and the law fairer for all.

As electioneering gets into full swing, now is the time to challenge the political parties on what they will do to address some of the unfairness and inequity stemming from the privileged role of religion in public life.

That's why, ahead of the snap General Election, we're writing to all major parties, calling on them to embrace a series of secular reforms, drawn from our recently published secular manifesto, that make society, our education system, and the law fairer for all.

A major focus for the media this week has been the Lib Dem leader's personal views on gay sex. But surely what really matters is the policies our prospective leaders would put in place to ensure that Britain can be a country in which all citizens, regardless of religious belief, or lack of religious belief, can live together fairly and cohesively.

With that in mind we very much welcomed Tim Farron's vocal support for the disestablishment of the Church of England. As Mr Farron said, "Separation of church and religion from state is fundamental". "The imposition of religious teachings on day to day life", he said, "is utterly wrong."

We agree. Our 'Secular Manifesto' makes dozens of specific proposals to reform the role of religion in public life, to ensure that that state equally respects everyone's human rights and that no one is either advantaged or disadvantaged because of their beliefs.

They range from necessary reforms in education, to proposals on public services, sharia 'law', religious exemptions and public ceremonies. They all aim to make our society fairer and introduce secular changes to our unwritten constitution, education system and institutions which would reflect the growing non-religious majority of the country and its increasing religious diversity.

Many of the proposals set out in our manifesto concern publicly funded education: A third of all schools in England and Wales are faith schools and the Government wants more faith schools, and plans to facilitate greater discrimination in them by allowing faith-based free schools to select all of their pupils on religious grounds. UKIP have called for a moratorium only on new Islamic faith schools, but we don't think any publicly funded schools should be based around religious identities.

Rather than segregating young people along religious lines, we want to see children of all faiths and none educated together in inclusive schools. We want to see political parties seeking to break down religious and ethnic barriers, not erecting them. And we want to see all political parties making manifesto commitments that promote freedom, fairness and human rights.

With that in mind, here are five proposals for a secular approach to education that we are making, which would ensure that our publicly funded schools aid social cohesion, respect children's rights, and teach pupils only how to think, not what to think.

1. A moratorium on the opening of new faith schools

2. A right for all pupils to attend a non-religiously affiliated (secular) school

3. An end to equality law exceptions that allow faith schools to discriminate and select pupils on the basis of faith

4. Reform of religious education to ensure all pupils receive a broad, balanced and non-partisan religion and belief education

5. Abolish the legal requirement for schools to hold collective worship

Our manifesto for change sets out many more reforms in the many areas we campaign on. The Economist called our proposals "evolutionary rather than revolutionary". Our approach to reforming religion's public role sets out incremental, attainable steps which are feasible and would help to make our society fairer.

During the election campaign and beyond, this is what we'll be calling for. When candidates come knocking, we hope you will be too.

You can view all of our recommendations in Rethinking religion and belief in public life: a manifesto for change and add your support.

NSS rejects Church’s call for end to RE right to withdraw, without meaningful reform

NSS rejects Church’s call for end to RE right to withdraw, without meaningful reform

News | Thu, 27 Apr 2017

The National Secular Society has said that Religious Education must be fundamentally reformed before the existing right to withdraw children from RE can be removed.

Calls to boost integration after claims Muslim children can grow up without meeting non-Muslims

Calls to boost integration after claims Muslim children can grow up without meeting non-Muslims

News | Thu, 27 Apr 2017

The National Secular Society has accused the Government of dividing communities with the push to open new faith schools, ahead of a new report on religious and racial segregation in Birmingham.

Foreign Office urges Russia to uphold human rights after Jehovah’s Witnesses ruling

Foreign Office urges Russia to uphold human rights after Jehovah’s Witnesses ruling

News | Mon, 24 Apr 2017

The Foreign Office has condemned a decision by the Russian Supreme Court to label Jehovah's Witnesses "extremists."

Islam has become toxic in the West: integration is essential to reverse this

Islam has become toxic in the West: integration is essential to reverse this

While the prevention of terror attacks warrants the highest priority, in the longer term, the urgent task for policymakers is to undo the separatism and psychic detachment that have reached critical proportions among Muslim communities. Integration and assimilation are essential, writes Rumy Hasan.

NSS Speaks Out

Executive director Keith Porteous Wood was quoted in the Times, Daily Mail, Christian Today, and Independent this week on the Church's calls for an end to parents' right to withdraw their children from RE lessons. Campaigns director Stephen Evans spoke to Radio 5 Live and BBC London on this topic.

Keith also spoke to BBC Three Counties on the religious exemptions to animal welfare laws that allow for halal and kosher slaughter without pre-stunning of animals.

We were quoted by The Hindu on the Government's failure to outlaw caste-based discrimination, and the Church Times quoted us on cathedral finances.

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