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National Secular Society

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Challenging Religious Privilege

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Newsline 15 June 2018

  

The stats show yet again: Our current education system is out of line with the views of the public when it comes to religion's role.

A poll commissioned by the NSS has confirmed British adults are opposed to religious influence in school admissions, assemblies and the teaching of RE.

We've long campaigned to end discriminatory admissions policies in faith schools, abolish the law requiring collective worship in all state schools, and remove confessionalism from RE. It's therefore reassuring to know that on these issues, the general public is broadly on our side.

But while new faith schools continue to open, our education cannot be free from religious influence. That's why our dedicated No More Faith Schools website is such an important tool in increasing awareness of the problems of mixing education with religion. We urge all our supporters to please continue following this campaign and sharing its information, stories, petitions and other materials as widely as possible to spread the word.

  

News & Opinion

 

British public opposes religious influence in education, poll finds

British adults strongly oppose religious influence in school admissions, assemblies and RE teaching, an NSS-commissioned poll has found.

 

NSS’s 2018 Bradlaugh Lecture to explore rise of Hindu nationalism

The human rights activist Gita Sahgal will explore the rise of Hindu nationalism in the NSS's 2018 Bradlaugh Lecture in Manchester.

 

NSS asks NHS Choices to review advice on fasting during Ramadan

The NSS has asked NHS Choices to review health advice on its website which draws heavily on Islamic theology.

 

Religion and politics – the discrepancy at the heart of our schools

Alastair Lichten asks why partisan religious beliefs are treated so differently to political ones in schools in England and Wales.

 

Bishop Rachel’s prejudiced thinking highlights the problem of state-sponsored religion

The bishop of Gloucester is entitled to question whether atheists can truly have deep love or hope, writes Stephen Evans.... Read More »

 

Scottish education union calls for entitlement to paid religious leave

Scotland's oldest teaching union has called for teachers from non-Christian faiths to be given paid leave on their faiths' holy days.

 

Spanish PM’s secularist outlook prompts Catholic fears over privileges

Spain's new prime minister has prompted concern from religious groups over his support for secularism.

 

Just how equal is marriage now?

After the NSS revealed the extra hassle and expense involved in arranging same-sex and non-religious weddings in England... Read More »

 

God, Guys and Guns. A review of The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

Emma Park on what Margaret Atwood's modern dystopian classic (and its TV adaptation) tells us about the relationship between... Read More »

  

Other news

• The independent thinktank, British Future, has called for the '50% rule,' which requires new religious schools to keep at least half their places open to any local child, irrespective of religion, to be extended to all religiously selective faith schools. Former education secretary, Charles Clarke, has also called for the "values of inclusivity" on the basis of religion or belief to be "extended far more widely" within our education system.

• We're saddened to report the death of Bangladeshi blogger, Shahzahan Bachchu, who was killed by on Monday evening by unidentified assailants in his village of Kakaldi. Bachchu was an atheist writer, poet and activist for secularism who owned a publishing house named Bishaka Prokoshani. His murder is the latest in a series of killings of secular activists and bloggers in the country. Read more.

• NSS honorary associate and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was arrested in Russia for holding a one-man protest against the torture of LGBT people in Chechnya. Peter is doing brave work standing with LGBT+ Russians against their government's homophobic policies. He has since been released.

• Meanwhile, concerns are growing for the Egyptian atheist and blogger Sherif Gaber who was arrested at Cairo airport whilst trying to leave Egypt on 2 May for "wanting to overthrow the Egyptian regime". Gaber is a longtime activist who has been harassed and imprisoned for blasphemy and defending the LGBT community and promoting freethought over many years. Our CEO has joined calls for his conditional release. Sign the petition.

• Back here in the UK, Mitchells and Butlers has regrettably joined Greene King in instructing its pubs to remove the flag of Saudi Arabia, which features an inscription of the Islamic creed, from World Cup bunting, claiming it is 'inappropriate' to display this where alcohol is being sold. Read NSS Communication Officer Chris Sloggett's blog on the issue here.

• Finally, we're pleased to say Ireland's cabinet has agreed that a referendum should be held later this year on removing the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.

To get all the latest news and views on secularism from the media in your inbox every morning, you can sign up to receive your daily media briefing.

  

Quotes of the week

"I'd like an acknowledgement of the suffering these women have been through. A lot of it is tied up with the churches: it was under their authority that these things happened. Nothing can compensate for the loss, but an acknowledgement is what we need."

Felicity Davies, one of thousands of women coerced into handing over their babies for adoption in the 1950s and 60s at a time when "unmarried mothers" were often rejected by their families and ostracised by society.

  

"It is essential that children of all faiths or none, from a wide mixture of class, cultural and race backgrounds are educated together. Young children are naturally both curious and non-judgmental; when they meet as equals in the classroom they will learn mutual acceptance which will help create a more cohesive and less fearful society."

Michaela from Stoke-on-Trent, No More Faith Schools campaign supporter

See our quotes of the week archive...

  

Essays of the week

'Removing Saudi Arabia's flag from pub bunting feeds bigots'
By Will Hayward, for Wales Online

Ultimately there is a lot more to get angry about at this World Cup than having the Saudi flag on bunting.

  

Introduction...

'I was 19, gay and ready to be "cured" by conversion therapy'
By Aaron Hicklin, for The Observer

An interview with Garrard Conley, whose memoir of his time at the Love in Action facility in Tennessee is about to be made into a film.

  

Introduction...

'Is secularisation really fuelling a rise in abuse against clergy?'
By Alexander Lucie-Smith, for Catholic Herald

A Catholic priest rebuts claims made in the Sunday Telegraph that secularisation is fuelling a rise in violence and verbal abuse against clergy.

  

NSS speaks out

A recent opinion piece by NSS communications officer Chris Sloggett about the removal of the Saudi Arabia flag was quoted in Wales Online.

Our poll finding that the British public opposes religious influence in education was reported in TES and Premier Christian Radio.

  

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