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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 13 July 2018


This week we celebrated ten years since the abolition of the blasphemy law (in England and Wales) – a campaign in which the NSS played a pivotal role. Throughout our history the secularist and free speech movements have been closely linked. Many of the founders of the secularist movement faced persecution because of their 'blasphemous' ideas.

As editor of The Freethinker, blasphemy and free expression were important causes to our longest serving president (1915 to 1949) Chapman Cohen. In September we'll be teaming up with Leicester Secular Society to hold an event making Cohen's life and activism - Chapman Cohen: Teacher, hero, secularist. There's more information on this and other exciting upcoming events below. Including our 2018 Bradlaugh Lecture (in Manchester) and our first conference on secularism and healthcare (in Birmingham).

Throughout our history the NSS has also campaigned for genuine freedom of belief. Too often religious freedom is distorted to justify the imposition of religion to the detriment of others – often the most vulnerable in society. That's why we hope a new European campaign will encourage better conversations around protecting genuine freedom of belief for all.

For over 150 years we've been on the forefront of campaigning for a fairer, secular society. In that time we've gone from being prosecuted for blasphemy to being instrumental in its abolition. Please help us continue our work.


News & Opinion


NSS welcomes Lancashire vote to end supply of unstunned meat to schools

The National Secular Society has welcomed Lancashire County Council's vote to stop supplying unstunned halal meat to schools.


Man arrested over alleged circumcision assaults

Police in Oxfordshire are appealing for information regarding a man arrested on suspicion of physically assaulting boys in connection to circumcision.


Ten years on from the abolition of blasphemy, free speech still needs defending

Marking ten years since the criminal offence of blasphemy was abolished in England and Wales, Stephen Evans argues that the... Read More »


Study: faith schools’ entry policies are complex and inconsistent

A study of faith schools in Leicester has said their complex admissions policies cause particular harm to disadvantaged families.


Sectarian schooling is nothing to celebrate

Integrating schools isn't a magic bullet to end sectarianism, but no serious attempt to address the issue can ignore the... Read More »


Head of faith school that hired terrorist banned from teaching

The head of an Islamic faith school that hired the London Bridge terrorist attack ringleader has been banned from teaching.


NSS to hold October conference on healthcare & secularism

The National Secular Society will hold its first ever conference on the role of secularism within healthcare in October.


Religious and secular groups launch EU freedom of belief campaign

An EU campaign developed by religious and non-religious groups promoting freedom of belief has been launched.


I was concerned about proselytisation on a school trip – and the school listened

Sometimes concerns regarding religious interference in education can be easily resolved, simply through clear and polite... Read More »


Quotes of the week

"For many people, the things I have been talking about today are too sensitive and too difficult for them to want to risk giving offence. They are easy things to skirt, yet the risk of doing so is great. If we leave these topics to the likes of the English Defence League and British National party on the one hand and Islamists on the other, then the mission of integration will fail." – Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Ofsted

See our quotes of the week archive...


Essays of the week

The term 'marriage' needs to be untangled
By Matthew Parris, for The Spectator
"...the vital, secular, legal kernel — the contract — needs to be lifted clear of all the hoopla about God"

The Rise of Iraq's Young Secularists
By Alice Su, for The Atlantic
On Facebook and in the cafés of decimated Mosul, they envision a country free from political Islam. Do they have a shot?

Americans United Opposes Trump Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh
"Judge Kavanaugh fails to understand that only the separation of church and state can guarantee religious freedom for all Americans. Instead, Judge Kavanaugh appears to be intent on eviscerating this fundamental American value," said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United. "That fact alone should disqualify him for a seat on the Supreme Court.

Theresa May's call for an outright ban of so-called 'conversion therapy' will save lives
By Mathew Shurka, for The Independent
After years of contemplating suicide and being estranged from my family, I finally left conversion therapy. And I became committed to advocacy to ensure other LGBTQ+ youth never had to go through what I experienced.


Upcoming events

We've got some exciting upcoming events over the next few months - with discounts for NSS members


The Bradlaugh Lecture 2018: The rise of Hindu Nationalism, with Gita Sahgal

Date: 8th September 2018, 14:00-17:00
: Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL
Tickets: £10 (£5 for members)
Details: The esteemed human rights activist, author and NSS honorary associate Gita Sahgal will explore the rise of Hindu nationalism in the National Secular Society's 2018 Bradlaugh Lecture. Her speech will be entitled 'The Men Who Killed Gandhi' : Secular India and the rise of Hindu nationalism. The lecture – named after our founder Charles Bradlaugh – is an annual event which provides a space for a distinguished speaker to explore a secularist topic in depth.


Chapman Cohen: Teacher, hero, secularist

Date: Sunday 9th September, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Location: Secular Hall, 75 Humberstone Gate, Leicester LE1 1WB. Leicester Secular Hall is open during the day (10am-4.30pm) for Heritage Open Day, including tours of the building and an exhibition of the history of the Society and its Hall.
Tickets: Free. Book your place here
Details: A joint NSS/Leicester Secular Society event
In this talk hosted by the Leicester Secular Society to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Cohen's birth, Robert Forder (NSS historian and Council member) will outline Cohen's career and provide an assessment of his work.


Healthcare & Secularism Conference

Date: Saturday 27th October 2018.
Registration: 09:45 Start time: 10:15 End: 16:15
(Times subject to minor changes)
Location: Radisson Blu Holloway Circus, Birmingham. B1 1BT
Tickets: Members: £10; Non-members: £15
Lunch and refreshments included.
Click here to buy tickets
For the first time, the National Secular Society are holding a conference focusing on the role of secularism within healthcare. Featuring talks by academics and experts in the fields of medicine, law and ethics the Healthcare & Secularism conference will give participants the opportunity to discuss the most pressing issues in secular medical issues today, including conscientious objection, ritual circumcision, pastoral care and assisted suicide.


NSS speaks out

Our chief executive Stephen Evans was quoted in The Guardian welcoming the Thursday's vote in Lancashire: "It's reassuring to see Lancashire councillors voting to pursue the Council's ethical policy on the provision of halal meat in schools, and facing down orchestrated efforts to ensure school meals in the county comply with a hardline interpretation of Islam."


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Please support our work so we can make the case for a fairer secular democracy for all.


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