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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 17 August 2018


We've been at the forefront of campaigning for a fairer, secular society for over 150 years. We have gone from being prosecuted for blasphemy to being instrumental in its abolition.

Today we campaign for a secular democracy where: there is no established state religion; everyone is equal before the law; religious codes don't undermine the judicial process; free expression isn't restricted by religious considerations; religion plays no role in state-funded education; the state doesn't express religious preferences or promote religious practices; there is freedom of belief and non-belief; public service provision doesn't discriminate on religious grounds; and nobody is advantaged or disadvantaged because of religion.

If you think this sounds like a programme worth supporting, please consider joining us or making a donation to fund our work.

We'll be taking a break from Newsline for the next two weeks, but we'll be back in the first week of September as usual. In the meantime we wish all our supporters a pleasant summer break – and don't forget to check out the events we have coming up in Birmingham, Leicester, London and Manchester this autumn.


News & Opinion


NSS backs call for review of role of sharia ‘courts’ in divorce

The NSS has backed calls for the government to withdraw divorce guidance which encourages women to turn to religious 'courts'.


Scottish govt commits to faith schools despite religious decline

The Scottish government has told the NSS it has no plans to roll back faith schools as a poll shows Scots are becoming less religious.


Tribunal dismisses homophobic Muslim teacher’s discrimination claim

A tribunal has dismissed a claim of religious discrimination from a deputy head teacher who was sacked for expressing homophobic views.


Religious power and privilege failed the victims in the Peter Ball affair

In this long read NSS president Keith Porteous Wood explains how all arms of the law co-operated to protect the now former... Read More »


Catholic Church covered up abuse of 1,000 children in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's Catholic Church leaders covered up the abuse of over 1,000 children by more than 300 priests, a major report has said.


Latest from the No More Faith Schools campaign


‘Church schools’ less likely to admit black or poor pupils

Black and disadvantaged pupils are significantly less likely to gain places at 'church schools' than their white or better-off counterparts, a study has found.


Events coming up


'The men who killed Gandhi': secular India and the rise of Hindu nationalism

The esteemed human rights activist, author and NSS honorary associate Gita Sahgal will explore the rise of Hindu nationalism in our 2018 Bradlaugh Lecture.


Other events: find out more

See all Events >


Other news

A former senior member of a Christian charity suspected of physically abusing boys who attended Christian summer camps has died without answering the allegations against him. One of his victims has called for an independent inquiry and accused the Church of England of "marking its own exams".

Petitioners have called for a chaplain who opposed same-sex marriage equality and made anti-gay remarks to be dismissed from a school in Angus. The school and council have made clear that the chaplain won't be sacked. In response the NSS's Scottish office has said state schools shouldn't employ religious chaplains or organise pastoral care around religious identities.

Women in Scotland will still be allowed to take abortion pills at home after a legal challenge against the move was thrown out. In May we reported that the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children was attempting to block it in court.

The queen's former spokesperson Dickie Arbiter has suggested Prince Charles will take the titles 'defender of the faith' and 'supreme governor of the Church of England' when he ascends to the throne.

A former Catholic archbishop will serve a maximum 12-month sentence in home detention for concealing child sexual abuse, an Australian court has ruled. The decision means Philip Wilson, who resigned as archbishop of Adelaide after his conviction, will avoid jail.

Lawyers representing child abuse survivors have called for the environment secretary, Michael Gove, to be called before a public inquiry over an allegation he intervened in a sexual abuse investigation into a priest.

The Danish government has said it will work to combat a bill proposing to ban infant circumcision in the country.

Tunisia's president has proposed giving women equal inheritance rights in the latest sign that the country could embrace secular law.

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

"Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many have been promoted."
A grand jury in the US on the cover-up of child abuse in the Catholic Church


It is even more important that we challenge the preaching of modesty codes for women. But how do we do that if the debate is constantly shut down? We are in danger of fostering an atmosphere where the silent Muslim majority dare not voice their concerns."
Iram Ramzan, Sunday Times reporter


"The best guarantee of religious freedom and religious tolerance is a well-organised secular state. The courts and the state should take no views on the existence of God…. There is a higher authority, it's called the law."
Ian McEwan, author, makes the case for secularism on BBC Newsnight


"I talked my daughter out of hijab. I would have burnt her veil had she chosen it. My mum's generation didn't come to this country to be subjugated and see the rise of Islamism & jihadism again. They valued British values where they had autonomy, rights and freedoms no one ever gave them."
Gina Khan, human rights activist

See our quotes of the week archive...


Essays of the week

Questioning the misogynistic veil isn't racist
By Jo Bartosch, for UnHerd

How odd that the mainstream left in the UK is more inclined to fight for women's right to be oppressed than to live free of oppression.


Argentina's women have not been beaten on abortion – change will come
By Claudia Piñeiro, for the Guardian

The abortion debate in Argentina should be about public health rather than religion – and those who voted against legalisation last week will not halt progress.


Read elsewhere


As Catholic hospitals expand in the US, so do limits on some procedures

By Katie Hafner, for the New York Times

One in six hospital patients in the United States is now treated in a Catholic facility, according to the Catholic Health Association. Most of these hospitals provide little or no information up front about procedures they won't perform.


Has Ireland lost faith in its church?

By Arthur Beesley, for the Financial Times

As Ireland prepares for a papal visit, the Catholic Church is in crisis.


NSS speaks out

Our education and schools officer Alastair Lichten was quoted in Tes on a Jewish school which has been allowed to place restrictions on parents' behaviour. We reported on the admissions adjudicator's ruling last week.


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