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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 12 July 2019


The latest British Social Attitudes survey has revealed that only 12% of Britons are affiliated to the Church of England. The C of E's privileged position in public life has always been unjustifiable – and this is just the latest study which suggests it's increasingly unsustainable.

We're calling for a rethink of religion's relationship in the UK's public life. The Church of England should be disestablished. The automatic right of 26 Anglican bishops to sit in the House of Lords should be rescinded. State funding for faith schools should end. And the deference to religion which characterises much of our public policy and public discourse should be challenged.

We're working towards a secular, fairer society – and if you think this sounds worthwhile, please consider joining or donating to us today. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


Just 12% of Brits are affiliated to C of E, major survey reveals

The NSS has called for a "serious rethink" of religion's public role amid a significant decline in affiliation to the Church of England.


Why are we letting faith schools stigmatise same-sex relationships?

Ofsted penalises schools that refuse to teach about LGBT people, but seems to ignore other schools that teach same-sex relationships are morally wrong. Megan Manson says this double standard needs to end.


BBC dilutes protections for religious ideas after NSS lobbying

New BBC guidelines have watered down some protections for religious ideas but still place a premium on depictions of Muhammad.


Blasphemy culture mustn’t undermine freedom of the press

The press regulator is consulting on guidelines which will inform the way stories about Islam and Muslims are reported. It must not endorse taboos which shut down debate and harm social cohesion, says Chris Sloggett.


Government warns Islamic independent school over sex segregation

An Islamic independent school that unlawfully segregates male and female pupils has been warned by the government.


Parent's perspective: faith schools push dogma as fact and undermine inclusion

It's high time for parents to demand an end to religious groups' control of children's education, says Simon from West Yorkshire.


LGBT-inclusive education latest

Anti-LGBT protests have re-started at the gates of Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, despite the fact the school has modified its 'No Outsiders' programme, so it's now 'No Outsiders for a faith community'.

Meanwhile Muslim parents in east London have urged a school not to "encourage" gay relationships.

And over 50 MPs have written to the education secretary, urging the government to give stronger backing to schools on teaching about same-sex relationships.


IICSA inquiry latest

Abuse survivor Matthew Ineson has told the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse that his disclosures about being sexually abused as a teenager were ignored by senior Church of England clerics.

He has described the archbishops of Canterbury and York as "not fit for office".

He has also said he had never received an apology letter which Justin Welby said he had sent him and Welby had never apologised to him in person, despite his claim to the contrary.


Other news

The NSS has welcomed moves from MPs to liberalise Northern Ireland's abortion laws and extend same-sex marriage rights to NI.

A doctor has taken the government to court, claiming he was sacked because his Christian beliefs stopped him addressing transgender claimants by the pronouns they prefer. The NSS has said professional expectations must apply equally regardless of religion.

A change in the Church of England's rules will mean the prime minister no longer influences the choice of bishops and archbishops. The NSS has said politicians shouldn't choose religious leaders - and by the same logic the ties between church & state should be cut.

The Royal College of GPs has said GP practices can hire chaplains to provide 'religious support' for patients. The NSS has questioned whether this is this a sensible use of resources and said any publicly-funded pastoral support for patients must be provided in a secular context.

Stay in touch with all the latest news and views on secularism by signing up to receive your daily media briefing from the NSS.


Bradlaugh Lecture 2019: tickets on sale

Andrew Moffat will address the subject 'No Outsiders: reclaiming radical ideas in schools' at our 2019 Bradlaugh Lecture on 7 September in Manchester. Tickets are on sale now.


Read elsewhere


Learning when to let go

By Rachel Laser, for Americans United for Separation of Church and State

As the United States's founding fathers understood, only with true religious freedom is it possible for the country and those who live in it to thrive.


The BBC erases the murderous Rushdie fatwa

By Craig Byers, for The Conservative Woman

A BBC report highlighted the Rushdie affair without mentioning the fatwa or the deaths that followed it.


Essays of the week

Faith in religion is dwindling, but when will British politics reflect that?
By Polly Toynbee, for The Guardian

The decline in belief shown by the latest British Attitudes Survey is not reflected in diminished religious influence.


Religious conservatives won't like it, but the government must take a stand over teaching about gay relationships
By Rachel Wolf, for Conservative Home

You cannot adjudicate on the row over teaching about gay relationships on the basis of weighing individuals' feelings of hurt or offence. You must make a judgement about who is right.


Quotes of the week

"If a community or a group of people do genuinely have their belief that I am perverted and that I am going to hell, eternal damnation, I can live with that. That's fine but go and think about it on your own turf. You do that in your churches. You do that in your mosques. You do that wherever you want. Don't you dare do that anywhere near a place of education."
Mhairi Black MP on religious groups' views on gay people


"Keeping the government free from religion does not stifle religious freedom. Quite the opposite — religious freedom is stifled when the government takes sides on religious issues."
Ryan Jayne of the US-based Freedom From Religion Foundation


NSS speaks out

We were widely cited in response to the British Social Attitudes Survey's findings that affiliation to the Church of England has rapidly declined. Our CEO Stephen Evans discussed the survey on Sky News, LBC, talkRADIO and BBC Three Counties Radio (listen from 1:21). He was also quoted in outlets including ITV News and the Express. His appearance on LBC was given a favourable write-up by The Freethinker on Patheos.

Our spokesperson Chris Sloggett discussed the same topic on talkRADIO (listen from 8:51am).

Stephen also commented on the Scottish government's spending on private divinity students in The Times.

Our education and schools officer Alastair Lichten was quoted in the Rotherham Advertiser in a follow-up piece on a vicar who stepped down from his role as a school governor over an anti-LGBT rant.

Our interest in the case of a man sacked from his job at Asda for sharing a comic sketch mocking religion was mentioned extensively on Patheos.

Our recent report on religious charities was the subject of a favourable letter from Neil Barber of Edinburgh Secular Society in The National (scroll down).


Petition comment of the week: disestablish the Church of England

"A single branch of a religion should not have any influence over the government of such a diverse society. Religion is a personal thing and rules and regulations should be based on logic, not beliefs."
Neil, West Yorkshire

Sign the petition and tell us why church and state should be separate.


Parliament & Peterloo exhibition

A free exhibition exploring the political and social background to the Peterloo massacre and parliament's reaction to it has opened at the Parliamentary Archives. Find out more on the website. You can also read more about the close links between the campaign for church-state separation and the democrats of Peterloo in this blog from our council member Bob Forder.


From the archive: religious persecution


Britain needs to stand up for everyone’s religious freedom

A report commissioned by the Foreign Office has called for a definition of anti-Christian discrimination. In this piece written after the Sri Lanka attacks in April, Stephen Evans said there should be no hierarchy of importance when it comes to protecting people from persecution.


China's religious persecution is a secularist issue

Twenty-two members of the UN Human Rights Council have condemned China's mass detention of Uighur Muslims. In this blog from 2018 Stephen Evans said the intensifying religious persecution in the repressive state must be condemned.


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