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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 12 October 2018


This week a group of respected academics has outlined a series of proposals which would make it easier for children to make their own minds up about religion. Their report argues that faith schools shouldn't be able to direct children towards particular religious beliefs and calls for tighter restrictions on faith-based admissions.

Their ideas have been described as 'radical', but if you believe in individual autonomy they should just be common sense. Education should give children the intellectual tools they need to make their own minds up about religion, rather than labelling them with identities and beliefs which they may reject as they grow up.

In fact our only criticism is that the recommendations don't go far enough. They would still mean faith schools being regulated, rather than rolled back.

So while we welcome this report, our No More Faith Schools campaign will keep making the point that religiously neutral education requires religiously neutral schools. If you agree, you can sign our petition or consider other ways to get involved in the campaign. Alternatively if you support what we do you can join or donate to the NSS, or consider attending one of our events. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


Let children make their own minds up about religion, says report

The NSS has welcomed an academic report which calls on English state schools to raise children in a religiously neutral manner.


Christian bakers did not discriminate against gay customer, Supreme Court rules

A owners of bakery that refused to make a cake with the slogan 'support gay marriage' were not discriminatory, the Supreme Court has ruled.


NSS writes to Foreign Office over blasphemy case in Pakistan

The NSS has urged the Foreign Office to do what it can to secure the release of a woman facing execution in Pakistan for blasphemy.


Why are harmful charities registered at all?

The revelation that Amazon funds extremist religious charities is the tip of the iceberg. Our charity system has deep problems,... Read More »


Kavanaugh vote puts US church-state separation ‘in the balance’

Secularists in the US have said church-state separation "hangs in the balance" after Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court.


Other news

A report from the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has found that children at a Catholic-run orphanage in Lanarkshire were sexually abused and beaten with leather straps, hairbrushes and crucifixes.

The government will no longer require private primary schools to provide LGBT-inclusive education, according to reports.

The first ever Pride march took place on the deeply Presbyterian island of Lewis on Saturday. The marchers were confronted by Christian protestors who were bitterly opposed to the event. Meanwhile thousands of people have taken part in a major LGBT+ event in Inverness.

A motion at the SNP conference has called on the Scottish government to set up a working group to reform the sex education curriculum and ensure it is taught in all schools, regardless of denominational status.

Nearly two-thirds of people in Northern Ireland and more than three-quarters of the UK public believe abortion should be decriminalised in the country, according to a poll.

A referendum to establish a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Romania has failed after only a fifth of voters bothered to turn out. A cabinet minister has said the country's ruling party aims to introduce legislation to legalise civil unions for same-sex couples.

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.


Events coming up


Healthcare & Secularism Conference

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 secular medical issues today. These will include conscientious objection, ritual circumcision, pastoral care and assisted dying.


Secularism 2019: reclaiming religious freedom

What does "religious freedom" truly mean? While religious lobbyists commonly use terms like "religious freedom" to demand privileges, this conference will serve to highlight that true "religious freedom" means freedom of belief for people of all religions and none. The conference will also explore the limits of religious freedom when it impedes on other human rights, including bodily autonomy, equality and freedom of expression.


Other events

Other upcoming events include a talk from our 2017 Secularist of the Year Yasmin Rehman in Nottingham and a conference on sharia, segregation and secularism.

See all upcoming events.


Quotes of the week

The decision to wear distinctive clothing as expected by your religion should be taken into adulthood rather than being imposed upon children by their cultural background while at school. Schools should be the melting pot of society and should help integration by delivering a common set of values."
Alan Smithers, education academic at the University of Buckingham, on Marks & Spencer selling hijabs to girls as young as three


"Let's face it: throwing kids out of school for being gay is disgusting. This isn't about freedom. It's cruelty. Ruddock's team should have knocked it on the head instead of recommending a few protections. And politicians calling, pathetically, for no fresh laws allowing faith schools to expel gay kids should be demanding the practice ends right now everywhere in Australia."
David Marr, Guardian journalist, on proposals in Australia's 'religious freedom' review to enshrine religious schools' 'right' to discriminate against LGBT children and teachers


"It's been accepted in the highest court in the UK that private companies can accept bookings and then, if they feel that it goes against their morals, refuse that booking if it offends their sensibilities and it not be counted as discriminatory. We appreciate that this looks like tit for tat, and it is."
Tony Xu, founder of photography business, on its decision to deny service to the Christian Institute. The institute bankrolled the bakers in the Ashers case

See our quotes of the week archive.


Essay of the week

The far left's Islamist blind spot
By Nick Cohen, for The Spectator

The alliance between the white far left and the Islamist right is a dirty secret in plain sight.


Read elsewhere


Church and state – an unhappy union?

By Harriet Sherwood, for The Observer
The Church of England is in steep decline. With membership sinking to 14% of Britons, can it justify its place at the heart of the state?


Evangelicals and Pentecostals lend support to far-right presidential candidate in Brazil

By Amy Erica Smith and Ryan Lloyd, for Vox

Jair Bolsonaro looks set to win the presidency in Brazil – with the support of religious leaders.


I was an Isis sex slave. I tell my story because it is the best weapon I have

By Nadia Murad, for The Guardian

Nobel peace prize winner Nadia Murad describes her extraordinary journey from suffering at the hands of Islamic State to human rights campaigner.


NSS speaks out

Our chief executive Stephen Evans was quoted in The Times on the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries. This church, which is linked to a particularly aggressive form of gay 'conversion therapy', is a registered charity which is set to receive funds from Amazon.

Our vice-president Terry Sanderson spoke on PM on BBC Radio 4 about the ruling in the Ashers bakery case (the relevant section begins after 5:50; Terry is introduced after 11:15).

Our Separating Church and State report was cited in a feature on disestablishment in The Observer.


NSS scholarship

The application process for the second round of NSS scholarship funding, which supports students who conduct research relevant to secularism and the promotion of human rights, is currently open.

We're inviting requests for grants ranging from £500-£3,000. The scholarship is open to anyone publishing research in English. The deadline for applications for the current round of funding is 1 November.

You can find out more on our research & scholarships page.


Support our work

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


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