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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 14 June 2019


With your help we continue to show the harm that's done when religion has undue influence in public life.

This week we've revealed how Orthodox Jewish schools are planning to evade expectations to teach aspects of relationships and sex education (particularly parts which acknowledge the existence of LGBT people). Documents we've seen show a coordinated effort to exploit loopholes in government regulations – loopholes which we've previously warned about.

We've reported four Islamic charities to the regulator after finding that they are promoting deeply intolerant messages. This amplifies the points we made in our report on religious charities earlier this year, when we called for 'the advancement of religion' to be removed as a charitable purpose.

And last week we highlighted the fact that a school governor – who is in that position because he is a vicar – had called on Christian parents to "follow the example" of Muslims protesting against LGBT-inclusive education. Thanks to our revelations the school is now investigating – although we're keen for wider lessons to be learnt about the folly of giving religious groups control of schools.

We think this is crucial work, and we plan to continue revealing the ways religious groups harm individual rights and social cohesion. If you think this is worthwhile work, please consider joining or donating to us. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


Exposed: Orthodox Jewish schools’ plan to escape LGBT-inclusive RSE

Orthodox Jewish schools are planning to exploit loopholes to avoid teaching aspects of relationships & sex education, the NSS can reveal.


Islamic charities push death for ‘apostates’ and female subjugation

The NSS has reported four Islamic charities to the charities regulator after revealing that they promote deeply intolerant messages.


School to investigate governor over LGBT "child abuse" comments

A school is investigating a governor who called LGBT-inclusive education "child grooming" in remarks first highlighted by the NSS.


Countering the threat to religious freedom and of religious extremism

Countering extremism requires a whole-society response to uphold and promote democratic norms and principles and encourage debate and dialogue, says the lead commissioner for countering extremism Sara Khan.


Government warns independent faith schools over sex segregation

The government has warned three independent faith schools which have sexist policies, including two which segregate boys and girls.


Islamic school that refused entry to inspector warned by DfE

An independent Islamic school has been warned by the government after it refused entry to a school inspector and was rated 'inadequate'.


LGBT-inclusive education latest

Birmingham City Council has secured a new injunction to protect Anderton Park Primary School from protests at the school gates over LGBT equality teaching.

The NAHT headteachers' union has urged the Department for Education to do more after schools in Birmingham have experienced weeks of escalating protests over LGBT teaching. It says primary schools should be backed to decide 'when and not if' they teach LGBT lessons.

Feminist Dissent and Finding A Voice are organising a free public meeting to show solidarity with the brave stand taken by Anderton Park Primary School, and to call on all schools to continue in their duty to teach about all equalities and encourage a non-discriminatory and inclusive school environment. The event will be held on Thursday 27 June 2019 19:00 – 21:30 at Main Meeting House, The Priory Rooms, 40 Bull Street Birmingham. B4 6AF. Speakers will include Labour MP Jess Phillips and Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, headteacher at Anderton Park Primary School. More information and the booking form can be found here.

Meanwhile, pupils in Catholic schools in Liverpool were handed a magazine which included an insert describing gender theory as a "delirious ideology" based on "mere whims". They said "sophisticated activists" were trying to impose their "anti-God" views on children. The Archdiocese of Liverpool said the publisher of its magazine will apologise to schools for accidentally including the leaflet.


Other news

A Polish court has ordered church authorities to hand over to prosecutors classified files regarding a paedophilia case, in an example of a clash between the state and the powerful Catholic Church in Poland.

Botswana's High Court has ruled in favour of decriminalising homosexuality in a landmark decision for campaigners.

Faith Matters, a non-profit organisation which supports counter-extremism and integration, said it would no longer sit on the Redbridge Prevent advisory group after a former national coordinator of MEND's Islamophobia response unit was voted in. MEND have been accused of spreading conspiracy theories and Islamist views.

A trustee of a charity whose object is "to advance Buddhist religion" has been disqualified from all charities. He failed to take proper action on allegations of sexual and physical abuse of students at the charity.

Germany is considering a ban of so-called "conversion therapies" aimed at changing the sexual orientation of gay people. Health Minister Jens Spahn expressed support for a prohibition that his department and the Justice Ministry are working on.

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


Watch: Pragna Patel at Secularism 2019

The latest video from our Secularism 2019 conference is now up on our YouTube channel. Watch Southhall Black Sisters' Pragna Patel talk about religion and the politics of causing offence.


Read elsewhere


The Pakistani lawyer putting his life on the line

By Subi Shah, for New Internationalist

An interview with Saif ul Malook, the lawyer who defended a Christian woman from execution for 'blasphemy' and winner of the NSS's Secularist of the Year 2019 award.


Europe’s secularists worry about the rise of Christian-nativist populism

Erasmus blog, for The Economist

The home of the Enlightenment sees dark portents.


Essays of the week

Teaching children about LGBT issues is not brainwashing – it equips them for life
By Russell Hobby (CEO of Teach First), for The Guardian

Parents' rights do not trump all, and teachers need the government's support on teaching about LGBT equality.


Tolerating intolerance
By Khadija Khan, for sister-hood

Some British Muslim parents have opposed teaching intended to promote diversity and equality in primary schools. If equality is a policy priority in British schools, then it ought to apply all children, irrespective of their sex, caste, creed, colour, identity and sexuality.


Quotes of the week

"I dislike the word Islamophobia as it gives an impression to people that Islam needs some form of special defence. It doesn't."
Fiyaz Mughal, founder and director of Faith Matters, highlights some of the issues with the APPG on British Muslims' definition of 'Islamophobia'.


"But while children may have no idea of their sexual identity at five, they may have aunts, siblings, cousins or parents who are gay and they should be able to see two women kissing on a bus in the middle of the day without being surprised."
Alice Thomson at The Times explains why there is still much work to be done for gay equality.


Petition comment of the week: end religious discrimination in school admissions

"As a person of no faith, I'm so alarmed at the rise of discrimination in school admissions based on faith. It creates an 'us and them' mentality at such a young age, like all religion imposed on kids who know no better and can't make an informed decision."
Ksenia, Dorset

Sign the petition and explain why we should end religious discrimination in school admissions.

Alternatively, get involved in our No More Faith Schools campaign and help us to make the case against the government's wave of religiously selective faith schools.


Petition comment of the week: male circumcision

"Circumcision where it is not necessary for medical reasons amounts to the sexual mutilation of babies and children for the religious gratification of adults. Religious belief should be no defence for such obscene acts of cruelty. I am circumcised."
Steve, Kent

Sign the petition and explain why non-therapeutic infant genital cutting should end.


NSS speaks out

We were quoted in a front-page story of the Rotherham Advertiser and by The Freethinker (on Patheos) on the school governor who ranted about LGBT-inclusive education. The story, which we first highlighted, also appeared in national news outlets such as the Mirror and other local papers such as The Yorkshire Post.

We were quoted in Schools Week on our findings that orthodox Jewish schools are planning to exploit loopholes to avoid teaching aspects of relationships and sex education.

Our opposition to the proposed definition of 'Islamophobia' was referenced in a supportive column in The Times by Amina Lone.

And the history of the NSS featured in Southwark News's account of Fruits of Philosophy, the Victorian guidebook on sex and contraception published by Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant.


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