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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 14 December 2018


There are many reasons to be opposed to state faith schools. They push religion on children, encourage segregation and often discriminate against teachers and pupils. It's also not the state's role to endorse theological positions.

When we raise these points we're often told that faith schools are good for parental choice. But this week our report, The Choice Delusion, has seriously undermined that claim. We've shown that almost three in ten families in England live in areas where most or all of the local primary schools are faith-based. And thousands of families have been unable to secure a religiously-neutral education for their children, despite the fact they want one.

Elsewhere we've coordinated a letter to the home secretary pushing back against attempts to convince the government to adopt an official definition of 'Islamophobia'. And we're once again drawing attention to an issue of genuine religious freedom, as we call for the removal of laws requiring compulsory worship in schools.

We can only do this with your help, so if you value this work please consider joining or making a donation to the NSS now. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


Faith schools significantly limit choice for many parents, NSS finds

Almost three in ten families in England live in areas where most or all of the local primary schools are faith-based, new National Secular Society research has revealed.


Unravelling the choice delusion

We often hear that faith schools improve choice. But an NSS report shows that this narrative mischaracterises the challenges facing families and public education's role in a diverse society, says Alastair Lichten.


Home secretary urged not to adopt definition of ‘Islamophobia'

The NSS has urged the home secretary to resist calls to adopt a formal definition of 'Islamophobia' which have been put forward by a parliamentary group.


Students should be free to excuse themselves from worship

After two students pushed the Welsh government for a response to a petition to remove schools' obligation to hold acts of worship, Stephen Evans says pupils should be free to opt out of religious practices in schools.


Report highlights religious threat to global human rights

Blasphemy laws, supremacist ideologies, sectarianism, 'caste' systems and exclusionary laws are among the ways religion restricts human rights globally, according to a parliamentary group.


Government “committed” to reviewing food labelling, peer says

The government has said it is "committed" to reviewing food labelling amid criticism of the sale of non-stun halal meat to Saudi Arabia.


Man fairly sacked over unauthorised religious absence, court rules

A man who took unauthorised absence to attend a course for Jehovah's Witnesses has seen his claim for unfair dismissal rejected.


NSS writes elsewhere


Faith schools restrict rather than expand parental choice

By Stephen Evans, NSS chief executive, for the Huffington Post

No child should be discriminated against by a faith school – or forced into one through lack of choice.


Latest from the No More Faith Schools campaign


Academy trust warned over faith school's inadequate standards

The Department for Education has warned an academy trust it will lose its funding if a faith school it runs in Birmingham... Read More »


Updated NSS blog


My children’s school has become Christian by default

Lee Harris didn't choose a faith school for his children. But when he challenged evangelism at his local school, he learnt that community school status doesn't necessarily prevent religion from being imposed on children.


Read elsewhere


How religious content is treated in civil wedding ceremonies

By Rebecca Probert and Stephanie Pywell, for Law and Religion UK

A summary of recently-published research on what may and may not be included in a civil wedding ceremony – but sometimes is.


Other news

The Vatican's third most powerful official has been convicted in Australia on sexual abuse charges, it has been widely reported. The case is still subject to reporting restrictions in Australia, a situation which at least one newspaper has loudly criticised.

A report from Northern Ireland's Human Rights Commission has urged NI's Department of Justice to introduce legislation to end the criminalisation of women and girls seeking an abortion.

The Scottish government is considering new legislation to incorporate internationally recognised human rights into Scottish law.

Campaigners are to renew an offer to pay the cost of trial Sunday openings of a leisure centre and its swimming pool in Stornoway on Lewis.

A shopping centre in Stirling in central Scotland has caved in to pressure to stage a nativity scene as part of its Christmas display after complaints that it was not doing so.

A bill to legalise abortion services in the Republic of Ireland has passed all stages of the Irish parliament.

Canada is reportedly on the brink of repealing its blasphemy law.


Buy your tickets: Secularism 2019

There are just five months to go until our Secularism 2019 conference, where we'll explore what 'religious freedom' truly means and how genuine religious freedom can be best defended for everyone. You can buy your tickets now.


Other events

We recommend several other events in the coming weeks.

See all upcoming events.


Essays of the week

The problem with the word 'Islamophobia'
By Mohammed Amin, on his personal blog

The word has multiple definitions, mostly based on people's attitude to Islam rather than Muslims. In contrast the term 'anti-Muslim hatred' keeps the focus on people.


Modi's India is a living nightmare for Muslims
By Rana Ayyub, for the Washington Post

In India today, as acts of communal violence increase, the worst fears of Indian Muslims are coming true.


Extremists are undermining our human rights and we must challenge them
By Sara Khan, for Civil Society

Countering extremism is a human rights issue, and civil society organisations and charities are uniquely placed to push back against it.


Quotes of the week

"The question before my mind was always, what do I do with this claim? And what is the best way to find a solution to this complex problem?"
Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster and leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, tries to explain why he withheld evidence of child abuse allegations


"Religion should be kept outside of school because it has nothing to do with education."
Rhiannon Shipton, schoolgirl calling for the end of compulsory worship in Welsh schools


"Given that evidence clearly indicates that slaughter without pre-stunning can cause unnecessary suffering… isn't it time Bradford Council was more transparent on this issue and reviewed its policy?"
Debbie Davies, local councillor, on non-stun halal in school meals in Bradford in West Yorkshire

See our quotes of the week archive.


End compulsory worship: petition comment of the week

"Enforced participation in acts of worship flies in the face of freedom of religion and freedom from religion. It should be abolished."
Michael, Norwich

Sign the petition and let us know why you want to see an end to compulsory worship in schools.


Male circumcision: petition comment of the week

"Let's just say it as it is - we're talking about the non-consensual mutilation of newborns. Removal of a sensitive piece of tissue without permission, with the risk of long-term complications and short term infections and even death. It is no less than barbaric, and must stop."
Daniele, Cambridge

Sign the petition and let us know why you think boys should be legally protected from forced genital cutting.


NSS speaks out

Our report on faith schools restricting school choice was covered in The Sunday Times. Our CEO Stephen Evans wrote a piece in The Huffington Post about it and the report was also covered by LocalGov, Schools Improvement and Church Times.

A shortened version of the letter we coordinated on the proposed definition of 'Islamophobia' was published in The Sunday Times.

Our president Keith Porteous Wood discussed the petition on compulsory worship in Wales on BBC Radio Wales. We were also quoted in a BBC news story and by La Croix International.

Our recent letter to Google about its endorsement of an app which helps the Indonesian government to crack down on blasphemy was covered in a range of outlets, including The Freethinker on Patheos.


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