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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 14 February 2020


This week, despite spirited opposition, a council has approved deeply regressive plans for the first state-funded Catholic school to be built in England for more than a decade.

Peterborough City Council's decision was upheld in the face of a challenge from local councillors and residents – backed by the NSS – who instead wanted an inclusive, secular school to serve their community.

We've been making the case for an inclusive alternative throughout this process and we'll continue to argue against divisive faith schools, both locally and nationally, through our No More Faith Schools campaign. Where new schools are needed they should be inclusive, rather than organised around an exclusive religious ethos. And wherever an expansion of faith provision is planned, we'll be there to lead the resistance.

But we need your help. If you'd like to support our work, please consider getting involved in the campaign or joining the NSS. Thank you.


News & Opinion


Challenge to new selective Catholic school in Peterborough rejected

A challenge to a decision to open a new selective Catholic school in Peterborough has been rejected, despite strong backing... Read More »


Denying a judicial review over a faith school’s expansion was a lamentable decision

After he was refused permission for a judicial review against Vale of Glamorgan Council, James Brunt says its decision to expand a faith school was based on dubious methodology and defied reasonable logic.


Secularism linked to prosperity and better education, study finds

Secularism and tolerance of individual rights have made societies more prosperous, educated and democratic, according to a major study.


NSS urges council to reduce funding for transport to faith schools

The NSS has urged Telford & Wrekin Council to end discretionary funding for transport to faith schools in response to a consultation.


Watch: NSS lobbies against new Catholic school


NSS urges council not to approve Catholic school

Our campaigns officer Megan Manson delivers a statement at a meeting of Peterborough City Council's scrutiny committee, urging it not to approve plans for a discriminatory new Catholic school.


Other education news

A legal expert has said making all pupils take part in religious education classes could see the Welsh government taken to court for breaching human rights. The NSS has also questioned whether the plans will be compatible with human rights if religion is not taught objectively in all schools, including faith schools.

The government has announced new measures to confront illegal schools. Religious groups often use these 'schools' to avoid oversight, and the NSS has long lobbied to ensure ministers take the threat they pose to children's rights seriously.

The NSS's No More Faith Schools campaign has described a new Church of England resource for educational leaders as further evidence that the church is pushing religion on children in the schools it runs.


Other news

Northern Ireland's first same-sex marriage has taken place.

A former Catholic school monk has been jailed for child abuse – highlighting another damaging cover-up of abuse in the Catholic Church.

A leading provider of abortion care has criticised the Home Office for refusing to introduce exclusion zones after a group of anti-abortion activists protested outside a north London clinic.

Keep up with all the latest news and views on secularism by subscribing to our daily media briefing.


NSS campaign for marriage law reform

Did you know it's significantly harder and more expensive to have a non-religious or same-sex wedding than a religious one in England and Wales?

On Valentine's Day, read about our campaign to reform the marriage laws.


Exploring Secularism training day & other events

On Saturday 9 May we're hosting the first training day on our Exploring Secularism resources for educators. The day is free - but you must book in advance to attend.

You can also read about our other upcoming events on our website.


Quotes of the week

"One day we may look back and wonder how we ever hoped to encourage unity when we allowed them to divide our youngest and most impressionable members."
Councillor Terri Haynes on the decision to open a new Catholic school in Peterborough


"In this debate we have lost sight of the fact that Mila is an adolescent. We owe her protection at school, in her daily life, in her movements… The law is clear: we have the right to blaspheme, to criticise, to caricature religions."
Emmanuel Macron, French president, on the case of 'Mila', the 16-year-old girl who received threats and was driven into hiding after criticising Islam. Mila moved to a new school this week


Essay of the week

No faith in Peterborough faith school consultation process
By Nicola Day, for the Peterborough Telegraph

A councillor explains why she formally challenged a decision to open a new selective Catholic school.


Read elsewhere


Trump-linked religious ‘extremists’ target women with disinformation worldwide

By Claire Provost & Nandini Archer, for openDemocracy

A global network of 'crisis pregnancy centres', backed by US anti-abortion groups linked to the Trump White House, is targeting vulnerable women with "disinformation, emotional manipulation and outright deceit".


NSS speaks out

Our campaigns officer Megan Manson discussed the decision to approve a new Catholic school in Peterborough on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. Our No More Faith Schools campaign was also mentioned in an opinion piece from Councillor Nicola Day (above) on the same subject in the Peterborough Telegraph.

Our CEO Stephen Evans discussed a plan to close a non-faith school and open a Church of England school on the same site on radio station BBC Surrey.

Our definition of secularism was mentioned in the Mail Online.


In your own words: end compulsory worship in schools

"Faith is a personal issue, and religious compulsion has no place in government policy. A child being forced to practise a religion they don't believe in is wrong - and caused a great deal of upset to my own children throughout their time at school."
Helen, Yorkshire

If you want to let us know why you support a secularist cause, why not sign one of our petitions? We aim to feature the best comments in Newsline.


Thanks to all who braved the weather to attend Dr Keith Sharpe's lecture on the 1944 Education Act on Monday. We plan to have a video of the event available as soon as possible.


Support our work

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


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