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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 15 February 2019


We've long argued that all children and young people should enjoy the right to age-appropriate relationships and sex education that gives them clear and accurate information on topics that matter to their health and wellbeing.

In the last few weeks there has been a concerted religious-led pushback against this idea. This week's lead story exposes the shocking bigotry of some of those who are resisting RSE – including the campaigner who created a parliamentary petition against calling for a parental opt-out which MPs will soon debate. We're lobbying the government to urge it to stand up to them – and we're asking you to help us.

Elsewhere, a school has severed its ties with a group which hosted Islamic extremists after we raised concerns about a madrassa it was running on the premises. And we're continuing to call for an end to non-stun slaughter. New figures have revealed that a large proportion of non-stun sheep meat is now exported from the UK, and the majority of sheep slaughtered in England and Wales are now slaughtered by a halal method.

We can only stand up for secularism with your support, so if you value our work please consider getting involved. If you're not a member, please join us today. And don't forget to book your tickets for our upcoming Secularism 2019 conference, which will include the presentation of our Secularist of the Year award and a drinks reception with stunning views over the River Thames and Tower Bridge. Thanks for your support.


News & Opinion


NSS: DfE must stand up to religious  bullying over sex education

The NSS has highlighted the bigoted messages of religious anti-RSE campaigners.


Government to crack down on illegal and failing independent schools

The NSS has welcomed government plans to promote integration by legislating against unregistered and failing independent schools.


Integrated communities require inclusive, secular schools

A government plan on integration sets out a positive vision on education - but faith schools remain the elephant in the room. Alastair Lichten asks if ministers' actions will match their rhetoric.


School breaks ties with group that hosted Islamic extremists

A school has stopped letting its premises to an Islamic weekend school after the NSS raised concerns over the messages it was promoting.


Britain risks becoming a ‘hotbed of non-stun slaughter’, warns NSS

The NSS has warned the government over non-stun slaughter after it emerged that nearly a quarter of non-stun sheep meat is exported.


Education secretary to faith school critics: “This is a Christian country”

The education secretary Damian Hinds has defended his commitment to providing a wave of new voluntary aided (VA) schools... Read More »


Experts: persecuted Christians review should have broader focus

A UN special rapporteur has urged the government to consider religious freedom more broadly as a review focuses on Christian persecution.


NSS welcomes guidance which promotes free speech at universities

The NSS has welcomed official guidance which aims to ensure universities "remain a forum for open and robust enquiry".


NSS writes elsewhere


Community schools for all

By Alastair Lichten, NSS head of education, for Comprehensive Future

Community schools are better equipped to promote freedom of and from religion than faith schools.


Listen to the NSS podcast


Exploring religious freedom: Maryam Namazie

Alastair Lichten speaks to Maryam Namazie, spokesperson for Iran Solidarity, One Law for All and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and a patron of London Black Atheists.


Other news

A strictly Orthodox Jewish nursery in London that sacked a Jewish teacher who revealed she lived with her boyfriend has won an appeal against a religious discrimination ruling. But an employment tribunal upheld a previous decision that Zelda De Groen had been the victim of sex-based discrimination and harassment.

The charities regulator has opened an inquiry into the charity behind the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Birmingham because of safeguarding concerns. The Birmingham Diocesan Trust was selected as a case study by the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse last year.

On the day that Pope Francis's sexual abuse summit is due to start, a potentially explosive book will be published claiming to lift the lid on gay priests in the Vatican and the double lives of senior officials.

A government-backed bill to crack down on female genital mutilation could come before the Commons within days after the prime minister threw her weight behind the proposals. Meanwhile medics in Scotland's biggest cities have treated victims of FGM on more than 230 occasions in the past two years.

An Instagram account that published comic strips depicting the struggles of gay Muslims in Indonesia has disappeared following a frenzy of outrage online in the world's biggest Muslim nation. Instagram has since denied that it removed the account at the request of the Indonesian government.

An Oxford University college is considering a request from students to serve halal and kosher meat its dining hall – but only if it is stunned before slaughter.

North Lanarkshire Council in the Lowlands of Scotland has been criticised for awarding £500 of taxpayers' money to the Orange Order.


Read elsewhere


‘Religious freedom’ claims have recently been used to defend FGM in courts in four countries

By Nandini Archer and Claire Provost, for openDemocracy

Doctors and lawyers in at least four countries have recently argued in court that bans on female genital mutilation violate 'religious freedom'.


The Catholic Church is heading for another sex abuse scandal as #NunsToo speak up

By Kathleen McPhillips, for The Conversation

It is clear the sexual abuse of women, children and vulnerable adults has been normalised in Catholic clerical culture – and the answers to this catastrophic problem will not come from church leaders.


Buy your tickets: Secularism 2019

What does religious freedom truly mean - and how can it be defended for everyone? We'll be discussing this at our Secularism 2019 conference at the Tower Hotel in central London on 18 May. You can buy your tickets now.


Other events coming up include a talk by our head of education Alastair Lichten at Brighton Humanists and a six-week course on 19th-century radicals in London run by our council member Bob Forder.

See all upcoming events.


Essays of the week

My religious education stalled my career potential
By Rebecca Mordechai, for The Huffington Post

Ultra-orthodox Jewish schools in the US are costing girls the chance to gain experiences.


I was forced to wear a hijab. It wasn't liberating
By Soutiam Goodarzi, for The Spectator

'World Hijab Day' is an insult to those who grew up in Iran fearing the 'modesty police'.


The problem with US 'Biblical literacy' classes
By Candida Moss, for The Daily Beast

The motives behind US politicians' support for 'Biblical literacy' classes are alarming.


Quotes of the week

"Seeking to protect some from persecution necessarily requires seeking to protect all from persecution."
Letter from Dr Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur and Secularism 2019 speaker, and others on religious persecution in The Sunday Telegraph


"'This is the story of how one book forced everyone to take a side,' intones [presenter Mobeen] Azhar at the start of one episode. Er, no – it didn't. A novel can't force anyone to do anything, and neither can a novelist. To point the finger at Rushdie, instead of the religious leader who ordered his assassination, is absurd."
Jemima Lewis, radio critic, in her review of the BBC's series Fatwa (on the Satanic Verses affair) in The Telegraph


"Blasphemy law is used around the world all the time as an excuse to stifle political and social debate. If we want to guarantee that blasphemy can't be used as weapon against political criticism, we should get rid of the law."
Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, writers of the play Trial By Laughter, call for the end of Scotland's blasphemy law


Petition comment of the week: faith-free sex education

"Comprehensive sex education for all young people is crucial for reducing sexual violence, unwanted pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. The safety and health of young people is more important than shielding them from ideas that some disagree with."
Kate, Leeds

Sign the petition and say why religion should not prevent children receiving an age-appropriate education on sex and relationships.


NSS speaks out

Our chief executive Stephen Evans had a letter published in The Guardian on religious objections to education about LGBT issues.

The Telegraph reported on the school which severed its ties with an Islamic weekend school after we raised concerns, mentioning us.


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