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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 16 November 2018


During yesterday's political frenzy the government quietly announced funding for a new wave of faith schools which can select all their children on the basis of faith. Perhaps this was a coincidence, but perhaps it was a sign that the government knows these schools aren't popular and is trying to bury bad news.

One of our main objections to faith schools is the fact they discriminate against children based on their families' faith or lack of it. We campaigned vigorously against plans to lift the 50% cap on faith-based selection in new academies, forcing the government to back down earlier this year. And our No More Faith Schools campaign will work to oppose these new faith schools wherever they arise. You can help us make the case for inclusive education by getting involved in the campaign.

Meanwhile there are now just six months to go until our major one-day Secularism 2019 conference on 18 May. This promises to be an exciting opportunity to discuss what we truly mean by religious freedom – a qualified right which everyone should enjoy. Tickets are £50 – or just £25 for members. Buy yours today, and we'll see you there.


News & Opinion


Government commits funding to new 100% selective faith schools

The government has announced funding for a wave of new voluntary aided schools, which can select all their children based on faith.


NSS: religious offence-taking must not curtail free speech at BBC

The NSS has urged the BBC to uphold free expression and expressed concerns that new guidelines defer too much to religious sensitivities.


C of E services for schools expand by 56% in four years

The NSS has said a rise in the number of children attending C of E school services should prompt "a separation of church and school".


Time to end criminality and cover-up in the Catholic Church

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has turned its attention to abuse in the Catholic Church's archdiocese of... Read More »


How secularism protects people who have religious faith

For Interfaith Week 2018, campaigns officer Megan Manson explains how the National Secular Society's work protects those... Read More »


Latest from the No More Faith Schools campaign


33 new faith schools proposed in latest round of academies

Thirty-three new faith schools have been included in the latest wave of free school applications in England, the government... Read More »


Other news

The Church of England has dominated Remembrance Sunday on the 100th anniversary of the armistice. The C of E led the annual service at the Cenotaph. Later the prince of Wales and the prime minister gave religious readings in a service at Westminster Abbey.

A Pentecostal church in London, the Winners' Chapel, has been accused of offering 'gay cure therapy'. In 2014 the NSS successfully campaigned to prevent the church from opening a school.

Leading doctors have backed "sensitive and age-appropriate" teaching of LGBT issues to primary school children.

A Ugandan MP who has used religion to justify her push for virulently anti-gay measures was welcomed to Downing Street and spoke in the Commons chamber last week. The NSS has criticised the invitation.

The Vatican has told the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to delay voting on measures to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect children from sexual abuse.

The archbishop of Canterbury has praised Prince Charles's "prophetic instincts" in a House of Lords debate to mark the heir to the throne's 70th birthday. The NSS has called this a "misuse" of parliamentary time.

India's top court has agreed to review a ruling that removed a ban on women of menstruating age from entering a prominent Hindu temple, following widespread protests against the decision.

The National Trust has encouraged its properties to keep using the traditional terms 'before Christ' and 'anno domini' after one of its flagship properties started using alternative terms.


NSS annual report 2018

We've published our annual report for 2018, which outlines the work we've been doing to safeguard freedom of and from religion this year, including:

- We launch our No More Faith Schools campaign

- A big win as the government backs down on lifting a cap on faith-based admissions

- We publish reports on disestablishment and religious influence in sex education

- This year's NSS events

And much more.


Events coming up in the next two weeks

Next week we recommend a talk in London examining the historical conflict between 'blasphemers' and the authorities (on Wednesday) and a conference on sharia, segregation and secularism (next Sunday).

The following week our honorary associate Gita Sahgal will deliver a talk in Nottingham.

See all upcoming events.


Just six months away - Secularism 2019

Religious lobbyists commonly use terms like 'religious freedom' to demand privileges. But this conference will show that genuine religious freedom involves freedom of belief for people of all religions and none. It will also explore the limits of religious freedom when it impedes on other human rights, including bodily autonomy, equality and freedom of expression.


Quotes of the week

"I think they just see them as a scourge on them, third class citizens who dare to challenge them."
An anonymous complainant at this week's IICSA inquiry on the Catholic Church's attitude to sexual abuse survivors


"With rights come responsibilities. There are many things that we no longer do because we know better. There is clear scripture that says you should beat your children. We ignore that because we recognise beating children is harmful. This is a harmful practice."
Paul Bailey, pastor at an inclusive Pentecostal church, on the need to end gay 'conversion therapy'


"The world remains largely unaware of this crisis or is unwilling to speak out about it for fear of possible political or economic consequences. But we must present a united voice of condemnation."
Timothy Grose, professor of China studies, on China's mass incarceration of Muslims

See our quotes of the week archive.


Essays of the week: the Asia Bibi case

Blasphemy laws: an excuse for persecution
Editorial, for the New York Times

Blasphemy laws should be repealed where they exist.


Imran Khan's treatment of Asia Bibi is a dangerous betrayal
By Samira Shackle, for The Guardian

Imran Khan's words on the Asia Bibi case will be empty if he cedes ground to the mob demanding her punishment.


Asia Bibi case shows the danger of courting religious extremists
By Rahila Gupta, for CNN

The religious right's ability to rouse a rabble has given it a disproportionate and vicious grip on what's left of democracy in Pakistan.


Read elsewhere


How religion undermines education in Ireland

By Barry O'Rourke, for The Irish Times

A first-hand account of the Irish education system shows how teachers are obliged to promote faith.


Is India waging a 'war' on Islamic names?

By Soutik Biswas, for the BBC

To appease its Hindu nationalist base, Narendra Modi's ruling BJP appears to have embarked on a renaming frenzy.


NSS speaks out

Our warning that faith-based sex education could undermine Scotland's stated commitment to LGBT+ inclusion in schools was reported in The Times, with our chief executive Stephen Evans commenting. It was also mentioned in Patheos.

Tes reported our concern at rising attendance at Church of England school services.

Two local newspapers in West Yorkshire reported our criticism of the local councils for supplying non-stun halal meat to schools – Examiner Live in Kirklees and the Telegraph & Argus in Bradford.

And our vice-president Richard Scorer, acting in his capacity as a lawyer for survivors of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church at the IICSA inquiry, was quoted on the BBC.


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