Trouble reading this email? View newsletter in your browser | Add to your safe senders

National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


Join us

Newsline 17 January 2020


This week the BBC documentary The Church's Darkest Secret told the tawdry and tragic tale of the Church of England's cover-up of sexual abuse in the case of the bishop Peter Ball. In the blog below, our president Keith Porteous Wood examines the church's shocking handling of the Ball affair – and calls for the severance of its ties to the state.

Also this week we have deeply disappointing news from Peterborough, as a religiously selective Catholic school looks set to get the go-ahead – despite clashing with plans for an inclusive, secular alternative. We're exploring the possibility of a legal challenge to the likely decision to approve the faith school.

If you support our efforts to separate church and state and challenge religious privilege, why not join the NSS today? And if you think schools should be inclusive and secular, you can help us make that case by getting involved in our No More Faith Schools campaign. Thank you.


News & Opinion


Let’s disestablish the church that covered up sexual abuse

Keith Porteous Wood says the shocking failings highlighted by the BBC documentary The Church's Darkest Secret show the need to separate church and state.


Council set to approve discriminatory faith school in Peterborough

A new discriminatory Catholic primary school is expected to open in Peterborough after education officials recommended its approval.


Don’t require employers to accommodate religious demands, says NSS

The NSS has urged the Council of Europe not to adopt a motion which would privilege religious demands from employees in the workplace.


Council shouldn’t convert non-denominational school, says report

A council in western Scotland should abandon a plan to convert a non-denominational school into a Catholic faith school,... Read More »


Ofsted investigated over 100 unregistered faith schools since 2016

Over 100 unregistered faith 'schools' were investigated in England between January 2016 and August 2019, inspectors have said.


Calls for parliamentary prayers review after MP compelled to attend

An MP has called for a review of the practice of holding parliamentary prayers after being effectively forced to attend.


Other news: UK

Dundee City Council has rejected a measure to remove voting rights from non-elected members on the city's education committee, including their religious representatives. Before the vote the NSS urged councillors to remove unelected religious reps' voting privileges.

All five Labour leadership candidates have signed up to 10 'election pledges' from the Muslim Council of Britain without reservation. The NSS has expressed alarm over this development, outlining its concerns in a thread on Twitter.

Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey told Catholic priests during the recent election campaign she would make sure their "views are heard" regarding any changes to the law on abortion. The NSS opposes any religious restrictions on reproductive rights.

It's emerged that Catholic chaplains in the armed forces 'outed' gay and lesbian personnel to the authorities – breaking the supposed confidentiality of the confessional as they did so. This is despite the fact the Catholic Church has lobbied against international efforts to break the seal of the confessional in cases of child abuse.


International free speech news

The blogger Raif Badawi, who has been imprisoned and flogged on charges of blasphemy and apostasy in Saudi Arabia since 2012, has passed his 36th birthday in prison.

The Maldives government has said "incidents" of blasphemy will be monitored and investigated after a video emerged of a Maldivian advocating for the right to leave Islam.

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


NSS speaks out

A bill which we've helped to draft, which would remove the automatic right of Church of England bishops to sit in the House of Lords, was covered in a feature in The Mirror in the wake of the BBC's documentary on Peter Ball.

Our spokesperson Chris Sloggett said politicians in Scotland shouldn't pander to the Catholic Church's efforts to advance its ethical and moral positions in a letter to The Sunday Times.

Our chief executive Stephen Evans responded to the news that a discriminatory faith school is likely to get the go-ahead in The Peterborough Telegraph.


Latest NSS podcast


Ep 21: Integrated education in Northern Ireland - interview

In this episode, Emma Park speaks with Maddy Bridgman and Sam Fitzsimmons of the Integrated Education Fund, a charity that supports inclusive, integrated education in Northern Ireland.


Quotes of the week

"My life just fell apart. My marriage broke up. I lost my house. My children ended up living with my ex-wife. I'd invested so much in this police investigation and expected results, something to happen."
Phil Johnson, survivor of Peter Ball's abuse, reflects on the breakdown of a police investigation in the 1990s


"People should have the right to choose the way they want to dress. It should not be forced."
Shohreh Bayat, chief arbiter of the Women's World Chess Championships, on Iran's forced hijab law. She also spoke of her fear of returning to the country, after a photo appeared to show her without a headscarf at an event in Shanghai


Read elsewhere


We visited a mass female circumcision ceremony in Indonesia

By Adi Renaldi, for Vice

Parents bring girls as young as 3 months old to undergo a procedure that is known to cause sexual dysfunction, cysts, and birthing complications.


US Catholic Church shields $2bn in assets to limit abuse payouts

By Josh Saul, for Bloomberg

Dioceses are aggressively moving and reclassifying holdings to shrink the value of their bankruptcy estates.


Essay of the week

The attacks on two Delhi universities reveal Modi's targets: Muslims and their allies
By Mukul Kesavan, for The Guardian

The BJP wants to suppress Indian Muslims and secularists who see them as equal citizens – but police violence has backfired.


NSS events

Our upcoming events include a talk on the 1944 Education Act and its legacy in February and an event for educators on our Exploring Secularism resources in May.

Find out more on our events page.


Book by Peter Ball survivor

One of Peter Ball's survivors, Cliff James, has explored the impact of the abuse he suffered and how he tried to come to terms with it within his new book Life As A Kite. You can read more about the book and order it on Cliff's website.


Sign our petitions

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.


Support our work

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


Click here if you'd rather read Newsline as a PDF.