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Newsline 18 January 2019

  

This week MPs from across the political spectrum tabled a motion calling for an end to institutionalised prayer in parliament. Early day motion 1967, which we played a significant role in drafting, calls for a review of the practice of parliamentary prayers.

MPs from a variety of political parties and religious backgrounds should be able to get behind EDM 1967. Parliamentarians are free to pray in their own time, but starting the day with prayers – and effectively requiring MPs to turn up for them to get a seat on busy days – imposes Anglicanism on those who may not share it. It also sends a message about who really belongs – and who doesn't – in the UK legislature.

We argue that all elected representatives, and the citizens they serve, should be equally welcomed and valued in parliament, irrespective of their personal beliefs. We'd like to keep up the pressure for change by adding more signatures. If you agree, please spare a moment to write your MP. Our template letter makes the process straightforward.

And if you'd like to see us gaining the support of more politicians, please consider donating to or joining the NSS. Your support helps us to promote secularist principles and pursue freedom of and from religion for all, and we thank you for it.

  

News & Opinion

 

Prayers shouldn’t be part of parliamentary business, say MPs

MPs have called for an end to the practice of holding prayers in parliament in an early day motion backed by the NSS.

 

Institutionalised prayer doesn't belong in parliament

As MPs launch a motion against parliamentary prayers, NSS CEO Stephen Evans says ending the anachronistic custom would strike a blow for modernity, equality and freedom of conscience.

 

Council leader silencing debate on schools’ non-stun meat, NSS says

The NSS has criticised a Yorkshire council's leader for "trying to silence" objections to the supply of non-stun halal meat to schools.

 

Medical ethicist Brian Earp to speak at Secularism 2019

Cross-disciplinary medical ethicist Dr Brian D. Earp will address the NSS's Secularism 2019 conference on 'reclaiming religious freedom'.

 

Barbara Smoker’s remarkable life should inspire us all

Former NSS president Barbara Smoker's book My Godforsaken Life: Memoir of a Maverick reminds us of the value of ordinary people's principled activism and provides a link to secularists of the past, says Helen Nicholls.

 

Fully discriminatory Catholic schools proposed in Cambridgeshire

Three new Catholic schools are among the first to be proposed amid a new round of government funding for voluntary aided faith schools in England.

  

Write to your MP: end parliamentary prayers

We've backed an early day motion calling for the end of institutionalised prayer in parliament. You can use our template letter to ask your MP to sign it.

You can also read about why we want to end official prayers in parliament and in local council meetings on our campaigns pages.

  

Other news

The number of Jewish children in Jewish schools in the UK has soared by nearly 12% over the past three years, with almost seven in 10 Jewish children now attending Jewish schools.

The Isle of Man has become the first place in the British Isles to decriminalise abortion.

The Royal College of Physicians will ask doctors if they would help a terminally ill patient to die and whether the law on assisted dying should be changed.

Amazon has reportedly removed products showing "offensive" images after Sikh groups complained. The NSS has criticised its decision.

An Israeli museum plans to withdraw a sculpture depicting the McDonald's mascot as the crucified Jesus following protests from offended Christians.

Google has come under fire for featuring an app that encourages gay people to seek 'conversion therapy' in its online store.

The US state of New York has passed a bill banning gay 'conversion therapy'.

  

Read elsewhere

 

‘Unconstitutional’ US anti-FGM law exposes hypocrisy in child protection

By Brian Earp, for The Conversation

A recent US ruling on genital cutting was disturbing but not surprising. There should not be double standards based on race or religion, sex or gender.

  

Buy your tickets: Secularism 2019

If you'd like to see Brian Earp and others speak about what religious freedom truly means and how it can be defended for everyone, come to our Secularism 2019 conference on 18 May. You can buy your tickets now.

  

Events coming up

 

LGBT & secular rights at risk: a Bangladesh perspective

Date: Sunday 20 January 2019, 12-5pm
Venue: Conway Hall, London

This Sunday activists will gather at a conference to raise awareness of the threat to secularist and LGBT rights in Bangladesh.

 

Radicals, rebels and revolutionaries of the 19th century

Thursday 21 February to Thursday 28 March, 6:30-8:30pm
Conway Hall, London

A six-week course examining the often hidden or forgotten contribution of radicals, rebels and revolutionaries to the development of groundbreaking democratic ideas and campaigns in the 19th century. Tutored by NSS council member Bob Forder.

  

Other events

Other events coming up which we recommend include a panel discussion on extremism featuring the government's lead commissioner for countering extremism, Sara Khan, next Thursday.

See all upcoming events.

  

Essays of the week

Can US progressives reclaim religious freedom from Trump and the evangelical right?
By Paul Rosenberg, for Salon

Activists are resisting President Trump's embrace of Christian nationalism.

  

Rahaf Mohammed and the need for universal human rights
By Khadija Khan, for Areo

Rahaf Mohammed's epic escape from Saudi Arabia has demonstrated the pressing need for humanity to join together to protect human rights irrespective of caste, colour or creed.

  

Rescuing religious freedom
By Elizabeth Oldfield, for Theos

Religious freedom needs to be promoted unequivocally as a right for all people. When it is restricted to one group it becomes a force for harm.

  

Britain's honour crime shame
By Julie Bindel, for UnHerd

Cultural sensitivity has no place in the fight against honour-based violence.

  

Quotes of the week

"A lot of people misread their rights. They think freedom of religion means they can do anything in the name of religion, or human rights means they can act however they want against others."
Swedish politician Nyamko Sabuni on honour-based violence

  

"I had nothing to lose. We are treated as an object, like a slave. I wanted to tell people my story and about what happens to Saudi women."
Rahaf Mohammed, who arrived in Canada this week after renouncing Islam and fleeing Saudi Arabia

  

"While religious worship occupies a strong part in some people's lives, it should no longer play a role in the way we conduct our political affairs as an independent, open and diverse nation."
Crispin Blunt MP, NSS honorary associate, on parliamentary prayers

  

"I respect people's choices but I don't have to respect their ideology."
Zara Kay, ex-Muslim activist

  

Sign the petition – say No More Faith Schools

No More Faith Schools is our national campaign dedicated to bringing about an end to state funded faith schools. Tell us why you support it by signing our petition.

  

Petition comment of the week: end non-stun slaughter

"As a farmer I want to be confident that the animals I send to slaughter are dealt with humanely, as all animals in UK should be. We have worked for high welfare standards which should not be allowed to slip for a religious group. If I cut an animal's throat I would be arrested for cruelty – what's the difference?"
Juliet, Hereford

Sign the petition and tell us why you want to end non-stun slaughter.

  

NSS speaks out

Our research on public attitudes to the Church of England's ties to the state was mentioned in The Times in an article by our honorary associate Crispin Blunt on parliamentary prayers. Our chief executive Stephen Evans was also quoted on parliamentary prayers by Premier Christian Radio.

Stephen was also quoted in The Examiner, in Huddersfield and West Yorkshire, on Kirklees Council's supply of non-stun meat to schools.

Our communications officer Chris Sloggett discussed free speech and Islam on the radio station Voice of Islam.

  

Support our work

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

  

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