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

National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


Join us

Newsline 18 October 2019


This week the dean of Westminster Abbey used a sermon at the abbey, in front of the queen and journalists from several prominent press outlets, to call for more state-funded Muslim faith schools.

It's hardly surprising to see the Church of England using its privileged platform to push this line. An expansion of Muslim schools would, of course, be in the C of E's interests, as it would make it easier for the church to embed its own control over state education.

But it would also undermine children's freedom to choose their religious beliefs and identity when they are ready to, harm social cohesion and further embed the failing multifaithist approach to public policy.

We're urging policy makers to stand up for inclusive, secular schooling. If you think that sounds worthwhile, please consider joining us or donating to us, or getting involved in our No More Faith Schools campaign. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


Senior CoE priest calls for more Muslim faith schools

The No More Faith Schools campaign has urged the government to resist a call for "a substantial number of state-funded Muslim... Read More »


Anti-RSE campaigns: guidance is welcome, but schools need more support

The government has published new guidance for schools facing disruption from religious groups who oppose LGBT-inclusive education. Alastair Lichten welcomes the gesture but says the substance doesn't go far enough.


Secularism is a feminist issue

Ahead of the FiLiA 2019 conference this weekend, Megan Manson argues that secularism is a crucial ingredient in campaigns for women's equality.


Petition calls for end to religious selection at Lancashire school

Campaigners in Lancaster have started a petition calling on a Church of England secondary school to end religious discrimination in its admissions policy.


Court case over anti-LGBT protests outside school

A bid to create a permanent exclusion zone banning anti-LGBT protests around Anderton Park School in Birmingham has been the subject of a high court case this week. The court has heard that:

- The school's head had to cancel a parents' evening because she feared for teachers' safety

- The lead protester invited an imam from Yorkshire who then spread wild misinformation and launched into deeply personal attacks on the school's head

- The noise from the protests has been clearly audible inside the school's nursery and playground. Witnesses also linked the protests to rises in homophobic incidents recorded by police in the local area and increased stress among teachers.


Other news: UK

The head teacher of an unregistered Islamic school, who was successfully prosecuted for operating it illegally last month, has promised to keep running the school. In response the NSS has said religion must not be above the law.

A new garden of remembrance for bereaved parents has opened in Edinburgh, without religious symbolism. The local council proposed the creation of the garden in 2018 after the NSS worked with a concerned individual to raise the issue. Under the previous arrangement babies from shared cremations were being interred in a garden with a large cross.

The NSS has said fear of offending religious groups mustn't shut down legitimate journalism after petitioners demanded that the BBC remove an expose on Iraqi Muslim clerics selling young girls for sex.


Other news: international

Earlier this week Uganda's government appeared set to reintroduce a bill sanctioning the execution of gay people into its parliament. Reports now suggest the government is backtracking, with a spokesperson for the president saying the country's penal code "already handles issues of unnatural sexual behaviour".

A group of feminists could face time in prison for a 'religious hate crime' after carrying a large vagina through the Spanish city of Seville in a protest.

Stay in touch with all the latest news and views on secularism – sign up to receive your daily media briefing from the NSS.


Latest NSS podcast


Ep 16: Operation Christmas Child | Faith schools

In this week's episode, Emma Park speaks to Megan Manson about the evangelical charity behind Operation Christmas Child, and to Alastair Lichten about children being sent to faith schools against their parents' preferences.

The episode also features highlights from our 2019 Bradlaugh Lecture, where assistant head Andrew Moffat defended inclusive education.


Upcoming events

In the coming weeks our staff and board members will take part in events on religion and women's rights, religion's role in public life and more.

Find out more on our events page.


Essay of the week

A million people are jailed in China's gulags. I managed to escape. Here's what really goes on inside
By David Stavrou, for Haaretz

Sayragul Sauytbay offers firsthand testimony from a Xinjiang 'reeducation' camp, where inmates – mainly from the Uighur Muslim population – are subject to rape, torture and human experiments.


Read elsewhere


Teachers are losing their religion and breaking the rules

By Eve Debbage, for Schools Week

Teachers are less religious today than they were 50 years ago – and this could have implications for religion's role in schools.


Quote of the week

"Why aren't the NSPCC looking into it? Why isn't the government looking into it? It's illegal to dock a dog's tail or to circumcise a girl but it's legal to circumcise a boy."
A mother whose child was circumcised without her consent says people are scared to tackle the issue because of religion


In your own words: end compulsory worship in schools

"Everybody should have the right to worship if they choose but school is not the place for it. Forced participation in such worship is nothing short of indoctrination."
Paul, East Yorkshire

Sign our petition and explain why you think compulsory worship in schools should end.

Alternatively, sign one of our other petitions to let us know why you support another secularist cause.


Film on Catholic Church and abuse due out

The film By the Grace of God will be screened in the UK from next Friday. It tells the story of the victims of Bernard Preynat, a former Catholic priest in Lyon who is believed to have abused 70 children over three decades, and their fight for justice.

A trailer is available on YouTube. You can look out for more NSS commentary on the film next week.


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.