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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 19 October 2018


The scientific consensus on slaughtering farm animals is overwhelming: it is more humane to stun animals before killing them than not to do so. And we argue that politicians must listen to the vets rather than the clerics. Religion should not be an excuse to mistreat animals.

This week we revealed that 18 councils across the UK are supplying halal meat which has not been stunned before slaughter to schools. Many local authorities told us they do not supply non-stun meat and cite animal welfare as the reason for not doing so. But in some areas serving children inhumanely slaughtered meat is worryingly normalised. Kirklees Council in west Yorkshire, for example, supplies non-stunned halal to 40 schools.

This can be changed. Yesterday Lancashire County Council voted overwhelmingly to stop the supply of non-stunned non-poultry meat to schools – upholding a decision it first made a year ago. We welcome the council's decision to face down some hardline local Muslim groups on this issue. But this is a reminder that councils' jobs could be made much easier by principled action at a national level. The government needs to repeal the religious exemption to our animal welfare laws. If you agree, please sign our petition or write to your MP on the subject.

In other news there is now just over a week to go until our Healthcare & Secularism conference in Birmingham next Saturday. We still have a handful of tickets left for this rare opportunity to find out more about, and discuss, the most pressing secularist issues in the world of healthcare today. Our panellists will explore topics including conscientious objection, LGBT+ 'conversion therapy', ritual genital cutting and assisted dying. Don't miss out – book your ticket now.


News & Opinion


At least 17 councils giving schools non-stunned meat, NSS reveals

At least 17 councils across the UK are supplying non-stunned halal meat to dozens of schools, National Secular Society research has revealed.


NSS welcomes Lancashire decision on non-stunned meat in schools

The NSS has welcomed Lancashire County Council's ratification of its decision to stop supplying most non-stunned halal meat to schools.


Abuse survivors sue Catholic order which ran children’s homes

Ten people are suing a religious order which ran two Scottish orphanages where many children were physically and sexually abused.


We must resist both religious hatred and its weaponisation

After a sharp rise in reported crimes in which religious hatred was a factor, Alastair Lichten says liberal democracies should... Read More »


Ten more independent faith schools issued warnings by DfE

Ten failing independent faith schools are among those which have recently been issued warning notices by the government.


Australian ‘religious freedom’ review prompts discrimination row

Australia's government looks set to allow religious schools which receive public funds to sack teachers for their sexuality nationwide.


Latest from the No More Faith Schools campaign


Children refused school places due to discriminatory policies, complaints reveal

A girl of Muslim background and a girl with autism were among those refused places at state-funded faith schools in September because of discriminatory policies, complaints to an ombudsman have revealed.


Other news

The minister for faith has announced that seven more "faith and belief groups" will be represented at the Cenotaph for the Remembrance Sunday service from this year. The groups include Humanists, Jains, Zoroastrians and Copts.

Women cannot get hold of the take-home abortion pill in swathes of Scotland a year after the Scottish government announced its introduction.

As ministers in Scotland consider proposals to allow people to self-declare their gender, officials have said equality laws may be changed to give churches an opt-out from the plans.

Hackney Council in north London has removed a boundary line put up by Orthodox Jewish rabbis after some people in the street it was in threatened to cut it down. No planning consent was obtained and residents were not consulted before a very thin wire was strung from the lamp posts there last month.

On Tuesday women were allowed to watch Iran play Bolivia at football in Tehran. Women have been banned from watching sport in person since shortly after the Islamic revolution of 1979.

Queensland has become Australia's latest state to decriminalise abortion, repealing a century-old law that made the practice punishable with prison time.

The favourite to be Brazil's next president, far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro, has signed a commitment to keep abortion illegal if he wins power, backing the influential Catholic Church's stance.

To get all the latest news and views on secularism from the media in your inbox every morning, you can sign up to receive your daily media briefing.


Events coming up


Healthcare & Secularism Conference

Featuring talks by academics and experts in the fields of medicine, law and ethics, the Healthcare & Secularism conference will give participants the opportunity to discuss the most pressing secular medical issues today. These will include conscientious objection, ritual circumcision, pastoral care and assisted dying.


Secularism 2019: reclaiming religious freedom

What does "religious freedom" truly mean? While religious lobbyists commonly use terms like "religious freedom" to demand privileges, this conference will serve to highlight that true "religious freedom" means freedom of belief for people of all religions and none. The conference will also explore the limits of religious freedom when it impedes on other human rights, including bodily autonomy, equality and freedom of expression.


Other events

Other upcoming events include a talk from our 2017 Secularist of the Year Yasmin Rehman in Nottingham (next Tuesday) and a conference on sharia, segregation and secularism.

See all upcoming events.


Quotes of the week

"I think this is an example of how space is shrinking for civil society organisations, for voices who are speaking for civic rights and peacebuilding. This is not an attack on Gulalai Ismail, this is an attack on our civic freedom and liberty to speak out. This is an attack on our freedom of speech."
Gulalai Ismail, a human rights activist who was arrested in Pakistan last Friday. She has since been released but her passport has been confiscated and she cannot leave the country


"The women in this study recall being terrified, not of taking abortion pills at home, but of being arrested. The current situation forcing abortion seekers to travel is untenable and inhumane."
Emma Campbell, co-chair of Alliance for Choice in Northern Ireland, responds to a report on the stigma facing women from NI who seek abortions. MPs will debate decriminalising abortion in NI next week


"There are millions of mothers who are in this situation and, for me, every mother who protected her daughter, you know what you did. You know what you have changed. You have changed the life of your great-great-great- grandchildren - and you will be looked at as their hero."
Hibo Wardere, who suffered FGM in Somalia when she was young, on women who resist pressure to subject their daughters to the procedure

See our quotes of the week archive.


Essays of the week

Are faith schools better? An issue of correlation vs causation
By Jonathan MS Pearce, for Patheos

The arguments of the pro-faith schools lobby are based on a series of myths.


Ireland's blasphemy referendum offers a chance to remove a dangerous law
By Ivana Bacik, for The Irish Times

Ireland's blasphemy offence is an unnecessary, undue encroachment on free speech, and it has had an adverse international impact. Next week's referendum is long overdue.


Read elsewhere


Trump hugs the Evangelicals close

By Rosie Dawson, for Church Times

The level of access that Evangelicals have to the White House is unprecedented.


Religion and women’s rights clash, violently, at a shrine in India

By Suhasini Raj and Kai Schultz, for The New York Times

On Wednesday Sabarimala Temple in southern India opened for the first time since the Supreme Court struck down a ban on women of childbearing age entering it. It quickly became the latest battleground in a long-running conflict between India's modern, liberal court system and deeply conservative elements of its ancient culture.


What the Arab world needs most is free expression

By Jamal Khashoggi, for The Washington Post

The Washington Post has published the final column from Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident who appears to have been killed by the Saudi regime. Khashoggi calls for free speech in the Arab world.


NSS speaks out

Our chief executive Stephen Evans commented on the Church of England's failure to attend any of Amazon or Google's AGMs in the last three years in The Times. Stephen was quoted in the New Statesman on evangelical groups which engage in debt counselling.

Our research on councils supplying schools with non-stunned meat was reported in Farming UK. The Lancashire Telegraph quoted our letter to councillors in Lancashire in advance of the vote on supplying non-stun meat to schools there.

The Birmingham Mail extensively cited our 2017 findings on the compulsory hijab in schools in an article on Marks & Spencer selling hijabs as schoolwear for very young children. Stephen also discussed hijabs in schools on BBC Radio Kent.

Our No More Faith Schools campaign was extensively cited by Patheos.


NSS scholarship

The application process for the second round of NSS scholarship funding, which supports students who conduct research relevant to secularism and the promotion of human rights, is currently open.

We're inviting requests for grants ranging from £500-£3,000. The scholarship is open to anyone publishing research in English. The deadline for applications for the current round of funding is 1 November.

You can find out more on our research & scholarships page.


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