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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 1 November 2019


Earlier this year we intervened at the European Court of Human Rights in an important case concerning religious education in Greece.

A group of parents and students brought the case. They understandably objected to the fact they could only opt their children out of an RE course which promoted Orthodox Christianity if they declared their religious affiliation.

This week we're pleased to report that the court has found in their favour. In the process it upheld the arguments we made in their defence, and said compulsory RE must not indoctrinate pupils into a religious worldview.

We're continuing to argue that education about religion in UK schools should enable children to make their own minds up about their beliefs. And where religion is pushed on children, parents must retain a credible right to withdraw them. If you think making that argument is worthwhile, please consider joining or donating to us. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


Compulsory RE mustn’t indoctrinate, says European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights has said RE curricula must be conveyed in an "objective" manner after a successful NSS intervention.


The Catholic Church’s snub to the child abuse inquiry speaks volumes

The Holy See's refusal to fully assist the UK's sexual abuse inquiry reveals unchangeable deficiencies within the church and highlights the need for a new mandatory reporting law, says Stephen Evans.


Government expects “industry” to inform consumers on non-stun meat

The government has said it expects food producers and outlets to give consumers information on meat from non-stun slaughter.


Faith schools perform less well under fairer assessment, says study

Faith schools drop dramatically in league tables when fairer indicators of pupils' background are taken into account, a study... Read More »


Parent's perspective: My son shouldn't have to feel abnormal because he's not Christian

My son is struggling to reconcile his lack of religious belief with his school's Christian ethos.


Latest NSS podcast


Ep 17: Thought for the Day | RE in Wales

In this week's episode, Emma Park is joined by Chris Sloggett and Helen Nicholls to discuss whether BBC Radio 4's Thought... Read More »


Calls for review of assisted dying law

This week more than 20 MPs and 18 police and crime commissioners issued separate calls for a review of the ban on assisted dying.

The NSS argues that religion should not undermine patients' autonomy over the way they are treated at the end of their lives. Dr Jacky Davis of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying addressed the NSS's Healthcare and Secularism conference on the subject last year.


Other news

A three-year-old boy has had his penis cut off during a circumcision in Brazil. Meanwhile some Sri Lankan Muslim groups are calling for forms of female genital mutilation to be permitted on 'religious freedom' grounds, using language deployed to defend ritual male circumcision. The NSS argues that all children deserve equal and complete protection from unnecessary genital cutting.

A group of Italian doctors are on trial for manslaughter after refusing to perform a potentially life-saving abortion. The NSS argues that 'conscientious objection' to providing treatment, which is often justified on religious grounds, must not be allowed to endanger women's health.

A rabbinical court in Israel has taken two children from the care of their mother after claims she was not complying with observant Jewish practices. The court granted the children's father custody despite the fact he'd formerly been convicted of violent crimes. The NSS has described this as a shocking reminder of the harm that can be done when the state empowers religious 'courts'.

Two Italian footballers have been suspended after being seen "uttering a blasphemous expression" on the pitch.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, which supports those who leave Islam and has seen its casework double in recent years, is offering supporters the opportunity to become patrons.

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


Read elsewhere


The politics of simultaneous resistance: lessons for contemporary feminism

Speech by Pragna Patel, at FiLiA 2019

In the opening address to the recent FiLiA conference, the director of Southall Black Sisters said feminists and progressives must find a way out of the cul-de-sac of identity politics.


The war on African women is supported by foreign activists, with no regard for our lives

By Olutimehin Adegbeye, for openDemocracy

Religious groups are limiting access to sexual and reproductive services, and this needs to end.


Upcoming events

Next Thursday our board member Richard Scorer will join a panel to discuss the way in which the law balances the right to freedom of religion with other human and individual rights.

In the coming weeks our staff and board members will also take part in events on religion's role in public life, our campaign to end state-funded faith schools and more.

Find out more on our events page.


Essays of the week

More ritual, less circumcision
By Carolina Landsmann, for Haaretz

It would be a relief for many Jews if circumcision became a metaphorical ritual rather than a literal one.


The terrifying reaction to a panel debate on Islamophobia
By Qanta Ahmed, for The Spectator

The reaction to an event at the recent Conservative party conference shows why so few moderate Muslims are heard in public debate.


NSS scholarship

The NSS is keen to support original research that supports the evidence base of our campaigns work and improves public understanding of secularism.

To this end we have established a scholarship of up to £5,000 per application. The latest round of applications for funding closes on 1 December. You can apply through our research & scholarships page.


In your own words: scrap the chancel tax

"I would not voluntarily give the C of E a penny. Why should anyone be forced to?"
Joyce, Northamptonshire

Sign the petition and tell us why chancel repair liability, which leaves some landowners in England & Wales liable for repairs to local Anglican churches, should be abolished.


In your own words: disestablish the Church of England

In the interest of fairness and equality the time has come for the separation of church and state."
Mark, Nottinghamshire

Sign the petition and tell us why the C of E should be disestablished.


In your own words: end compulsory worship in schools

"My second child is now at school. Local evangelists are giving assemblies and preaching to children from age four upwards. Withdrawing them isn't the answer, as it would single them out and they are too young to fully understand the situation."
Chris, Derbyshire

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.


Support our work

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


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