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

National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


Join us

Newsline 20 July 2018


Last year the NSS launched its '21st Century RE for all' campaign to reform the way religion and belief is taught in schools – and provide a much-needed challenge to religion's longstanding dominance over the subject. This week, a new report from a former education secretary provided a welcome boost to our campaign by reiterating the need for urgent reform. Unfortunately, on other contentious issues, such as faith schools and school worship, the report's feeble recommendations illustrated the Anglican and Catholic churches continued hold over our education system.

Nevertheless, the tide is turning. This week the Department of Education announced its plans to ensure relationships and sex education (RSE) is taught in all schools in England from September 2020. Although the parental opt-out remains, 15-year-olds will in future have the right to overrule their parents' wishes and opt in to sex education if they want it. This is a small but important recognition that every young person is a rights holder in his or her own capacity – a principle that secularists have long championed.

The introduction of a compulsory and updated sex and relationships curriculum is an important step in boosting the future health and safety of children and young people. Religious objections have frustrated the process so far. As the consultation on the new draft guidance begins, the NSS will be campaigning to ensure that faith school opt-outs don't impede young people's right to access to objective and LGBT inclusive RSE.


News & Opinion


Former education secretary renews call for reform of religion in schools

Religious education should be replaced with a new national 'Religion, Belief and Values' subject, a former education secretary has recommended.


Consultation launched on relationship & sex education guidance

The government has launched a consultation on new statutory guidance and regulations intended to make Relationships Education... Read More »


NSS welcomes ‘fair and equitable’ draft coroner protocol

The NSS has welcomed a new draft protocol for prioritising deaths reported to a London coroner.


Church schools are faith schools. Pretending otherwise is dishonest

The Church of England's pretence that 'its' schools aren't faith schools is a dishonest attempt to avoid association with... Read More »


NSS urges Irish PM to force pope to pay abuse compensation debt

The National Secular Society has urged the Irish PM to force the Catholic Church to pay a €7 million shortfall in compensation owed to survivors of clerical child abuse.


High Court dismisses school religious designation review

The High Court has refused to grant a judicial review of a decision to merge a non-religious school into a Christian one, resulting in a new faith school.


Comprehensive sex and relationship education delayed till at least 2020

Following mounting equivocation from DfE officials, and growing rumours, it has been confirmed that compulsory relationships... Read More »


Investigation launched after weapons seized at independent faith school

The Charity Commission has launched a statutory inquiry into Darul Uloom School London after the school's safeguarding lead and headteacher were arrested related to firearms offences.


Other news

An Irish politician has called for a constitutional referendum to end religious control of schools. Labour senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said it was time to "break the link between religion and education in Ireland". After the same-sex marriage and abortion referendums, Mr O Riordain said the "next major constitutional question to be asked of the Irish people relates to Church control over Irish education."

A raft of independent faith schools (Christian, Jewish, Buddhist Sikh and Catholic) have received warning notices from Ofsted, primarily over poor governance. One of the schools, Ampleforth College, which has previously been accused as being a "honeypot" for sex offenders, was judged to have inadequate safeguarding procedures.

The Commission for Countering Extremism has formed a new Expert Group to provide "constructive advice and challenge" as the Commission begins gathering evidence ahead of publishing a comprehensive study into all forms of extremism. The group includes human rights campaigner and NSS honorary associate Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters, who were awarded the Secularist of the Year prize in 2010. Meanwhile, the lead commissioner, Sarah Kahn, has spoken out in The Times about the backlash she has received from Islamists for championing gender equality and human rights.

Several Sikh organisations have demanded a public apology and threatened protests, accusing porn performer Karnejit Kaur (a.k.a. Sunny Leone) of 'insulting Sikhs' by using her actual name in a biopic about herself. Sikh leaders argue that people who do not follow the teachings of Sikh Gurus shouldn't use the word 'Kaur' as this could hurt Sikh religious feelings. Others have argued that she has every right to identify as a 'Kaur'.


Quotes of the week

"The education system should be about having children together from all different backgrounds and if religion is important to parents or to a community, it can certainly be done outside of school time or perhaps at the weekend, or the churches themselves could step up to the plate." - Labour senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

""I completely respect the Sikh community. I am a Punjabi myself but it's surprising that in today's modern day and age there's an objection to using one's own family name, which is one's birthright...and for what? The series is based on truths and facts related to Sunny's life, including her family and early does one change the truth and why?" - Aditya Datt, director of Karenjit Kaur: The Untold Story of Sunny Leone, responds to protests from Sikh leaders over the use of the name 'Kaur'.

"It was very clear that Jeremy Hunt's refusal to allow women to take this medication in the comfort and privacy of their own homes was an entirely political, not clinical, decision, and rooted in his own personal opposition to abortion rather than any consideration for the health and wellbeing of women." - Katherine O'Brien, BPAS

See our quotes of the week archive...


Essays of the week

How do bishops vote and why?
NSS Treadurer Ed Moore, for Medium
"Much has been written about the Church of England bishops who sit in the House of Lords, mainly the arguments for having them (or not) and why historically they are there at all (they were and still are major landowners). What has not been considered is what they actually stand for when there, specifically; what drives their voting?"

Branded and beaten: The children accused of witchcraft and murder

Marc Ellison and Ozo Ezeogu for the BBC
A disturbing report on witchcraft accusation and persecution in Nigeria, which are increasingly targeting children seen as unruly or simply unlucky.

Opposing segregation
Jerusalem Post Editorial
"Struggling against segregation is not just about one law. It is about the larger struggle for coexistence and having more contact between Israel's numerous diverse communities."

"I don't believe that Hindutva is Hinduism" – Dr Shashi Tharoor
Interview - LSE Blogs
"Dr Shashi Tharoor was recently in the UK to promote his new book Why I am a Hindu. With a general election coming up in India, the battle between Tharoor's Congress Party and the current government, the Bharatiya Janata Party, provides an interesting backdrop for the release of Tharoor's new book. Anishka Gheewala Lohiya had the opportunity to talk to Dr Tharoor at LSE about the relationship between politics and religion in India."


NSS speaks out

Our chief executive Stephen Evans was quoted in the Local Government Chronicle, Food Manufacture and iNews and spoke on BBC Radio Lancashire about Lancashire Council's decision to stop supplying meat from non-stun slaughter to schools.

We were quoted on the BBC and in The Telegraph regarding the A New Settlement Revised report on religion in schools. Our president Keith Porteous Wood was on Sky News to discuss contactless/electronic payments by churches.


Upcoming events

We've got some exciting upcoming events over the next few months - with discounts for NSS members


The Bradlaugh Lecture 2018: The rise of Hindu Nationalism, with Gita Sahgal

Date: 8th September 2018, 14:00-17:00
: Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL
Tickets: £10 (£5 for members)
Details: The esteemed human rights activist, author and NSS honorary associate Gita Sahgal will explore the rise of Hindu nationalism in the National Secular Society's 2018 Bradlaugh Lecture. Her speech will be entitled 'The Men Who Killed Gandhi' : Secular India and the rise of Hindu nationalism. The lecture – named after our founder Charles Bradlaugh – is an annual event which provides a space for a distinguished speaker to explore a secularist topic in depth.


Chapman Cohen: Teacher, hero, secularist

Date: Sunday 9th September, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Location: Secular Hall, 75 Humberstone Gate, Leicester LE1 1WB. Leicester Secular Hall is open during the day (10am-4.30pm) for Heritage Open Day, including tours of the building and an exhibition of the history of the Society and its Hall.
Tickets: Free. Book your place here
Details: A joint NSS/Leicester Secular Society event
In this talk hosted by the Leicester Secular Society to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Cohen's birth, Robert Forder (NSS historian and Council member) will outline Cohen's career and provide an assessment of his work.


Healthcare & Secularism Conference

Date: Saturday 27th October 2018.
Registration: 09:45 Start time: 10:15 End: 16:15
(Times subject to minor changes)
Location: Radisson Blu Holloway Circus, Birmingham. B1 1BT
Tickets: Members: £10; Non-members: £15
Lunch and refreshments included.
Click here to buy tickets
For the first time, the National Secular Society are holding a conference focusing on the role of secularism within healthcare. 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 issues in secular medical issues today, including conscientious objection, ritual circumcision, pastoral care and assisted suicide.


Support our work

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


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