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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 21 September 2018


We're a UK-based organisation, but we believe some rights should not be negotiable in any context. And freedom of speech is the most important right of all. So we want to see Ireland's blasphemy referendum next month used as a chance not only to repeal a ridiculous and arcane constitutional provision, but to promote and celebrate free expression on religion globally.

Several dozen countries still have laws criminalising speech which offends religious sensibilities; in some the punishment can be death or imprisonment. Often free thinkers have more reason to fear vigilantes or terrorists than states. And the fear of questioning or satirising religion has insidious and pernicious effects on a much wider scale. So we're encouraging supporters to use this opportunity to do whatever they can to promote the value of free speech around the world.

Back at home we have a couple of major events coming up. In five weeks' time we'll be in Birmingham to discuss the link between secularism and healthcare. And next May is the big one – Secularism 2019, our conference on reclaiming religious freedom. There's more information on these, and you can get your tickets, below.


News & Opinion


Ireland set to hold blasphemy referendum on 26 October

The NSS has said Ireland's impending referendum on its blasphemy law should prompt "global action in defence of free speech on religion".


Catholic hospital discriminated against remarried doctor, ECJ rules

European religious employers' ability to dismiss employees for breaching religious laws may be restricted after a court ruling.


Stop reflexively saying yes to religious groups

As councils in north London, police in West Yorkshire and politicians in Westminster pander to religious groups' demands,... Read More »


EU advisor says meat from unstunned animals can be labelled organic

The National Secular Society has criticised a "perplexing" opinion from an EU advisor that meat from non-stun slaughter can be considered 'organic'.


China's religious persecution is a secularist issue

China may be the most godless country in the world, but it is far from being a secular one. Stephen Evans says the intensifying... Read More »


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: find out more

See all Events >


Read elsewhere


Holy Sh!t – Theatreland endorses Accord’s campaign

By Jonathan Romain, for the Accord coalition

A play highlighting the dilemma faith-based education causes to parents is to be shown at the Kiln Theatre in north London.


Other news

The Church of England has appointed a former government minister as its first independent chair of safeguarding. A note on Meg Munn's appointment said she would provide "a level of independent scrutiny and challenge" to the church and its safeguarding practices. Munn has said "apologies for past wrongs will mean nothing" if the C of E isn't prepared to do everything in its power to protect children and vulnerable young adults.

A new Westminster inquiry is to examine whether the Government has a responsibility to reform abortion laws in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile MPs will vote on whether to relax NI's abortion laws next month.

A woman is challenging a decision to prosecute her for obtaining abortion pills for her pregnant underage daughter in a potential landmark case for abortion rights in Northern Ireland. The case was adjourned on Thursday.

A Lib Dem peer has called for labelling of meat taken from animals that are slaughtered without pre-stunning at the party's conference.

The Ritz Hotel in London has refused to serve two people who turned up to celebrate a friend's birthday wearing niqabs.

Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector at Ofsted, has expressed concerns over "a growing religious strand of people who want to protect their children's faith and make sure that everything about the child's education experience happens within the faith".

Campaigners are demanding an anti-FGM law in Somalia after two girls bled to death. Meanwhile Burkina Faso police have arrested at least 28 people for FGM after 50 girls were hospitalised.

The Dalai Lama has admitted he has known about sexual abuse committed by Buddhist teachers in Europe since the 1990s.

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.


Quotes of the week

"We support the right to freedom of religion or belief, the right to freedom of speech, and the separation of church and State. The Irish blasphemy law infringes all of these principles. It has no place in a modern democratic republic."
Michael Nugent, chair of Atheist Ireland


"FGM is FGM no matter how you want to sugar coat it. Even touching the genitalia of a girl is still child abuse."
Esmael Omar, Twitter user, responds to a promoted tweet, which has been viewed 30,000 times, from a woman claiming cutting a girl's clitoral hood is harmless

See our quotes of the week archive.


Essay of the week

Australia doesn't need laws protecting religious freedom
By Brian Morris, for Herald Sun

Brian Morris says Australia has already been described as a 'soft theocracy', and the initial signs suggest new prime minister Scott Morrison is trying to subvert the country's secular values.


NSS speaks out

Our CEO Stephen Evans appeared on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire (radio) to discuss religion's role in politics in light of Justin Welby's comments on economic issues.


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