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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 22 February 2019


On Monday MPs will debate a petition to allow parents to opt their children out from relationships and sex education. Religious protests against RSE and teaching about LGBT people's existence are growing louder. Teaching shouldn't be watered down because of religious concerns, so we're urging our supporters to write to their MPs and ask them to protect RSE.

Elsewhere this week we have details of a troubling ruling on a teacher who was sacked for living with her boyfriend and refusing to lie about it. As Catholic Church leaders discuss child abuse, we outline the steps the Vatican would take if it was serious about tackling the issue.

And we've got details of our latest confirmed speaker for our Secularism 2019 conference, Izzy Posen. His decision to share his remarkable story will do a significant service to those whose lives are severely restricted by the unquestioning culture of some closed religious communities. If you haven't got your ticket to the conference yet, they are on sale now for £50 – or just £25 for members.


News & Opinion


Ofsted head defends relationships education amid religious pressure

The chief inspector of England's schools has said all children should learn about same-sex couples.


Jewish nursery which sacked cohabiting woman partially wins appeal

The NSS has criticised a ruling that a woman who was sacked for living with her boyfriend did not suffer religious discrimination.


21 steps the pope would take if he was committed to tackling child abuse

As the Catholic Church unveils another inadequate plan to tackle child abuse, this open letter from Keith Porteous Wood highlights some steps the pope could take if he was committed to taking effective action.


Protect free speech, NSS tells Scottish review of hate crime laws

The NSS has urged the Scottish government to protect free speech and abolish blasphemy laws as it considers proposals on hate crime.


Failing faith school harming pupils’ wellbeing, says Ofsted

An independent Jewish faith school in London has been found 'inadequate' in all areas after an inspection uncovered a litany of failures.


Northern Ireland: where Protestants and Catholics don’t need to be Protestants or Catholics

Northern Ireland's equalities practices are furthering the harmful narrative that the country is made up of two communities and restricting citizens' ability to decide their own religious identities, says Roy Fisher.


Dissenting Orthodox Jew Izzy Posen to speak at Secularism 2019

Izzy Posen, who dissented from his upbringing in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, will speak at the NSS's Secularism 2019 conference.


Other news

The BBC has said it will give viewers information about abortion after it was criticised following an episode of the popular drama Call the Midwife.

A consumer watchdog has warned that some shoppers are unwittingly buying meat from animals which have not been stunned before slaughter.

A report from the foreign affairs committee has called on the government to extend equal marriage to the British Overseas Territories.

A comic creator has given up rights to a series featuring Jesus Christ as a superhero's peace-loving sidekick after receiving heated backlash from conservative Christians, particularly in the US.

The Church of England has accused the BBC of 'marginalising' Songs of Praise after moving the show to a lunchtime slot. The BBC has defended the move, partly on the basis that it allows the show to be available on iPlayer for longer.

Iranian state broadcaster IRIB did not show a Bundesliga football match last week because a female referee was officiating, according to reports.

A Saudi mobile application that lets men track and restrict the movements of women in the kingdom has come under increased scrutiny, with an American senator and rights groups urging Apple and Google to remove it from their platforms.

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Read elsewhere


“It is not a closet. It is a cage.” Gay Catholic priests speak out

By Elizabeth Dias, for the New York Times

The crisis over sexuality in the Catholic Church goes beyond abuse. It goes to the heart of the priesthood, into a closet that is trapping thousands of men.


The gay atheist launching an attack on Poland’s Catholic establishment

By Paul Brian, for the New Statesman

An interview with Robert Biedroń, who wants to separate church from state in a country defined by Catholic nationalism.


Buy your tickets: Secularism 2019

Izzy Posen is the latest confirmed speaker at our Secularism 2019 conference at the Tower Hotel in central London on 18 May. You can buy your tickets now.


Other events coming up include a talk by our head of education Alastair Lichten at Brighton Humanists and a conference on bodily integrity in Leeds featuring Dr Antony Lempert of our Secular Medical Forum.

See all upcoming events.


Essays of the week

The EU's work on freedom of religion or belief is being challenged from within
By Ewelina Ochab, for Forbes

The recommendations of a new EU report will add leverage to the fight against religious persecution around the world, and they shouldn't be diminished from within the EU.


Gay conversion therapy proves there's still bigotry towards LGBT people
By Julie Bindel, for The Guardian

Laws upholding the rights of lesbians and gay men have come far – it's society's attitude that now has to catch up.


Quotes of the week

"It emerged that many, many people at the school and the abbey — teachers, support staff, heads, monks, abbots — knew what was happening to me and possibly hundreds of other young boys. The abuse was able to continue undetected, decade after decade, because the secretive culture of the Catholic Church valued abusers more than children. The frightening part is that, as events at the IICSA hearings were to show, it still does."

Stephen Bleach on the IICSA inquiry's hearings into abuse at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's School in west London


"The friends, cousins and relatives of the devil."
The pope describes people who regularly criticise the Catholic Church


Watch: Jayne Ozanne on 'gay conversion therapy'

This week the Ozanne Foundation published data showing the shocking impact of gay 'conversion therapy' on the mental health of those subjected to it. The foundation's Jayne Ozanne, who spoke about the findings on Channel 4 this week, talked about this abusive practice and her experience of it at our Healthcare & Secularism conference in October.


Petition comments of the week: faith-free sex education

"All children need a full education about sex and relationships. The religious or other beliefs of their parents, guardians or teachers should not be allowed to influence this in any way, nor should such beliefs be assumed to be those of the children, who have a right to make up their own minds as soon as they are old enough to do so."
Jim, Luton

"School children have the right to be told about sexual relations in a way that is not coloured by religious prejudice."
Chloe, London

If you believe in faith-free relationships & sex education, please remember to urge your MP to defend it in the debate on it in parliament on Monday.


Petition comment of the week: reform Thought For The Day

"The majority of people in the UK have no religious belief. That does not make us second class citizens who you have the right to ignore. We have valid opinions that should be expressed."
Bruce, Lancashire

Sign our petition and explain why you support reform of BBC Radio 4's Thought For The Day.


NSS speaks out

Our spokesperson Chris Sloggett was quoted in The Telegraph & Argus as Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire continued to obfuscate over its policy of serving non-stun halal meat in schools.

We were quoted in Slough & South Bucks Express on a school in Berkshire which cut ties with an Islamic 'weekend school' after we raised concerns about speakers it had hosted.

We were also mentioned in The Press & Journal on the campaign to open a public swimming pool on the Isle of Lewis on Sundays.


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