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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 22 November 2019


This week, in the face of a legal challenge, a school agreed to offer an inclusive alternative to assemblies where Christian worship is pushed on children. This is a welcome decision, but we'd like to see it spark a wider change.

Schools should hold inclusive assemblies – where children aren't pressurised to take part in worship – by default, rather than making begrudging exceptions for families who dare to question religious rituals. And making that a reality means we need legal change. Laws requiring schools to hold acts of worship across the UK are unjustifiable and should be abolished.

Ending collective worship is just one of the 11 secularist pledges which we're encouraging politicians to adopt during the current election campaign. You can read and share them on our website. And if you'd like to see us continue to make the case for them, please consider joining or donating to the NSS. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


CoE trust to introduce alternative to worship after legal challenge

An academy trust will provide an inclusive alternative assembly for pupils withdrawn from collective worship after a legal challenge.


Why the blind spot when it comes to faith schools?

Politicians need to end their fetishisation of faith schools and face the fact that a religiously divided education system is unfit for the future, argues Stephen Evans.


Most new faith based charities do nothing but promote religion. Time to reform charity law

An Islamic organisation which condones extremist messages was among charities which registered on questionable grounds in October. The bar for religious groups to become charities is set too low, says Megan Manson.


If we want a tolerant Scotland, let’s educate children together

As academic research shows some intolerant attitudes are widespread among Catholic school pupils in Scotland, Alastair Lichten says rolling back denominational education is essential to promoting cohesion and equality.


Council opens consultation over new discriminatory faith school

The No More Faith Schools campaign is urging supporters to respond to a consultation over plans to open a discriminatory... Read More »


NMFS campaign opposes plan for new faith school in Inverclyde

The No More Faith Schools campaign is supporting residents to oppose a plan to open a new Catholic denominational school... Read More »


Other news

An independent Islamic school in east London asks pupils about their periods if they don't attend prayers, according to a report from the education watchdog Ofsted. In response the NSS has said schools mustn't be allowed to get away with misogynistic invasions of privacy in the name of religion.

The NSS has described Plaid Cymru's decision to use a niqab wearing activist to illustrate 'equality' as an example of how well-meaning liberals often empower fundamentalist Islam.

Keep up with all the latest news and views on secularism by subscribing to our daily media briefing.


Public meeting on proposed faith school in Peterborough

Our No More Faith Schools campaign will host a public meeting on proposals to open a new discriminatory voluntary aided faith school in Peterborough in Cambridgeshire next Thursday.

We're supporting local residents campaigning against plans for a religiously selective Catholic faith school and arguing for inclusive alternatives.

You can find out more about the proposals and the meeting on our No More Faith Schools website.


Richard Carlile talk

Two hundred years ago this week the radical publisher and writer Richard Carlile was jailed for three years and fined for blasphemous libel. Next Saturday our council member Bob Forder will deliver a talk on Carlile's work and legacy at Conway Hall in London. More information is available on our website.


Upcoming events

Next Wednesday our No More Faith Schools campaign coordinator Alastair Lichten will speak about the campaign in Cambridge.

Our other upcoming events include a talk on the 1944 Education Act and its legacy and an event for educators on our Exploring Secularism resources in 2020.

Find out more on our events page.


Advice on Operation Christmas Child

During the run-up to Christmas we get many questions relating to the charity shoebox scheme called 'Operation Christmas Child', run by evangelical charity Samaritan's Purse.

Our FAQs page has responses to some common questions, and our collection of blogs on Samaritan's Purse outlines our concerns about the scheme.


Letter on protests in Iran

Nationwide protesters are targeting Islamic rule and the clerical dictatorship in Iran. Our honorary associate Maryam Namazie has launched an open letter calling for solidarity with the protesters and the defence of universal rights, freedoms and secularism.

Our CEO Stephen Evans is among the signatories. You can read the letter on Facebook and add your name in the comments section.


Essays of the week

There is a serious problem with Wales's religious school system
By Will Hayward, for Wales Online

The state shouldn't fund religious schools – and as long as it does, religious institutions shouldn't be able to select who has the right to benefit from taxpayers' money.


Why I'm cynical about politicians 'doing God'
By Hardeep Singh, for The Spectator

It's difficult to know which is more irritating: politicians who think members of religious minority groups are all stupid or the smug 'community leaders' who host them.


Read elsewhere


God’s acres: the land owned by the Church Commissioners

By Guy Shrubsole, for Who Owns England?

Who Owns England? can reveal the land owned by the secretive and powerful Church Commissioners, the Church of England's main property arm.


“My mother didn’t want me to be cut”: female genital mutilation in the UK

By Sian Norris, for The Ferret

More than 22,000 FGM survivors have been identified by UK public health providers since 2015. Most cases involve women and girls born outside the UK.


Quote of the week

"Instrumentalising religion for political ends is a slippery slope... Polarisation based on a politics of religious identity seems to be the most dangerous for democracies, simply because belief cannot be negotiated or compromised. Politics needs to be kept free of religion."
Writer Haldun Gülalp defends secularism in an openDemocracy column


In your own words: end compulsory worship in schools

"Where there is freedom of religion there must also be freedom from religion. There should be no indoctrination of children."
Laura, Gloucestershire

Sign one of our petitions to let us know why you support our campaigning. We aim to feature some of the best comments in Newsline.


NSS speaks out

Our upcoming meeting on plans to open a selective faith school in Peterborough was featured in the Peterborough Telegraph, with our No More Faith Schools campaign coordinator Alastair Lichten quoted. The meeting was also mentioned in another piece in the same paper.

A poll which we commissioned last year, which found that just 26% of people supported collective worship in schools, was mentioned in The Mirror.

Our campaigning against sex segregation in universities was mentioned in an opinion piece for CNN by Rahila Gupta.

Our campaigning against religious representatives' voting privileges on Scottish councils was mentioned in the Scottish Catholic Observer, and our opposition to non-stun slaughter was mentioned in Jewish News.


NSS out and about

Our president Keith Porteous Wood gave the keynote speech to the AGM of clerical abuse survivors' charity MACSAS. He set out the NSS's work over the last ten years both nationally and internationally in combatting clerical abuse of minors and bringing alleged perpetrators to justice.

Our council member Sadikur Rahman spoke at Gloucestershire Humanists.


Support our work

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


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