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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 23 November 2018


This week we've revealed the findings of a lengthy piece of research on the way the government handled a publicly-funded grant for cathedral repairs. We've found that the government's cosy relationship with the Church of England meant it failed taxpayers before, during and after handing the church £40m worth of public money.

The government didn't require the church to make a business case beforehand. It let the church's archbishops' council administer the fund, creating a conflict of interests. It failed to press the church to justify its expenditure or provide independent verification that it was being reported accurately. And this meant the government put inaccurate, unverified figures on the parliamentary record.

This is a stark reminder of how the C of E's cosy relationship with the state allows it to abuse its position at the public's expense.

Elsewhere this week we're pressing the government to repeal the religious exemption to animal welfare law. It's also emerged that schools are not always informing parents that non-stun halal is being supplied in their children's schools. This follows our recent revelation that at least 17 councils across the UK are supplying non-stun halal meat to schools.

And we'd like to remind our members that our AGM takes place tomorrow at Conway Hall in London. Registration opens at 1:00pm, and the meeting begins at 1:30pm.


News & Opinion


CoE spent £40m of public money without proper scrutiny, NSS reveals

The government let the C of E spend £40m of taxpayers' money on cathedral repairs without proper scrutiny, NSS research has revealed.


NSS presses government on non-stun meat as schools row intensifies

The NSS has called on the government to act to end the supply of non-stun meat amid growing public opposition to its supply in schools.


Bishops’ place in Lords must be reviewed, say MPs

A committee of MPs has said the number of bishops in the House of Lords should be reviewed as part of proposals for Lords reform.


NSS questions charity links to Islamic TV channel under investigation

The NSS has questioned why a preacher who has said Muslims should be terrorists is a trustee of a registered charity.


Genital cutting and the laws of unintended consequences

This week's developments on ritual genital cutting in the US and Denmark highlight the need to adopt a consistent application... Read More »


Peterloo’s heroes represented the finest traditions of secular democracy

The film Peterloo is a reminder of the close links between the campaign for church-state separation and the push for a truly... Read More »


NSS exposé: the full story


The truth behind the taxpayer’s £40m cathedral repair fund

NSS research exposes how the Church of England spent significant amounts of public money it didn't need without being held accountable. By Ed Moore and Chris Sloggett, on Medium.


Latest from the No More Faith Schools campaign


There’s no hypocrisy in being forced into a ‘choice’ you don’t like

As the pro-faith schools lobby rounds on campaigner Alice Roberts, Alastair Lichten says her situation is proof of the need for a secular education system.


Other news

The BBC has refused to broaden its longstanding Radio 4 Thought for the Day slot to include contributions from the non-religious.

The family of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman acquitted of blasphemy charges last month, have reportedly been driven into hiding by hardline religious groups trying to hunt them down.

An independent Jewish school in Manchester has been slammed by the education watchdog Ofsted for failing to prepare children for "life in modern Britain".

Prisons minister Rory Stewart has claimed Christians have a "special role" to play in contributing to the rehabilitation of prisoners.

The UK is to give £50m in aid money to help stop female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa.

A school may face legal action after parents backed by a Christian legal group complained to governors about a 'Pride' event it put on for pupils.

A new study has provided concrete evidence that gay 'conversion therapy' is dangerous.


Events coming up in the next two weeks

On Thursday our honorary associate Gita Sahgal, who delivered this year's highly-regarded Bradlaugh Lecture, will deliver a talk in Nottingham.

The following week Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters will explore the relationship between religious fundamentalism, racism and feminism at the University of Warwick.

See all upcoming events.


Secularism 2019 - 18 May 2019

Religious lobbyists commonly use terms like 'religious freedom' to demand privileges. But this conference will show that genuine religious freedom involves freedom of belief for people of all religions and none. It will also explore the limits of religious freedom when it impedes on other human rights, including bodily autonomy, equality and freedom of expression.

Please note: in last week's Newsline we said tickets to Secularism 2019 would cost "£50, or just £25 for non-members". This was of course an error - the price is £50 for non-members and £25 for members. Apologies for the confusion.


Quotes of the week

"All animals should be stunned before slaughter in order to reduce their suffering and improve their welfare. If slaughter without stunning is still to be permitted, any unstunned meat or fish must be clearly labelled to enable consumers to fully understand the choice they are making."
Simon Doherty, president of the British Veterinary Association, on non-stun slaughter


"Everyone has the right to observe and practice their religion in a free society, but it is clearly unethical for Kirklees Council to serve non-stunned meat to public schoolchildren. Our council has a duty to treat animals in a more humane way."
Aleksandar Lukic, organiser of a petition against Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire supplying non-stun meat to schools

See our quotes of the week archive.


Essays of the week

Why so afraid of secularism?
By Maryam Namazie, for Conatus News

Contrary to the claims of the Inclusive Mosque, secularism is merely a framework that separates religion from the state to ensure it cannot influence the state and public policy and impose itself on private lives.


The government should stop funding faith schools
By GP Taylor, for the Yorkshire Post

All educational establishments should be run on strict secular lines.


NSS speaks out

Our recent findings on non-stun halal in schools sparked coverage in The Times, where our chief executive Stephen Evans was quoted. Stephen also discussed the issue on the BBC Asian Network and BBC Radio Leeds (referring specifically to schools in Kirklees in West Yorkshire – Stephen is introduced after 37 minutes).

We were prominently mentioned in stories about the petition against non-stun halal in Kirklees schools on the BBC's local page and Farmers Guardian. We were mentioned in a story on Farming UK and the petition was covered in Examiner Live.

Our campaigns officer Megan Manson was quoted in local paper The Press on the same issue. The same paper has covered the row on its front page in today's print edition.

The issue was also featured on BBC Look North this week.

Our research which found that 18,000 families in England were assigned faith schools against their wishes last year was mentioned in The Yorkshire Post, although we were not explicitly named.


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