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

National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


Join us

Newsline 24 January 2020


This week Lorely Burt, a new NSS honorary associate, introduced a bill in the House of Lords which would replace collective worship with inclusive assemblies in non-faith schools. In the blog below our CEO Stephen Evans says this should prompt a broader rethink of the law requiring worship, to defend the religious freedom of children in all schools.

Next week our honorary associate Dick Taverne will introduce another significant bill, and we're asking for your support to raise its profile. The bill – which we've helped to draft – would remove the bishops' bench, which grants Church of England bishops an automatic right to sit in the Lords.

The bishops' bench is an affront to democracy and equality of citizenship. And just yesterday we had a reminder that it empowers an institution which promotes joyless, discriminatory dogma, as the C of E declared its position that sex was for married heterosexual couples only.

We've worked to scrap the bishops' bench since our founding more than 150 years ago, and now we're urging you to help us make the case. Our template letter makes it easy to write to your MP and raise the subject. If you can take a moment to do this, we can generate awareness of the campaign to scrap the bishops' bench where it matters – among those in power. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


Promote religious freedom in schools: abolish the worship requirement

A private member's bill to replace compulsory worship with inclusive assemblies should prompt the government to reform the archaic collective worship law, says Stephen Evans.


Parents set to lose right to withdraw children from RE in Wales

The Welsh government plans to remove parents' right to withdraw children from lessons on religion and to rename religious education.


NSS urges council not to approve discriminatory Catholic school

The NSS has urged Peterborough City Council not to approve plans to open a new religiously selective Catholic state school in the city.


Jewish school stocked sexist texts and limits curriculum, Ofsted says

An Orthodox Jewish school stocked texts which said women are "guards" to their families' wellbeing, inspectors have said.


Sex is for married straight couples only, says C of E

The Church of England has said sex belongs only within heterosexual marriage, and that sex in gay or straight civil partnerships "falls short of God's purpose for human beings".

The NSS has responded by calling for the disestablishment of the Church and the removal of its constitutional privileges. Meanwhile a poll from YouGov has revealed that just four per cent of Britons think couples should wait until they are married before having sex.


Call for inquiry on assisted dying

Yesterday the Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine led a debate in parliament on assisted dying, and called for an inquiry into the functioning and impact of the current law.

The NSS campaigns to ensure policy on assisted dying is driven by medical ethics and personal autonomy, rather than religious dogma.


Parliamentary prayers latest

The NSS has criticised the Liberal Democrat MP (and former party leader) Tim Farron over a suggestion that ending parliamentary prayers, or replacing them with a secular alternative, would imply "the presumption of Godlessness".


International news

Turkey's ruling party has begun a second attempt at introducing a law to grant rapists amnesty as long as they marry their victim.

Pakistan has suspended the release of a film amid intimidating offence-taking from an Islamist political party.

A 16-year-old girl in France has received rape and death threats which have forced her into hiding after she criticised Islam online. Meanwhile the police have opened two investigations – one to try to find those threatening her, and one inquiring into whether the comments amount to 'hate speech'.

Three Sri Lankans who worked as security guards at a local five-star resort in Dubai have been fined and are set to be deported after they insulted Islam online.

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


NSS speaks out

Our opposition to a new religiously selective Catholic school in Peterborough was highlighted in iNews and The Tablet, with our CEO Stephen Evans quoted.

Stephen wrote a letter in The Sunday Times noting the Catholic Church's hypocrisy in breaking the seal of the confessional to 'out' gay troops, despite its unwillingness to do so to report child abuse.

And Stephen explained why we lobbied councillors in Hackney not to adopt the APPG on British Muslims' definition of 'Islamophobia' in the Hackney Citizen. The council voted unanimously to adopt the definition.


Quotes of the week

"It is hard to think of a policy less likely to promote the spirit of unity championed by Mr Johnson than the ghettoisation of children at school."
Rachel Sylvester, Times columnist, on plans to open at least one new discriminatory faith school


"The powerful voices that should have supported the children and the school were largely muted. Headteachers spoke of being isolated. Where leadership was desperately needed, it was lacking."
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector, on politicians' response to anti-LGBT protests outside schools


Essay of the week

The Catholic Church should have no influence in British politics
By Oliver Kamm, for The Article

Those who want to introduce inhumane and reactionary doctrine born of religious obscurantism into public debate shouldn't squeal about purported unfairness when they get called out for it.


Seen elsewhere


Circumcision: a taboo subject

By Iman Amrani, for The Guardian

This episode of The Guardian's 'Modern Masculinity' series focuses on male circumcision.


Read elsewhere


Europe’s far right and India’s Hindu nationalists are getting closer

By Eviane Leidig, for Foreign Policy

An unofficial visit by nationalist European leaders to Kashmir highlights the solidarity of far-right movements across the globe.


After the Junaid Hafeez verdict, time to face the truth about Pakistan’s blasphemy law

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, for The Diplomat

Pakistan's blasphemy law needs to be sentenced to death — not so-called 'blasphemers.'


NSS events

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

Find out more on our events page.


In your own words: disestablish the Church of England

"Procedures based in archaic statutes delay getting anything done within the church, preventing it from reaching out to those most in need."
Paul, Cumbria

If you want to let us know why you support a secularist cause, why not sign one of our petitions? We aim to feature the best comments in Newsline.


Support our work

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


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