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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 24 May 2019


A big thank you to all those who made it to our Secularism 2019 conference on Saturday.

It was our pleasure to bring together so many of our supporters and to hear from a range of well-informed speakers. It was also an honour to award the Secularist of the Year prize to the incredibly brave Saif ul Malook, a lawyer who has defended those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.

We'll have videos from the event up on our YouTube channel soon.

This week we've been back to the day job. Our No More Faith Schools campaign is exposing the unfairness behind the government's plans for new religiously selective faith schools, as you'll see in two of the stories below. We're lobbying politicians locally and nationally to stand up for inclusive, secular education. And this is all part of our effort to stand up for freedom of and from religion on a range of fronts.

We can't do it without your help. In you're not already a member, why not join today and put your principles into action?


News & Opinion


Lawyer who defended Asia Bibi named Secularist of the Year

Saif ul Malook, a lawyer who defended a woman accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, has been named the NSS's Secularist of the Year.


The anti-RSE campaign has echoes of the Rushdie affair

As the campaign against relationships and sex education spreads and grows increasingly aggressive, Yasmin Rehman says politicians' pandering to intolerance will be a disaster for LGBT people, Muslims and wider society.


Proposed faith schools in direct competition with non-faith schools

Opening three proposed fully selective Catholic schools in Cambridgeshire would mean three alternative secular schools would... Read More »


Selective faith schools proposed in areas with no need for schools

The No More Faith Schools campaign has criticised proposals to open new religiously selective faith schools in areas which... Read More »


Evangelising Christian nurse not unfairly sacked, court rules

A nurse who was sacked for repeatedly evangelising when treating patients was not unfairly dismissed, the Court of Appeal has ruled.


Ofsted recommends allowing failing private Jewish school to expand

Inspectors have recommended letting an independent Jewish school expand, despite leaders admitting they will refuse to meet standards.


NSS speaks elsewhere


Podcast: FiLiA meets Megan Manson

Our campaigns officer Megan Manson was interviewed by Sadia Hameed of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain for FiLiA, one of our newest affiliated groups. They discussed faith schools, the hijab, the challenges for secularism and many other points.


Other news

An anti-abortion group has lost its legal challenge against the Scottish government's decision to allow women to take abortion pills at home.

The sultan of Brunei has handed back an honorary degree after Oxford University raised concerns about his country's strict new anti-LGBT laws. The NSS wrote to the university last month to urge it to revoke the degree.

Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officer has warned that police efforts to combat terrorism and extremism would be undermined by a proposed new definition of Islamophobia.

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the Church of Scotland is "at the centre of Scottish public life" in an address to the church's general assembly.

A GP in the Midlands is being investigated by the General Medical Council after asking a Muslim woman to take off her niqab during an appointment with her child. The NSS has said the GMC should take into account the need for doctors to communicate with their patients during its investigation.

A mosque in Moray has been targeted by graffiti vandals who painted swastikas and "Allah is a paedo" on the walls.

Religious ministers in Western Australia will be compelled to reveal knowledge of child sexual abuse – including that which is gained through the confessional. The Catholic Church is resisting the plans.

Stay in touch with the latest news and views on secularism in the UK and around the world by signing up to receive your daily media briefing from the NSS.


Read elsewhere


Narendra Modi’s landslide re-election in India is another win for religious nationalism

By Shashank Bengali and Ashish Malhotra, for the Los Angeles Times

Narendra Modi has edged India closer to the BJP's long-standing vision of a Hindu nation as religious nationalism has risen across the globe.


What the far right really means when it talks of 'taking back Christian Europe'

By Mary Fitzgerald, for The Independent

American religious conservatives are fuelling Europe's far-right surge, shifting power away from individuals who have universal rights and onto powerful institutions like churches and patriarchal family structures.


Watch: Bradlaugh Lecture on Hindu nationalism

Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist BJP has won a landslide victory in the Indian elections. At our 2018 Bradlaugh Lecture, Gita Sahgal addressed the rise of Hindu nationalism and the threat it poses in India, Britain and globally. You can watch it on our YouTube channel.


Essays of the week

Religion has no place in the education system
By Cliff Joannou, for Attitude

Allowing religious interpretations to influence what we teach children is fuelling prejudice. And religion is a choice, whereas sexuality is not.


We need to be able to criticise Islam – any definition of Islamophobia must recognise that
By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, for iNews

Making 'Muslimness' a protected characteristic would deter fair and proper scrutiny.


Infecting people isn't a religious right
Editorial, for the New York Times

A measles outbreak makes it vital for New York lawmakers to end religious exemptions for vaccinations.


Quotes of the week

"I assure you that I plan to continue my mission in providing legal aid to all blasphemy victims even in future regardless to the threat to my life."
Saif ul Malook, our Secularist of the Year for 2019


"God created man, then he created women for man's pleasure and companionship - not another man."
A Muslim protester outside Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham makes a convincing case for opposing LGBT-inclusive education


"Religion or not, a child's health and safety comes first."
A parent at Redscope Primary School in South Yorkshire responds to a six-year-old child bringing a kirpan – a small ceremonial sword carried by some Sikhs – into school. The headteacher has banned the blade


"The term Islamophobia has a broad meaning that can easily be used to restrict free and fair discussion about the Islamic religion and Islamist extremism. Instead, an alternative definition of anti-Muslim hatred should be specific and narrow."
Nikita Malik on the proposed definition of Islamophobia from the APPG on British Muslims


NSS podcast

If you enjoyed Secularism 2019 and would like to explore the topics discussed in more depth, why not have a listen to our podcast? In the episodes we've released so far Alastair Lichten talks to some of the conference speakers and others about what we mean by 'religious freedom' and how to reclaim the term.


NSS scholarship: deadline next week

The NSS is keen to support original research that supports the evidence base of our campaigns work and improves public understanding of secularism. Applications for the latest round of funding for our scholarship are due to close next Saturday, 1 June.

Our scholarship committee will particularly be looking for applications which demonstrate:

  •   A significant contribution to the evidence base of one of our existing campaigns.
  •   The ability to improve understanding of secularism among both academics and the wider public.
  •   That the applicant has the necessary experience to complete the research to a high standard.

Applicants are strongly recommended to make reference to existing NSS campaigns and our Secular Charter.

Find out more and apply here.


Petition comments of the week: No More Faith Schools

"Our children, from all faiths and none, need to learn together, play together, grow together and see themselves as an inclusive part of British society. This cannot be achieve if children are educated separately in schools defined by a religious ethos."
Susan, Sussex


"Secular schools are able to provide a comprehensive and balanced approach to providing information and give students the knowledge they need to follow their chosen faith, philosophy or doctrine. Faith schools will always be biased and create division."
Chris, Oxfordshire


"Faith schools are a recipe for social division, and using public money to fund them is a disgrace. Rather than pandering to self-interest groups, the government should be acting for social cohesion and the common good by promoting secular education."
Matthew, London


"Parents can pass on their faiths to their children at home or at the church / mosque / temple, if they wish. State-funded schools should provide a general inclusive education."
Alan, Isle of Lewis

Sign the petition and explain why you're saying No More Faith Schools.


Petition comment of the week: end religious discrimination in school admissions

"It's patently ridiculous that schools paid for by the taxpayer are not open on equal terms to all local children."
James, Hertfordshire

Sign the petition and explain why we should end religious discrimination in school admissions.

Alternatively, get involved in our No More Faith Schools campaign and help us to make the case against the government's wave of religiously selective faith schools.


NSS speaks out

Our president Keith Porteous Wood appeared on talkRADIO to discuss the case of Sarah Kuteh, the nurse sacked from a hospital in Kent for repeatedly evangelising while treating patients.

Our decision to award our Secularist of the Year prize to Saif ul Malook was covered by The Freethinker on Patheos and by Premier Christian Radio, with our chief executive Stephen Evans quoted.

Stephen was also quoted by The Freethinker on our opposition to the proposed definition of Islamophobia. Our communications officer Chris Sloggett was quoted on the same subject by Workers' Liberty.

Our vice-president Richard Scorer was quoted, in his capacity as a lawyer representing victims of abuse, in The Chester Standard as a review opened into reports of abuse by a former bishop of Chester.


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