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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 25 October 2019


Neither women's rights nor gay rights should be subject to a theocratic veto. But until Monday night abortion was effectively banned, even in some of the most extreme circumstances, and same-sex marriage was not recognised in Northern Ireland.

We long campaigned for this to change – and in 2016 we raised the conflict between the restrictions on abortion and the UK's human rights commitments at the UN. So we welcome the fact that these laws have now changed.

Elsewhere this week we've highlighted the case of an independent Islamic school which stayed open despite telling the government it had closed – generating some coverage in prominent press outlets as a result.

We can only do important work like this with your support, so if you value it please consider joining or donating to the NSS. Thank you.


News & Opinion


NSS welcomes legalisation of abortion & marriage equality in NI

The NSS has welcomed the legalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland and the extension of same-sex marriage rights to the province.


Islamic school stays open after telling government it was closed

An independent Islamic school has remained open despite telling the government it had closed, a report has revealed.


'By the Grace of God' shows the need to hold the Catholic Church accountable on child abuse

Keith Porteous Wood says a film highlighting the struggle to bring a senior Catholic cardinal to account for covering up child abuse is a sign that the Vatican's wall of silence cannot hold.


Time to stop pretending we have a ‘national church’

As affiliation to Anglicanism continues its rapid decline the Church of England's privileges are increasingly unsustainable, says Stephen Evans. Let's disestablish the church and embrace a secular state.


Education in NI shouldn’t be a tug of war between religious interests

A report has called into question religious control over the curriculum and ethos of Northern Irish schools. Alastair Lichten says it should prompt a re-evaluation of the segregated, inefficient system which exists now.


Inquiry report lifts the lid on abuse at Catholic school

A report from the IICSA inquiry has highlighted the culture which allowed sexual abusers to commit crimes against children for decades at a Catholic school in west London.

The report has lifted the lid on a "sadistic and predatory" atmosphere and a culture of cover-up and denial at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's school. It's shown that paedophile priests acted "like the mafia" and highlighted the Vatican's failure to cooperate with the inquiry's efforts to understand what happened.

The NSS recently urged the government to hold the Vatican accountable over its continued failure to cooperate with the IICSA inquiry.


Other news: UK

A government adviser is facing accusations of 'Islamophobia', two possible investigations and highly loaded critical national press coverage after posting satirical cartoons about Jesus and Muhammad on social media. The NSS has described this as blasphemy culture in action.

The government's recent apparent backtracking on requiring meat from non-stun slaughter to be labelled has been raised in the House of Lords by Labour peer Ann Mallalieu. The NSS raised concerns over the issue with environment secretary Theresa Villiers last month.


Other news: international

The Foreign Office has said Uganda appears to have shelved plans to introduce new laws imposing the death penalty on homosexuals, after NSS honorary associate Lloyd Russell-Moyle raised the issue in parliament.

A man who criticised the Catholic Church has been convicted of blasphemy and fined in Italy.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has said religious freedom is a foreign policy priority – while arguing for more restrictions on abortion. The NSS has pointed out the incongruity between these statements and said religious freedom must include the freedom to reject religion.

Stay in touch with all the latest news and views on secularism – sign up to receive your daily media briefing from the NSS.


NSS speaks out

iNews and the Birmingham Mail reported on the independent Islamic school which remained open after telling the government it had closed, with our head of education Alastair Lichten quoted.

Our No More Faith Schools campaign was mentioned in The Freethinker on Patheos.


Upcoming events

In the coming weeks our staff and board members will take part in events on the legal balance between religious freedom and other human rights, religion's role in public life and more.

Find out more on our events page.


Read elsewhere


Argentina and Uruguay voters face surge of religious and conservative candidates in weekend elections

By Diana Cariboni, Nicolás Iglesias Schneider, María Emilia Cerra & Agostina Mileo, for openDemocracy

Both countries head to the polls this Sunday, where unprecedented numbers of candidates oppose sexual and reproductive rights.


Quote of the week

"The leadership of all the main religions have been the single greatest cause of LGBT+ oppression throughout the centuries. The current Anglican leadership is active or complicit in this ongoing persecution."
NSS honorary associate Peter Tatchell addresses a church in Liverpool


"Women like me who grew up under Sharia laws know first hand about cruelty of these laws, and have a right to be afraid of Sharia laws."
Masih Alinejad responds to claims that her campaign against the forced hijab law in Iran is causing 'Islamophobia'


Understatement of the week

"It is regrettable that the nuncio decided he was not prepared to provide a statement."
John O'Brien, secretary to the IICSA inquiry, on the pope's representative in Britain refusing to give evidence over abuse at Ealing Abbey


In your own words: end compulsory worship in schools

"My second child is now at school. Local evangelists are giving assemblies and preaching to children from age four upwards. Withdrawing them isn't the answer, as it would single them out and they are too young to fully understand the situation."
Chris, Derbyshire

Sign our petition and explain why you think compulsory worship in schools should end.

Alternatively, sign one of our other petitions to let us know why you support another secularist cause.


Essays of the week

The end to Northern Ireland's abortion ban is a triumph for grassroots activism
By Anna Cafolla, for The Guardian

Decriminalisation puts an end to years of the persecution of women by a monstrous religious culture.


In an age of extremism, this government report is a tonic
By David Toube, for The Jewish Chronicle

An official survey of the activities of the far left, far right and Islamists in Britain today crucially puts 'hate' at the heart of its definition of extremism.


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