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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 26 July 2019


Earlier this year our report For the public benefit? highlighted the harm caused by making 'the advancement of religion' a charitable purpose. This week Megan Manson highlights one of the most shocking harms created by this religious privilege: groups which cut children's genitals without medical need are being given charitable status, and the tax breaks and public recognition that come with it.

Meanwhile we're also resisting councillors imposing their religious views on others by holding prayers during meetings, and we're continuing to highlight the way religious groups are undermining inclusive relationships and sex education.

We'll continue arguing that religion should be separated from the public sphere to make society freer, fairer and more equal. If you agree with us, please consider joining or donating to the NSS. Thank you.


News & Opinion


Charity law shouldn't support infant genital cutting

The existence of religious charities that support and facilitate infant circumcision demonstrates the urgent need to reform charity law, argues Megan Manson.


The new education secretary must resist the reactionary campaign against RSE

The campaign against inclusive relationships and sex education risks spreading from the school gates to sympathetic faith school authorities. Alastair Lichten argues the government must act now to save the subject.


Prayers aren't appropriate in the public realm

As Brighton's new mayor comes under fire for abolishing prayers at council meetings, Stephen Evans argues that Britain's growing indifference to religion should prompt a rethink of religion's public role.


Domestic abuse campaigners given formal role at IICSA inquiry

Campaigners against domestic abuse within minority religious communities will be give formal roles in hearings at a child abuse inquiry.


Council to consult over planned Catholic school in Peterborough

Peterborough City Council will open a consultation in November over plans to open a new state funded Catholic faith school... Read More »


Government admits it’s struggled to define extremism

The government has "struggled" to define extremism, the home secretary has said.


Other news

The new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, expressed support for the separation of church and state, an end to discriminatory faith-based school admissions and moves to explicitly outlaw caste-based discrimination during her campaign.

The NSS has written to Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools in England, to highlight inconsistencies in the way Ofsted handles teaching about LGBT people. Our campaigns officer Megan Manson outlined these inconsistencies in a recent blog.

The most senior Catholic leader in England and Wales aggressively tried to discredit a BBC documentary on the church's links to and cover-up of child abuse, The Guardian has revealed. In response the NSS has said religious institutions can't be trusted to put child protection before their own reputations.

A Catholic school in Northern Ireland is trying to transfer to integrated status – becoming the second to make the effort in the last few weeks. The NSS's No More Faith Schools campaign has backed the plans.

Councils in Harrow (in north London) and Southwark (in south London) have voted to approve the definition of Islamophobia proposed by the APPG on British Muslims. The NSS has criticised these decisions. Meanwhile the government has appointed Qari Asim, deputy chair of the cross-government anti-Muslim hatred working group, to spearhead work on establishing a new definition of Islamophobia.

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


Bradlaugh Lecture 2019: tickets on sale

Andrew Moffat will address the subject 'No Outsiders: reclaiming radical ideas in schools' at our 2019 Bradlaugh Lecture on 7 September in Manchester. Tickets are on sale now.


NSS podcast: latest episode

In the latest edition of our podcast our staff discuss our research on religious charities and the backlash against inclusive relationships & sex education. You can listen now on YouTube, Blubrry or MP3.


Watch: latest speeches from Secularism 2019

The latest videos from our Secularism 2019 conference are up on our YouTube channel.

Watch NSS council member Yasmin Rehman address the relationship between religious orthodoxy and religious freedom.


Watch the lead commissioner for countering extremism Sara Khan discuss the link between secularist principles and her work.


And watch Izzy Posen, who attended an illegal orthodox Jewish school, explain "why God doesn't like educated kids".


Essay of the week

Circumcision: a child's protest
By Kai Möller, for LSE Blogs

A little boy in Indonesia climbed on a roof in an attempt to avoid having his genitals cut. His reluctance has widely been reported as a cute but juvenile protest. This interpretation should be challenged.


Quote of the week

"Ideally, the 'education' he favours for Hasidic children entails no secular teaching beyond a grasp of basic English and no sex education – so that teenagers are more easily pushed into arranged marriages and girls don't know that marital rape is rape. As a system of theocratic control, it's hard to beat."
NSS honorary associate Nick Cohen on Jewish anti-LGBT activist Shraga Stern, who met Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Westminster this month


NSS speaks out

Our chief executive Stephen Evans was quoted in the Mail Online over the case of an Asda worker who was reinstated after being sacked for sharing a video criticising religion.

Stephen was quoted in the Harrow Times on our efforts to convince councillors in the London borough of Harrow to reject the APPG on British Muslims's definition of Islamophobia. His opposition to the definition was also mentioned in Christian Today.

Our education and schools officer Alastair Lichten discussed the backlash against a library which replaced a religious 'rhyme time' with a secular one on BBC Sussex & Surrey.

Our communications officer Chris Sloggett discussed declining church attendance on BBC Radio Kent.

Our attempts to convince councillors in Norfolk to stop saying prayers during meetings was reported in the Eastern Daily Press and on Network Norwich.

Premier Christian Radio reported that the new prime minister Boris Johnson has previously criticised our campaign against parliamentary prayers.


Read elsewhere


Life in the academy rocked by anti-LGBT protests

By Martin George, for Tes

Leaders of the first academy trust targeted by protests against LGBT-inclusive education discuss what has happened.


Petition comment of the week: male circumcision

"I'm signing this petition partly because I was circumcised as a child and had no say in the matter. I would like other children to decide for themselves."
Steve, Dorset

Sign the petition and explain why non-therapeutic, non-consensual genital cutting should end.

Alternatively sign one of our other petitions to highlight a secularist cause you care about.


Support our work

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