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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 26 October 2018


We've long worked to expose the scandal of unregistered faith schools to ensure all children have access to a decent education. Just a few months ago we raised the issue of illegal faith schools when we met Lord Agnew, the minister responsible for faith schools. We received assurances that this was a priority for the Department for Education.

And now this focus appears to be paying off. This week we were very pleased to see two people successfully prosecuted for running Al-Istiqamah Learning Centre in west London.

In many unregistered schools children are being given an education unworthy of the name – and religion is a key reason. Fear of offending religious sensibilities cannot be an excuse to abandon children's rights.

Our lobbying has helped to secure this landmark prosecution. We will continue to push for more to follow. And we're keen to see tougher sentences which act as a deterrent to those running these 'schools'. You can help to support our effort by joining or donating to the NSS. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


NSS welcomes first convictions for running unregistered faith school

The NSS has welcomed a landmark successful prosecution of the proprietors of an unregistered religious school.


NSS cautions against introducing more religious public holidays

The NSS has warned MPs that introducing more religious public holidays could disadvantage workers by reducing their freedom to take annual leave when most appropriate to them.


Three independent faith schools still open after multiple failures

The NSS has questioned why three independent faith schools remain open despite failing multiple inspections.


Commons passes bill and amendment on abortion in NI

The NSS has called for reform of Northern Ireland's abortion laws after MPs passed a bill and an amendment on the subject this week.


Other news

Survivors of childhood abuse in Scottish care homes are to be given access to a financial compensation scheme. Earlier this month, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry found that children in two Catholic-run homes were subjected to a catalogue of abuse.

Councillors in Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire have voted to sell Beeston Town Hall to the evangelical church Cornerstone, which is based in Nottingham.

Scottish politicians have urged Pakistan's prime minister to lift a travel ban on a human rights campaigner who helped to expose Islamic schools linked to the Taliban.

Amnesty and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties have issued a joint appeal for a 'Yes' vote in today's blasphemy referendum in Ireland.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has given a national apology to victims of child sexual abuse.

To get all the latest news and views on secularism from the media in your inbox every morning, you can sign up to receive your daily media briefing.


NSS scholarship: deadline next week

The deadline for applications for the latest round of NSS scholarship funding is next Thursday (1 November).

The scholarship supports students who conduct research relevant to secularism and the promotion of human rights.

We're inviting requests for grants ranging from £500-£3,000. The scholarship is open to anyone publishing research in English.

You can find out more on our research & scholarships page.


Events coming up


Secularism 2019: reclaiming religious freedom

What does "religious freedom" truly mean? While religious lobbyists commonly use terms like "religious freedom" to demand privileges, this conference will serve to highlight that true "religious freedom" means freedom of belief for people of all religions and none. The conference will also explore the limits of religious freedom when it impedes on other human rights, including bodily autonomy, equality and freedom of expression.


Other events

Other upcoming events include a conference on sharia, segregation and secularism and a talk from our honorary associate Gita Sahgal in Nottingham.

See all upcoming events.


Quote of the week

"If you challenge extremism and defend human rights and gender equality, you will face backlash and abuse."
Sara Khan, the government's lead commissioner for countering extremism, in evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee

See our quotes of the week archive.


End non-stun slaughter petition: comments of the week

Last week we asked you to join our call to end the religious exemption to the animal welfare laws. The comments on our petition since have included:

"Religious arguments do not justify inflicting suffering."

"Minimising animals' stress, fear and pain must - as a moral imperative - take precedence over other considerations, whether religious, cultural or commercial."

"All our laws should apply to everyone, regardless of religion."

"Having worked with the farming community I definitely support stunning all animals before slaughter. I would not knowingly eat non-stunned meat nor buy it for my family."

Keep the comments coming by signing our petition – or write to your MP to help us push the government to act.


Essays of the week: Ireland's blasphemy referendum

Law must reflect fact Ireland does not prosecute for blasphemy
By Ronan McCrea, for The Irish Times

The referendum on blasphemy represents a chance to avoid confusion and allegations of hypocrisy.


An opportunity to take a useful step
By Liam Herrick, for Irish Examiner

A Yes vote would remove the criminalisation of irreverence from Ireland's constitution and express support for persecuted people around the world.


A Yes for free speech
Editorial, for The Irish Times

A constitution is a statement of a society's values, and blasphemy has no place in Ireland's.


Read elsewhere


In Poland, another blow to the Catholic Church

By Anne Applebaum, for the Washington Post

Record numbers of Poles are flocking to see a searing, painful film that condemns the Polish Catholic Church as corrupt and hypocritical.


China’s hidden camps

By John Sudworth, for the BBC

China is accused of locking up hundreds of thousands of Muslims without trial in its western region of Xinjiang. Now a BBC investigation has found important new evidence of the reality.


Religious extremists got their justice in the US. Now they’re going to strip LGBT+ rights

By Michelangelo Signorile, for the Huffington Post

Hundreds of laws protecting LGBT+ people across the United States could be wiped out after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.


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