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

National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


Join us

Newsline 27 September 2019


Last week we reported that we'd raised the Vatican's brazen defiance of the secular authorities over child abuse at the UN. This week we've highlighted it domestically. As the Catholic Church hierarchy continues to shrug off requests for information from a public inquiry, we're urging the Foreign Office to apply pressure on it to cooperate.

Elsewhere we assess the charitable status behind Samaritan's Purse, the Evangelical organisation which has again launched its Operation Christmas Child scheme in parts of the UK. And at a local level there's concerning news from Dorset and Greater Manchester, but better news from Somerset.

If you value what we do, please consider supporting it by joining or donating to the NSS. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


NSS raises Vatican’s defiance of abuse inquiry with Foreign Office

The NSS has urged the government to hold the Vatican accountable over its continued failure to cooperate with a child abuse inquiry.


Operation Christmas Child: Does its charity benefit the public?

Samaritan's Purse is again launching its Christmas shoebox scheme in parts of the UK. The harm done by Operation Christmas Child should prompt a rethink of this Evangelical group's charitable status, says Megan Manson.


NSS criticises council for giving church £40k amid local opposition

The NSS has criticised a Dorset town council for spending £40,000 on church repairs despite the Church of England's significant wealth.


NSS welcomes council in Somerset’s decision to scrap prayers

The NSS has welcomed a decision to scrap official prayers at the start of meetings at a council in Somerset.


Islamic girls’ school with forced hijab policy plans to expand

A Muslim girls' school which requires all its pupils to conform to a 'modesty code' is planning to expand.


Other news: UK

Charedi Jewish activist Shraga Stern, who has played a prominent part in recent campaigns against inclusive education, says he has received assurances that the Labour party will not abolish faith schools. It is unclear whether his words refer to state or private faith schools.

The number of schools in England flouting RE laws has risen, according to research by the National Association of Teachers of RE. The NSS, which campaigns for an impartial religion and belief curriculum, has said this is further evidence that RE is out of date and in need of a rethink.


Other news: international

The UN Human Rights Council has been told that the Chinese government is harvesting and selling organs from persecuted religious and ethnic minorities on an industrial scale.

The NSS has said the rise of America's Christian right threatens women's rights around the world after the US urged UN member states to join a "growing coalition" of countries rallying against abortion.

A man has been acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan, after 18 years in prison and a death sentence, on the grounds of lack of proof. The NSS has said this is welcome news, but 'proof' shouldn't be the issue.

Christian and Muslim protesters in Australia have called for a radio presenter to be sacked after he made a joke about the virgin Mary. The NSS has said offended religious groups mustn't have the power to censor jokes about their beliefs.

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


Upcoming events

In the coming weeks our staff and board members will take part in events on faith schools, religion and women's rights, religion's role in public life, and more.

Find out more on our events page.


NSS speaks out

Our spokesperson Chris Sloggett responded to a bishop's claims that debates over religious control over education in Scotland were creating a "hostile environment" for Catholics in The Times. Chris said his belligerent comments highlighted entrenched religious interests' sense of entitlement.

Our No More Faith Schools campaign coordinator Alastair Lichten criticised plans for a new selective faith school in Peterborough in the Peterborough Telegraph. Alastair said opening the school would exacerbate social division and undermine pupils' and teachers' freedom of religion and belief.

Our CEO Stephen Evans questioned the government's backtracking over non-stun meat labelling in Farming UK and Farmers Guardian.

Chris Sloggett discussed free speech on religion and advertising regulation on several BBC local radio stations. And Stephen Evans discussed a council in Lyme Regis in Dorset funding church repairs on BBC Radio Solent.

We were also mentioned in publications including Christian Today and the Daily Record.


Essay of the week

A wrong against boys: an impossible conversation about circumcision
By Iona Italia, for Areo

Children's bodies are not the property of their parents, to be modified to reflect their desires or values. (Long read)


Happy birthday, Charles Bradlaugh

Our founder Charles Bradlaugh was born on 26 September 1833. On the history section of our website you can read more about his remarkable life, including:

- How Bradlaugh founded the NSS

- The prosecution of Bradlaugh & fellow secularist Annie Besant for publishing information about birth control

- How Bradlaugh was effectively barred from taking his seat in parliament four times amid a row over the religious oath of allegiance.


Quotes of the week

"I would be treated very differently in about a dozen countries around the world. If somebody like me was to show up… the death penalty would be awaiting me. It's incredible that this isn't a bigger human rights issue."
Sarah Haider, executive director of Ex-Muslims of North America, on US chat show Real Time With Bill Maher


"Religious freedom can't be an excuse to get away with something that would never be tolerated outside of the religious bubble."
Hemant Mehta, writer on The Friendly Atheist blog, on a case of a rabbi giving a child herpes in a circumcision ritual


"Segregating children is an awful idea, especially at such a young age that they don't know their faith."
Dundee councillor Gregor Murray on the need to educate children together to tackle sectarianism in Scotland


In your own words: male circumcision

"Removing a part of a human body without consent and with no clear medical reason or benefit is inhumane, uncivilised and against the person's human rights."
Peter, Jersey

Sign our petition and explain why you think unnecessary infant genital cutting should end.
Alternatively, sign one of our other petitions to let us know why you support another secularist cause.


Read elsewhere


The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community’s sexual abuse crisis in New York has finally reached a tipping point

By Hella Winton, for Vice

One of the most secretive and isolated subcultures in the United States is facing possible exposure, thanks to a new law.


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.