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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 27 July 2018


The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has once again turned its attention to the Church of England this week. The inquiry has focused on the handling of allegations against the abusive bishop Peter Ball, who was given a police caution in 1993 and finally jailed in 2015, as a case study.

The inquiry has heard that a series of powerful figures helped Ball to evade justice and continue to officiate after he committed sexual abuse. It's heard the waffling and excuses of one of them, George Carey, who was archbishop of Canterbury in the 1990s. It's heard the detective who investigated Ball at the time say the C of E "knew an awful lot that was going on" but withheld information.

The proceedings have served a reminder that the church cannot be trusted to deal with safeguarding complaints in-house. Effective action against child abuse requires independent oversight and a law mandating the reporting of reasonable suspicions of abuse. And ultimately holding C of E officials to the same standard as everyone else requires us to disestablish the Church of England, removing its special status and privileges.

We'll continue to campaign for a secular democracy, in line with our secular charter. If you support the principles it lays out, please consider supporting our work. Thank you.


News & Opinion


“Establishment” helped abusive bishop evade justice, inquiry hears

Figures including an archbishop of Canterbury, politicians and judges helped a bishop who committed sexual abuse, an inquiry has heard.


The Church of England provided the perfect cover for Peter Ball’s offending

Opening statement by lawyer Richard Scorer of Slater and Gordon, also an NSS vice president, at the IICSA inquiry's hearings... Read More »


NSS: government decision on caste discrimination shows "callous disregard for victims"

The NSS has criticised the government's decision not to explicitly recognise caste-based discrimination under equality legislation.


Council proposes secular remembrance space following NSS intervention

The City of Edinburgh Council has proposed creating a new remembrance space without religious symbols following advice from the National Secular Society.


Pakistan’s elections will mean little for minorities and secularists

Religious hardliners have pushed both frontrunners in Pakistan's elections to the right – and neither is prepared to... Read More »


Hindu leader calls on Italian brewery to withdraw “inappropriate” beer

The NSS has warned of the need to resist "a competitive offence-taking culture" after a Hindu group asked a brewery to withdraw a beer.


Other news

Campaigners are celebrating after winning a High Court battle to stop a town hall in west London from being rented out to a Hindu temple next door for 250 years. The NSS backed the campaign earlier this month.

Theresa May has said her religious faith gives her "confidence" that she is "doing the right thing" as prime minister.

A director of the Christian Institute has responded to a high-profile ruling on divorce this week by telling the BBC a "pure no-fault" system would lead to a "race to the bottom", with quicker divorces that would "trivialise marriage".

A leading abuse lawyer in Scotland has said religious organisations and charities are failing to take responsibility for past crimes.

The Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil is considering merging its Catholic schools.

Public hospitals in Ireland may be taken out of religious ownership to ensure that the Catholic church is no longer at "the centre of public life", the country's prime minister has said.

A coroner's service in north London is to provide evening and weekend provision for dealing with urgent matters, in a move heralded by a large Jewish burial society. The decision has led to pressure on Mary Hassell, a neighbouring coroner whose 'cab rank' policy was recently challenged in court, to provide a similar service.

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Quotes of the week

"It's an ecclesiastical protection racket, and the attitude is that anyone who seeks to in any way threaten the reputation of the church as an institution has to be destroyed."
Rev. Graham Sawyer reflects on the Church of England's response to sexual abuse at the IICSA inquiry


"All of us at the time were saying, well, he wasn't raping anybody. There was no penetrative sex. And I think our weakness was actually to put it as the lowest of the low instead of seeing that whatever it is, it's unbecoming of a bishop."
George Carey on the way the C of E responded to Peter Ball's abuse in evidence to the IICSA inquiry


"Every time a Muslim or anyone else pops their head above the parapet to try to deal with some of the genuine problems the community faces, this toxic coalition emerges to try to cut it off... No one wins but the extremists."
David Aaronovitch responds to activists who denounced Rotherham MP Sarah Champion's concern over Muslim-Asian sex gangs

See our quotes of the week archive...


NMFS comment of the week

"Education should not be based on one belief system but open children's minds to the plurality of beliefs and no belief. This helps nurture tolerance of difference and not the supremacy of a single belief system as promulgated by faith schools."
Brian from Enfield, No More Faith Schools supporter

Tell us why you're saying No More Faith Schools by signing the petition.


Essay of the week

In a world of choice, do we really need chaplains?
By Shona Craven, for the National

The time spent by universities on recruiting chaplains with palatable views would be better spent promoting equality of opportunity and a positive educational experience for all students.


Read elsewhere


Religious decline was the key to economic development in the 20th century

By Damian Ruck, for The Conversation

Research shows that secularisation occurs before economic development and a respect for individual rights separates rich countries from poor ones.


Kavanaugh record suggests he would favour religious interests in school debates

By Laura Meckler, for the Washington Post

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's choice for the US Supreme Court, has sided with religious interests in the debate over government entanglement with religion.


How Catholic bishops are shaping health care in rural America

By Anna Maria Barry-Jester and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, for FiveThirtyEight

Data shows that in a growing number of communities around the US, especially in rural areas, patients and physicians have access to just one hospital. And in more and more places, that hospital is Catholic.


Events coming up

Our annual Bradlaugh Lecture on Hindu nationalism in Manchester, a talk on our former president Chapman Cohen in Leicester and London and a healthcare conference in Birmingham.


Events in full

See all Events >


NSS speaks out

Our views on the way religion and belief should be taught in schools were highlighted fairly extensively in The Economist's Erasmus blog.

Our president Keith Porteous Wood discussed the Anglican Church and its finances on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.


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