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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 28 September 2018


There's now less than a month to go until our Healthcare and Secularism Conference, a rare opportunity to discuss the link between secularist principles and strong, fair health provision.

Brian D. Earp will be among the speakers in Birmingham on 27 October, and this week we're giving you a taste of the quality of discussion that's in store as we re-publish his nuanced, thoughtful blog on genital cutting. And we've just confirmed our latest speaker: Jayne Ozanne, director of the Ozanne Foundation, who will discuss gay 'conversion therapy'.

Tickets are already selling well so don't risk missing out. You can secure your place for just £10 is you're an NSS member or £15 if you're not.

Alternatively, or in addition, you can join or donate to the NSS to help us to make the case for a free, fair Britain where religion is a private matter for individuals, not an influence on public policy. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


Theology isn’t secular courts’ business, NSS tells justice secretary

The NSS has written to the justice secretary after its latest complaint about a judge who interpreted Islamic scripture was dismissed.


Scottish Catholic schools to marginalise children who don’t pray

The NSS has criticised a plan to exclude children from nativity plays and fundraising if they are withdrawn from prayers.


Genital cutting: the search for ‘health benefits’ is disingenuous and inconsistent

The principle of bodily autonomy is enough reason to end genital cutting, says Brian D. Earp. Allowing 'health benefits' to dictate its acceptability risks legitimising inconsistent, pseudo-scientific justifications.


Campaign to repeal Ireland’s blasphemy law launched

The NSS has backed a campaign to repeal Ireland's blasphemy law which is being launched on Sunday, ahead of a referendum on the subject.


Other news

Labour would "immediately" end the government's academy and free schools programme in England, the shadow education secretary has said. Religious groups are among those who have set up state-funded free schools. Jewish school leaders have suggested the policy will change little.

A gay pride march through the centre of Inverness has been given the go-ahead, despite a petition opposing the event from a home mission worker with the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing).

An Islamist group banned in more than a dozen countries has launched a recruitment drive in an inner-city neighbourhood that is linked to more homegrown terrorists than anywhere else in the UK. Hizb ut-Tahrir, whose purpose is to re-establish the caliphate in the Middle East with Sharia law, has relocated to the Sparkhill area of Birmingham.

A judge in Spain has said there are "sufficient reasons" to prosecute actor Willy Toledo for using "potentially offensive phrases for the Catholic religion and its practitioners". Toledo is accused of offending religious sentiments by insulting God and the Christian virgin Mary on Facebook.

Primary and intermediate schools in New Zealand will have to ask families for their consent to teach religious instruction, and provide alternatives for those who refuse, if new guidelines are adopted.

Police in the Maldives have demolished an underwater sculpture museum after deeming it anti-Islamic.

Politicians in Nova Scotia have unanimously passed a bill which makes the province the third in Canada to introduce a ban on 'conversion therapy'.

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.


Events coming up


Healthcare & Secularism Conference

Featuring talks by academics and experts in the fields of medicine, law and ethics, the Healthcare & Secularism conference will give participants the opportunity to discuss the most pressing secular medical issues today. These will include conscientious objection, ritual circumcision, pastoral care and assisted dying.


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 talk from activist Aron Ra in Manchester, a talk from our 2017 Secularist of the Year Yasmin Rehman in Nottingham and a conference on sharia, segregation and secularism.

See all upcoming events.


Quote of the week

"There are a lot of things behind it that have nothing to do with government. They have things to do with… things like removing God from the public square."
US senator Ted Cruz manages to find a way to blame secularism for mass shootings

See our quotes of the week archive.


Essay of the week

Let's debunk the nonsense about Prevent
By Chris Sybenga, for Times Higher Education

Claims that the UK's counterterrorism strategy targets Muslims and harms free speech are nonsense.


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