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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 29 March 2019


This week the government announced details of 14 planned new faith schools in England which will be able to select all their children on the basis of their families' religious beliefs. Setting up these schools will foster segregation, exacerbate inequality and undermine freedom of and from religion. Where new schools are needed they should be inclusive.

We'll be vigorously opposing the government's plans through our No More Faith Schools campaign. If a new faith school is opening near you, we can help: download our guide to challenging new faith schools to find out how. And if you agree with us that the state shouldn't encourage faith-based segregation – or fund faith schools at all – you can get involved in the NMFS campaign and help us make the case.

As you'll see below, we've had another busy week. We've announced the latest speaker for our Secularism 2019 conference, and we're continuing to challenge religious privilege and promote a freer, fairer society on a range of fronts. If you value our work, please consider joining or donating to the NSS. Thank you.


News & Opinion


NSS to challenge new religiously selective faith school proposals

The government has announced details of plans for 14 new faith schools which could select all their children on a religious basis.


New voluntary aided faith schools: what happens next?

The government has outlined plans for 14 new fully selective faith schools in England. Alastair Lichten explains what is... Read More »


Faith schools under-represent disadvantaged children, report says

Faith schools under-represent the rates of social disadvantage in their catchment areas across Britain, a study has found.


The harm caused by Jehovah’s Witnesses shows charity law reform is urgently needed

The Jehovah's Witnesses organisation causes serious abuse and harm, says Lloyd Evans. Its charitable status should be revoked – and society should stop assuming religious organisations only have good intentions.


NSS asks Home Office to review use of ‘faith tests’ in asylum cases

The NSS has asked the Home Office to review its use of 'faith tests' in the handling of asylum applications.


NSS calls on Scottish government to reform charity law

The NSS has called on the Scottish government to remove 'the advancement of religion' as a charitable purpose.


NSS expresses support for RE and RSE reform in Wales

The NSS has expressed qualified support for proposed reforms to religious education and relationships and sexuality education in Wales.


Animal welfare group to address NSS conference on religious freedom

Joyce D'Silva, of the group Compassion in World Farming, will address non-stun slaughter at the NSS's Secularism 2019 conference.


Brunei introduces death for gay sex and adultery under sharia law

Brunei will impose death by stoning to punish gay sex and adultery as it implements a draconian form of Islamic law from next week.


Other news

A large majority of MPs have voted in favour of the government's new regulations which will make relationships and sex education compulsory in all schools from September 2020. Meanwhile protests against LGBT-inclusive education have continued outside a school in Birmingham.

Fewer than a quarter of all marriage ceremonies are held in places of worship, new figures have revealed. The NSS campaigns to separate religion from the legal institution of marriage.

A Perthshire primary school will close after the casting votes at a meeting of a council education committee fell to unelected church representatives. The NSS has said this is "a reminder that the church's automatic positions on education committees are an affront to democracy".

The University of Bristol's free speech society has been forced by the university and the students' union to cancel a talk entitled 'Extreme Speakers vs Free Speech' under pressure from the university's Islamic Society. The NSS has said the decision is troubling.

The Church of England's new fundraising chief has a history of urging charities to make money from people's 'forgetfulness' and by targeting 'vulnerable' elderly women.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has urged the UN to declare 'Islamophobia' as a form of racism and to assign a special rapporteur for monitoring and combating it in the West.

Measles cases have spread across the US this year, with the state of New York now facing its worst outbreak in decades. The vast majority of states affected allow families to opt out of getting vaccinated if they object on religious grounds.

A five-month-old boy has died after parents performed a circumcision at their home in Italy.


Read elsewhere


Trump-linked US Christian ‘fundamentalists’ pour millions into Europe, boosting the far right

By Claire Provost & Mary Fitzgerald, for openDemocracy

Christian right 'fundamentalists' are among a dozen American groups that have poured at least $50m of 'dark money' into Europe over the last decade.


Buy your tickets: Secularism 2019

Joyce D'Silva of Compassion in World Farming is the latest confirmed speaker for our Secularism 2019 conference at The Tower Hotel in London on Saturday 18 May. Tickets are selling fast - you can buy yours now.


Our upcoming events include a conference on children's bodily integrity, featuring the chair of or Secular Medical Forum Dr Antony Lempert, at the University of Leeds.

See all upcoming events.


Essays of the week

Sex and relationship education is about consent
By Yehudis Fletcher, for Jewish News

An interfaith coalition protesting against new sex and relationship education guidance is trying to undermine vital education.


Silencing critics of Islam is as futile a response as banning the Koran
By Kenan Malik, for The Observer

Much of the reaction to the Christchurch terror attack has wrongly sought to censor far-right hatred.


The word 'Islamophobia' and its definition are not fit for purpose
By Maajid Nawaz, for Jewish News

This misnomer fails to distinguish between racist hatred of Muslims and fairly criticising grotesque Islamic doctrine.


Quotes of the week

"In school they need to be educated to the law of the land. At home they can follow their religion. The two sit together."
Hazel Pulley, head of Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, on the continued parental opposition to the 'No Outsiders' programme


"The human rights to practice freedom of thought and religion is a qualified right, restricted to the individual. You cannot use your religious right to trump someone else's rights, even if that person is your child."
Richard Duncker of Men Do Complain on infant genital cutting


"The situation is awful. It's an attempt to exert power and control over schools and British law."
Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, head of Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham, on protests from mainly Muslim parents against its teaching of toleration of difference


"No one in our society should be discriminated against because of who they are. Yet the term Islamophobia downgrades protecting Muslim people and mistakenly puts the focus on protecting ideas."
Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner and NSS honorary associate, criticises a definition of 'Islamophobia' which is gaining traction among politicians


Sign the petition – say No More Faith Schools

Schools are for teaching, not preaching. And we should stop dividing our children by their parents' religion. Sign our petition and tell us why you're saying No More Faith Schools.


Petition comment of the week: stop evangelism in schools

"Schools should be full of facts not fanatics."
Charlotte, Greater Manchester

Sign the petition and tell us why inappropriate evangelism and proselytisation in schools should end.


NSS speaks out

Our education and schools officer Alastair Lichten was quoted in The Independent and Tes in response to the planned wave of new religiously segregated schools.

Our campaigns officer Megan Manson discussed our recent report calling for the advancement of religion to be removed as a charitable purpose on several local BBC radio stations. The report was also highlighted on the Law and Religion UK blog, with our chief executive Stephen Evans quoted.

Stephen was also quoted by the Express and Catholic News Agency on the Home Office rejecting an asylum applicant on a theological basis.

Our communications officer Chris Sloggett discussed religious opposition to diversity teaching and relationships & sex education on talkRADIO.

Stephen Evans discussed Quebec's new law on religion's place in the public sphere on talkRADIO.

Our membership officer Helen Nicholls discussed the relationship between free speech and hate speech in a panel appearance at Queen Mary University.

Our support for plans to end the parental right to withdraw children from relationships and sexuality education in Wales was mentioned by the BBC.


NSS scholarship

Our scholarship supports students who conduct research relevant to secularism and the promotion of human rights. The scholarship is open to anyone publishing research in English.

Applications for the latest round of funding are currently open – find out more and apply here.


Support our work

Please support our work so we can make the case for a fairer secular democracy for all.


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