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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 29 November 2019


Tomorrow we're hosting our AGM at Conway Hall in central London, for attendance by our members only. Registration opens at 1pm and the meeting begins at 1:30.

Before the AGM our council member Bob Forder will also deliver a talk on the life and legacy of the 19th century secularist Richard Carlile. Non-members are welcome to attend the talk. We look forward to seeing as many people as possible tomorrow.

With the election just 13 days away, this week our campaigns officer Megan Manson has delved into the major UK-wide parties' manifestos to study their positions on secularist issues. As her long read below outlines, there are occasional encouraging signs and policies but unfortunately no party is consistently committed to secularism as a principle. In an age of identity politics, religion looks set to continue being a source of division.

This once again demonstrates the urgency of our work. If you're not a member, please join us and add your voice to our call for an end to religious privilege. Thank you.


News & Opinion


Election 2019: Where do the major parties stand on secularist issues?

Megan Manson studies the main UK-wide parties' election manifestos – and says religion will continue to be a dividing force in UK politics during the next parliament.


Don’t remove right to withdraw from RE, NSS urges Welsh ministers

The NSS has urged the Welsh government not to remove parents' right to withdraw children from religious education.


NSS welcomes decision to prevent anti-LGBT protests outside school

A high court judge's ruling will prevent mainly Muslim protesters from rallying against inclusive education outside a Birmingham school..


NSS refers Christadelphian charities to regulator

The NSS has referred 10 Christadelphian charities to the Charity Commission over concerns that they promote deeply intolerant messages.


Islamic school segregating by sex despite ruling it’s unlawful

Inspectors have found an independent Islamic school segregating children by sex, two years after the practice was ruled unlawful.


Latest NSS podcast


Ep 19: General election special

This week, Emma Park is joined by Stephen Evans and Chris Sloggett for a general election special.

The NSS recently outlined 11 secularist policies it would like to see under the next government. But which of these are on the parties' agendas? Will any of them make it onto the statute book any time soon? And is religion stifling political debate? Join Stephen, Chris and Emma for comment and analysis.


Religious opposition to proposals to decriminalise abortion

A religious backlash has been growing after Labour and the Liberal Democrats made proposals to decriminalise abortion in their election manifestos.

Dozens of clergy and lay members of the Church of England have signed an open letter calling on C of E bishops to oppose the idea. The NSS has said the letter is a reminder that bishops shouldn't sit in the Lords by right.

Meanwhile the Council of Bishops of The Society, which promotes Catholic teaching within the C of E, has pledged to oppose attempts to further liberalise abortion. And 80 candidates to become MPs have signed a pledge proposed by anti-choice campaigners which partly aims to lower the upper time limit for abortions.


Other news

An evangelical Church schools' network – the OneSchool Global network, which was established by the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church – plans to open a voluntary grammar school in Northern Ireland. The NSS will oppose the proposal.

A debate has taken place on Catholic schools in the Scottish parliament – with every single contributor praising denominational schooling. The NSS has described this as an effort to silence and marginalise legitimate criticism.

Two parents have been found guilty of allowing their daughter to undergo female genital mutilation in Ireland, while a boy has had the tip of his penis cut off during a cultural circumcision in Canada.

Keep up with all the latest news and views on secularism by subscribing to our daily media briefing.


Upcoming events

Our upcoming events include a talk on the 1944 Education Act and its legacy and an event for educators on our Exploring Secularism resources in 2020.

Find out more on our events page.


Jonathan Miller 1934-2019

We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of our honorary associate Jonathan Miller this week.

In a tribute to him we said his series A Rough History of Disbelief "broke the hegemony of religion on the BBC".


Essay of the week

These Sikh and Hindu 'leaders' who compete over racism don't speak for us – they're an embarrassment
By Sunny Hundal, for The Independent

Britain has created an awful dynamic where self-appointed figures who claim to speak on behalf of minorities instead use them like pawns in a game for power and influence.


NSS speaks out

Our tribute to Jonathan Miller was quoted in The Guardian.

Our No More Faith Schools campaign coordinator Alastair Lichten discussed our opposition to plans to open a new discriminatory Catholic school in Peterborough on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

Our communications officer Chris Sloggett discussed the archbishop of Canterbury's comments on the election campaign on BBC Radio Kent. Chris said Justin Welby is free to speak out but his views should be judged on substance, and there should be no deference to him on the basis of his religious status.


NSS out and about

Alastair Lichten and our president Keith Porteous Wood ran a public meeting in Peterborough to discuss the plan to open a Catholic school there. Alastair also addressed Cambridge Humanists on our No More Faith Schools campaign.


Read elsewhere


Parents hope secular education victory leads to repeal of law

By Donna Ferguson, for The Observer

There are calls for an end to compulsory collective, broadly Christian worship in non-religious state schools after a Church of England academy trust agreed to provide an alternative in one school.


'Allow no escapes': leak exposes reality of China's vast prison camp network

By Emma Graham-Harrison & Juliette Garside, for The Guardian

Documents confirm the largest mass incarceration of an ethnic-religious minority since second world war.


Quote of the week

"The protest against him is stupid and arbitrary. India is a democratic and secular country - the selection of a professor can't be based on religion or caste."
Rashmi Singh, student, on students' attempts to prevent a Muslim from teaching Sanskrit in an Indian university


In your own words: why religious appointees on Scottish council education committees should go

"It's a disgrace that religion gets a free pass here. Totally undemocratic."
Brian, South Lanarkshire

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