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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 2 August 2019


We've long campaigned for an end to the law requiring schools to hold acts of worship, so the state funds – and children attend – inclusive schools in which religious freedom is respected equally for all. And the news this week that two parents are to seek a judicial review against a primary school over its Christian assemblies means there's a significant chance to make the case for change.

We have more details about the case and how we're responding below. You can also read a letter from our CEO in The Guardian and a blog which one of the parents involved in the case, Lee Harris, wrote for us in December.

We say it's past time for the government to address the anachronism of mandated worship and the mess it creates. If you agree, we urge you to write to your MPs to get this issue on the political agenda. Our template letter makes this process straightforward.

And if you'd like to show support for our wider work, please consider joining or donating to the NSS. Thank you.


News & Opinion


Parents challenge academy’s Christian assemblies in court

A couple have launched a legal challenge against a primary school over its use of Christian assemblies.


NSS questions Public Health England advice over flu vaccine

The NSS has asked why a public health body is encouraging parents to seek religious advice over whether to get their children vaccinated.


The ‘minister for faith’ shouldn’t be replaced

After the minister for faith's resignation, Stephen Evans says this unnecessary role enables the government to promote a positive view of religion and should be abandoned.


‘No Outsiders’ offers a vision of tolerance and equality

The current wave of religious protests outside schools began with objections to the No Outsiders scheme of work. As its author prepares to give the NSS's Bradlaugh Lecture, Megan Manson asks what the fuss was about.


Non-stun slaughter must end on animal welfare grounds

Dr Joyce D'Silva of Compassion in World Farming says the organisation campaigns for an end to religious exemptions that allow non-stun slaughter so farm animals are treated as humanely as possible.


Faith based selection sends a damaging message to our children

Joanne Bartley, a campaigner with the group Comprehensive Future, argues that a comprehensive education system should also be free of religious selection.


NSS writes elsewhere


Laws requiring worship in schools should be abolished

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans responds to an attempt to defend collective worship in schools from the Church of England in a letter to The Guardian.


From the archive: the Christian assemblies case


My children’s school has become Christian by default

Lee Harris didn't choose a faith school for his children. But when he challenged evangelism at his local school, he learnt that community school status doesn't necessarily prevent religion from being imposed on children.


Petition comment of the week: end collective worship

"It should not be up to the state to impose religion on children through their schooling. Children should have the right to choose and be given impartial information to support their decisions."
Emily, Surrey

Sign the petition and explain why you think the law compelling schools to hold acts of worship should be repealed.

Alternatively write to your MP to urge an end to compulsory worship in schools.

Or sign one of our other petitions to highlight a secularist cause you care about.


Religious representatives’ education voting rights in Scotland: latest

The archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh has urged churches in his Catholic diocese to resist moves to strip the church of its right to vote on education policy in Edinburgh. In response some local councillors have accused him of "spectacular misrepresentation" of their goals.

Meanwhile representatives of Glasgow City Council have said they have no plans to strip religious representatives of their voting rights.

The NSS recently wrote to all councils in Scotland to urge them to repeal religious representatives' voting rights on council education committees. The NSS has also urged education secretary John Swinney to review the representatives' positions.


Other news

The leader of Parkfield Community School in Birmingham has said the government put "extreme pressure" on the school to give in to demands to stop teaching about LGBT relationships. In response the NSS has said religious bigotry must be opposed, not appeased.

One hundred and eight religious charities were registered in July – and 65 of them (60%) were registered solely under 'religious activities'. The NSS's recent report For The Public Benefit? argued that religious charities should be required to demonstrate a secular public benefit.

Nearly half of young LGBT people who are left homeless after coming out are from religious backgrounds, research has shown. The NSS argues that challenging undue deference to religion is a critical part of any serious effort to defend the rights of LGBT people.


Bradlaugh Lecture 2019: tickets on sale

There are just five weeks to go until our 2019 Bradlaugh Lecture in Manchester. Andrew Moffat will address the subject 'No Outsiders: reclaiming radical ideas in schools' on Saturday 7 September. Tickets are on sale now.


Watch: final talks from Secularism 2019 available on YouTube


Brian Earp: religious freedom and the right to bodily integrity

Medical ethicist Brian Earp addresses genital cutting, religious freedom and children's right to bodily integrity.


Rachel Laser: religious freedom in Trump's America

Rachel Laser, CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, addresses religious freedom and the erosion of church-state separation in President Trump's America.


Secularist of the Year prize presentation

Geoffrey Robertson QC presented our Secularist of the Year award to Saif ul-Malook, a lawyer who defended a woman accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.


RE: tell us your views

How best can we ensure education about religion and belief is secular? We're consulting on potential approaches to reform of RE. We're keen to hear from supporters, RE professionals & the public. You can find out more and respond on our website.


Essay of the week

MPs can no longer hide from the mass incarceration of Uighur Muslims in China
By Yasmin Qureshi & Alistair Carmichael, for the New Statesman

Two MPs aim to initiate a short inquiry into the incarceration of Muslims in China after parliament returns from recess.


Quote of the week

"It is nothing less than disgraceful the level of bigotry that evangelicals impose on the non-religious. Until and unless the religious stop lying about the nature of secularism, falsely depicting it as the ultimate evil, I fear such bigotry will continue to increase."
Tyler Broker, legal writer, says the US evangelical movement is falsely demonising those who believe in the separation of church and state


Read elsewhere


Forty years of Southall Black Sisters and the battles ahead

By Ben Gelblum, for The London Economic

NSS honorary associate Pragna Patel discusses past and future battles on gender violence, criminal justice and religious fundamentalism.


Seen elsewhere


Circumcision: my penis causes me constant pain

Produced, filmed & edited by Shane Fennelly & Tom Beal, for the BBC

A man who feels constant pain after being circumcised speaks to the BBC about his experience and calls for more education on the procedure's implications.


BBC Newsnight report on the backlash against LGBT-inclusive RSE

BBC Newsnight reports on the latest developments in the backlash against inclusive teaching, including the spread of misinformation, parental withdrawals and teachers receiving threats.


NSS speaks out

Our attempts to repeal religious representatives' voting rights on councils in Scotland were mentioned in The Times.

A blog we published last week on circumcision and charity law from our campaigns officer, Megan Manson, was cited extensively on The Freethinker on Patheos.


Support our work

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


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