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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 30 November 2018


This week causes which we've been championing were raised in both houses of parliament. On Wednesday in the Lords a Labour peer pushed for the disestablishment of the Church of England - which we've been calling for since our founding more than 150 years ago. Just a couple of hours earlier a Labour MP had asked the prime minister to consider a law requiring the reporting of suspected child abuse - and specifically highlighted the need for it to apply to the Church of England.

In both cases the government's responses were unsatisfactory. This was a reminder of what we are up against. But, even as Brexit dominates the political agenda, our challenge to religion's public role is gaining steam.

If you'd like to see that continue, please consider supporting us. You can also find out more by coming to our Secularism 2019 conference next year, where we'll be considering what true religious freedom means. Tickets for this full-day event are £50 - or just £25 if you're an NSS member.


News & Opinion


Labour peer raises case for disestablishment in Lords

The NSS has reiterated its call for the disestablishment of the Church of England after a peer raised the subject in the House of Lords.


MP calls for mandatory reporting of child abuse during PMQs

The NSS has welcomed an MP's call for a law to require the reporting of suspected child abuse, including in the Church of England.


The gatekeepers of public debate can’t patronise away anti-Muslim bigotry

A parliamentary group's proposal that the government define 'Islamophobia' is a misguided power grab, says Chris Sloggett. If we want to end anti-Muslim bigotry, we should stop telling people what to think about Islam.


My children’s non-faith school has become Christian by default

Lee Harris enrolled his children in a non-faith primary school. But when its leaders developed a cosy relationship with a... Read More »


Government warnings for five failing independent faith schools

Three Islamic schools and two Jewish schools are among nine independent schools which were issued with warning notices in October.


Latest from the No More Faith Schools campaign


New religious academy planned in Cambridgeshire

A Christian 'free school' with the slogan "Education Built on Faith" could open in the Cambridgeshire town of St Ives before... Read More »


Read elsewhere


New types of religious state school deepen segregation

By The Economist

As the number of religious schools continues to grow, fewer children will come into regular, humdrum, day-to-day contact with those of different faiths.


Why religious rules on butchering beasts make many people see red

By The Economist

In Britain and Belgium the clash between religion and animal rights is heating up, partly in response to the NSS's recent findings on non-stun meat in schools.


Coming out: Naomi Alderman on leaving Orthodox Judaism behind

By Naomi Alderman, for The Guardian

As the film of her novel Disobedience is released, the author reveals how writing about the strict Jewish community she grew up in made her realise she had to leave it.


Other news

Scotland's deputy first minister John Swinney has claimed Catholic schools are "an essential part" of Scotland's education system and praised education based on "the teaching of Jesus". He was speaking at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of Catholic state schools in Scotland. The NSS has criticised the remarks.

Pressure is growing on Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire to reveal which of its schools are serving meat from animals that are not stunned before slaughter. Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin has said parents should be informed about non-stun meat in schools. The NSS has said this "would be a positive step" but ultimately the meat shouldn't be served at all.

The director of the film American Circumcision has hit back at accusations of anti-semitism as a screening took place in Oxford. A rabbi making the criticism admitted he had not seen the film. The group hosting the screening also said opponents were trying to stop it from taking place.

A report backed by Labour MP Sarah Champion has said police have ignored concerns about the sexual exploitation of Sikh girls by Muslim men.

The prime minister has faced protesters calling for equal marriage in Northern Ireland at an event in Belfast.

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into the Buddhist charity Rigpa Fellowship over "serious concerns about adult safeguarding".

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia has violated LGBT+ people's human rights by banning Pride events. Meanwhile voters in Taiwan have rejected legalising same-sex marriages in a series of referendums.


Watch: NSS Healthcare & Secularism conference

Last month the NSS hosted its Healthcare & Secularism conference, an event focusing on the link between secularism and medical ethics, in Birmingham. Discussion focused on topics including infant genital cutting, reproductive rights, conscientious objection, LGBT+ 'conversion therapy' and assisted dying.

You can now watch the conference on our YouTube channel or follow the links on our website.


Other events

On Wednesday Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters will explore the relationship between religious fundamentalism, racism and feminism at the University of Warwick. We also recommend several other events in the coming weeks.

See all upcoming events.


Secularism 2019 - 18 May 2019

On Saturday 18 May 2019 the NSS will host a major one-day conference on the subject 'reclaiming religious freedom'.

You can find out more about the conference on our website, watch videos from our most recent conference in 2016 on our YouTube channel and buy your tickets now.


Quotes of the week

"Everywhere in the world, there should be someone who stands when no one else does."
Saif Ul Malook, lawyer who represented Asia Bibi, at Sunday's One Law For All conference on secularism


"It is a shocking fact that some western liberals used to defend FGM as 'part of their culture' without looking too closely at who 'they' were – namely the cutters who made money from it, and the men who wanted 'pure' wives who found sex too painful to have extra-marital relationships."
Joan Smith, NSS honorary associate, writing on an American court's recent decision on FGM in UnHerd


"If readers are to be warned about all verses they may find upsetting, these proposed new Bibles will need very wide margins indeed."
An editorial in The Times responds to a Jewish group's call for 'trigger warnings' on the Bible

See our quotes of the week archive.


End compulsory worship: petition comments of the week

We have had a flood of contributions to our petition calling for an end to compulsory worship in schools. Here is a selection of some of the best:

"Religious freedom and enforced worship are diametrically opposed."
David from Houghton Regis

"Participation in religious worship should not be forced upon any individual, including children. Such a requirement should have no place in a modern and progressive society that values people as individuals, not based on their religious affiliation (or lack of)."
Julia from Telford

"Faith should only ever be a personal choice, not an external demand."
Nicholas from Smethwick

Sign the petition and tell us why you think compulsory worship should end.


Essay of the week

Secularism creates a safe place for the world's religions to co-exist
By Andrew Fiala, for The Fresno Bee

The virtue of secular governments is that they don't pick sides in religious disputes.


NSS speaks out

Our reporting on the number of people affiliated to the Church of England was mentioned in this week's Lords disestablishment debate, leading to coverage in the Mail Online, Premier Christian Radio, Belfast Telegraph and Shropshire Star.

The Economist drew on our research on non-stun meat in schools in a feature on religious slaughter. Pagan magazine Unleash The Hounds also referred to our research on the subject.

Our president Keith Porteous Wood had a letter calling for mandatory reporting of child abuse published in Church Times.

Our questioning of the charitable role of an Islamic preacher who has praised Osama Bin Laden was covered in The Freethinker on Patheos. Our campaigns officer Megan Manson was quoted.

Megan was also quoted on the pitfalls of the Operation Christmas Child shoebox scheme in Lincolnshire Live.


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