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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 3 January 2020


Happy new year to all our readers. As the year begins we're once again making our case for reform of the UK's public life to advance freedom of and from religion.

In particular we've written to the new speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, to ask him to support a review of the practice of holding prayers as official parliamentary business opens. And later this month a bill we're backing which would remove Church of England bishops' automatic right to sit in the House of Lords will be introduced to parliament.

In 2020 we already have an event planned on the legacy of the 1944 Education Act, a training day on our Exploring Secularism resources for educators and more. You can find out more on our events page. And if you'd like to support our work and aren't a member already, please consider joining the NSS. Thank you.


News & Opinion


Review prayers in parliament, NSS urges new Commons speaker

The NSS has urged the new speaker of the House of Commons to support a review of the practice of holding prayers in parliament.


Government dismissed concerns about Jewish school in sex ed scandal

The government dismissed concerns about community pressures at a school which has encouraged parents to withdraw children from RSE.


Don’t let controlling ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups undermine sex education

Sex education empowers young people. The government must stand up to those making faux religious freedom arguments in an attempt to stop them receiving it, argues Stephen Evans.


NSS welcomes bill to end compulsory worship in non-faith schools

The NSS has welcomed a bill that proposes to scrap compulsory religious worship in non-faith schools in England.


Free speech news

An academic has been sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan. The NSS argues that blasphemy is not a crime and blasphemy laws should be repealed wherever they exist.

Molotov cocktails have been thrown at the headquarters of a Brazilian group which released a comedy portraying Jesus as gay. A far right group has claimed responsibility.

Petitioners have tried to shut down a new Netflix show, Messiah, claiming it is 'anti-Islamic' and 'blasphemous'. The NSS has said religious offence-taking shouldn't infringe artistic freedom.

Read more about the NSS's long-term campaign work to defend freedom of expression on religion, and our recent news on the subject.


Other news

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service has criticised BBC Radio 4's Today programme for allowing a bishop to use the Thought for the Day slot to advance an anti-abortion view unchallenged. The NSS argues that Thought for the Day is discriminatory and should be abolished or reformed.

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


Watch: Richard Carlile lecture

Our council member and historian Bob Forder addressed the life and legacy of Richard Carlile, a champion of secularism during the 19th century, in a talk at Conway Hall in London in November.

The talk is now up on our YouTube channel.


NSS events in 2020

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

Our No More Faith Schools campaign coordinator Alastair Lichten will also deliver a series of talks in several locations, starting in Oxford in April.

Find out more on our events page.


Quote of the week

"What transpires in Westminster is all very bizarre for a 21st-century democracy and most especially in a multi-faith and multi-racial country."
Newly elected MP Kenny MacAskill on the tradition of holding Christian prayers as sitting days open in the House of Commons


NSS speaks out

Our communications officer Chris Sloggett was quoted in a feature on whether the Welsh Assembly should adopt a proposed definition of 'Islamophobia' in Planet Extra. He said the adoption of the definition would risk shutting down criticism of Islamic practices.


Support our work

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


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