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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 3 May 2019


Religious groups often attempt to impose narrow and sometimes abusive worldviews on the young. This means secularism has a crucial role to play in defending children's fundamental rights. This week we've seen varying news in that regard.

We've long campaigned for child abuse in a range of religious settings to be taken seriously. The IICSA inquiry has done valuable work exposing abuse and cover-ups in the Anglican and Catholic churches. But this week's news that it will open a new investigation into child abuse in a range of other religious settings is a welcome vindication of our work.

Meanwhile it was unsurprising to see that the government's consultation on its latest guidance to independent schools elicited some demanding and intolerant religious responses. But it was alarming to see the government giving ground in some important ways – not least by watering down its commitment to the promotion of tolerance.

We will continue to push the authorities to prioritise children's rights above the concerns of religious groups who wish to restrict them. If you think this work is valuable, please consider joining or donating to the NSS. Alternatively you may also be interested in attending our Secularism 2019 conference – which is now just two weeks away. You can get your tickets now.


News & Opinion


NSS welcomes child sexual abuse inquiry into religious organisations

The NSS has welcomed the IICSA inquiry's launch of a new investigation into child protection in religious organisations and settings.


Adopting Islamophobia definition ‘would cripple counter-terrorism'

Adopting a proposed definition of 'Islamophobia' would harm efforts to keep the UK safe, a former counter-terrorism chief has warned.


DfE de-prioritises respect for difference in independent schools

The government has watered down requirements on independent schools to promote respect for difference in an apparent sop to religious groups.


New guidance on independent schools: analysis of hard-line opposition and DfE concessions

The government has published new guidance on independent schools, amid systemic failings by independent faith schools. Alastair Lichten looks at what's changed and how the DfE has handled religious groups' demands.


NSS broadly welcomes changes to RE and RSE in Welsh curriculum

The NSS has expressed broad support for reforms to the teaching of religion, relationships and sex in the new curriculum for schools in Wales.


Church to receive publicly funded faith school buildings for free

The Church in Wales will receive new buildings and land for free after public money was spent on them during a faith school's expansion.


NSS: government not doing enough on caste discrimination

The National Secular Society has warned that new guidance "does not do enough" to tackle the problem of caste discrimination.


Religious academy trust recruits full-time ‘Christian Youth Worker’

A state-funded academy trust is seeking a permanent, full-time 'Christian Youth Worker' with the specific role of evangelising to pupils.


Peer raises shortage of religiously neutral schools in Lords debate

A peer has highlighted the shortage of religiously neutral schooling during a Lords debate, referencing figures from the NSS.


Other news

The bishop of Durham has told the House of Lords that the government should allow parents to opt their children out of relationships education in primary school. The NSS has criticised his remarks and the privileged platform he is given to make them.

An internal Church of England report has revealed that 500 of its churches are operating a male-only policy for priests, five years after it had agreed to the ordination of female bishops.

A BBC commissioning editor has said the corporation aims to make programmes with religious content "across the board" and to present belief in a "subtle and pleasurable" way. The NSS has criticised her remarks.

The leader of Ireland's main opposition party has said a commitment to hold a referendum on marriage equality in Northern Ireland may be a way of breaking the political logjam in the region. Sinn Fein has since said marriage equality must be dealt with as part of attempts to restore power-sharing and rejected a referendum on the issue.

Three siblings sexually abused by a care home worker have been awarded £1m in damages from the Church of Scotland.

A Sikh-Muslim interfaith event in Birmingham has been shut down after harassment from Sikh activists.

US president Donald Trump has falsely claimed that babies in the state of Wisconsin are allowed to be "executed" after they're born. Meanwhile Trump has announced the finalisation of a rule that would allow doctors, nurses, insurance providers, and employers to refuse service if it violates their religious beliefs.

Poland's authorities have removed an artwork featuring a banana from a top national gallery, in the latest in a series of controversies over the Catholic-inspired government's intolerance of artwork it considers provocative.

Stay in touch with the latest news and views on secularism in the UK and around the world by signing up to receive your daily media briefing from the NSS.


Seen elsewhere


Scandal in the Church of England

BBC Panorama looks at the Church of England's handling of child sexual abuse.


Read elsewhere


The teenager who ran away from her family at the airport and sought asylum in Wales

By Will Hayward, for Wales Online

The story of 19-year-old Rachel, who wanted to escape Saudi Arabia and ran away when she went to the toilets at Heathrow Airport.


The sanctification of Donald Trump

By Andrew Restuccia, for Politico

Many of the US president's aides and supporters appear to believe he is literally a godsend.


Buy your tickets: Secularism 2019

There are just two weeks to go until our Secularism 2019 conference at The Tower Hotel in London on Saturday 18 May. You can buy your tickets now.


Essay of the week

After Sri Lanka, Bangladesh could see the next round of Islamist-inspired bloodshed
By Taslima Nasreen, for The Print

A country built upon the promise of secularism has now closely and fatally embraced religion.


Quotes of the week

"To pretend there is no link whatsoever is absurd; you might as well say the crusades had nothing to do with Christianity and the Gulag nothing to do with communism. Every religion has a fanatical wing which draws at least some of its sustenance from the doctrines adhered to by the mainstream."
James Bloodworth on the link between Islamism and Islam amid attempts to discredit a European election candidate who highlighted it


"There seems to have been quite a process of whittling down the numbers… There was a lot of massaging going on at the centre that was deeply suspect."
Alan Wilson, bishop of Buckingham, on the Church of England's handling of a review into the number of child abuse cases it faced on BBC Panorama


"I raised the issue of child abuse in the Church of England when I was on the archbishops' council in 1999 - I was told there was nothing to worry about! No one was interested in taking this seriously. It was nothing to do with retraumatising people, but just not wanting to know."
Jayne Ozanne, former member of the Church of England's central executive body, responds to Panorama's coverage of child abuse


"We can't have part of the parliamentary state devoted to appointees, cronies, donors, aristocrats and Church of England bishops."
Pete Wishart, candidate for House of Commons speaker, indicates a willingness to tackle the Church of England bishops' privileged position in the Lords


Petition comments of the week: against religious discrimination in school admissions

"All schools should be open and inclusive to all religions and none."
Jean, Hampshire


"State funding new faith schools is a retrograde move, presumably to cynically seek votes from religious constituencies. Shameful."
Barry, Devon

Help us to make the case against the government's proposed new wave of selective faith schools in England, and for inclusive, secular education across the UK. Get involved in our No More Faith Schools campaign.


Petition comments of the week: No More Faith Schools

"As the former headteacher of a faith school I know how divisive they can be. We should be moving in the opposite direction as a country."


"We felt we had little practical choice due to catchment areas and the sheer number of C of E schools but to send out child to such a school… We don't have non-secular hospitals, so why should we have non-secular schools?"
James, Tunbridge Wells

Sign the petition and say why you're saying No More Faith Schools.


Petition comment of the week: end non-stun slaughter

"Either we are for the reduction of animal suffering or we are not. There is no middle ground. In a humane society we have the right to make laws and then insist that they are adhered to across the board. No ifs, no buts."
Paul, Somerset

Sign the petition and explain why non-stun slaughter should end.


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