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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 4 January 2019


Happy new year. With 2019 underway we're now looking ahead to our centrepiece event of the year: the Secularism 2019 conference in London on 18 May. We'll be discussing how to reclaim religious freedom - a qualified right that belongs to everyone - from those who have misused the term. Too often the idea of 'religious freedom' is abused in an attempt to claim special privileges and undermine the rights of others. If this interests you, you can see the speakers we've lined up so far and buy your tickets now.

This week we reported that just a third of the UK public supports the longstanding links between the monarchy and the Church of England, a fact revealed by a poll we exclusively commissioned. On all three questions our pollsters asked, more people disapproved of the monarchy's ties to the C of E than supported them. The longstanding laws that bind the head of state to the church are at odds with modern day Britain's values and should be addressed.

Changing this would be just one way the UK could become a more secular, democratic country which respects everyone's freedom of and from religion within an equally-applied law. We're making the case for that - but we can only do it with your support. Thank you.


News & Opinion


Just a third of public supports royal ties with CoE, NSS poll finds

Only a third of the UK public thinks the monarchy's ties to the C of E should remain intact, according to a poll conducted for the NSS.


NSS urges councils to resist religiously selective faith schools

The NSS has urged local education authorities not to open schools which can select all their children based on their families' faith.


Welby’s political interventions seen as inappropriate, poll finds

A plurality of the public thinks it is inappropriate for the archbishop of Canterbury to express political opinions, a poll has found.


Non-stun slaughter ban comes into effect in northern Belgium

A ban on the slaughter of animals without pre-stunning has come into effect in the Flanders region of Belgium.


Ritual genital cutting kills boy in Italy

A two-year-old boy has died after his genitals were cut for religious reasons at a migrant centre in Italy.


Council abandons review of discretionary faith school transport

The NSS has criticised a council in north Wales for ending a review of its provision of discretionary free transport to faith schools.


From the archive


Let’s point out that the ‘Je ne suis pas Charlie’ brigade are helping the terrorists win

On the most recent anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Chris Sloggett said it was a moral duty to push back against those who invent outrages to impugn the magazine's reputation.


Other news

The foreign secretary has ordered a review into the plight of persecuted Christians around the world and how much help they get from the UK.

Almost one in 10 Scots would reject their MSP if they were a different religion to them, a survey of attitudes across Scotland has revealed.

Newly released cabinet papers have revealed that John Major was willing to consider an opt-out of the European Convention on Human Rights rather than let a film banned on blasphemy grounds be shown.

Jair Bolsonaro has been sworn in as Brazil's president and promised to work closely with his US counterpart Donald Trump "under God's protection". One of his first decisions in office was to downplay the role of LGBT+ rights.

Services in the southern Indian state of Kerala have shut down amid violent protests after two women entered a prominent Hindu temple. On Thursday Hindu hardliners vandalised shops, shut businesses and clashed with police.

Ireland has opened its first legal abortion services after last year's referendum overturned an amendment which effectively banned them.

Victims of sexual abuse can finally sue the Catholic Church in the Australian state of New South Wales after the state government abolished an infamous defence. Previously churches were protected from being sued by a legal precedent which said they did not legally exist.

The Democratic party has assumed control of the US House of Representatives and changed its rules to allow a Muslim woman to wear a headscarf. However the rule change means representatives are still not allowed to wear 'non-religious' headwear. Meanwhile the new Congress remains dominated by religious people.


Read elsewhere


Nuns in India tell of enduring abuse in Catholic Church

By Tim Sullivan, for the Washington Post

The Associated Press has uncovered a decades-long history of nuns enduring sexual abuse from within the Catholic Church in India.


Essays of the week

Thirty years after the Rushdie fatwa, Europe is moving backwards
By Jacob Mchangama and Sarah McLaughlin, for Foreign Policy

Blasphemy laws have been given new life in Europe.


Quote of the week

"The disestablishment of the Church of England – that is, losing its position as an official religion, and the removal of the Anglican bishops from the House of Lords – will surprise no one when it comes. Indeed, the only surprising thing will be that it has taken so long to sweep away such an obvious anachronism."
Alexander Lucie-Smith, consulting editor at the Catholic Herald

See our quotes of the week archive.


China's gulag for Muslims
By Mustafa Akyol, for the New York Times

Beijing is forcing ethnic Uighurs to forsake their religion in 're-education' camps. Why are leaders of many Muslim-majority countries so reticent on the subject?


Buy your tickets: Secularism 2019

There are less than five months to go until our Secularism 2019 conference, where we'll explore what 'religious freedom' truly means and how genuine religious freedom can be best defended for everyone. You can buy your tickets now.


Other events

Other events coming up which we recommend include a course on 19th-century radicals with our council member Bob Forder.

See all upcoming events.


NSS speaks out

Our CEO Stephen Evans had a letter published in The Times on the separation of religion and politics, in light of the paper's poll on Justin Welby's political interventions.

Our opposition to a proposed definition of 'Islamophobia' was mentioned in Spiked Online.


Scholarship: funding applications open

The NSS's scholarship supports students who conduct research relevant to secularism and the promotion of human rights. Applications for our third round of funding are now open. We're inviting requests for grants ranging from £500 to £3,000. Find out more on our research & scholarships page.


Support our work

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


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