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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 4 October 2019


We're often told that faith schools are good for parental choice. But this week our research has highlighted a major flaw in that argument, as we exclusively revealed that thousands of children in England are being sent to faith schools against their parents' preferences.

Our No More Faith Schools campaign is working to expose the harm which faith schools cause and to roll back religious control of schools across the UK. You can show your support by getting involved in the campaign.

Elsewhere this week you can read more about our work advocating judicial neutrality, balanced education on religion and worldviews in Wales and reform of BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day slot. If you think this work is valuable, please consider supporting it. Thank you.


News & Opinion


20,000 children sent to faith schools against parental preferences

More than 20,000 children were sent to faith schools in England against their parents' preferences this month, NSS research has found.


NSS urges lord chancellor to scrap Anglican judges’ service

The NSS has urged the lord chancellor to scrap the annual Anglican services which mark the start of the legal year.


Welsh government considers ending right to withdraw from RE & RSE

The Welsh government is consulting on plans to end parents' right to withdraw children from classes on religion, relationships and sex.


Scrap ‘discriminatory’ Thought for the Day, says former presenter

The NSS has urged the BBC to reform its Thought for the Day slot after the former presenter John Humphrys said it was "discriminatory".


Chancellor urges caution around use of word ‘Islamophobia’

The chancellor Sajid Javid has said he does not use the word 'Islamophobia' because of its capacity to shut down criticism of religion.


NSS in the news


Want a non-faith school place for your child? You’d better start praying

By Andrew Penman, for The Mirror

More than 20,000 children have started this new academic year at state faith schools against their parents' preferences, NSS research has found.


Christian prayer 'divisive' at Bucks County Council meeting

By Sam Dean, for The Bucks Herald

The NSS has called Buckinghamshire County Council's practice of beginning meetings with Christian prayers "alienating", "exclusionary" and "divisive" and urged the council to change its policy.


Other news

The NSS has said giving the bishop of London a privileged platform to air her political and religious views at this week's judges' service in Westminster Abbey undermined democracy. Sarah Mullally used her sermon at the service to speak on subjects including the state of British democracy and the government's prison policy.

The NSS has found that 100 religious charities were registered in September: 95 in England and Wales and five in Scotland. Over half (52) were registered solely under "religious activities". The NSS argues that advancing religion doesn't necessarily bring a public benefit and shouldn't be a charitable purpose.

An Australian radio host has made an eight-minute apology after some Christians and Muslims reacted furiously to a joke he made about the virgin Mary. The NSS has expressed concern about the free speech implications of this episode.

Stay in touch with all the latest news and views on secularism – sign up to receive your daily media briefing from the NSS.


Upcoming events

The coordinator of our No More Faith Schools campaign, Alastair Lichten, will speak about it at an event hosted by North London Humanists on Thursday.

In the coming weeks our staff and board members will also take part in events on religion and women's rights, religion's role in public life and more.

Find out more on our events page.


NSS podcast: latest episode


Ep 15: 'Islamophobia' definition | Criticising infant circumcision

Emma Park speaks to Stephen Evans, CEO of the NSS and Chris Sloggett, communications officer, about the NSS's opposition to a proposed definition of 'Islamophobia'. Chris and NSS campaigns officer Megan Manson also join Emma to discuss two recent rows relating to infant circumcision.


NSS speaks out

Our research on the number of children being sent to faith schools against their preferences of their parents was also featured in Schools Week, with our head of education Alastair Lichten quoted.

Our chief executive Stephen Evans outlined his thoughts on education about religion, belief and worldviews in an interview with RE Today.

Our opposition to a proposed definition of 'Islamophobia' was mentioned in Christian Today.

Our decision to report an Islamic charity in Leicester to the charity regulator was reported in Leicester Secular Society's autumn newsletter, with our campaigns officer Megan Manson quoted.


Read elsewhere: Tory conference fringe event furore


Conservative conference fringe meeting was no ‘Muslim-bashing fest’

By Peter Tatchell, letter in The Guardian

Claims that a fringe meeting at the Tory party conference was a "Muslim-bashing fest" are wrong.


The problem with ‘Islamophobia’ and the Tory party

By Will Heaven, for The Spectator

An account of what happened at an event on 'Challenging Islamophobia' at the Conservative party conference on Sunday, and how it has been misrepresented since.


Quotes of the week

"I knew I was gay by the time I was 13 or 14, and I couldn't tell anybody until I was 27. I don't want any child to go through that lying, the shame, the self-hatred."
Andrew Moffat, creator of the 'No Outsiders' lessons which have sparked a furious religious backlash


"The building blocks of society must mirror the kind of world we want future generations to inherit. No matter how you look at it, denominational schools have become an anomaly. If sectarianism is to become a thing of the past, then so should they."
Archie Macpherson calls for an "open and bold" debate on faith based segregation in Scotland's schools


In your own words: end religious discrimination in school admissions

"There is a school places shortage in our town and my two closest secondary schools fill their places with children from as far as an hour away, whilst children whose parents don't attend church have nowhere to go. It's outrageous that religious discrimination in schools should be allowed if it isn't in any other sector of our society."
Marlene, Kent

Find out more about our opposition to religious discrimination in school admissions.


In your own words: male circumcision

"I was misguided enough to have my baby circumcised… The dressing came off and what followed is too painful to describe. I have suffered dreadful guilt ever since, but that's nothing compared to what my poor baby went through. It's a hideous ritual. It must be banned."
Maureen, Bristol

Sign our petition and explain why you think unnecessary infant genital cutting should end.

Alternatively, sign one of our other petitions to let us know why you support another secularist cause.


Support our work

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


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