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Newsline 19 January 2018


Battles over education are once again dominating our attention in the early weeks of 2018. In particular we're urging supporters to keep up the pressure on the Government not to lift the cap on faith-based admissions to faith schools. You can find a link to our template letter, which makes writing to your MP on the subject quicker and easier, below.

As it stands new faith-based academies and free schools must keep at least half their places open to any local child, irrespective of religion. This rule is not nearly enough to promote a secular and inclusive education system. But when the short-term alternative is to spend public money funding schools which select all their pupils on the basis of their parents' faith, it's a concession worth fighting for.


News & Opinion


Head of unregistered Islamic school banned from teaching

The NSS has questioned why the head of an unregistered Islamic school who was banned from teaching has not been prosecuted.


Pressure on DfE to issue guidance on hijabs and fasting in schools

A highly respected primary school's chair of governors has called for Government guidance on the Islamic headscarf and fasting.


Will Anglicanism reign supreme at the next coronation?

As the BBC focuses on the Queen's coronation, Stephen Evans says the next initiation of the UK's head of state will be a major test of the monarchy's ability to evolve and reflect the nation it serves.


NSS: Council’s ban on religious offence is an insult to voters

The NSS has called on Belfast City Council to reconsider a ban on "offensive expression" about religious beliefs during council business.


Book review: 'Persepolis'

In light of the recent protests in Iran, and the rise of Islamist extremism throughout the world, Megan Manson looks back at the graphic novel Persepolis, published nearly 20 years ago.


Iceland: 72% support separation of church and state

More than seven out of ten Icelanders who have an opinion on the separation of church and state support the idea, a poll has found.


Secularist conference to explore ‘21st Century RE for All’

The National Secular Society is to hold a one day conference on reform of religion and belief education in schools, with speakers to include Prof. A. C. Grayling.


NSS writes elsewhere


The Government mustn't dance to the Catholic Church's tune on faith schools

By Stephen Evans, NSS chief executive, for the Huffington Post

Plans to create more religiously selective faith schools appear to be back on the table. Stephen Evans says the Government risks recklessly neglecting the civic purpose of state education if it presses ahead with lifting the 50% cap on faith-based admissions.


Keep the cap on faith-based admissions

We've produced a template letter to make it easier to tell your MP you oppose lifting the 50% cap on faith-based admissions. Religious discrimination in school admissions is unjustifiable; here's why we oppose extending it.


Secularist of the Year 2018

Tickets are now on sale and nominations are open for Secularist of the Year 2018. The awards ceremony and social reception will be held on Saturday 24 March in central London. Member tickets are £40. Join us to celebrate the outstanding groups and inspiring individuals advancing secularism and related human rights.

Find out more...


Quotes of the week

"Such a terrible sign and an incoherent signal to survivors."
Juan Carlos Cruz, a survivor of clerical sexual abuse in Chile, after the pope celebrated mass with a bishop accused of protecting an abuser

"Religious freedom is not a lovely antique, a family heirloom or a relic of a bygone era. It is a dynamic, progressive value that underlies every other constitutional freedom we have – and it is under siege."
Paul Rosenberg says the Christian right's claim that it should get special privileges is the true threat to religious freedom in the US


Essays of the week

There is a tsunami of atheism in the 'Muslim world'
By Maryam Namazie with Thomas Mahler, for The Freethinker

Maryam Namazie discusses subjects including 'apostasy', atheism and the protests in Iran.

Practising your religion is not a right to discriminate against others
By Jon O'Brien and Larry Decker, for The Hill

To mark Religious Freedom Day in the US, a Catholic and atheist say the true meaning of religious liberty – freedom of and from religion – is getting lost in current debates.

A phony panic on anti-Muslim bigotry is ruining Canadian politics
By J.J. McCullough, for the Washington Post

Police have said a widely-reported incident in which an 11-year-old girl alleged her hijab had been cut with scissors did not happen. The bizarre appetite many left-leaning Canadians have for tales of anti-Muslim bigotry helps those on left and right who wish to sacrifice liberal principles.


NSS speaks out

The NSS's chief executive Stephen Evans refuted the Bishop of Paisley's claims of pro-abortion bias at the BBC in The Herald. Our president Keith Porteous Wood discussed Woking Borough Council's policy of providing worshippers with free parking in pay and display car parks on BBC Surrey (starts after 1 hour 40 minutes).

Our spokesperson in Scotland, Alistair McBay, wrote to Hebrides News about Sabbatarianism in Stornoway and The Courier about the BBC's religious coverage.


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