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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 23 February 2018


Getting the general public to talk about secularism is one of our most important goals. That's one reason why the NSS took to the streets this week, leading a protest outside Parliament on Wednesday against plans to extend religious discrimination in school admissions. When we spoke to passers-by about the issue, we discovered that many people were still unaware of the government's plans for their schools and were unsurprisingly appalled when we told them.

Another issue that highlighted a growing appetite for a more secular society was Iceland's proposal to outlaw non-theraputic male circumcision. It turned out that the public generally think Iceland is headed in the right direction. A YouGov poll revealed that 62% of people in the UK would support similar laws to end infant circumcision in this country, with only 13% expressing opposition.

It's heartening to see this, but we cannot underestimate the power of conservative faith groups to impose their will, even when their demands contradict the principle of individual liberty and wider human rights norms on children's rights.

Predictably, Iceland's proposal has been viciously attacked by religious lobbyists, crying that their freedom of religion is being curtailed. That's why we need to keep on hammering home the vital message: secularism protects everyone's human rights and delivers equality for all.


News & Opinion


NSS leads protest against plans to lift faith-based admissions cap

The NSS has led a protest outside Parliament against plans to extend religious discrimination in school admissions.


NSS says UK should follow Iceland’s lead to end genital cutting

The NSS has said the UK should "follow the lead" of Iceland, which is expected to ban cutting boys' genitals for non-medical reasons.


How cutting cultures deny dissenters their voice and identity

As Icelandic lawmakers consider whether to ban cutting infants' genitals for non-medical reasons, Dr Antony Lempert reflects... Read More »


Right of withdrawal from sex education will continue, says Hinds

Parents will continue to have the right to withdraw their children from sex education at secondary school, the education... Read More »


Ofsted: council failed to support school over hijab and fasting

Ofsted has said a London council's support for a school whose leaders faced abuse and intimidation was "perfunctory at best".


Read elsewhere


10 years in Inspire gave me a first hand insight into how extremists operate in our country today

By Sara Khan, Inspire

Some final words from Sara Khan as Director of Inspire before she embarks on her new role as Lead Commissioner for the Home Office's Commission for Countering Extremism.


Quotes of the week

"An exemplar to generation upon generation of modern Christians."
Justin Welby's description of Billy Graham, the late preacher who called homosexuality "detestable", said AIDS was a judgement from God and has an association in his name advocating 'gay cure therapy'

"I saw the Vatican up close, and its resistance, the lack of priority [on clerical child sex abuse], lack of transparency, and the absolutely misleading statements issued. I saw, close up, how things work in the [Catholic] Church."
Marie Collins, who resigned from the pope's commission on child abuse in disgust last year


Essays of the week

Iceland is right to ban circumcision. Boys need protecting from it
By Ian Dunt, for iNews

Any debate which touches on religion or gender quickly gets dragged into the culture war. But male circumcision is not as harmless as it first appears. And because this procedure comes draped in religious tradition, we treat it as if it were somehow tolerable. It is not.

The outpouring of grief for evangelist Billy Graham is disturbing given his homophobic views
By Douglas Robertson, for The Independent

Far from being 'an exemplar to generation upon generation', Graham is an example of how religion is so often successfully leveraged as a means of making bigotry appear somehow acceptable, even something to aspire to.


NSS speaks out

Our CEO Stephen Evans appeared on BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze to discuss 'religious orthodoxy vs liberal values', with a particular focus on Iceland's bill to ban non-therapeutic male circumcision. Our Secular Medical Forum chair Dr Antony Lempert also spoke on this topic on BBC Newsnight.

Education Officer Alastair Lichten spoke on Premier Christian Radio on the unpopularity of RE among the British public, and The Economist referred to the NSS in an article on reforming religion & belief education.

Stephen Evans spoke out in support of Mary Hassell, the London coroner who refuses to prioritise burials on religious grounds, in Ham & High.

And finally, Secularist of the Year nominee Western Isles Secular Society was given a write-up in We Love Stornoway.


Secularist of the Year 2018

Tickets are now on sale 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...


Conference on 21st Century RE for All

Thirty years after the introduction of a national curricular entitlement for all pupils, the religious education syllabus is still decided locally by committees of faith representatives, or worse, by religious bodies responsible for running faith schools.

This one day conference will explore the future of religion and belief education in schools, and how we can create a truly balanced and non-partisan approach.

Find out more...


Upcoming events

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