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
The NSS has led a protest outside Parliament against plans to extend religious discrimination in school admissions.
The NSS has said the UK should "follow the lead" of Iceland, which is expected to ban cutting boys' genitals for non-medical reasons.
As Icelandic lawmakers consider whether to ban cutting infants' genitals for non-medical reasons, Dr Antony Lempert reflects on the ferocious backlash to the proposal in the UK.
Parents will continue to have the right to withdraw children from sex education at secondary school, the education secretary has said.
Ofsted has said a London council's support for a school whose leaders faced abuse and intimidation was "perfunctory at best".
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
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...
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