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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 6 September 2019


This week a woman was convicted of grievous bodily harm after she procured a circumcision on behalf of somebody else's baby boy by pretending to be his mother. The conviction is welcome – but as Megan Manson writes below, the case is a troubling reminder of our society's inconsistent and harmful attitude to infant genital cutting.

This horrific case should be a reminder that all children deserve protection from unnecessary alterations to their most sensitive body parts. And our campaigning has helped to move the debate over the ethics of infant circumcision into the mainstream of public conversation.

Meanwhile we're looking forward to seeing some of our supporters tomorrow at our Bradlaugh Lecture with Andrew Moffat. This event has proved popular and tickets have now sold out, so unfortunately there won't be any available on the door.

If you think our work is worthwhile, please consider supporting it by joining or donating to the NSS. Thank you.


News & Opinion


A woman is convicted over circumcision. What happens next?

A pharmacist has been convicted for having a baby boy circumcised against his parents' wishes. Megan Manson says the case raises alarming questions over our willingness to defend children's bodily integrity consistently.


NSS: free speech must be protected in hate crime review

The NSS has urged the Law Commission to protect free speech on religion as it reviews hate crime laws in England and Wales.


Adjudicator can’t stop Jewish school’s impositions on families

A Jewish state school may continue enforcing strict religious observance criteria on children and their families.


Beware moving election dates for religious reasons

The proposed date for a general election has moved to accommodate a Jewish festival. Chris Sloggett asks whether the government has weighed up all competing considerations before reaching this decision.


NSS questions NHS trust’s decision to use spiritual healing

The NSS has questioned why an NHS trust has hired a therapist who will specialise in reiki, a form of spiritual healing.


LGBT-inclusive education latest

The education secretary Gavin Williamson, who was appointed in July, has said every school will receive backing from the government on teaching pupils about same-sex relationships. But he appears to have stopped short of saying that primaries have to cover same-sex relationships.

Meanwhile research has found that 60% of the British public supports teaching children about same-sex relationships at primary school. The NSS argues that religious sensitivity mustn't undermine education or the promotion of tolerance.


Other news

The queen has approved the nomination of the new bishop of Hereford. The NSS argues that the head of state shouldn't have the power to endorse religious appointments, and the ties between the head of state and the Church of England should end.

The government has said it "respects the rights of Jews and Muslims to eat meat prepared in accordance with their beliefs" in response to a petition calling for an end to non-stun slaughter. The NSS campaigns for an end to the religious exemption to animal welfare laws which allows non-stun slaughter.

Seventy-seven charities were registered to advance religion in England & Wales in August. Forty of them - 52% - were registered solely for their religious activities. Meanwhile five religious charities were registered in Scotland, with three registered solely to advance religion. The NSS campaigns to end 'the advancement of religion' as a charitable purpose.

A new Church of England school has opened in Wiltshire. The NSS works for an end to state-funded faith schools through its No More Faith Schools campaign.

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

Our campaigns officer Megan Manson will speak to Nottingham Secular Society about religion and charity on Tuesday 24 September, and our council member Sadikur Rahman will address the need to separate religion from public life at a meeting of Gloucestershire Humanists on 14 November.

We're also hosting a talk on Richard Carlile's legacy before our AGM in November, delivered by our council member and historian Bob Forder.

Find out about these events and more.


Essays of the week

The press regulator must not turn into a religious thought police
By Trevor Phillips, for The Spectator

Ipso's new guidelines on Islam risk hurting Muslims and surrendering to regressive, censorious trends.


For a secular Britain: time to end religious privilege
By Daniel James Sharp, for The Broad

A secular state protects the rights of people of all religions and none. So let us disestablish the Church of England, secularise our head of state, stop funding faith schools and protect freedom of speech from religious challenges.


From the archive: press regulation & coverage of Islam


Blasphemy culture mustn’t undermine freedom of the press

Draft guidance on the coverage of Islam and Muslims from the press regulator Ipso has reportedly been leaked. In July Chris Sloggett said press regulation must not endorse taboos which shut down debate and harm social cohesion.


Quotes of the week

"I was merely defending the right to blasphemy and apostasy, which are matters of free conscience and expression. Unfortunately, in the age of identity politics, dissent is considered bigotry and victims are blamed for their victimisation."
NSS honorary associate Maryam Namazie discusses her appearance at Goldsmith's University in 2015, where members of the Islamic Society tried to silence and intimidate her by claiming she was violating their 'safe space'


"Your church has every right to provide spiritual advice to the population, but no right morally to interfere in politics. So thank you for aspiring to be a democrat... but perhaps start with your church."
NSS honorary associate Maajid Nawaz on Justin Welby's claims that he's "a democrat"


Read elsewhere


When religious ideology drives abortion policy, poor women suffer the consequences

By Gretchen Ely, for The Conversation

Religion can be a burden, not a blessing, when it comes to reproductive health.


In your own words: end non-stun slaughter

"We have animal welfare laws for a reason, to prevent cruelty and suffering. Ancient beliefs should not trump laws made for humane reasons. The same law should apply to everyone."
Stuart, West Sussex

Sign our petition and explain why religious exemptions which allow non-stun slaughter should end.

Or sign one of our other petitions to highlight a secularist cause you care about.


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


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