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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 6 December 2019


We argue that schools are for teaching, not preaching.

So this week we're calling for the end of the law requiring collective worship in schools. We have details of two Jewish schools which have pressurised parents to opt their children out of relationships and sex education. And a report exposes the fact that religiously segregated schooling in Northern Ireland is costing taxpayers money – and harming children's opportunities and social cohesion in the process.

Meanwhile, with the general election less than a week away, we have details of the stances taken on secularist issues by the major parties of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And we once again urge our readers to read and share the 11 secularist campaigning pledges which we're calling on parties to adopt.

Please consider supporting our work so we can keep it going. If you're not a member already, you can join the NSS today. Thank you.


News & Opinion


The requirement to hold collective worship in schools is crumbling and not worth saving

After two parents forced a school trust to provide an alternative to religious assemblies for their children, Alastair Lichten says the law which requires schools to hold acts of worship needs to change.


Jewish schools pressured parents to opt children out of sex ed

Parents have said two state-funded Jewish schools pressurised them to opt their children out of relationships and sex education.


Election 2019: Secularism and the parties of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Megan Manson continues our election analysis of parties' policies on secularist issues. This time she examines the policies of the major parties of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Segregating schools in NI causes gross inefficiencies, says report

Taxpayers in Northern Ireland are wasting millions of pounds every year because schools are segregated by religious background... Read More »


The medical profession should protect all children from unnecessary genital cutting

Doctors in Britain should follow the lead of those who have declared ritual male circumcision a breach of medical ethics, argues Dr Antony Lempert.


Updated news


NMFS campaign opposes plans for new faith schools in Inverclyde

The No More Faith Schools campaign is supporting residents to oppose plans which could see a village nondenominational school... Read More »


Newly registered religious charities

The NSS has revealed that 132 religious charities were registered in the UK in November. Exactly half (66) were registered solely under 'religious activities'. The NSS argues that advancing religion shouldn't be a charitable purpose.


International news

Preparation for the sacraments of confirmation and communion will be moved away from schools in Ireland's largest Catholic diocese.

A video of a boy pleading for his foreskin to be "glued back on" after he was circumcised has gone viral in Malaysia – with some commenters laughing off his distress. The NSS argues that no child should be subjected to unnecessary ritual surgery on their genitals.

A poll has found that 52% of Australians think religion is a divisive rather than uniting force in their country. It also found that Australians back religious freedom for people, but not for institutions. The poll comes as religious leaders object to plans to outlaw religious discrimination. Worryingly, 56% of Australians think people should not be allowed to ridicule the religious views of others.

A new education bill in New Zealand is proposing is that religious instruction be on an opt-in basis to ensure parental consent for a student's participation.

A police report has been filed for blasphemy in Indonesia against a man who claims to be the final prophet of Islam.

Keep up with all the latest news and views on secularism by subscribing to our daily media briefing.


Upcoming events

Our upcoming events include a talk on the 1944 Education Act and its legacy and an event for educators on our Exploring Secularism resources in 2020.

Find out more on our events page.


Essays of the week

Abortion should be a medical matter, not a criminal one. The law needs to change
By Hilary Freeman, for The Guardian

Manifesto promises by Labour and the Liberal Democrats to decriminalise abortion are welcome news for women, despite the opposition of some Catholic commentators.


Multiculturalism is undermining democracy
By Rakib Ehsan, for Spiked Online

Faith-based bloc-voting is a threat to our shared values and interests.


LGBT+ education deserves better from the government
By Ann Mroz, for Tes

The government shouldn't fudge the issue of LGBT-inclusive education in an attempt to avoid religious groups' disapproval.


NSS AGM and Richard Carlile lecture

We held our AGM for our members in London on Saturday, and our council member Bob Forder delivered a talk on the life and legacy of Richard Carlile beforehand.

Our president Keith Porteous Wood, vice-presidents Richard Scorer and Josephine Macintosh and treasurer Ed Moore were all re-elected at the AGM.

Our council members Dorothy Smith and Sadikur Rahman were both re-elected after retiring by rotation. Our former president Terry Sanderson was once again elected to council and we welcome Alexandra Myslek, who was newly elected to council.

Many thanks to all those who came to both the AGM and the Richard Carlile lecture.


NSS speaks out

Our campaigns officer Megan Manson outlined our concerns about the Operation Christmas Child shoebox scheme in Cambridgeshire Live.


Quotes of the week

"We feel it is wrong to impose particular religious beliefs on those who do not share them."
A Quakers' group explains why it is reconsidering its position on assisted dying


"Our children need sex education more than any other child in the country because our community is so insular."
An Orthodox Jewish mother responds to her children's school pushing her to withdraw her children from relationships and sex education


In your own words: why we need 21st century RE for all

"Our upcoming generations must be given the right to individual thought and not to be indoctrinated into any religious belief system."
Andrew, Bedfordshire

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