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Newsline 6 March 2020

  

This week we're highlighting new data which shows most Britons never pray – and asking why our parliament, national ceremonies and many schools and councils enforce prayer. We've warned the government not to allow those who provide wedding services, such as hoteliers and florists, to opt out of serving same-sex couples in Northern Ireland.

We're challenging religious privilege on issues relating to education, healthcare and divorce law. As International Women's Day approaches this weekend, some blogs from our archive highlight the link between secularism and women's rights. And we also have our latest Bulletin – with details of the important work we've been doing in recent months.

If you'd like to help us make the case for freedom of and from religion and you're not one of our members already, please consider joining the NSS. Thank you for your support.

  

News & Opinion

 

Most Brits don’t pray. It’s time for our institutions to stop imposing worship

As figures show most people in Britain never pray, Megan Manson says institutionalised prayer has no place in our parliament, councils, schools or public ceremonies.

 

Don’t extend exemptions on same-sex marriage in NI, NSS warns

The NSS has warned that allowing providers of wedding services to opt out of serving same-sex couples would undermine equality law.

 

Convert community school into faith school, council told

Surrey County Council has been encouraged to press ahead with a plan to replace a community school with a faith school.

 

Can chaplaincy ever be fit for the 21st century?

A report highlighting the institutional bias towards Christianity in NHS chaplaincy services should prompt us to ask whether taxpayers should fund chaplaincy in the health service at all, says Dr Antony Lempert.

 

Don’t let religious interests make divorce any harder than it needs to be

The Church of England and its supporters are opposing plans to make it easier for couples to divorce without assigning blame. Chris Sloggett says parliamentarians should resist their lobbying.

 

Education Authority won’t support Evangelical group’s state school

Northern Ireland's Education Authority won't support plans to make two schools run by an evangelical church schools network state funded.

 

Independent Jewish school fails fifth Ofsted inspection in a row

A Jewish school has been found in breach of standards for the fifth time in a row amid criticisms of its curriculum and safety checks.

  

Report casts doubt on level of Muslim opposition to Prevent

Research from criminal justice think tank Crest Advisory has suggested the principles behind the anti-extremism scheme Prevent may not be as controversial among British Muslims as has been widely suggested.

The report found that when offered "a neutral explanation" of Prevent, 80% of British Muslims and 85% of the wider public offered broad support for the scheme.

  

Catholic certificate requirement disproportionately affects women teachers

A certificate required to get jobs in Catholic schools in Northern Ireland disproportionately affects the job prospects of women teachers, according to new research.

In response the NSS has said it's absurd that any teacher should have to pass a religious group's test before taking up a job in a state-funded school.

  

International news

The UK's international ambassador for human rights has called for the defence of "freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief" in an address to the UN.

A Christian couple who have been sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan will receive a verdict on their appeal next month.

A court in Madrid has acquitted actor Willy Toledo of blasphemy.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has proposed constitutional amendments to proclaim Russians' faith in God and define marriage as "the union of a man and woman".

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

  

Essays of the week: Hindu supremacism in India

The violence in Delhi is not a 'riot'. It is targeted anti-Muslim brutality
By Kenan Malik, for The Observer

Blame the poisonous ideology of the Hindu nationalist BJP for the blood on India's streets.

  

How Hindu supremacists are tearing India apart
By Samanth Subramanian, for The Guardian (long read)

For seven decades, India has been held together by its constitution, which promises equality to all. But Narendra Modi's BJP is remaking the nation into one where some people count as more Indian than others.

  

Essay of the week: Scotland’s blasphemy law

The Asia Bibi case shows blasphemy law reform is long overdue
By Andrew Tickell, for The National

Scotland's blasphemy law is wrong in principle and makes it harder to stand against violations of freedom of expression consistently.

  

Upcoming events: International Women’s Day, Exploring Secularism & more

On Sunday our campaigns officer Megan Manson and council member Yasmin Rehman will be among speakers taking part in a special event for International Women's Day hosted by Nottingham Secular Society - you can find out more here.

On Saturday 9 May we're hosting the first training day on our Exploring Secularism resources for educators. The day is free - but you must book in advance to attend.

You can also read about our other upcoming events on our website.

  

Read elsewhere

 

Hey, preacher, leave those kids alone

By Andrew Penman, for The Mirror

Anyone who wants to live in a tolerant and understanding Britain can only be depressed by recent religious incursions into state schools.

  

From the archive: International Women's Day

 

Yes, secularism is good for gender equality

Western academics who claim that secularism undermines women's rights are not merely wrong; their assertions are a slap in the face of women fighting for their rights under religious tyranny, says Megan Manson.

 

What secularism means for African women’s rights and citizenship

Dr Fatou Sow says secularism is a feminist issue and reflects on its particular importance to women in Africa.

 

The human rights of women and secularism go hand in hand

International Women's Day is a reminder that a secular approach to policy making is vital for the implementation of the human rights of women, says Alastair Lichten.

  

NSS Bulletin: spring 2020

Our latest Bulletin is out, with news of our campaigning in recent months. In this edition, we:

- Help to draft a bill to remove the bishops' bench from the House of Lords;

- Highlight the Vatican's failures on child abuse at the UN;

- Challenge a plan to open a new faith school in Peterborough and a plan to expand a faith school in Wales.

Read the Bulletin in full.

  

NSS speaks out

Our CEO Stephen Evans was quoted in The Mirror (piece also featured above) on the decision to open a new Catholic school in Peterborough.

We were quoted in the Hackney Gazette in response to the news that an Orthodox Jewish independent school has failed its fifth Ofsted inspection in a row.

  

NSS out and about

Our chief executive Stephen Evans spoke to students at St Paul's School in Barnes about secularism this week.

  

In your own words: scrap the bishops’ bench

"Please end this throwback to the Middle Ages and bring fairness and democracy to government."
Neil, Lincolnshire

If you want to let us know why you support a secularist cause, why not sign one of our petitions? We aim to feature the best comments in Newsline.

  

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