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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 7 June 2019


At the NSS we've long resisted religious attempts to restrict access to knowledge through blasphemy codes and taboos. And given religious groups' often unhealthy desire to restrict healthy sexual activity and urges, we've often found ourselves standing up for sexual freedom and understanding.

So we're in familiar territory when we see mainly Muslim protesters on the streets of Birmingham, trying to stop children from learning about the existence of LGBT people. We're in familiar territory when we see US Christian right's ongoing efforts to restrict women's reproductive rights. And we continue to see it in laws and norms around much of the world which defer to religious groups' demands for sexual control.

This week our CEO writes on the need to resist these demands. In particular we're continuing to stand up for LGBT-inclusive education in the face of religious efforts to shut it down.

We can only do this with your help. If you think our work is worthwhile, why not join or donate to the NSS today? Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


Sexual freedom and secularism have always gone hand in hand

Stephen Evans says religious concerns weren't a good reason to restrict understanding of birth control in Victorian England and they aren't a good reason to undermine relationships and sex education today.


School governor calls LGBT-inclusive education “child grooming”

The NSS has criticised a school governor for calling inclusive education "child grooming" which "opens the door for sexual predators".


Protecting children means challenging religious privilege

A report on child abuse in religious settings should prompt us to reconsider our relationship with religious institutions and their constitutional privileges and our wider attitude towards religion, says Chris Sloggett.


A message to anti-LGBT campaigners: There is no hierarchy of equality

In modern Britain equality is protected and one person's protected characteristics can't be used to subjugate another. The sooner people from all faiths and none realise this the better, argues Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett.


NSS asks equality charity to reconsider support for council prayers

The NSS has asked an equalities charity to reconsider its support for prayers at council meetings after remarks from its chief executive.


LGBT-inclusive education latest

Anti-LGBT protests have been banned from outside Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham, but the ban could be overturned as early as next week. The protesters have pledged to continue their campaign and pro- and anti-LGBT protests were reportedly set to take place nearby today.

Meanwhile the chief inspector of schools in England, Amanda Spielman, has warned that parents cannot "pick and choose" whether their children go to lessons which include references to LGBT relationships.


Other news

US president Donald Trump has said the UK and US are united by "reverence for the rights given to us by almighty God" during a speech on his state visit to the UK. NSS chief executive Stephen Evans has criticised his comments.

Faith-based weddings have fallen substantially in last decade, while Humanist weddings have risen significantly. The NSS has said the government should take note and secularise the marriage laws.

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has heard that a teenage boy was given alcohol and raped at a children's home run by a religious order. An abuse survivor has also told how he was hit with a golf club and beaten with a leather belt while resident at a children's home run by a religious order.

George Pell, the most senior Catholic to be found guilty of child sexual abuse, has begun an appeal against his conviction in Australia. Prosecutors have said his conviction should stand.

Plans to create 'buffer zones' around abortion clinics across Scotland have moved forward after meetings with police and council representatives.

A claim that a Dutch teenager who was not terminally ill had been 'legally euthanised' was widely reported this week, but turned out to be false.

Stay in touch with all the latest news and views on secularism by signing up to receive your daily media briefing from the NSS.


Listen: NSS podcast review of Secularism 2019

In the latest edition of our podcast four members of our staff review our Secularism 2019 conference and discuss how it will influence our work.


Watch: Stephen Evans introduces Secularism 2019

The latest video from our Secularism 2019 conference is now up on our YouTube channel. Watch our CEO Stephen Evans introduce the conference by arguing that we must reclaim the term 'religious freedom'.


Read elsewhere


Art exhibit in Philadelphia stirs up debate over circumcising infants

By Rita Giordano, for The Philadelphia Inquirer

A new art exhibition in the US city of Philadelphia is aiming to raise awareness about the harm caused by infant circumcision.


Essay of the week

Why Israel will never be governed by Jewish religious law
By Tomer Persico, for Haaretz

The attempt to imagine a modern government based on religious law always necessitates the invention of a fictitious past and significant self-persuasion.


Quotes of the week

"I want to present myself as evidence to you of what FGM can do to a woman. This is what my vagina should look like, and this is what it looks like now."
Sarian Kamara, anti-FGM activist carrying two model vaginas, confronts Sierra Leone's first lady, who had previously said she did not think FGM was harmful


"In a progressive society there should be no question whatsoever of ethos trumping fact when it comes to sexual health."
Simon Harris, Ireland's health minister, says religious schools' ethos should not undermine sex education


"Victims are coming forward now because of real progress by secular authorities."
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests on the growing number of revelations of child abuse in the US Catholic Church


Petition comments of the week: male circumcision

"As a paediatric nurse I have seen one baby loose nearly the whole of the glans and others nearly lose their lives due to haemorrhage along with many less serious complications. It's barbaric."
Denise, Buckinghamshire


"As a midwife I strongly object to unnecessary surgery on small babies, with all the risks and complications this entails. I also object ethically to the fact it amounts to body modification without consent."
Katherine, Greater Manchester


"As a GP I always refused to refer for this, against threats of professional complaint - that I would have relished defending."
Colin, Glasgow


"I was circumcised as a baby – no choice, only consequences."
Michael, Northamptonshire

Sign the petition and explain why non-therapeutic infant genital cutting should end.


Petition comment of the week: end religious discrimination in school admissions

"Faith schools should have no place in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society and social cohesion should be paramount. Children should be educated together, not separated by faith. And taxpayers' hard-earned money should not be used to finance such schools."
Peter, Berkshire

Sign the petition and explain why we should end religious discrimination in school admissions.

Alternatively, get involved in our No More Faith Schools campaign and help us to make the case against the government's wave of religiously selective faith schools.


NSS speaks out

Our education and schools officer Alastair Lichten was quoted in Attitude as it reported on the school governor who described LGBT-inclusive education as "child grooming". The story, which we first reported, was also picked up by BBC Yorkshire.

Our opposition to council prayers was mentioned in Kent Online.


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