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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 7 December 2018


In August we reported on a ruling that a Jewish state school in north London could place draconian restrictions on the behaviour of children's families without breaking the admissions code. This probably sounded like an absurd one-off. But unfortunately this week England's schools adjudicator has made two similar rulings, both relating to Orthodox Jewish state schools.

These are extreme examples. But they are also a reminder of the damage that having state faith schools does. We campaign for a secular education system, free from religious discrimination and privilege. If you agree with us, you can support us or get involved in our No More Faith Schools campaign.

And if our work interests you, how about buying a ticket for Secularism 2019? On 18 May we'll be hosting this major conference on reclaiming religious freedom in central London. Tickets are just £50 – or £25 if bought with an NSS membership. We look forward to welcoming faces old and new.


News & Opinion


Adjudicator: faith schools may insist families are strictly religious

An adjudicator has said it is "reasonable" for Jewish state schools to expect applicants' families to observe strict religious practices.


Framing religion as intrinsically positive harms education, study warns

"Well-intentioned" RE teachers are undermining the subject by framing religion as intrinsically positive, academics have warned.


NSS asks Google to remove Indonesian app for reporting blasphemy

The NSS has asked Google to remove an app which enables Indonesians to report people they suspect of 'heresy' to the authorities.


Two councils may cut preferential transport to faith schools

Councils in Wales and Greater Manchester may cut funding for transport schemes which give children at faith schools special treatment.


Read elsewhere


Exploring the secret lives of the UK’s “chained wives”

By Jennifer Lipman, for Stylist

An exploration of the lives of women from ultra Orthodox Jewish families who are unable to get divorces from their husbands.


Is your child Green or Orange?

By Roy Fisher, on Slugger O'Toole

Children in Northern Ireland are continuing to be shoe-horned into Orange and Green identities, by the very programme set up to break down divisions.


Other news

A woman who claims she was abused by a vicar has told Channel 4 News the Church of England gagged her by forcing her to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

The shadow education secretary has said Labour would "not stop faith schools… from maintaining their character and their ethos" in remarks at an event hosted by a Jewish group.

MPs and members of the House of Lords have joined leaders from Scotland's Catholic Church at an event to mark the anniversary of the 1918 Education Act which began state-funded Catholic education in Scotland.

China has blocked a leading human rights official from visiting the 're-education camps' which hold as many as one million Uighur Muslims.

A Muslim man has challenged Walsall Council in West Midlands in the High Court over his wish to build an edge around his father's grave.

Historic abortion legislation has moved a step closer in Ireland after it was voted through in the Dáil, the lower house of parliament. During the debate over the bill pro-choice parliamentarians hit out at proposed amendments which would have required doctors to report on women's ethnicity and marital status. The amendments were defeated.

The founder of a brewery in the Scottish Borders has apologised and called for a "dialogue" after a Hindu leader took offence at the fact the Hindu deity Ganesha appeared on a beer can.


Watch again: Secularism 2016

As we prepare for our Secularism 2019 conference, you can re-watch footage from our last major conference in 2016. Featuring discussions on Islam in a secular democracy, secularism's role in advancing universal human rights, secularism in education and the NSS's history. Also features a keynote speech from Jacques Berlinerblau, author of How To Be Secular.

Find out more about Secularism 2019 and buy your tickets now.


Course on secularist history

Interested in secularist history? Our council member Bob Forder will lead a six-week course at Conway Hall exploring some of the pioneering work of 19th century secularist leaders, including some of the heroic pioneers who launched the NSS. You can book your place now.


Other events

We recommend several other events in the coming weeks.

See all upcoming events.


Essays of the week

The danger of the 'Islamophobic' label
By Andrew Gilligan, for The Spectator

An attempt by MPs to legally define 'Islamophobia' is deeply flawed.


We are still ignoring victims of anti-Muslim prejudice
By Sara Khan, for the Huffington Post

A parliamentary group's attempt to define 'Islamophobia' has not recognised all victims of anti-Muslim hatred or provided guidance on some of the most crucial issues.


Why are there bishops in the House of Lords?
By Matthew Mathias, for the Electoral Reform Society

If having bishops in parliament was out of date in 1847, when the prime minister sat in the Lords and not the Commons, it really says it all. This is a medieval tradition not a fit feature of a 21st century democracy.


Why Christians should back scrapping Scotland's blasphemy law
By Mundo Fraser, for Think Scotland

In a liberal democratic society it is essential that free speech should be protected. The Scottish government has the opportunity as part of its review of hate crime legislation to repeal the blasphemy law. It should take it.


Quotes of the week

"The law in this area is in urgent need of reform – at a minimum to clarify what is required, and to eliminate inconsistencies in practice, and ideally to permit greater flexibility in what can be included in such ceremonies."
Professor Rebecca Probert and Dr Stephanie Pywell, authors of a new study, on the ban on religious references during civil marriage ceremonies


"The question of homosexuality is a very serious one… The church urges that persons with this rooted tendency not be accepted into ministry or consecrated life."
Pope Francis showing off his vaunted liberal credentials again


"It was my turn and the fear kicked in. Everything went silent. I was feeling this energy that I never felt before - I was in shock. And before I knew - the shock of my life. Something very sharp within the top of my legs. I didn't know what was happening but I was so hurt. There was no anaesthetic. I bled and passed out."
Salimata Badji Knight, anti-FGM campaigner from Bournemouth in Dorset, describes her experience of the procedure

See our quotes of the week archive.


End compulsory worship: petition comments of the week

"Belief (or non-belief) and worship are personal matters and should therefore not be part of the education system, which should be secular and inclusive - and welcome and support children from all backgrounds."
Len, Bedford


"Children and young people should be free to make their own choices about faith and belief, not to have this imposed."
Julia, London


"I deliberately chose to send my children to the only school in town not affiliated to a church. As an atheist (married to a Muslim) I don't want religious worship imposed on my child. The current law removes that choice."
Samuel, Dorking

Sign the petition and let us know why you want to see an end to compulsory worship in schools.


Male circumcision: petition comments of the week

"Bodily autonomy is a basic human right. No if, no buts, no religious exceptions. Equality makes it impossible to eliminate FGM on the grounds of bodily autonomy if it's still acceptable to modify the genitals of baby boys. End all genital mutilation of those unable to give informed consent."
Michelle, Glossop


"Child safeguarding must be the priority rather than appeasing the desire of adults within a community to express their belief through forced cutting of their child's genitals."
Gavin, Beckenham

Sign the petition and let us know why you think boys should be legally protected from forced genital cutting.


NSS speaks out

Our chief executive Stephen Evans discussed whether Christmas is only for Christians on BBC Radio Kent.

A blog we published on a non-faith school which became Christian by default was covered in The Freethinker on Patheos.


Support our work

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


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