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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 7 February 2020


We have frustrating news this week, as we've been refused permission to launch a judicial review over a decision to expand a Church in Wales school.

Under a thinly-justified plan, Vale of Glamorgan Council and the Welsh government will gift buildings and land worth £4.2m to the CiW for free. And more children will be forced into faith schools against their families' wishes as a result.

We're alarmed that faith schools are opening and expanding even when there's little evidence of current or future demand for them. We'll continue to challenge this trend wherever we can, including through legal action where appropriate.

If you'd like to help us push back against religious control of education across the UK, please consider joining the NSS today. Thank you.


News & Opinion


NSS refused permission to challenge faith school expansion in Wales

The NSS has been refused permission for a judicial review against Vale of Glamorgan Council over a Church in Wales school's expansion.


The bishops’ bench is an affront to democracy. Let’s scrap it

A new bill proposes to end Church of England bishops' automatic right to sit in parliament. This religious privilege is part of an unjust status quo and should be addressed, says Stephen Evans.


Nineteen new faith schools proposed in latest round of academies

Nineteen new faith schools, including 14 Christian, three Islamic and two Sikh schools, have been included in the latest... Read More »


Council plans to open CoE school on site of non-faith school

The No More Faith Schools campaign has criticised a plan to close a community school and open a new Church of England school... Read More »


The Cardinal Barbarin case highlights the need for well-drafted mandatory reporting laws

The conviction of France's most senior Catholic cleric for failing to report child abuse has been overturned. Keith Porteous Wood says this should be a warning to those charged with responding to abuse in the UK.


Council of Europe adopts measure on religious discrimination at work

The Council of Europe has rejected a motion calling for 'reasonable accommodation' of in the workplace – but adopted an alternative.


Jehovah’s Witnesses accused over sexual abuse and cover-up

At least 20 former Jehovah's Witnesses are suing the group over historical sexual abuse they say they suffered. Meanwhile a judge has heard that ministers in a JW congregation waited more than two and a half years before telling police that a girl had made sex abuse allegations against her father.


From the archive


The harm caused by Jehovah’s Witnesses shows charity law reform is urgently needed

The Jehovah's Witnesses organisation causes serious abuse and harm, says Lloyd Evans. Its charitable status should be revoked – and society should stop assuming religious organisations only have good intentions.


Other news: separate church and state

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw has linked the Church of England's recent statement that sex is for married heterosexual couples only to its potential disestablishment in the House of Commons.

SNP MP Patricia Gibson has criticised the role of bishops in the House of Lords in a separate debate.

The leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg has said he never criticises the Church of England as he's "not a member of it" in parliament. In response the NSS has said that by this logic the church should be disestablished.

The bishop of Carlisle has criticised a bill to introduce no-fault divorce in the House of Lords.

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


Event on 1944 Education Act on Monday

On Monday evening the chair of our Secular Education Forum, Keith Sharpe, will deliver a talk about the 1944 Education Act at Conway Hall in London. Entrance is free, although we advise advance booking.


Exploring Secularism training day & other events

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.


In your own words: scrap the bishops’ bench

"It is a clear anachronism with no democratic justification."
Charles, Warwickshire

Help us make the case for scrapping the bishops' bench – write to your MP to raise awareness of the House of Lords (Removal of Bishops) Bill, which was introduced to parliament last week.


Quotes of the week

"Because of our sensitivities about religion, culture, ethnicity, we're very reluctant to say we've got some really tough issues here where questions of religion and other kinds of rights bump into each other. There's no question that we're afraid… We desperately need everybody to be a little bit braver, calling things by their name, talking about what's there."
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman on faith schools which discriminate against girls


"All that stuff about how wicked you are: we still think it. We just hadn't meant to say it out loud."
Private Eye translates the Church of England's 'apology' over its recent guidance on sex


"I wanted to be blasphemous. I wanted to speak out about a religion, to say what I thought. I have always been able to differentiate between a religion and the people [who practise it]. I shouldn't have to hide for that reason. I shouldn't have to stop living."
Mila, a 16-year-old girl who has faced threats and been driven into hiding after criticising Islam online in France


NSS speaks out

Our criticism of Surrey County Council's plan to close a community school and open a Church of England school on its site was featured in iNews. Our No More Faith Schools campaign spokesperson Megan Manson was quoted.

Our CEO Stephen Evans responded to claims that Evangelical Christians were being treated like a persecuted minority because venues had cancelled bookings with preachers in The Times.

Our attempt to secure a judicial review against Vale of Glamorgan Council over the expansion of a Church in Wales faith school was covered in Glamorgan Gem, with Stephen Evans quoted.

Stephen also discussed our backing of a bill to scrap the bishops' bench on various BBC local radio stations.

Our president Keith Porteous Wood's reaction to the Church of England's recent guidance on sex was featured in The Freethinker on Patheos.


Essays of the week

I'm a new MP. Parliament needs dragging into the 21st century
By Daisy Cooper, for The Guardian

Anachronistic rituals and behaviours, including parliamentary prayers, serve no one and perpetuate the perception that politicians are out of touch.


Gandhi's killer evokes admiration as never before
By Sameer Yasir, for the New York Times

As Hindu nationalism continues its march across India, a cult of personality is rising around Nathuram Godse, the Hindu extremist who killed Gandhi.


Read elsewhere


Would most Iranians vote no to an Islamic republic?

By Ammar Maleki and Pooyan Tamimi Arab, for openDemocracy

The majority of Iranians yearn for a political system that is accountable and can uphold the truth.


FGM - from taboo to headline news, but what now?

By Nimco Ali, for Thomson Reuters Foundation

We have ten years to end FGM in Africa and beyond, but unless we change our approach we will still be talking about this devastating abuse in ten years' time.


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