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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 7 September 2018


Today the highly-respected British Social Attitudes survey has reminded us, again, that Britain is not a Christian country.

The survey data highlights Britain's increasingly secular outlook. Affiliation to the C of E now stands at just 14% and is in rapid decline. For the second year running the survey has found a non-religious majority in Britain. The decline in C of E affiliation is evident in every age group and across the UK. And even among Christians religiosity is falling: most Anglicans and Catholics go to church less than once a month.

Politicians must take note and rethink religion's public role. The Church of England's establishment is unsustainable. The position of 26 bishops in the House of Lords is unjustifiable. Religious groups' role in publicly-funded schools must be rolled back.

This is what we'll be campaigning for. If you support it, please consider joining or donating to us.

In the meantime we look forward to seeing some of our supporters at tomorrow's Bradlaugh Lecture in Manchester, where Gita Sahgal will focus on the rise of Hindu nationalism. We'll have a handful of tickets remaining on the door so please do come along. In the next week we also have events in Leicester, Shrewsbury, London and Chatham in Kent. We hope to see many of you there. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


Affiliation to C of E has halved since 2002, major survey shows

The National Secular Society has called the Church of England's established status "unsustainable" after new figures revealed a sharp decline in affiliation.


NSS reveals councils’ spending on discriminatory coroners’ service

The NSS has criticised five north London councils for spending £56,000 on an out-of-hours coroners' service for religious groups.


The Catholic Church’s record on abuse demands accountability, not more meaningless apologies

As the pope prepares to visit Ireland, NSS president Keith Porteous Wood says the international community must confront the... Read More »


NSS: Scottish worship law needs reform to protect children’s rights

The NSS has said the Scottish government should end compulsory religious observance in response to a new position on children's rights.


Protests highlight abuse and cover-ups among Jehovah’s Witnesses

Protesters have gathered in London to highlight "serious and persistent" child sexual abuse within global Jehovah's Witnesses groups.


NSS criticises government over sale of non-stun meat to Saudi Arabia

The NSS has criticised a government deal which allows the sale of meat from lambs slaughtered without stunning to Saudi Arabia.


NSS unveils blue plaque commemorating Holyoake

The NSS has unveiled a plaque commemorating the British secularist George Jacob Holyoake, who coined the term 'secularism', in London.


From the archives: the C of E's wealth


For richer or poorer – where is the Church of England?

The archbishop of Canterbury has called on the wealthy to pay more tax. Here NSS treasurer Ed Moore considers the extent of the Church of England's considerable wealth.


Events coming up


'The men who killed Gandhi': secular India and the rise of Hindu nationalism

Tomorrow the esteemed human rights activist, author and NSS honorary associate Gita Sahgal will explore the rise of Hindu nationalism in our 2018 Bradlaugh Lecture. We still have a few tickets available for anyone making a last-minute decision.


Chapman Cohen: teacher, hero, secularist

On Sunday we're teaming up with Leicester Secular Society to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Chapman Cohen, our longest-serving president. Bob Forder (NSS historian and council member) will outline Cohen's career and provide an assessment of his work.

Bob is repeating the talk at Conway Hall in London on Thursday evening.


Other events: find out more

See all Events >


Other news

The Scottish Liberal Democrats will consider a motion proposing a "single secular model of state-funded education" tomorrow. The motion calls for the end of faith-based admissions, faith-based employment restrictions and religious representatives on education boards. We'll have a news story reporting the outcome next week.

Survivors of abuse allegedly carried out by John Smyth, the former chairman of a Christian trust, have launched a legal claim against the trust which now runs the camps it used to. The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry will examine residential establishments run by three male religious orders in a phase of public hearings announced to begin in summer next year. And a leading Roman Catholic prep school has closed after a report revealed the extent of sexual abuse at its linked college. Meanwhile Spotlight, the film about the Boston Globe revealing one of the Catholic Church's cover-up of child abuse, will be on BBC 2 at 9pm on Saturday evening.

A legal watchdog has said it will take no further action against the Christian Legal Centre over its conduct in the case of the toddler Alfie Evans. The NSS wrote to the Solicitors Regulation Authority in May to raise concerns about the CLC's breaches of the legal code of conduct. The NSS also wrote to the Bar Standards Board, from whom it has yet to hear back.

A final decision on whether Lancashire County Council will stop supplying non-stunned halal meat for school meals will now be taken by all of the authority's members. The news places another hurdle in the way of a decision which was originally taken last October.

Women in England will be allowed to take an early abortion pill at home, under a government plan due to take effect by the end of the year.

India's Supreme Court has ruled that gay sex is no longer a criminal offence in the country. Religious groups were among those who lobbied in favour of reinstating it as a crime in 2013.

Two women convicted of attempting to have lesbian sex in the Malaysian state of Terengganu have been caned in a sharia court. In response lawmakers in the neighbouring state of Pahang are considering legalising the caning of gay people.

To get all the latest news and views on secularism from the media in your inbox every morning, you can sign up to receive your daily media briefing.


Quotes of the week

"It seems that 'saviours' of Muslims are more sensitive about anything that could potentially offend Muslims than Muslims are themselves."
Armin Navabi, ex-Muslim activist, reflects on a Hilton Hotel in Texas kicking out people who were wearing ex-Muslim T-shirts


"We are here for a celebration, a happy time. Thirty years of the Iranian Islamic revolution. So I'm absolutely happy, it's the third year I've been coming."
Yasmine Dar, who won the most votes for the Labour party's ruling National Executive Committee this week, at an event to celebrate the Islamic revolution in Iran last year


"Religion is the history of the oppression of women."
Emma Thompson, star of The Children Act

See our quotes of the week archive.


Essays of the week

Time's up on Pope Francis and Catholic Church leaders being able to handle clergy abuse crisis
Editorial, for the Boston Globe

Catholics everywhere — and anyone who cares about children — should demand that the US criminal justice system deal with the Catholic Church's cover-up of sexual abuse.


The culture of respect for religion has gone too far
By Polly Toynbee, for the Guardian

Ireland's confrontation with its dark past shines a searchlight on Catholicism – but all religions can be havens for abusers.


I tried gay conversion therapy and it was my own horror film
By Julie Bindel, for the Guardian

There is no magic pill to make lesbians and gay men straight. Hopefully the powerful depiction of the horrors of 'conversion therapy' in The Miseducation of Cameron Post can add strength to the campaign to eradicate it worldwide.


Read elsewhere


The movie bogeyman of the year? Fundamentalist religion

By Tom Beasley, for the Guardian

From The Miseducation of Cameron Post to Apostasy, a new generation of film-makers are railing against the strictures of scripture.


A too-narrow vision of religious freedom

Editorial, for the New York Times

If the Trump administration aspires to truly advance religious freedom, it will need to embrace a far broader vision of human rights.


Assisted dying should be an option for all competent, suffering adults

By Michael Irwin, for the Economist

As part of a series of essays on the topic Michael Irwin says Britain should follow neighbouring European countries in its parliamentary efforts to develop an assisted dying law.


NSS speaks out

Our president Keith Porteous Wood discussed the decline in affiliation to the Church of England on Sky News this morning.

During the pope's visit to Ireland Keith discussed the Catholic Church's record on child abuse on Sky News, BBC Coventry & Warwickshire, BBC Three Counties Radio and TRT World.

Keith also discussed Catholic archbishops in Australia's vote against the reporting of child abuse when it is revealed in the confessional on LBC. Our vice-president Richard Scorer discussed the same subject on BBC Radio Belfast.

Our research on north London councils' spending on a discriminatory coroners' service was reported in the Evening Standard. Our communications officer Chris Sloggett was quoted.

Chris also appeared on BBC Three Counties Radio to discuss Justin Welby's comments on the economy and religion's role in politics.

Our response to Imran Khan's comments on blasphemy was extensively quoted in The Freethinker.

Our research revealing that 18,000 families were assigned faith schools against their wishes in England in 2017 was mentioned in The Isle of Thanet News.


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