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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 8 March 2019


A campaign by predominantly Muslim parents to force a school in Birmingham to stop teaching lessons about diversity is gathering pace. Parents who object to the fact the lessons refer to LGBT people's existence have petitioned and protested against the school. Some have targeted a teacher who pioneered the lessons personally. And in a coordinated act of bullying, 600 children were withdrawn from the school last week in an attempt to force it to change course.

It's been widely reported that the school has dropped the lessons as a result. We're pleased to say this is – at least for now – inaccurate. But the school needs support. That's why this week we wrote to the Department for Education, urging it to stand up for children's right to a decent education and defend teachers who are just doing their jobs.

This episode is part of a broader pattern of religious pressure on schools to provide a bespoke educational experience which mirrors parents' beliefs, even when those views are based on bigotry or restrict children's horizons.

This cannot be the future of our education system. Giving ground to the religious groups' demands would set a damaging precedent. We're acutely aware of this, and pushing back firmly. If you think that's worthwhile work, please consider joining or donating to the NSS. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


NSS: government must support schools which promote LGBT equality

The NSS has urged the government to support a school in Birmingham which is under pressure to stop teaching lessons on LGBT equality.


NSS calls on NSPCC to reconsider its position on genital cutting

The NSS has called on the NSPCC to reconsider its position on non-therapeutic male circumcision after it defended the practice.


Senior French Catholic cardinal convicted of covering up abuse

The most senior Catholic official in France, the archbishop of Lyon Philippe Barbarin, has been convicted of covering up sexual abuse.


Out-of-school settings code should be mandatory, NSS tells DfE

The NSS has said a code of practice for out-of-school educational settings should be mandatory in response to a government consultation.


Campaigners renew offer to fund Sunday swimming on Lewis

A community group has renewed an offer to pay for Sunday openings of a leisure centre on the Isle of Lewis amid Sabbatarian opposition.


Why focus on state-funded faith schools?

The No More Faith Schools campaign's focus is on challenging the religious designation of state-funded schools. Alastair Lichten explains why.


Sudan deserves a secular democracy

As protesters demand the end of Sudan's Islamist regime, Nahla Mahmoud says a secular democracy is the only way to protect the rights of the Sudanese people.


Read elsewhere


Access to knowledge: parents, children and the state

By the University of Manchester's Religion, law and the constitution project

Some parents are demanding that their children be prevented from accessing knowledge. But the law around parental responsibility exists for the benefit of children, not parents.


The violent toll of Hindu nationalism in India

By Eliza Griswold, for The New Yorker

A populist Indian prime minister has legitimised India's more militant groups, and targeted attacks against religious minorities are on the rise.


Buy your tickets: Secularism 2019

We'll be discussing topics including freedom of expression, genital cutting and pluralism and religious orthodoxy at our Secularism 2019 conference in London on Saturday 18 May. You can buy your tickets now.


Secular Medical Forum chair to speak on genital cutting

The chair of our Secular Medical Forum, Dr Antony Lempert, will speak at a conference on defending children's bodily integrity at the University of Leeds on 27 April.


Essays of the week

Bigotry dressed as victimhood
By James Bloodworth, for UnHerd

Religion is no excuse for homophobia.


Thought for the day: is it time to silence BBC preachers who keep women down?
By Catherine Bennett, for The Observer

Too often, the flagship BBC Radio 4 slot on the Today programme is being used as a pulpit for illiberal views.


The cowardice of calling for The Satanic Verses to be banned
By Ben Sixsmith, for The Spectator

Some progressives, from The Satanic Verses to Charlie Hebdo, have shown themselves to be more provoked by hurt feelings than jihadist murder.


Quotes of the week

"There is nothing 'adult' about being gay or bisexual, any more than there is about being straight."
Ollie Cole on claims that teaching children about LGBT+ people is not 'age appropriate'


"If we let those who are bigoted, or just plain misguided, win this argument, the message is reinforced to every LGBT student that they are still outsiders and far less valued in this world."
Alan Clark calls for LGBT education to be mandatory in a letter to The Guardian


Petition comments of the week: non-therapeutic infant circumcision

"I resent that someone cut me without my permission. I would like to have had the choice."
Peter, Suffolk

"I was given no choice as a baby by my supposedly religious parents who had no scientific or social basis for cutting me."
Jon, Devon

"If the law would not allow the removal of a baby's little finger at the parents' request, why does it allow the removal of part of the penis?"
Brian, North Yorkshire

Add your name to the petition and explain why infant boys should be legally protected from unnecessary forced genital cutting.


From the archive: International Women's Day


Seven women who refused to be silenced by religious bullies

On International Women's Day 2018, Megan Manson celebrated the stories of seven brave and determined women in the UK who religious hardliners tried and failed to bully.


Yes, secularism is good for gender equality

Western academics who claim 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.


The human rights of women and secularism go hand in hand

On International Women's Day 2017 NSS campaigns officer Alastair Lichten reflected on the intersection of gender and religious privilege, and considered what the secularist movement could learn from IWD.


What secularism means for African women’s rights and citizenship

In a long read for International Women's Day 2018, Dr Fatou Sow said secularism was a feminist issue and reflected on its particular importance to women in Africa.


NSS speaks out

Our chief executive Stephen Evans discussed the religious opposition to lessons about diversity in Birmingham on LBC and talkRADIO.


And finally...

Pupils at a Catholic school in Redditch in Worcestershire have suffered burns after having ash smudged on their foreheads during an Ash Wednesday assembly.


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