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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 8 November 2019


The UK today has more religious diversity than ever before and, for the first time, a non-religious majority. So as the UK prepares to go to the polls again, we have an opportunity to put an end to a number of anachronistic religious privileges and rethink religion's relationship with the state.

This week we've outlined 11 policy proposals which we're encouraging parties to include in their election manifestos. These measures would promote a freer, fairer society where everyone has common rights and responsibilities regardless of religion or belief.

Our CEO Stephen Evans outlines the proposals in the blog below. And if you're keen to encourage the parties to promote secularist policies, please consider visiting our Election 2019 page to read more and share our messages. Thank you.


News & Opinion


Election 2019: pledges that should be in the parties’ manifestos

As the UK's political parties consider their manifestos for the upcoming election, Stephen Evans outlines a series of secularist pledges they should include to advance freedom, fairness and equal citizenship.


We should expect the religious to follow the same laws as everyone else

In response to a targeted criticism of the NSS for campaigning to end non-stun slaughter, Chris Sloggett says the principle of one law for all is worth upholding.


Independent Islamic school segregating children by sex, says Ofsted

An Islamic school has been found in breach of standards for segregating children by sex, two years after the practice was ruled unlawful.


Jewish girls’ school criticised for restricting curriculum

A Jewish school has been criticised for restricting its curriculum and failing to prepare its pupils fully for life in modern Britain.


Election 2019: pledges that should be in the parties’ manifestos

Visit our Election 2019 page to see how to share the pledges we're encouraging parties to make in their manifestos.


Public inquiry hearings on abuse in the Catholic Church

This week Vincent Nichols, the most senior Catholic cleric in England and Wales, appeared before the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. He said the Catholic Church would reject requirements to report child abuse when priests learn about it in the confessional.

The NSS argues that religious sensitivity must not undermine efforts to protect children. NSS vice-president Richard Scorer outlined the argument against exemptions on reporting abuse when it is revealed in the confessional in a blog last year.

During his appearance Nichols also defended the Vatican's refusal to cooperate with IICSA. The NSS recently urged the Foreign Office to hold the Vatican accountable for its failure to cooperate with the inquiry.


Other news

A poll from the Bible Society, a charity aiming to increase the distribution of the Bible, has found that just 18% of Brits say the Bible relevant to them personally. In response the NSS has questioned why the Bible Society receives charitable tax breaks.


Hindu nationalism: rewatch our 2018 Bradlaugh Lecture

Activists linked to the BJP, an Indian Hindu nationalist party, have said they will campaign on behalf of Conservative party candidates in the upcoming election.

Last year our Bradlaugh Lecture, delivered by our honorary associate Gita Sahgal, highlighted the rise of Hindu nationalism and called for a secularist response. You can watch it on our YouTube channel.


From the archive: Remembrance Sunday


Remembrance Sunday should not be dominated by religion

Historian, broadcaster and NSS honorary associate Dan Snow on the need for an inclusive and secular remembrance ceremony that better reflects the society it serves.


NSS speaks out

Our president Keith Porteous Wood responded to Vincent Nichols's appearance at the IICSA inquiry on child abuse in The Guardian. He called for legislation mandating reporting of institutional abuse. Our vice-president Richard Scorer was quoted in the same piece, speaking in his capacity as a lawyer representing victims of abuse.

We responded to an independent Islamic school which is segregating children by sex in the Manchester Evening News, Rochdale Online and the Bristol Post, with our head of education Alastair Lichten quoted.

Our response to a ruling last week in the European Court of Human Rights on religious education was quoted in News Intervention.

A response of ours from 2007, to a film version of His Dark Materials, was quoted in The Express.


Upcoming events

Next week our CEO Stephen Evans and our board member Sadikur Rahman will address Humanist groups in Windsor and Gloucestershire respectively.

In the coming weeks our events will explore topics including our No More Faith Schools campaign and the legacy of the 19th century radical Richard Carlile.

Find out more on our events page.


In your own words: end compulsory worship in schools

"There are serious ethical questions regarding the pushing of any religion on undeveloped minds whilst contained away from parents in an educational environment, where classes will often contain children from a spectrum of religious and non-religious backgrounds."
Elizabeth, West Sussex

Sign our petition and explain why you think compulsory worship in schools should end.

Alternatively, sign one of our other petitions to let us know why you support another secularist cause.


Read elsewhere


Disturbance: Surviving Charlie Hebdo by Philippe Lançon – review

By Andrew Anthony, for The Guardian

One victim's powerful response to the 2015 massacre favours philosophy and wit over anger and polemic.


TV preacher Paula White secures official perch at White House

By Rob Boston, for Americans United for Separation of Church and State

TV preacher Paula White is joining the Trump administration in an official capacity. White is a Florida-based minister known for promoting the "prosperity gospel" – the idea that if you have enough faith, God will reward you with riches.


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