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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 18 May 2018


Our campaigning scored a significant, if qualified, victory last Friday: the government decided not to scrap the 50% cap on faith-based admissions to free schools in England. This was very welcome news. Given the education secretary's explicit support for it – and the commitment made in the Conservative party manifesto – securing a change of course was a significant achievement. Thanks to all of you who supported our campaign by writing to your MPs.

The planned expansion of voluntary-aided schools, which are already able to select up to 100% of pupils on the basis of faith, is more concerning. Damian Hinds has said he doesn't expect too many of the schools to open, but it's up to us to hold the government and local authorities to account.

The NSS is leading the way in campaigning for a fully secular education system. If you haven't done so already, why not visit our dedicated No More Faith Schools website to find out how you can get involved?

We're working tirelessly across a number of fronts to separate religion from the state and secure equality for all, regardless of belief. If you value our work in challenging religion's privileged position in society, please consider showing us your support. Thank you.


News & Opinion


Gov’t drops proposal to scrap 50% admissions cap – but plans discriminatory faith school expansion

The government has abandoned plans to lift the cap on faith-based admissions to new free schools in England – but will pave the way for a new wave of religiously selective faith schools.


The government's U-turn shows the tide is turning against faith schools

The decision not to allow more faith-based admissions to new free schools in England is a big win, says Stephen Evans. But... Read More »


No need to prioritise requests based on religion, says chief coroner

Coroners in England and Wales are not obliged to prioritise requests which come from particular religious communities, the chief coroner has said.


NSS: joint campus rows show need to secularise Scottish education

The NSS has said calls for children to be segregated on joint campuses have shown the need to secularise education in Scotland.


NSS: proportion and context matter on religious clothing at work

The NSS has said the government "must consider proportion and context" as it prepares to issue guidance on religious clothing at work.


How secularism cuts the Gordian knot in education

Faith schools' approach to admissions and sex education reminds us that religious groups' interests often conflict with those... Read More »


‘Pro-life’ group tries to restrict abortion pill use in Scotland

'Pro-life' campaigners have launched a court bid to block the decision to allow women to take the abortion pill at home in Scotland.


Latest from the No More Faith Schools campaign


Teacher’s perspective: the growing evangelism in C of E schools

Testimonial, by a teacher

The increasingly assertive religious ethos of Church of England schools undermines the commonly-held idea that they aren't really faith schools. And, a teacher writes, the change is being driven by the church itself.


Other news

The Church of England is lobbying the government not to scrap civil partnerships. The church is concerned that the move would throw its stance on sexuality into disarray.

The Sutton Trust, which focuses on social mobility, has welcomed the Department for Education's decision not to lift the 50% cap on faith-based admissions to new faith schools in England.

Lawmakers in Guernsey have been debating a bill which would legalise assisted dying. If the bill passes the process of legalisation will take at least three years, the island's chief minister has said.

The first mosque in the Western Isles has opened its doors, despite objections from the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing).

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.


Read elsewhere


NGOs protest as Mauritania creates “mandatory” death sentence for apostasy and blasphemy

By IHEU and others

A group of 21 NGOs has released a joint statement calling on the government of Mauritania to reverse a new law which makes the death sentence mandatory for 'apostasy' and 'blasphemy'-related crimes.


From the archives: IDAHOBIT 2018


The greater the religious fervency, the greater the homophobia

By Keith Porteous Wood, now NSS president

To mark yesterday's International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, this piece from our archive says the campaign for secularism is inherently connected to the campaign for LGBT+ rights.


Quotes of the week

"At a time when hate attacks against Muslims are having a serious impact on many people, let us try to ensure that obfuscation through the use of the term 'Islamophobia' does not take away from the real-world problems facing Muslims."
Fiyaz Mughal, founder and director of Faith Matters

"If the [sexual] act is not ordered towards creation, then it is not procreative and therefore it is not a legitimate expression of sexuality, as far as we are concerned."
Father Michael McMahon, Church Representative with Inverclyde Council, speaking at the annual conference of the Catholic Headteachers' Association of Scotland

See our quotes of the week archive...


Essays of the week

What I learned when I spoke to the people who chose to leave Islam
By Fiyaz Mughal, for the New Statesman

We need to face up to the fact faith can become rigid and interfering.

Marriage equality wasn't the end of the fight for equality for LGBTI Australians
By Lee Carnie, for ABC News Australia

As the results of Australia's religious freedom review are published, there is a window of opportunity to move forward on LGBT+ rights.


NSS speaks out

Our CEO Stephen Evans's article on the government's faith school admissions U-turn was published in the Huffington Post. Stephen also went on the radio station BBC Surrey to discuss our recent criticism of Surrey Police for engaging in evangelism.

Our findings on an Islamic school which discouraged the use of tampons, which featured in our recent Unsafe Sex Education report, were reported in The Sun. Our education and schools officer Alastair Lichten was quoted.

Ekklesia reported on our letter, from Stephen Evans and the chair of our Secular Legal Forum Sadikur Rahman, requesting an investigation of the Christian Legal Centre's conduct during the Alfie Evans case.

Devon Live reported estimates we had used on the Church of England's assets in a piece arguing that the church should either look after the green around Exeter Cathedral or give it to the local council.

Our research on the Family Research Council, whose president Tony Perkins has been appointed to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, was cited in Media Matters for America.


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