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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 1 June 2018


The British public is broadly sympathetic to the secularist cause. We say those words with increasing confidence. This week, a survey from the Pew Research Centre showed that 60% of adults in the UK believe religion should be kept separate from government policy. That includes most Christians with 'low' and even 'moderate' levels of commitment.

The convincing victory for those who campaigned to repeal Ireland's eighth amendment has been a reminder that religion's stranglehold on public policy can be successfully challenged. And yet policy makers – nationally, locally and even (as one of our articles shows this week) at a European level – continue to pander to religious interests.

We're pushing back against this because we believe in safeguarding everyone's right to freedom of and from religion. That means we must challenge the deference to religion which informs much of our public policy. If you consider this valuable work, please take a moment to support it. Thank you.


News & Opinion


Pew survey: 60% support separation of religion and government in UK

Six out of ten adults in the UK believe religion should be kept separate from government policy, according to the Pew Research Centre.


NSS: legal reform needed to tackle marriage provision inequalities

It is much harder to have a same-sex or non-religious wedding than a religious one in England and Wales, NSS research has revealed.


NSS: religious dogma must not restrict access to abortions in NI

The NSS has reiterated its call for reform to Northern Ireland's abortion laws amid pressure on the UK government to legislate.


Parents protest imposition of religious status on Norfolk school

The NSS has backed parents who are protesting against the merger of a non-religious school into a Christian one in Norfolk.


NSS criticises EU leaders’ unqualified backing for religious rituals

Two senior EU politicians have said they would oppose restrictions on rituals such as genital cutting and religious animal slaughter.


Other news

Thousands of people are expected to call on Theresa May to legislate for marriage equality in Northern Ireland at a protest in Belfast tomorrow.

The Irish prime minister has said he is prepared to consider a debate on ending church patronage of schools. Meanwhile changes to admission rules, approved this week, mean schools in Ireland will no longer be able to use religion as a criterion for prioritising entry from 2019.

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has heard that a child leapt to her death after being "battered" by a nun at a Catholic children's home. It's also heard that a former resident at the same home was raped by a priest and repeatedly abused by a nun.

More than 3,500 reports of forced marriage were made to police over a three-year period, according to the Guardian.

Denmark has become the latest country to introduce a ban on wearing garments which hide the face in public.

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Read elsewhere


What happens when abortion is banned?

By Michelle Oberman, for the New York Times

The author of a new book says criminalising abortion merely creates new ways in which the state can intensify the misery of the poorest.


A Christian nationalist blitz in the US

By Katherine Stewart, for the New York Times

America's Christian nationalists have a new plan for advancing their legislative goals in state capitols across the country. Its stated aim is to promote 'religious freedom'.


How Northern Irish women suffer under restrictive abortion laws

By Kirstie McCrum, for the New Statesman

Women in Northern Ireland are still subject to restrictive laws – and heavy penalties – should they wish to have autonomy over their own bodies.


Quotes of the week

"What we've seen is the culmination of a quiet revolution that's taken place in Ireland for the past 10 or twenty years… The people have said we want a modern constitution for a modern country, that we trust women and we respect them to make the right decision, the right choices about their own healthcare."
Leo Varadkar, Ireland's prime minister, reacts to the repeal of the eighth amendment


"It's hypocritical, degrading and insulting to Northern Irish women that we are forced to travel for vital healthcare services but cannot access them at home. We cannot be left behind in a corner of the UK and on the island of Ireland as second-class citizens."
Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland campaigns manager, calls for reform after the result in the Republic


"If in doubt, better not let them enter."
Pope Francis once again shows his much-touted gay-friendly credentials

See our quotes of the week archive...


Essays of the week

Finally the injustice of Northern Ireland's abortion laws is being recognised
By Emma Gallen, for The Independent

Those who oppose abortions on the basis of moral or religious ideals are entitled to their beliefs, but not to impose them upon others.


"Who will have our backs now?"
By Rahila Gupta, for New Humanist

In Pakistan, accusations of blasphemy can lead to death at the hands of the state – or the mob. A few brave lawyers are fighting back.


NSS speaks out

Our chief executive Stephen Evans discussed religion in the workplace on BBC Radio Kent.

Our campaigns officer Megan Manson discussed Denmark's decision to ban face coverings in public on BBC Three Counties Radio.


Events coming up

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