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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 8 June 2018


Secularism is a crucial ingredient in a harmonious society in which the state views all citizens equally. Whereas the multifaith approach to public policy risks sacrificing basic rights and principles, a secular one upholds them.

Tolerance of diversity is important but pursuing multiculturalism as a policy goal creates manifest problems. And in a country as religiously indifferent and varied as ours it is particularly nonsensical to organise public policy around religious identities.

This is most important in schools. State-funded faith schools encourage children to adopt separatist identities. Community schools are far better equipped to teach them to see each other's sameness.

We made these points this week when we responded to the government's Integrated Communities Strategy. And we'll keep saying that if policy makers want social cohesion, they must stand consistently for separation between religion and government.


News & Opinion


NSS says integration efforts should focus on common citizenship

The NSS has said the government should treat citizens as individuals and tackle the segregation faith schools cause to boost integration.


NI abortion law incompatible with human rights, says Supreme Court

The NSS is again calling for reform of Northern Ireland's abortion laws after a judgement on their compatibility with human rights law.


Thousands march for marriage equality in NI

Thousands of people attended two marches to call for marriage equality for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland on Saturday.


Scottish government to spend more on Catholic teacher training

The NSS has criticised the Scottish government over a 450% increase in the amount of money spent on a Catholic teaching programme.


It shouldn’t be normal for pubs to conform to blasphemy codes

The brewer Greene King has taken the Saudi Arabian flag down from its World Cup displays after complaints from some Muslims... Read More »


New guidance on the right to withdraw from RE in Wales – response

New guidance on managing parents' right to withdraw their children from religious education in Wales is largely common sense,... Read More »


Other news

Prince Charles has been asked to give a witness statement to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse over the case of a paedophile bishop.

The EU's top court has ruled that same-sex spouses have the same residency rights as opposite-sex couples.

The Scottish parliament has unanimously passed the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Bill, which automatically pardons past convictions for homosexuality.

The Free Church of Scotland and the Christian Institute have reacted angrily after NHS bosses halted plans to place Bibles beside every bed in a new hospital in Dumfries.

Bavaria's prime minister has said the Vatican supports the state's decision to place crosses on all public buildings.

Bermuda's Supreme Court has overturned a ban on same-sex marriage which was signed into law four months ago.

Spain's new leader Pedro Sanchez has become the first prime minister in the country's modern democratic era to take the oath of office without religious symbols present.

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Read elsewhere


The US Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling: what really happened

By Kelly Percival, for Americans United for Separation of Church and State

The US Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Masterpiece Cakeshop, which refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple's wedding. In a pluralistic society religious freedom is truly achieved only if businesses remain open to all regardless of their beliefs.


Europe and America part ways when it comes to 'religious freedom'

Erasmus blog, for The Economist

Events in America are making it harder to agree about persecution and whom it afflicts.


Quote of the week

"If, as well as the curtailment on their autonomy which this involves, [women] are carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality or have been the victims of rape or incest, they are condemned, because legislation enacted in another era has decreed it, to endure untold suffering and desolation. What is that, if it is not humiliation and debasement?"
Lord Kerr, Supreme Court judge and former chief justice of NI, on abortion laws in Northern Ireland

See our quotes of the week archive...


Essays of the week

We can't just abandon children to face a rising tide of extremism and hate alone
By Joe McElroy, for Tes

The Prevent programme may be controversial, but the teachers it affects are helping to support and protect children.


One Iranian woman's courageous struggle against being forced to wear the hijab
By Joanna Moorhead, for the Guardian

An interview with Masih Alinejad of the My Stealthy Freedom campaign, which encourages women to shed their hijabs in Iran. She says she wants to give women choice.


The desperation to keep Turkey different
By Donna Abu-Nasr and Cagan Koc, for Bloomberg

Secularists are on the defensive in Turkey as an election looms.


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