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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 9 November 2018


As you'll see below, the National Secular Society remains at the forefront of challenging religion's influence in Britain's schools. Earlier this year our Unsafe Sex Education report revealed that most faith schools in England were distorting sex education by teaching it through a religious lens. Many children are being taught to be guilty and ashamed for who they are, with other people's religion providing the apparent justification.

So when we responded to the government's consultation on sex and relationships education in England this week, we called for action that would tackle this. We said the government's guidance must stop faith schools from denying pupils an informed and inclusive education.

On a similar note, we've written to the Scottish government over its stated commitment to LGBT-inclusive education after it made a major announcement on the subject yesterday. We'll be watching the implementation of ministers' plans to see if they are willing to confront the religious groups distorting sex education in some Scottish schools.

You can show your support for our campaign for a secular and inclusive education free from religious control by joining or donating to the NSS today. Thank you for your support.


News & Opinion


Don't let faith schools distort sex education, warns NSS

The National Secular Society has highlighted the risk that faith groups will continue to distort sex education in response... Read More »


Ofsted head issues warning on religious pressure in education

The NSS has said the government "must heed" a warning from the chief inspector of schools in England on religious pressure in education.


Scottish government commits to LGBT-inclusive education

The NSS has told the Scottish government it mustn't let religious groups undermine its commitment to LGBT-inclusive education.


Government threatens Jewish schools’ “purity”, rabbi claims

A rabbi has called on Orthodox Jewish schools to resist requirements to teach evolution and about non-traditional relationships in the latest sign of defiance of the government and inspectors.


New guidance supports teaching RSE and evolution to young Muslims

Pupils should be taught about evolution, art, and sexual relationships and no child should be forced to wear a hijab, says new guidance by a Muslim advocacy group.


Greece takes major step towards disestablishment of Orthodox Church

Clerics in Greece's Orthodox Church will stop being civil servants, the country's government has announced.


Review: The Children Act

Emma Park says Ian McEwan's book and the film it has inspired prompt the questions of what the state should do when a young... Read More »


Other news

A Birmingham Islamic school is continuing to segregate boys and girls on faith grounds more than a year after a court ruling that the practice was unlawful. Ofsted has told Al-Hijrah school the policy is against the law.

Judgment has been reserved in a judicial review brought by a woman being prosecuted for buying her then 15-year-old daughter abortion pills in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile decriminalising abortion on the Isle of Man has moved a step closer after the upper house of the island's parliament gave reforms unanimous backing.

The new head of the Crown Prosecution Service has been criticised for saying it is "fundamentally wrong" to use the phrase "Islamist terrorism" to describe attacks carried out in Britain and elsewhere.

The BBC has decided to discontinue broadcasts of the religious programme Something Understood on Radio 4. But the corporation still says it remains committed to a review published last year in which it pledged to increase the religious content in its programming.

Voters in two US states, West Virginia and Alabama, voted to include restrictions on abortion in their state constitutions when they went to the polls for Tuesday's midterm elections. Abortion will now become illegal in those states if the famous Roe v Wade decision is overturned in the US federal courts. Meanwhile voters in Oregon rejected a measure which would have prohibited publicly funded health care programmes from covering abortion.

A Facebook page for atheists with a very large following was shut down earlier this week without explanation. The page has since been restored but Facebook is yet to explain its reasoning. The NSS questioned the decision to shut the page down and has called on Facebook to clarify its reasoning.

A guided walk and pub lunch will mark the 150th anniversary of NSS founder Charles Bradlaugh's epic political career in Northampton next week.


NMFS petition comment of the week

"We are now a diverse society. If we're going to avoid misunderstandings and misapprehensions, our children need to mix with each other, learn about each other, demystify beliefs and make friends. Religious ghettos in schools are a backward step."
Owen from Hertfordshire, No More Faith Schools supporter

Sign the petition and tell us why you're saying No More Faith Schools.


Events coming up


Secularism 2019: reclaiming religious freedom

Religious lobbyists commonly use terms like 'religious freedom' to demand privileges. But this conference will show that genuine religious freedom involves freedom of belief for people of all religions and none. It will also explore the limits of religious freedom when it impedes on other human rights, including bodily autonomy, equality and freedom of expression.


Other events

Other upcoming events include: a talk in London examining the historical conflict between 'blasphemers' and the authorities; a conference on sharia, segregation and secularism; and a talk by our honorary associate Gita Sahgal in Nottingham.

See all upcoming events.


Thought for the Day protest

One of our affiliated groups, South East London Humanist Group, is holding a demonstration against discrimination on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day. It takes place outside BBC Broadcasting House in London on Tuesday. Details are here.


Quotes of the week

"Maybe if people did know, they might hesitate."
Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist, on those who donate to Operation Christmas Child without knowing how their gifts are being used


"Religion is not a person, so the concept of defamation should not apply. If blasphemy laws are implemented, minority religions are at risk of oppression and persecution by the state."
Karen Harradine, columnist for The Conservative Woman

See our quotes of the week archive.


Read elsewhere


Release of Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy roils Pakistan

By Pamela Constable, for the Washington Post

Some Pakistani Muslims have reacted angrily to Asia Bibi's release from prison and unconfirmed reports that she was then secretly airlifted abroad. Meanwhile the reports are intensifying fears among religious minorities in Pakistan.


Heard elsewhere


A tale of belief and the courts

Joshua Rozenberg investigates the Christian Legal Centre following criticisms of their involvement in the Alfie Evans case.

BBC Radio 4


The Unorthodox Life of Miriam

When Miriam left the Hasidic Jewish community she had to say goodbye to her parents, siblings and children. File on Four tells the story of this extraordinary woman which puts the financial affairs of one of the most guarded and insular religious communities under the spotlight.

BBC Radio 4


NSS speaks out

Our campaigns officer Megan Manson was extensively quoted in Wales Online on the problems with the Operation Christmas Childshoebox scheme.

Our response to the government's consultation on sex education was quoted in Reuters (although we were not explicitly named).

Our recent findings on councils supplying non-stun halal meat to schools was covered in The Press, a local paper in Kirklees in West Yorkshire.

Our call for the Foreign Office to raise Asia Bibi's case with the Pakistani government was given a sympathetic nod in the Catholic Herald.

Our Secularism 2019 conference was advertised in The Freethinker.

Our criticism of a rabbi who has called for resistance to secular education standards in Orthodox Jewish schools was covered in Patheos.

Representatives of the atheist Facebook page which was temporarily closed down without warning thanked the NSS, among others, on Patheos after it was reinstated.


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