National Secular Society - Other Campaigns

Other Campaigns

The NSS has been at the forefront of the successful campaigns to abolish the Blasphemy law in the United Kingdom.

Other campaigns involve freedom of expression, women’s rights, gay rights, religious broadcasting (the NSS has long argued, for example, that Thought for the Day is religious propaganda broadcast by the BBC at licence-payers’ expense), the removal of the 26 bishops from the House of Lords, exemption of religious organisations from discrimination and equality laws, and it attempted to persuade the Scouts to amend their oath to remove the wording "do my duty to God". It also campaigns against religious exemption from laws requiring stunning of animals before slaughter and for the labelling of meat produced without stunning - much of it is currently sold to the general market unlabelled both in shops and in restaurants and canteens.

The NSS is frequently invited to submit consultation documents to Government and major UK organisations. For example, it has written about faith-based welfare, doctors’ conscientious objections, the prosecution of racist and religious crimes, the census, organ donation and equality issues.

It co-sponsored the launch of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and a conference for International Women’s Day – Women’s Rights, the Veil and Islamic and Religious Laws.

As well as its activities in the UK, the NSS has been active in Europe and at the UN, often as a representative for the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). Most notable have been interventions at the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.

At a Council of Europe conference in San Marino its interventions caused the closing communiqué to be changed to require consultation on inter-cultural matters to give much more emphasis to civil society, as opposed to religious bodies. In Strasbourg the NSS argued against what it saw as undue religious influence on the Council of Europe. Close links have been maintained with the politicians and secretariat.

The NSS started assisting Roy Brown on the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and continues on a broader front raising awareness of its problems with a growing list of international bodies.

In the European Parliament (EP), the NSS is involved with the Separation of Religion & Politics Working Group, and attended the launch of the Brussels Declaration. Wood also spoke at a meeting in the EP sponsored by Catholics for Choice on Religion & Politics in the New Europe and made a representation in a debate to the EP President about an invitation to the Pope to address the EP. The Society continues to be consulted by politicians seeking information or proposals. Wood spoke about problems with the United Nations Human Rights Commission at a UDHR 60th Anniversary Conference in Brussels and at the Libre Penseé Conference at the Senate in Paris.

On 2 December 2011, the NSS and an atheist councillor took Bideford Town Council to the High Court over prayers held during council meetings. The High Court ruled on 10 February 2012 that the town council was not acting lawfully, citing Section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972, and that prayers should stop. This ruling will apply to all councils in England & Wales. The ruling was welcomed by the British Humanist Association, but angered and upset many Christians who felt Christianity was being "marginalised", or was "under attack" in the UK. The Bishop of Exeter encouraged councils to ignore the High Court ruling, and Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, told councils to openly defy the High Court as new legislation, the Localism Act 2011, allows councils to set their own agenda which would allow prayers to continue.

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