Category: Diary

Attempts to shut down criticism of Islam still on the table at the UN

UN-LOGOThe National Secular Society, together with the International Humanist and Ethical Union, has been working over the past year to try to raise the alarm about the concerted efforts by Islamic groups to write blasphemy laws into international human rights legislation. Our efforts seem to be paying off, as other countries and organisations begin to appreciate the profound dangers to free speech posed by proposals from the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).

McCain’s VP Wants Creationism Taught in School

Sarah PalinRepublican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin wants creationism taught in science classes. In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, the soon-to-be governor of Alaska said of evolution and creation education, “Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of education. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.”

Accord Coalition

AccordAccord is a new coalition calling for inclusive schools and an end to special arrangements for state funded religious schools. Its members include the ATL, the BHA and Ekklesia. Its supporters include Baroness Blackstone, Prof. Bernard Crick, Rabbi David Goldberg and Prof. A C Grayling.

Accord is a wide coalition of organisations which includes religious groups, humanists, trade unions and human rights campaigners. The campaign launched on 1 September 2008 and aims to promote inclusive schools through local and national campaigns.

NSS – The truth behind the upsurge in GCSEs in Religious Studies

The Church is cock-a-hoop over the news that there has been a “4.7% increase in the number of students taking Religious Education GCSEs”. The Church of England’s Head of School Improvement, Nick McKemey, believes the rise is a sign that students “appreciate the important role that religion plays in modern society”.

Why do I bother?

… it’s a waste of time responding to creationist claptrap like this letter from Mr George Gardner. He wrote to the local paper in reply to a letter I’d written about something or other related to religion, and when the paper closed the correspondence, he wrote to me. I threw that letter away after I’d replied to it, hoping I wouldn’t hear from Mr G again. A vain hope. He’d told me that he’s in his eighties, and that he “comes alive” when debating issues like this. Good for him.

International Humanist News

The August edition is available for download from the International Humanist & Ethical Union website as a PDF. There are articles on The World Congress, Humanism in Europe, Julius Nyerere’s secular legacy in Tanzania, and Non-Believers in the Pope’s Backyard.

It’s a special double issue, 3MB in size, so it may take a while to download. Alternatively, you could join the IHEU and get a copy through the post.

Ipswich meeting – RE in the Primary School

Julie Coombes teaches locally. She’ll talk about her experience of RE in the primary school.

There’s a group member on Suffolk’s SACRE who helped devise the new RE syllabus (including Humanism and secular world views) that was introduced in 2007, so we’ll be especially interested in what Julie has to tell us.

We’ll be in The Hall at Castle Hill Community Centre, Highfield Road, Ipswich – through the front door, turn left, then right. If the front door is shut, press the buzzer to be admitted.

To offer or request a lift, email us.

Why an atheist couldn’t be President – yet

Billed as the first joint appearance by both presidential hopefuls, it was tightly controlled to avoid clashes. John McCain and Barak Obama hug each other. This was not a debate. It was a “civil forum” organised by Saddleback Church, a huge and hugely influential ministry run by Pastor Rick Warren, a multi-million selling author. He arrived on stage with smiles and to great applause.

Concordat Watch – Women need secularism – Muriel Fraser

These proverbs from Slovakia show the other side of “family values”. This is the name of a whole system of control which can prevent a woman from leaving an abusive marriage and further cement her in place by burdening her with unplanned children. The control imposed by the Vatican disproportionately affects women. That’s because the hierarchy of obedience which goes from the pope to the parish priest doesn’t stop there: it continues on, from the head of the household down to his wife.

Women must be kept at home and bearing children for the Church. Ordaining them as priests would give them dangerous authority. On 29 May 2008 the Vatican issued a decree “Regarding the crime of attempting sacred ordination of a woman”. This is such a grave offence that it incurs automatic excommunication, on a par with heresy, schism, and laying violent hands on the Pope.