The NSS works both in the UK and in Europe to combat the influence of religion on governments. We want to ensure that Human Rights always come before religious rights, and we fight the massive exemptions religious bodies demand – and are sometimes granted – from discrimination laws that everyone else is subject to. Every privilege has its victims.
We campaign for a society where everyone is free to practise their faith, change it or not have one. Belief or lack of it should not be an advantage or a disadvantage. Religion should be a private matter, for the home and place of worship; it must not have privileged influence in the public and political arenas where it can too easily become an excuse for conflict, inequality and injustice.
The NSS was prominent in the campaign against religious bodies’ attempts to opt out of the Human Rights Act – we fought to limit exemptions in the employment discrimination legislation and other equality law.
One of our major and long-term campaigns is for the conversion of faith schools to community schools open to all. At the moment, religious schools funded by the tax payer can discriminate about which children they accept and who they employ.
We fight to protect free expression from attacks by religious groups who often want to restrict or prevent any examination of their activities and the results of their beliefs. We campaigned hard and successfully for the blasphemy laws to be abolished and we are still working to protect artistic expression from religious censors.
We campaign on a wide range of issues, including religious influence in the Government, the disestablishment of the Church of England, the removal of the Bench of Bishops from the House of Lords and attempts by religious bodies to prevent or interfere with medicine and scientific progress.
We lobby the BBC to reduce the amount of religious propaganda paid for by licence-payers when research shows that very few of them are interested in it.
The Government seems set on increasing religious involvement in public life whether people want this or not. Only by secularising our institutions can we ensure that no religious ideology can dominate and discriminate against others and that non-believers are given equal treatment.