National Secular Society

The Society was formed in 1866 and challenges religious privilege. It fights for secularism: to secure equal rights for all regardless of their religion or lack of religion. The Society defends freedom of worship, the right to change religion and the right not to believe without any impediment. Religious bodies should not have privileged access to power or undue exemptions from laws. One privilege we fight is the 26 bishops with the right to sit in the UK legislature, something we consider undemocratic. The UK is the only Western democracy with such an archaic arrangement.

Major concerns are growing religious influence (often not even representative of the members of the religions) on parliamentary and international bodies – despite plummeting church attendance in the UK and western Europe. Non-sectarian education, freedom of expression and human rights are all threatened by this increasing religious influence and are therefore major areas of concern and action. Emerging problems relate to minority religious communities, many of whose members (especially women and sexual minorities) suffer multiple impairment of their human rights, including from the growth of the influence of Sharia. The Society has a high media profile and produces a popular free weekly newsletter from sources around the world.

The Society works extensively in international fora and organisations, such as the European Commission, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, the Council of Europe. Its Executive Director speaks at the UN Human Rights Council under the auspices of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

For more information, see the website of the National Secular Society.