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National Secular Society Podcast

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Challenging religious privilege, for freedom, fairness and secularism

Challenging religious privilege, for freedom, fairness and secularism


United Kingdom


Challenging religious privilege, for freedom, fairness and secularism






Rerelease: Secularism 2019 conference review (Ep 10)

Rerelease of Ep 10. Next new episode (Ep 32) coming next Thursday, 13 August. Check out the full shownotes, video and transcript for this episode:


Ep 31: Graham Smith (not that type of republican)

Show notes, transcript and supporter/subscriber information here:


Rerelease: Stephen Evans (Ep 01: Exploring religious freedom)

Rerelease of Ep 01. Next new episode (Ep 31) coming next Thursday, 30 July. Check out the full shownotes, video and transcript for this episode:


Ep 30: Religious Freedom in China

On paper, the Chinese constitution permits ‘normal religious activities’. In reality, if you try to practise your religion in China independently of the state, you risk prison and worse. In this episode, Dr Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Rights Watch, speaks to Emma Park about freedom of religion and belief in China – or the lack of it. They discuss the Chinese authorities’ persecution of the Uighurs, the Turkic Muslim minority in the north-west, and the deliberate strategies...


Ep 29: Scotland’s new blasphemy law?

Where do you draw the line between safeguarding people’s protected characteristics, and guarding their right to freedom of speech? The new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, introduced in April purports to protect groups defined by reference to protected characteristics, including ‘religion’ or ‘perceived religious affiliation’. But some have argued that the proposed legislation will chill free speech about religion. In this episode, Emma Park is joined by Neil Barber,...


Ep 28: RE in Wales: a chance for fundamental change

How much progress will the Welsh government make with its proposed reforms to RE? In this episode, Emma Park speaks to Stephen Evans, CEO of the NSS, and Alastair Lichten, head of education, for an update. Encouragingly the subject’s name is to be changed to ‘Religion, Values and Ethics’, to reflect a more pluralistic and critical approach. But the proposed abolition of parents’ right to withdraw their children is more concerning. Faith schools will still be able to teach RVE ‘in line with...


Ep 27: Unregistered (illegal) schools

In this episode, Emma Park discusses unregistered faith schools, particularly in the Hasidic community with Eve Sacks, a member of the Jewish anti-extremist organisation Nahamu. Eve has spent years engaging with members of the ultra-orthodox community in London. They discuss issues in registered independent schools and the prevalence of unregistered schools where boys aged 13 to 18 are sent to receive religious instruction with little or no secular education. There is also evidence that boys...


Ep 26: Hindutva with Gita Sahgal

In this episode, Emma Park speaks to Gita Sahgal, a human rights activist and Honorary Associate of the NSS, about secularism in India, and the threats it is facing from the Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) movement endorsed by Modi’s government. Modern India has been a secularist state since its foundation in 1947. But since the first election of Modi’s government in 2014, as Gita explains, Indian supporters of secularism, pluralism, and the rule of law have been targeted, silenced, and in some...


Bonus Ep 2: Leo Igwe #FreeMubarakBala

This podcast gives an emergency update on the plight of Mubarak Bala, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria (HAN). Bala was arrested in Kaduna, northern Nigeria, by the police on the 28th April, effectively for blasphemy against Islam. Although he has not yet been formally charged, he remains in custody, probably in Kano state, which is under Sharia law. He appears to be without access to a lawyer or contact with friends or family. Leo Igwe, founder of the HAN, speaks to Emma Park...


Ep 25: American religious exceptionalism and Covid-19

This episode is about secularism in the USA, its basis in the American constitution, and its opposition by the religious right. The NSS’s Alastair Lichten interviews Andrew Seidel, an attorney at the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They discuss the narratives of religious exceptionalism and persecution propagated by some on the Christian right – and other tactics which they have used over many years to build up their political influence. Andrew argues that the Christian right use a...


Ep 24: The history of the NSS – Interview with Bob Forder

How did the secularist movement begin in Britain? And why should modern supporters of secularism care about its history? In this week’s episode, Emma Park speaks to Bob Forder, a member of the NSS council and former history teacher, about the origins of secularism in Britain. Bob explains how the secularist movement was, from its early years, bound up with the story of the National Secular Society. From its origins in local working-class associations, secularism has always been a socially...


Ep 23: The NSS at the UN: interview with Josephine Macintosh

In this week’s episode, Emma Park speaks to Josephine Macintosh, a solicitor and vice president of the National Secular Society, about her work representing the NSS at the United Nations. Earlier this year, Josephine attended the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council at Geneva. She made submissions on behalf of the NSS on its objections to male circumcision, proposed reforms to Italian law to counter child abuse in the Catholic Church, and the need for the UK to legislate explicitly...


Ep 22: Bishops in the House of Lords – Dick Taverne interview

Is it time to remove Church of England bishops' automatic right to sit in the House of Lords? Liberal Democrat peer Dick Taverne is introducing a private members’ bill – drafted with the NSS’s assistance – to do just that. Emma Park travels to Westminster to interview Dick about why it’s time to abolish the bishops’ bench and reform the Lords, why constitutional reforms can take such a long time, and why the UK is still not a secular country. Follow Emma on Twitter: @DrEmmaPark Watch this...


Ep 21: Integrated education in Northern Ireland – interview with the Integrated Education Fund

In this episode, Emma Park speaks with Maddy Bridgman and Sam Fitzsimmons of the Integrated Education Fund, a charity that supports inclusive, integrated education (not segregated into de facto Protestant and Catholic schools) in Northern Ireland. Maddy and Sam discuss the IEF’s campaign to support an integrated school system, and outline some of the difficulties the IEF has faced, both political, administrative and structural. They also discuss positive signs that school students who attend...


Ep 20: Lee and Lizanne Harris – compulsory worship

In this episode, Emma Park speaks with Lee and Lizanne Harris about their experience of the collective worship requirement in schools. The Harrises recently initiated judicial review proceedings against the primary school attended by their children. They challenged its decision to provide no alternative to a proselytising Christian assembly once a week conducted by representatives of the local C of E church. Lee and Lizanne discuss their children’s experiences of these assemblies, what...


Ep 19: General election special

This week, Emma Park is joined by Stephen Evans and Chris Sloggett for a general election special. During the campaign the NSS is calling on parties to adopt 11 secularist pledges on subjects such as education and free speech. But which of these are on the parties’ agendas? Will any of them make it onto the statute book any time soon? And is religion stifling political debate? Join Stephen, Chris and Emma for comment and analysis. Watch this episode on YouTube:


Ep 18: Remembrance Day | Clerical Abuse

In this week’s episode, Emma Park is joined by the NSS’s Megan Manson and Chris Sloggett to discuss the Church of England’s privileged role in Remembrance Sunday. Is it right that the church should lead the service of remembrance at the Cenotaph? Does the C of E represent modern Britain? Will Britain continue to remember if the ritual of remembrance is tied up with religion? Emma then speaks to Keith Porteous Wood, president of the NSS, about the society’s campaign to expose institutional...


Ep 17: Thought for the Day | RE in Wales

In this week’s episode, Emma Park is joined by Chris Sloggett and Helen Nicholls to discuss whether BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day should still be exclusively for “speakers from the world’s major faiths”. John Humphrys, former presenter of the Today programme in which Thought for the Day is featured, recently criticised it as ‘discriminatory’. Emma also speaks to Stephen Evans and Alastair Lichten about a consultation on the reform of sex and religious education launched by the Welsh...


Ep 16: Operation Christmas Child | Faith schools

In this week’s episode, Emma Park speaks to Megan Manson about Operation Christmas Child, a programme that encourages schoolchildren and youth groups around the UK to send Christmas shoeboxes to children in developing countries. Those sending the shoeboxes may not be aware that they are being used as part of a conversion drive by an evangelical Christian charity, Samaritan’s Purse. The case raises the question of whether ‘the advancement of religion’ should still be a charitable purpose....


Ep 15: ‘Islamophobia’ definition | Criticising infant circumcision

Emma Park speaks to Stephen Evans, CEO of the NSS and Chris Sloggett, communications officer, about the NSS's opposition to a definition of 'Islamophobia' which was proposed by a parliamentary group in November 2018. Chris and NSS campaigns officer Megan Manson also join Emma to discuss two recent rows relating to infant circumcision. Megan highlights a court case in which a Nigerian Christian woman, Martina Obi-Uzom, was given a suspended sentence for having an infant boy circumcised...