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Conscience Magazine

From Secularism, Freedom

By Conscience April 29, 2018

Unfortunately, most of the institutional threats to human rights come from orthodox religions. These include laws against apos­tasy, blasphemy and homo­sexuality (sometimes elevated to capital offences) and efforts against repro­ductive autonomy and equal rights for women. Huge sums are invested in obses­sively depriving LGBT indi­viduals of equal rights.

Former leader of the British Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, is absolutely entitled to believe same-sex relationships are sinful, but party members are also enti­tled to choose their leader. He voted against a law that made it illegal for public services to be denied to gay people.

I did not support the banning in France of the burkini, nor the banning of face coverings in public places. As Olulode suggests, true secularism is about equality for all regardless of religion or non-belief and does not support state inter­ference in religion. Secular governments are indifferent to theology but challenge privileged and harmful practices, hopefully in the interests of all.

I am proud that the United Kingdom has the most comprehensive equality laws in the world. The government-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission’s three-year study of whether religion was being fairly treated under UK law concluded that it was, and furthermore proposed restrictions on discrimination in religious schools against teachers not of the faith.

Human rights for all are best guaranteed by demo­cratically determined secular laws compliant with human rights. Yes, this includes freedom of religion and belief, but those rights are better upheld in the United Kingdom with secular laws than they are in many other countries around the world.


Executive Director, National Secular Society

London, UK


Offers in-depth, cutting-edge coverage of vital contemporary issues, including reproductive rights, sexuality and gender, feminism, the religious right, church and state and US politics. Our readership includes national and international opinion leaders and policymakers, members of the press and leaders in the fields of theology, ethics and women's studies.