Tag Archives: national secular society

Reporting From Secularist Of The Year 2017


I’m currently en route to London for the National Secular Society’s ‘Secularist Of The Year Awards 2017’.

It’s a fantastic occasion celebrating the dedication and bravery of secular activists. I was on hand in 2015 and 2016 to bring you audio coverage of the event and hope to do so again today.

You can keep an eye on my Twitter account ( @Gspellchecker) or Facebook (facebook.com/gspellchecker) for updates throughout the day. If I can snag a wi-fi connection, I may attempt to live stream some of it.

This year’s shortlist of nominees:

Professor Steven Kettell, for co-ordinating a secular response to the Commission on Religion and Belief. His work helped rebut calls for more religious privilege, and set out the urgent case for a new secular constitutional settlement in the UK.

Professor Kettell said it was “a great surprise and a genuine honour to be shortlisted for the Secularist of the Year Award.” He said his own research had convinced him that “secularism is the best means of ensuring equal rights and freedoms for all citizens, regardless of their religion or belief.”

Professor Ted Cantle CBE has been nominated for his advocacy of integrated education and social cohesion. He has been particularly vocal in his opposition to the Government’s plan to allow a new wave of faith schools free to discriminate in 100% of their admissions.

He said it was “crucial that we support the secular principle of the separation of governance from religious doctrine.”

Asma Jahangir, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion,for her principled advocacy of universal human rights and her commitment to secular justice. She spent much of her career defending women’s rights, the rights of children and the rights of minorities in Pakistan.

Asma has campaigned against Pakistan’s deadly blasphemy law and has been a vocal proponent of human rights in her home country.

Houzan Mahmoud and the Kurdish Culture project, for their initiative to provide a platform for Kurdish writers, feminists, artists and activists to advance gender equality, freedom and universal rights.

Houzan said, “For the work in activism that I have done for nearly two decades against Islamism and Sharia Law in Kurdistan, Iraq, the UK and beyond, to be recognised by the NSS is one of the greatest honours I could be conferred.”

Scott Moore and Let Pupils Choose, a Northern Ireland Humanists campaign,for challenging compulsory worship and religious privilege in Northern Ireland’s schools.

Scott said “The Let Pupils Choose campaign wants to let over 16s/post-GCSE pupils opt out of collective worship without parental permission. Children of all ages are guaranteed religious freedom under UK, European and international human and children’s rights laws.”

He said he was “very grateful to the NSS for recognising the work I and others have been doing.”

Yasmin Rehman, for her advocacy of a secularist approach to tackling hate crime and promoting the human rights of women. She said, “I am incredibly honoured and humbled to be included in the list of nominees for this award particularly given the work being done across the world by so many brave and courageous people fighting against the hatred and violence being perpetrated by the religious Right of many faiths.”

Good luck to all the nominees. I’m looking forward to learning all about their work.

Online tickets sales are now closed, but if you can still contact the NSS office on 020 7404 3126 or email [email protected] to enquire about availability.

You can support the National Secular Society by becoming a member here.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.

Secularism 2016 Conference: Living Better Together


I’m currently on the 8:15 Virgin Train service from Manchester to London, typing this from my reserved table seat – proving I have more foresight than the current labour leader.

Anyhow, I’m really looking forward to attending the annual National Secular Society Conference on Saturday. The subtitle of the event is ‘Living Better Together’.

I spoke to the president of the NSS, Terry Sanderson, back in July who explained just what that means:


A number of fantastic guests have been confirmed to speak at the conference. I’ve interviewed a number of them on The Godless Spellchecker Podcast, so I thought I’d share some links for you to acquaint yourselves with these important voices if you haven’t already done so. I’ll also provide some info on the speakers who have not been on the show.

Maajid Nawaz – Liberal Muslim and Co-founder of The Quilliam Foundation:

Douglas Murray – Author and commentator. Vocal critic of Islamism:

Paul Rowe – Chief executive of the secular education charity ‘Educate Together’. Paul won ‘Secularist Of The Year back in March and you can hear his acceptance speech below:

Other Guests (Via the NSS)

Jacques Berlinerblau

Keynote speaker Jacques Berlinerblau wrote the internationally acclaimed How to Be Secular, a call to return to America’s long tradition of secularism and a passionate celebration of secularism’s role in promoting good social cohesion and protecting both freedom from and for religion

Jacques is Professor and Director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He has doctorates in Ancient Near Eastern languages and literature (from NYU) and theoretical sociology (from the New School for Social Research). He has published on a wide variety of scholarly subjects with special attention to heresy, atheism, secularism, Jewish-American literature and biblical literature.

Şafak Pavey

Safak Pavey is a diplomat, UN independent Human Rights expert, writer and parliamentarian. Safak is a leading Turkish opposition MP who represents Istanbul Province for the Republican People’s Party in the Turkish Parliament. In 2012 Pavey was honoured by the US Department of State with the International Women of Courage Award.

In 2014 Safak was awarded the National Secular Society’s “Secularist of the Year” prize for her work promoting human rights and defending secularism in Turkey. Safak is an honorary associate of the NSS.

Raheel Raza

Raheel is the author of Their Jihad – Not My Jihad and regularly appears in Canadian TV and print. She is an advocate for gender equality and an activist for women’s rights, as well as an interfaith activist and the first Muslim woman in Canada to lead mixed gender prayers. She is the President of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow which works to secure “peace for all people”, oppose extremism and “advance among Muslims the principle of individual rights and freedoms”.

Tehmina Kazi

Tehmina Kazi is director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, an organisation which aims to raise awareness of the benefits of democracy and its contribution to a shared vision of citizenship. Her role includes fundraising, outreach, lobbying, advocacy, media work, policy and strategy development, workshop facilitation and event management.

Tehmina was previously a Project Officer at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, where she worked on a ground-breaking inquiry into the Human Rights Act and its impact on public service delivery.

Deborah Lavin

Deborah Lavin is an independent historian. An active member of the Socialist History Society, she became fascinated with Charles Bradlaugh through a study of his conflicts with Karl Marx. She now often gives talks on different aspects of Bradlaugh’s career and last year spoke at Conway Hall on “Political skulduggery: What kept Charles Bradlaugh MP from taking his seat in Parliament?” as part of the Festival of Freedoms.

Deborah’s present talk is on “Charles Bradlaugh and the Early Years of the National Secular Society.” It will look more closely at Bradlaugh’s active years before he became an M.P., when he battled to create the National Secular Society; and weld it into a radical fighting force. It will look at the secularist and radical causes Bradlaugh and the early National Secular Society championed, including birth control, free secular education and an ethical foreign policy. It will also discuss Bradlaugh’s legacy and historical importance

I’ll do my best to report on the conference for as long as my phone battery holds out. In the meantime, please take a look at the current NSS campaigns and consider becoming a member.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.

Ep#79 – Secularist Of The Year 2016

This week’s #GSPodcast will bring you some exclusive coverage from The Secularist Of The Year Awards 2016. The main prize went to Educate Together.

Note: This audio was recorded, with permission, at a dinner event in a functioning, bar/restaurant – and as such includes some ambient noises that were out of my control.

Also available on iTunes and Stitcher.

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