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Christian backlash sparks National Secular Society apology for offending religious groups

by Tola Mbakwe

The National Secular Society (NSS) has apologised after questioning the government about why religious staff are included in a list of key workers that are still able to send their children to school during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday the NSS said "religious concerns must never undermine public health, particularly during this time of crisis."

The society faced criticism from many Christian leaders, including CEO of the UK Evangelical Alliance Gavin Calver, who said the NSS has a huge blind spot in realising the vital work that Christian groups do.

He also told Premier the timing of the NSS’s criticism was “inappropriate”.

On Tuesday, the organisation apologised for any offence caused.

It said in a statement: “We understand how our commentary could appear insensitive at a time when many religious staff are supporting the vulnerable in our communities and preparing for a particularly challenging period ahead. We should have paid more regard to this and apologise for any offence we caused by not doing so.

“We'd like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude to everyone - religious or not - who is working to support the vulnerable and those worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic.”

It also clarified its stance on the topic: “Our position, read in full, made explicitly clear that some of the work done by religious staff in response to the coronavirus outbreak is vital and should qualify staff for inclusion as key workers.

“Our argument was that the test for inclusion as a key worker should be secular. Our position was then and is now that the state should treat religious personnel caring for the vulnerable on the same terms as someone doing the same thing in a secular context.”

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