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National Secular Society, pope, and parking

21 June 2013


From Mr Terry Sanderson

Sir, - Andrew Brown - probably Britain's most sanctimonious atheist - takes the National Secular Society (NSS) to task for trying to remove unjustifiable religious privilege (Press, 7 June). He rehashes what he thinks is his killer blow, saying that the NSS overestimated the cost of the papal visit to the UK.

Given that he is prepared to ac- cept the Government's own estimates (which left out the massive security costs and the costs to local authorities and police authorities), it is not surprising that he thinks we got it wrong.

But we shouldn't forget that on his personal blog he estimated that the visit would cost £75,000 per day - which far outstrips our figures for inaccuracy.

We took on free parking for worshippers in Woking because of complaints from local residents, but we are aware that there are similar schemes in operation throughout the country (including Canterbury, where some 250 passes have been doled out to churchgoers, while everyone else has to pay the full whack).

We very much hope that this will be a test case, and that we will be able to roll it out throughout the country. Judging by the reaction we are getting, it is far from being an unpopular challenge.

National Secular Society
25 Red Lion Square London WC1R 4RL 

[A glance at the relevant page of my personal blog (www.thewormbook.com/hlog/?p=2169) shows that the figure that I quoted for security costs was not £75,000 a day, but £750,000. In retrospect, this was a slight over- estimate. The claim that Terry Sanderson was then making in a press release was that the costs would amount to £70 million. Andrew Brown]

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