“What an amazing night.”The positive online comments keep pouring in!
There were several people in Lincoln today meeting about trying to organise a state chapter of the SCA in Nebraska.Organising people over in Omaha and Lincoln (the state capital) is not too hard, the…Continue
This organization is a very serious threat to a "Secular Nation." These people are using our tax dollars to go into school buildings after hours and teach this garbage to our children! I'm sure…Continue
I live in Southern, Ohio and the Bible-Belt runs strong through the hills in our community. I frequent many city council meetings because of the corruption that has been within our tiny city for…Continue
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Trunk v. San Diego (9th Circuit Court of Appeals)
On September 8th, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ended a 25-year battle over the Latin cross in San Diego, California. The order dismissed the case as moot after the Department of Defense sold the cross and the land beneath it to the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association for $1.4 million last July. The cross no longer sits on government property so is a victory for state/church separation. This case started in 1989 and went up to the Supreme Court twice. The 9th Circuit was firm in its previous rulings that crosses on government land violate the Establishment Clause.
Lund v. Rowan County (4th Circuit Court of Appeals)
In a 201 ruling, of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court ruling concerning prayer at legislative meetings on September 19th. The appellate court upheld Rowan County's policy that permitted county commissioners to offer a prayer before the meetings on a rotating basis. In upholding this prayer practice the panel stated that "we find the Board's legislative prayer practice constitutional and reverse the judgment of the district court.... There is a clear line of precedent not only upholding the practice of legislative prayer, but acknowledging the ways in which it can bring together citizens of all backgrounds and encourage them to participate in the workings of their government." It did not matter that the commissioners led the prayers themselves: "the Supreme Court's holding in Town of Greece underscores a long-standing practice not only of legislative prayer generally but of lawmaker-led prayer specifically. Opening invocations offered by elected legislators have long been accepted as a permissible form of religious observance." The ACLU of North Carolina intends to petition for en banc review.
FFRF v. Concord Community Schools (Indiana)
U.S. District Judge Jon E. DeGuilio for the Northern District of Indiana, issued a ruling in a case brought by FFRF and the American Civil Liberties Union challenging a live nativity tableau of students as part of Concord Community Schools' annual "Christmas Spectacular."
The ACLU and FFRF won a preliminary injunction Dec. 2 against the live nativity. The nearly 50-year violation involved students reenacting the supposed birth of the Christian savior, as school officials read passages from the New Testament and devotional Christmas hymns dominated the musical program.
The district responded to the lawsuit by adding one Chanukah song and one Kwanzaa song to its program. After the preliminary injunction, it replaced the student actors in its nativity scene with mannequins, but kept the usual 20 minutes of devotional Christmas songs performed by students during four public concerts.
Judge DeGuilio's decision held that the 2015 change from a live nativity enactment to a static nativity display did not violate the Establishment Clause. The ruling left untouched the court's earlier decision enjoining the live nativity.
Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (U.S. District Court for Western District of Washington)
Judge Ronald Leighton denied a preliminary injunction requested by Coach Kennedy, a high school football coach who prayed with his team mid-field after football games. Coach Kennedy was suspended for his actions and then sued the district alleging free speech, free exercise and Title VII violations. This ruling means the school district does not have to immediately re-hire him.
Caplan v. Town of Acton (Massachusetts)
A superior court judge in Massachusetts denied a request for a preliminary injunction in a case over a town giving grants to churches for renovations and upkeep. The suit, filed by Americans United on behalf of 13 plaintiffs, contends that these distributions violate the "anti-aid" provision of the Massachusetts Constitution. AU intends to appeal the ruling.
Washington, D.C.-(9/27/16)- The Secular Coalition for America released the following statement after last night's presidential debate.
Last night at Hofstra University, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump briefly discussed the issue of climate change. The short exchange centered around whether Donald Trump has claimed that "the concept of global warming is a hoax created by and for the Chinese." Trump denied the allegation but the record shows that he tweeted precisely that statement and on numerous other occasions made statements expressing similar doubts about the reality of climate change. This comes less than a week after 375 concerned scientists, including 30 Nobel laureates, penned an open letter drawing attention to the serious threat posed by climate change. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has acknowledged the reality of climate change and the challenge it presents. The stark difference between the candidates on the issue was factored into their scores on the Secular Coalition's 2016 Presidential Voter Guides.
"Our next president must be honest about the limits of their own knowledge," said Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. "When Donald Trump disregards the scientific consensus behind climate change, he presents an approach to policy making that Americans should find deeply troubling. Science empowers us by showing us the world as it is, unfiltered by belief or ideology. We cannot craft policy first and hope that reality will conform later. This approach threatens our ability to address not only climate change but a wide range of issues where the data presented by science may be inconvenient or challenge established beliefs. It is our hope that going forward, Donald Trump will continue to be pressed on the issue of climate change and both candidates will be asked to clarify how science will factor into their decision-making when serving as president of the United States," Decker said.
Contact: Casey Brescia, Casey@secular.org, (845)-380-6201
The Secular Coalition for America is the nation's premier advocacy organization representing atheists, humanists, agnostics, and other nontheists. Its mission is to increase the visibility of and respect for nontheistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. The Secular Coalition represents 18 voting member organizations.
(This is a guest post by Thomas Buonomo. He is a geopolitical risk analyst with expertise in international political economy and Middle East affairs. His views are his own.)
Self-described conservatives have long attacked women's reproductive rights as established by Roe v. Wade based on the belief that the government's responsibility to provide for the basic security of its citizens begins at the point of conception-i.e. when a sperm fertilizes an egg.
The staunchest opponents of women's reproductive rights base their position on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. This constituency would more appropriately be described as ‘theocratic' rather than conceded the political cover of "conservative".
Conservative philosophy limits government to providing basic security for its citizens and maintaining the proper functioning of the free market, while it abhors government interference on broader socioeconomic issues. True conservatives should view government imposition of religiously motivated laws on its citizens as anathema.
Theocrats, in contrast, believe that government should make policy based on religious justifications.
While some within this constituency may be genuinely concerned about the lives of the unborn, their underlying fixation is sexual control-i.e. they believe that sex should remain within their religiously defined confines of marriage and that abortion (and for many, contraception) violates divine statutes that they consider superior to state and federal law.
If this were not the case, they should have no moral reservation about a sentience threshold for abortion based on scientific consensus.
It should be apparent to genuine conservatives that government should have no business controlling people's sexual activity so long as it is consensual. The more complex questions are at what threshold or under what circumstances human life should be protected and how policy can maximize the greatest good for the greatest number. At this point some empirical analysis might be useful to temper ideology.
The first point one might make is that there are an estimated 7.3 billion people (and counting) populating our planet and that as long as we continue striving to build modern, industrial economies, our planet will no longer passively accommodate us unless we take global measures to address the climate and related security consequences of our collective activity. Increasing access to contraception and abortion globally would significantly help to address these problems, providing greater quality of life for this and future generations.
A second point one might make is that one of the major structural drivers of political instability and violence in the world-one thinks of the Middle East in particular-is the gap between job and population growth.
This problem has several causes, including corrupt, authoritarian governance, but one of the long-term solutions is to address the demand side by providing greater access to contraception and abortion as well as education to challenge the religious and other cultural barriers to family planning.
Although conservatives by definition would tend to oppose public funding of these measures, the question is whether the cost to taxpayers of not providing them would be more. This question should be answered with proper economic analysis rather than starting with one's ideologically motivated conclusion. It should include the cost to taxpayers of funding welfare benefits, police departments, and prison systems-three variables strongly correlated with unplanned pregnancies.
Although reasonable people can disagree on the threshold at which abortion rights should be limited, this debate should be framed in utilitarian rather than religious fundamentalist terms in which theocrats start with their conclusion and construct arguments based on what they presume to be divine will. The moral questions associated with abortion and contraception are in reality more complex and multidimensional.