“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
Presented this week by the American Humanist Association.
SCOTUS begins 2015 October Term denying certiorari in two cases of interest
Monday, October 5, marked the beginning of the October 2015 United States Supreme Court Term. Among hundreds of cases denied for certiorari by the Court, Howard Friedman at Religious Clause blogspot notes two cases of interest to those following church-state law:
Phillips v. New York (Docket No. 14-1445): In the case, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals he U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld New York's requirement that, subject to medical and religious exemptions, all children be vaccinated before attending public school. It also upheld, over free exercise objections, New York's regulation allowing officials to temporarily exclude students who are exempted from the vaccination requirement on religious grounds from school during an outbreak of a vaccine‐preventable disease.
Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma v. Thorpe (Docket No. 14-1419): In the case the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals held that despite its literal language, Congress did not intend the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to apply to protect Native American rights in a dispute between the sons of famous Native American Athlete Jim Thorpe and the Pennsylvania town that renamed itself after Thorpe in an agreement with Thorpe's widow (his third wife) to have his remains buried there.
Religion Clause is a great source for objective coverage of current church-state legal issues.
Freedom From Religion Foundation settles lawsuit against proselytizing school district
Also on Monday, the Freedom From Religion Foundation announced that it had settled its lawsuit against the Emanuel County, Georgia school system challenging prayer in kindergarten and first grade classrooms. FFRF’s complaint on behalf of a family with two children in the school district alleged that teasing classmates and pressure to pray from teachers led one child to drop out of kindergarten after which teachers allegedly told his older sibling, a first grader, “to start praying and not to listen to the child’s mother, whom one teacher described as a ‘bad person.’” FFRF says it is dismissing its suit after the county implemented teacher training on the obligation not to promote religious beliefs in the classroom and paid damages to the complaining family. “This is a significant legal victory,” noted FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover, who worked on the case. “Educators in Georgia . . . and throughout the country need to know that their duty is to educate students, not fill their heads with religious propaganda.”
A look at the week ahead:
The race to pass a continuing resolution went down to the wire last week, with President Obama signing the bill on Wednesday evening. Despite attempts by Republicans to attach a sidecar bill that aimed to defund Planned Parenthood, the continuing resolution passed on to the president kept spending levels as is.
Budget reconciliation is scheduled to on Friday at 9 am. Included in the House budget bill is a new attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. Before then, the House Judiciary will be holding a hearing on Thursday afternoon regarding the organization. Also on Thursday are the elections to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House. So far, House Majority Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) announced they’re running last week, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz announced his intent to run on Sunday.
On the Senate side, a vote on the National Defense Authorization Act which passed the House is expected. Even if the bill passes the Senate, President Obama has indicated he will veto the bill due to its attempts to get around the spending cap implemented by the sequester.
Over at the White House, President Obama is taking meetings. Last week, he called for Congress to pass a long-term budget deal in order to eliminate the sequester caps.
On our radar:
DC Voucher Program: Earlier today, Speaker Boehner introduced the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act, which would extend the current DC voucher program. This bill is scheduled for a markup on Wednesday afternoon in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The Secular Coalition opposes this bill, as it directs public money to private religious schools. We will be attending and possibly livetweeting the markup, so stay tuned for more information.
Comments on Faith-Based Reform Regulations: The Secular Coalition signed onto a series of comments submitted by the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination regarding the Faith-Based offices in 9 agencies. The comments focused on ensuring the protection of beneficiaries receiving government services from religious organizations. We’ll keep you updated as the process continues.
In case you missed it:
Thank you to everyone who sent an action alert to their representative on International Blasphemy Rights Day! Over 800 emails were sent, calling on their legislators to co-sponsor H.Res. 290, which calls for the repeal of blasphemy laws around the world.
State of the States – Your weekly digest on the secular movement in the states.
The Secular Coalition’s state chapters continue to implement the Put Kids First campaign and are currently working to partner with parents, the medical establishment, and faith communities to build strong state coalitions to advocate for the repeal of nonmedical vaccine exemptions. If your group is located in a campaign state and you’d like to invite your local chapter leader to speak, email your inquiry to email@example.com.
State Legislative Update
Secular Coalition for California (SCCA)
California Events and Updates
The anti-vaccine movement in California failed to garner enough signatures to get a referendum to overturn SB 277, a bill SCCA helped get passed this summer to repeal California's nonmedical vaccine exemptions.
SCCA is sponsoring the third annual Secular Advocacy Day on Monday, October 12 as part of Sacramento Freethought Day. Chapter leader Tom Manger is a featured speaker and will discuss the current state of California’s lobbying efforts, bills, and other political issues. Regiser to lobby here. This event is free, however donations are encouraged.
Thanks to the help of SCCA’s Action Alerts, the California legislature approved the End of Life Options Act. It is now up to Governor Jerry Brown to sign the bill. If you are a secular constituent in California, please take action by calling Governor Brown’s office (916-445-2841) and urging him to sign the bill.
The End of Life Options Act would give mentally competent, terminally ill people with less than six months to live the option to request a prescription from their doctor to hasten their death when they choose to. Anyone facing the immense pain and suffering of a terminal illness should have the option to end their life on their own terms, according to what's right for them and their families.
The Reproductive FACT Act is also on Governor Brown’s desk. This bill would make sure that unclicensed, so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers disclose to women that they are not licensed medical providers. Rather than helping women, Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), supported by religious and anti-abortion groups, are notorious for providing false information to women considering an abortion to dissuade them from doing so. Tell Governor Brown to sign this bill into law by taking action here.
Secular Coalition for Illinois (SCIL)
The Final Action Deadline for the House has been extended yet again. Assembly members now have until October 31 to vote on Senate Bill 1564. Take action now! This bill would amend the Health Care Rights Consciousness Act to protect patients from being denied the care they need due to a provider’s religious beliefs. This is a critical step toward protecting Illinois citizens from religious discrimination and would make sure patients get the care they need, free of religious judgements on the part of others. If you are an Illinois constituent, please contact your House representative and urge them to pass this bill.
Secular Coalition for Michigan (SCMI)
The Secular Coalition for Michigan is closely monitoring legislation that would give the Boy Scout additional tax benefits. The bills, HB 4647 and HB 4648, were reported favorably out of the Committee on Tax Policy last week and scheduled for a second reading. In June, Chair of SCMI Marc Shaberman provided testimony in opposition to these bills, informing legislators that Boy Scout continues to discriminate against non-theistic boys by denying them admission. Organizations that discriminate should not receive taxpayer funding from the state.
Secular Coalition for Ohio (SCOH)
The Secular Coalition for Ohio continues to monitor HB 286, an unnecessary piece of legislation that reiterates that clergy cannot be forced to perform a wedding ceremony that conflicts with their religious beliefs. Clergy, unlike government clerks who issue wedding licenses, are already protected by law from performing ceremonies that conflict with their faith.
This bill, which was referred to the Committee on Community and Family Advancement on September 16, is likely a response to the recent Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which overturned all state bans on same-sex marriage including Ohio’s. Rather than wasting time on unnecessary legislation with divisive language, the Ohio legislature should focus on serving all Ohio citizens.
On the Calendar
October 1 - Beginning of LGBT History Month
October 2-4 - Carolinas Secular Conference, where our founding president, Herb Silverman, will be tabling and speaking on Sunday morning (Charlotte, NC)
October 2-4 - WASHCon, where our own Austin Cooper will be tabling and speaking on Friday evening (Lynchburg, VA)
Upcoming State Calls
Secular Coalition for DC: Monday, October 5 (8:00 pm ET)
Secular Coalition for Missouri: Wednesday, October 7 (8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CDT)
Secular Coalition for Connecticut: Tuesday, October 6 (5:30 pm ET)
Secular Coalition for Virginia: Friday, October 9 (10:30 am ET)