“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
Two weeks ago, the Secular Coalition published its 2014 Congressional Report Card. While the number of legislators receiving “F’s” fell, unfortunately so did the number of legislators receiving “A’s”. While there were a number of bills introduced last year that caught our attention, we ended up narrowing it down to 8 bills for the House and 9 for the Senate to grade the members on. We wanted to highlight a few of the bills we included and explain why we decided to use them, and how they relate to secular values.
In an attempt to preempt the surging number of states allowing for same-sex marriages, bills were introduced in both chambers to preserve a person’s ability to discriminate under the guise of religion. If these bills had passed and become law, they would have prevented the federal government from taking action against a person or organization that cites religion as an excuse. These bills, which have been reintroduced as the “First Amendment Defense Act” this session, rely on completely misunderstanding what religious liberty is, and would allow for Americans to hide behind religion as a reason to deny services to others.
Normally, when a memorial or monument is erected on the National Mall, it undergoes a rigorous process before being finalized. This means any inscriptions on the memorial must be vetted by multiple committees and commissions before being finalized. With this bill, however, Congress bypassed that procedure so that they could include a Christian prayer in addition to the 15 inscriptions already approved through the normal process. By passing this bill into law, Congress allowed for blatant privileging of religion and dishonored the non-believers who served in World War II, while also demonstrating its willingness to circumvent the rules to get its way.
With its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) not only covers privately held corporations, but that it allows for employers to deny their employees coverage for birth control. The Court allowed for an employer’s beliefs to trump those of their employees. This bill aimed to fix this by reaffirming that any organization that buys a group insurance plan for employees can’t use RFRA as a reason to deny coverage for any item or service required by federal law. These bills, had Congress passed them, would have protected an individual’s choices about their reproductive health care from their employer’s religious beliefs.
S 862 – The EACH Act
Last year’s version of the EACH Act, S 862, was a particularly misleading piece of legislation. This bill would have introduced broad religious exemptions to the insurance mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Modeled after a similar provision in Massachusetts, this bill would have allowed anybody claiming a religious or conscionable objection to medical care to opt out of insurance. Although proponents of the bill claimed they were protecting the religious liberty, it would have increased the number of uninsured Americans, as well as leave children vulnerable to medical neglect. Not only that, but the way the bill was written would have been impossible to enforce, leaving other Americans to foot the bill.
Most of these bills highlighted either above or in the scorecard have been re-introduced this session. For more information about the bills and what you can do to stand up for secular values, visit our Action Center.
Two people I've long admired announced this year that they had terminal illnesses: Dr. Oliver Sacks and former President Jimmy Carter. Both have lived consequential lives and are role models for me on how to behave during my last months of life (many years from now, I hope).
State of the States – Your weekly digest on the secular movement in the states.
The Put Kids First campaign is in full swing as the Secular Coalition’s chapters in campaign states reach out to potential partners to build strong state coalitions ahead of the 2016 legislative session, when they will advocate for the repeal of all nonmedical vaccine exemptions. Three states are already scheduling speaking engagements with local secular groups to educate the secular community about nonmedical exemptions in their state.
If you’re in Oregon, make sure to catch Brian Harvey give a talk this coming Monday, August 31 at FFRF-Portland and stay tuned for details of his upcoming talk at Portland State University in September. 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 Illinois (SCIL):
On Thursday, August 20, the Illinois Governor Rauner signed two bills into law, an amendment to the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act and the Youth Mental Health Protection Act. SCIL sent out an Action Alert thanking legislators who voted for the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which bans mental health providers from practicing harmful, so-called “conversion therapy” on LGBT youth. SCIL also wrote a post expressing disappointment and concern about the language and intent of the Student Prayer-Any Time of Day Act, which you can read here.
On the Calendar
August 27-30 – Religion Newswriters Conference
September 4-7 - DragonCon, where Interim Executive Director Kelly Damerow will be speaking!
Upcoming State Calls
Secular Coalition for Maine: Friday, August 28 (5:00 ET)
Secular Coalition for Utah: Monday, August 10 (10:00 am MDT/12:00 pm ET)
Secular Coalition for Connecticut: Wednesday, September 1 (5:30 ET)
Secular Coalition for California: Saturday, September 5 (10:00 pm PT/1:00 pm ET)