September 29, 2016 - 2:25 pm

 

Presented by our member organization the Freedom From Religion Foundation

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.

 

June 21, 2016 - 2:06 pm

Only weeks after declaring himself a friend of the LGBT community, Donald Trump is meeting today with more than 1,000 leaders of the religious right so they can "test his values." Attendees include Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, an organization which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate group.

If the religious right's values test means winning the approval of people like Tony Perkins, it's not a very good test. Secular voters have values we believe in and issues we care about like reproductive freedom, LGBT equality, science-based education, and church/state separation, just to name a few. That's why we want you to tweet Donald Trump your #SecularValues voter test. The nonreligious are poised to replace the religious right as the next major values driven voting bloc. Secular voters want a president who holds values all American share, like freedom, equality, knowledge, and inclusion.

It's time secular Americans held presidential candidates accountable. Tweet @realDonaldTrump your #SecularValues test.

Example Tweet: [email protected] My #secularvalues test: Stand with the #LGBT community always, not just when it's politically convenient!

December 18, 2015 - 8:59 am

 

American Humanist Association Legal Center Stops Christian Proselytizing Program in South Carolina Schools

The Florence School District One in Florence, South Carolina will end its participation in Operation Christmas Child, an organization run by Samaritan's Purse and founded by evangelical Christian minister Franklin Graham, the son of Bill Graham, after the AHA's Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a warning letter to the school. The letter stated that the public school district's support of the religious program violates the Establishment Clause because "the purpose and effect of Operation Christmas Child is to coerce impoverished children to convert to Christianity." The AHA is currently challenging a Colorado public school district's participation in Operation Christmas Child, among other unconstitutional religious activities, in American Humanist Association v. Douglas County School District.

Religious Colleges Receive Rising Level of DOE Exemptions From Title IX

It is reported that in the last 18 months the Department of Education (DOE) has granted 27 religious colleges and universities in 17 states with exemptions from the DOE's current interpretation of Title IX that prohibits the federal funding of schools that discriminate against transgender students. A number of schools have sought and been granted broader exemptions based on religious tenets, including exemptions for provisions to the extent they prohibit discrimination based on marital status, sex outside of marriage, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, and abortion. At least 9 additional schools are currently waiting for exemptions to be approves and that number is only likely to increase, as Christian advocacy groups are providing training and documents to aid religious schools in applying for such exemptions.

Court Allows Fired Atlanta Fire Chief's Suit Against City to Proceed

A Georgia federal district court will allow former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran to move forward with claims of retaliation, viewpoint discrimination, and freedom of expressive association. The suit, Cochran v. City of Atlanta, (ND GA, Dec. 16, 2015) arises from Cochran's termination from his former position as fire chief after he self-published a book which deplored homosexual conduct and included statements that God intended marriage to be between a man and a woman.

August 4, 2015 - 3:16 pm

This Thursday, August 6 at 9pm EST, Fox News will be hosting the first presidential debate of the 2016 election. The debate will feature the top 10 candidates for the Republican nomination and will include a segment asking them to respond to questions submitted by viewers online.

That's where you come in!    

We recently launched our Put Kids First campaign, a state-by-state initiative to repeal nonmedical exemptions to vaccine laws. Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia currently have these loopholes on the books, placing children and the most vulnerable members of the community at risk. Our goal is promote evidence-based vaccine policies by rolling back these dangerous exemptions.

We need to make children's health a part of the national conversation. This debate will be one of the most watched political events of the year and the responses candidates provide can make headline news. Help us get candidates on the record about where they stand on vaccine exemptions. Submit the question below to Fox News:

The California legislature just passed a law repealing all nonmedical vaccine exemptions for children attending school. Other states are now considering similar legislation. On February 13, Congress introduced House Resolution 117, which "Urges parents...to follow the scientific evidence and consensus of medical experts in favor of timely vaccinations to protect their children and their community." The bill has bipartisan support, including 13 Republican cosponsors.

Do you support the fundamental right for all children to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases?

Anti-vaxxers have already organized a mass trolling of the debate, flooding it with loaded questions that misframe the issue. Don't let them drown out rational voices and continue spreading fear and misinformation.

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION

 

 

 

July 9, 2015 - 12:53 pm

Two weeks ago, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and read from the Bible. He began by discussing the importance the Bible played in the founding of the United States, transitioning into the assertion that "those of us that believe what is in the Bible are the ones who are now discriminated against." Rep. Gohmert then proceeded to read from Romans 1:16 and concluded by lamenting that, "I am sure my office, Mr. Speaker, will be getting nasty, angry, bitter calls, as we often do when we refer to the Bible that helped give us our founding."

Rep. Gohmert is permitted to read from the Bible on the House floor, just as he ought to be free to read from any book. However, it is concerning that Rep. Gohmert would propose that legislation should be based on his religious convictions. Faith-based laws equally marginalize the religiously unaffiliated and religious Americans who do not subscribe to that particular faith. Politicians should feel free to appeal to published material by experts when crafting laws, but the "Good Book" is not a good book for policymaking.

We were disheartened to hear that Rep. Gohmert expected to receive "nasty angry, bitter calls" because he read from the Bible. Those of us who are concerned about the separation of church and state do not need to employ name calling to make our case. There is a wealth of published literature on the historical, moral, and civil case for why the separation of church and state and evidence-based policymaking are the best guarantee for freedom for all.

That's why we launched the #BooksforLouie campaign. We asked our Facebook and Twitter followers to send Rep. Gohmert recommendations for books that would make more appropriate guides for policy-making. The response was fantastic and some clear favorites quickly emerged, including:

  • Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby.

  • The works of Robert Ingersoll, particularly What's God Got to Do with It?: Robert Ingersoll on Free Thought, Honest Talk and the Separation of Church and State

  • The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine

  • Letters from the Earth by Mark Twain

  • The Jefferson Bible, an edited version of the New Testament by Thomas Jefferson himself, in which the future President removed most of the supernatural events from the Gospels.

Other responses included books about science, history and texts written by our founders. These suggestions demonstrate that our supporters take issue with Gohmert's assertion that the Bible played a vital role in the founding our nation. What makes the United States great is its capacity to represent members of all faiths, and none, in the common project of building one nation. It was our hope that the #BooksforLouie campaign would provide Rep. Gohmert a reading list that showcases how secular thought can (and has) contributed to the American experiment.

Thank you to everyone who took part and made a book suggestion. Hopefully your participation reminded Rep. Gohmert that secular Americans are not nasty, angry, or bitter, but just concerned citizens working to help make this country a better place for everyone. 

 

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