August 12, 2015 - 1:29 pm

Town Hall

During the August recess, members of Congress hold town hall meetings to directly communicate with their constituents. If there are town hall meetings near you, we highly encourage you to attend and make your voice heard. Too often, legislators remain unaware that there are nonbelievers in their districts, and by speaking up at these meetings, you can have a lasting impact on how the legislator and their staff act on secular issues. Check out our list of 250 summer town halls below. You can find more information about upcoming town hall meetings by visiting the social media pages of your elected officials.

Some possible questions or talking points include:

  • State your opposition to any legislation that would funnel money from public education to private religious institutions.
  • Voice your support for legislation that prevents religion from being used as an excuse to deny somebody equal rights, such as the Equality Act and the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, and ask their position on those bills.
  • Urge your member of Congress to stand by nonbelievers and secular writers abroad by supporting H. Res. 290, which calls for the repeal of blasphemy laws around the world, and H. Res. 396, which highlights the situation in Bangladesh where four secular bloggers have been murdered this year.
  • Ask why abstinence only sex-ed funding is being increased, even though studies have shown it to be ineffective.

If you attend a town hall meeting and speak to your member of Congress, and would like to share your story, please email our Legislative Manager, Diana Castillo - "[email protected]". 

 

2015 Summer Town Halls

Date

Official

Location

City

State

8/17/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Poarch Creek Indian Reservation

Atmore

AL

8/17/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Pollard Town Hall

Flomaton

AL

8/17/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

East Brewton City Hall

East Brewton

AL

8/17/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Brewton City Hall

Brewton

AL

8/18/2015

Rep. Brooks (R-AL-5th)

Decatur Utilities Auditorium

Decatur

AL

8/18/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Millry Town Hall

Millry

AL

8/18/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Jackson Senior Center

Jackson

AL

8/18/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Chatom Town Hall

Chatom

AL

8/18/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Grove Hill Town Hall

Grove Hill

AL

8/19/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Bayou La Batre City Hall

Bayou La Batre

AL

8/19/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Williamson High School

Mobile

AL

8/19/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Chickasaw City Hall

Chickasaw

AL

8/19/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Dauphin Island Town Hall

Dauphin Island

AL

8/21/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Loxley Town Hall

Loxley

AL

8/21/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Bay Minette City Hall

Bay Minette

AL

8/21/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Elberta Town Hall

Elberta

AL

8/27/2015

Rep. Byrne (R-AL-1st)

Monroeville City Hall

Monroeville

AL

8/13/2015

Rep. Torres (D-CA-35th)

Pomona Chamber of Commerce

Pomona

CA

8/16/2015

Rep. Sherman (D-CA-30th)

Warner Center Park

Woodland Hills

CA

8/18/2015

Rep. LaMalfa (R-CA-1st)

Oroville District Office Open House

Oroville

CA

8/18/2015

Rep. Lee (D-CA-13th)

Brookins AME Church

Oakland

CA

8/20/2015

Rep. Farr (D-CA-20th)

Salinas City Hall Rotunda

Salinas

CA

8/22/2015

Rep. Bass (D-CA-37th)

Crenshaw Christian Center

Los Angeles

CA

8/23/2015

Rep. Sherman (D-CA-30th)

Warner Center Park

Woodland Hills

CA

8/24/2015

Rep. LaMalfa (R-CA-1st)

Lassen County Fairgrounds

Susanville

CA

8/24/2015

Rep. LaMalfa (R-CA-1st)

Coffee Station

Chester

CA

8/24/2015

Rep. Walters (R-CA-45th)

Laguna Hills Community Center

Laguna Hills

CA

8/25/2015

Rep. LaMalfa (R-CA-1st)

Brass Rail Restaurant

Alturas

CA

8/25/2015

Rep. LaMalfa (R-CA-1st)

Veterans Memorial Hall

Fall River Mills

CA

8/25/2015

Rep. McClintock (R-CA-4th)

Yosemite Lakes Park Clubhouse

Coarsegold

CA

8/26/2015

Rep. McClintock (R-CA-4th)

Ione City Hall

Ione

CA

8/28/2015

Rep. LaMalfa (R-CA-1st)

Downieville Masonic Lodge

Downieville

CA

8/28/2015

Rep. LaMalfa (R-CA-1st)

Plumas County Fair Grounds

Quincy

CA

8/28/2015

Rep. LaMalfa (R-CA-1st)

Calpine Improvement Association

Calpine

CA

8/29/2015

Rep. Sherman (D-CA-30th)

Warner Center Park

Woodland Hills

CA

8/30/2015

Rep. Sherman (D-CA-30th)

Warner Center Park

Woodland Hills

CA

8/31/2015

Rep. Bass (D-CA-37th)

TBD

 

CA

9/2/2015

Rep. McClintock (R-CA-4th)

Truckee Tahoe Airport

Truckee

CA

9/12/2015

Rep. LaMalfa (R-CA-1st)

 

Tulelake

CA

8/29/2015

Rep. Coffman (R-CO-6th)

Koelbel Library

Centennial

CO

9/14/2015

Rep. Perlmutter (D-CO-7th)

W Line

Lakewood

CO

8/13/2015

Rep. Esty (D-CT-5th)

   

CT

8/27/2015

Rep. Larson (D-CT-1st)

University of Hartford

West Hartford

CT

8/19/2015

Rep. Deutch (D-FL-21st)

Weisman Delray Community Center

Delray Beach

FL

8/19/2015

Rep. Deutch (D-FL-21st)

Coral Springs Charter School

Coral Springs

FL

8/19/2015

Rep. Deutch (D-FL-21st)

Century Village East Clubhouse Party Room

Deerfield Beach

FL

8/18/2015

Rep. Bishop , Jr. (D-GA-2nd)

Seminole County Courthouse

Donalsonville

GA

8/18/2015

Rep. Collins (R-GA-9th)

Lumpkin County Parks and Recreation Department

Dahlonega

GA

8/18/2015

Rep. Scott (R-GA-8th)

Eastman Chamber of Commerce

Eastman

GA

8/18/2015

Rep. Scott (R-GA-8th)

Wiregrass Technical College

Fitzgerald

GA

8/13/2015

Sen. Ernst (R-IA)

Sinclair Tractor

Durant

IA

8/15/2015

Sen. Ernst (R-IA)

Hormel Foods Knoxville

Knoxville

IA

8/19/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Corning Nursing and Rehab Center

Corning

IA

8/19/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Tabor Community Center

Tabor

IA

8/19/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Malvern Community Center

Malvern

IA

8/19/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Taylor County Farm Bureau

Bedford

IA

8/20/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Audobon County Economic Development

Audubon

IA

8/20/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Atlantic Municipal Utilities

Atlantic

IA

8/20/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Shelby County Farm Bureau

Harlan

IA

8/25/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Tama County Administration Building

Toledo

IA

8/25/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Michael J. Manatt Community Center

Brooklyn

IA

8/26/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Osceola Community Hospital

Sibley

IA

8/26/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Floyd Valley Hospital

Le Mars

IA

8/27/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Spirit Lake Library

Spirit Lake

IA

8/27/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Spencer City Hall

Spencer

IA

8/27/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Iowa Lakes Community College, Emmetsburg Campus

Emmetsburg

IA

8/27/2015

Sen. Grassley (R-IA)

Iowa Lakes Community College

Estherville

IA

8/13/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Marsing Senior Center

Marsing

ID

8/13/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Homedale Senior Center

Homedale

ID

8/13/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Owyhee County Museum

Murphy

ID

8/13/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Middleton Fire Station

Middleton

ID

8/13/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

VFW Hall

New Plymouth

ID

8/24/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Pizza Cache

Hazelton

ID

8/24/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Minidoka City Hall

Minidoka

ID

8/24/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Wilson Theater

Rupert

ID

8/24/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Acequia Elementary School Library

Acequia

ID

8/24/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Paul City Hall

Paul

ID

8/25/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Council Senior Center

Council

ID

8/25/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Payette Public Library

Payette

ID

8/25/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Veterans Memorial Hall

Midvale

ID

8/25/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Cambridge Senior Center

Cambridge

ID

8/26/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Declo City Hall & Fire Station

Declo

ID

8/26/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Raft River High School

Malta

ID

8/26/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Oakley Fire Department

Oakley

ID

8/26/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Albion Civic Center

Albion

ID

8/27/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Franklin City Hall

Franklin

ID

8/27/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Marsh Valley Senior Center

Downey

ID

8/27/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Preston City Hall

Preston

ID

8/27/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Arimo City Hall

Arimo

ID

8/28/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Inkom City Hall

Inkom

ID

8/28/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Malad City Hall

Malad City

ID

8/28/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

McCammon City Hall

McCammon

ID

8/28/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Chubbuck City Hall

Chubbuck

ID

8/28/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Rockland City Hall

Rockland

ID

8/29/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Oxford Community Pavilion

Oxford

ID

8/29/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

City Hall

Weston

ID

8/29/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Beutler Middle School

Dayton

ID

8/29/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Moyle Community Center

Clifton

ID

8/31/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

City Hall

Ririe

ID

8/31/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

American Legion Hall

Swan Valley

ID

8/31/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Swan Valley Outpost

Irwin

ID

8/31/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

City Hall

Victor

ID

9/1/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

City Hall

Basalt

ID

9/1/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

City Hall

Aberdeen

ID

9/1/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

City Hall

Blackfoot

ID

9/3/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Challis Community Event Center

Challis

ID

9/3/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Sacajawea Center

Salmon

ID

9/3/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Stanley Community Building

Stanley

ID

9/3/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Clayton Museum

Clayton

ID

9/4/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Leadore School

Leadore

ID

9/4/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

Arco Butte Business Incubation Center

Arco

ID

9/4/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

 

Butte City

ID

9/5/2015

Sen. Crapo (R-ID)

The Plaza

Placerville

ID

8/13/2015

Rep. Shimkus (R-IL-15th)

Breese City Hall

Breese

IL

8/17/2015

Rep. Davis (D-IL-7th)

Village Hall

Bellwood

IL

8/18/2015

Rep. Davis (D-IL-7th)

Village Hall

Westchester

IL

8/21/2015

Rep. Shimkus (R-IL-15th)

Ford County Courthouse

Paxton

IL

8/24/2015

Rep. Shimkus (R-IL-15th)

Tuscola City Hall

Tuscola

IL

8/25/2015

Rep. Davis (D-IL-7th)

Council Chambers

Maywood

IL

8/26/2015

Rep. Davis (D-IL-7th)

Council Chambers

Hillside

IL

8/13/2015

Rep. Jenkins (R-KS-2nd)

Community Center

Blue Rapids

KS

8/13/2015

Rep. Jenkins (R-KS-2nd)

Topeka District Office of Rep. Jenkins

Topeka

KS

8/15/2015

Sen. Moran (R-KS)

Lyndon Community Center

Lyndon

KS

8/17/2015

Sen. Moran (R-KS)

Olathe Community Center

Olathe

KS

8/13/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Dairy Queen

Brownsville

KY

8/14/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Riverview Restaurant

Hawesville

KY

8/14/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

The Brak

Hardinsburg

KY

8/21/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Vibe Coffee

Elizabethtown

KY

8/24/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Cecconi's Restaurant

Springfield

KY

8/24/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Cloud's Country Cooking Restaurant

Harrodsburg

KY

8/25/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Smith's Restaurant

Lancaster

KY

8/26/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Home Plate Family Restaurant

Brandenburg

KY

8/27/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Mammy's Kitchen

Bardstown

KY

8/28/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Farmer's Feed Mill Restaurant

Leitchfield

KY

8/31/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Mallard's Restaurant

Danville

KY

9/1/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Cambridge Market and Cafe

Bowling Green

KY

9/2/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn

Owensboro

KY

9/3/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Hobbie's Restaurant

Shepherdsville

KY

9/4/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Mama Lou's Restaurant

Munfordville

KY

9/4/2015

Rep. Guthrie (R-KY-2nd)

Longhunters Coffee and Tea Company

Greensburg

KY

8/18/2015

Rep. Moulton (D-MA-6th)

Town Hall

Reading

MA

8/19/2015

Rep. Moulton (D-MA-6th)

Harbor Cafe

Danvers

MA

8/19/2015

Rep. Moulton (D-MA-6th)

Greater Lynn Senior Services

Lynn

MA

8/24/2015

Rep. Moulton (D-MA-6th)

Rockport Library

Rockport

MA

8/26/2015

Rep. Moulton (D-MA-6th)

The Spot

Georgetown

MA

8/18/2015

Rep. Edwards (D-MD-4th)

Gwendolyn Britt Senior Activity Center

North Brentwood

MD

8/19/2015

Sen. King (I-ME)

University of Southern Maine, Portland

Portland

ME

8/13/2015

Rep. Amash (R-MI-3rd)

Battle Creek City Hall

Battle Creek

MI

8/13/2015

Rep. Lawrence (D-MI-14th)

Tim Hortons

Southfield

MI

8/17/2015

Rep. Amash (R-MI-3rd)

Ionia City Hall

Ionia

MI

8/18/2015

Rep. Emmer (R-MN-6th)

Waconia City Hall

Waconia

MN

8/27/2015

Rep. Emmer (R-MN-6th)

Forest Lake City Hall

Forest Lake

MN

8/13/2015

Rep. Hartzler (R-MO-4th)

Coterie Gallery

Buffalo

MO

8/18/2015

Rep. Hartzler (R-MO-4th)

Harrisonville District Office

Harrisonville

MO

8/17/2015

Rep. McHenry (R-NC-10th)

Polk County Commissioners Chambers

Columbus

NC

8/18/2015

Rep. McHenry (R-NC-10th)

Rutherford County School Board Chambers

Forest City

NC

8/19/2015

Rep. McHenry (R-NC-10th)

Cleveland Community College

Shelby

NC

8/24/2015

Rep. Pittenger (R-NC-9th)

Reformed Theological Seminary

Charlotte

NC

8/25/2015

Rep. McHenry (R-NC-10th)

Conover Station

Conover

NC

8/26/2015

Rep. Pittenger (R-NC-9th)

Town Hall

Matthews

NC

8/27/2015

Rep. Pittenger (R-NC-9th)

St. Matthew Catholic Church

Charlotte

NC

8/28/2015

Sen. Fischer (R-NE)

Cobblestone Hotel

Broken Bow

NE

8/15/2015

Rep. Jeffries (D-NY-8th)

Coney Island Post Office

Brooklyn

NY

8/18/2015

Rep. Reed (R-NY-23rd)

 

Waverly

NY

8/22/2015

Rep. Reed (R-NY-23rd)

Carroll Town Hall

Frewsburg

NY

8/22/2015

Rep. Reed (R-NY-23rd)

New Albion Town Hall

Cattaraugus

NY

8/22/2015

Rep. Reed (R-NY-23rd)

Mina Town Hall

Findley Lake

NY

8/22/2015

Rep. Reed (R-NY-23rd)

Town Court Building

Sheridan

NY

8/13/2015

Rep. Beatty (D-OH-3rd)

Columbus Urban League

Columbus

OH

8/14/2015

Rep. Beatty (D-OH-3rd)

Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival

Reynoldsburg

OH

8/18/2015

Rep. Beatty (D-OH-3rd)

Urbancrest Administrative Building

Urbancrest

OH

8/18/2015

Rep. Cole (R-OK-4th)

Moore Public Library

Moore

OK

8/20/2015

Rep. Cole (R-OK-4th)

East Central University

Ada

OK

8/25/2015

Rep. Cole (R-OK-4th)

University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

Chickasha

OK

8/27/2015

Rep. Cole (R-OK-4th)

Ardmore Convention Center

Ardmore

OK

9/1/2015

Rep. Cole (R-OK-4th)

Rose State College

Midwest City

OK

9/3/2015

Rep. Cole (R-OK-4th)

Great Plains Technology Center

Lawton

OK

8/13/2015

Sen. Merkley (D-OR)

Long Creek Community Center

Long Creek

OR

8/24/2015

Rep. DeFazio (D-OR-4th)

Benton County Library

Corvallis

OR

8/24/2015

Rep. DeFazio (D-OR-4th)

Senior Community Center

Sweet Home

OR

8/24/2015

Rep. DeFazio (D-OR-4th)

City Hall

Albany

OR

8/25/2015

Rep. DeFazio (D-OR-4th)

Willamalane Center for Sports & Recreation

Springfield

OR

8/25/2015

Rep. DeFazio (D-OR-4th)

Campbell Senior Center

Eugene

OR

8/25/2015

Rep. DeFazio (D-OR-4th)

Northwest Community Credit Union

Eugene

OR

8/13/2015

Rep. Rothfus (R-PA-12th)

Athens Family Restaurant

Beaver Falls

PA

8/20/2015

Rep. Swalwell (D-CA-15th)

University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg

Greensburg

PA

8/24/2015

Rep. Rothfus (R-PA-12th)

Waffles INCaffeinated

Beaver

PA

8/24/2015

Rep. Rothfus (R-PA-12th)

J&T Drive-In

Ellwood City

PA

8/25/2015

Rep. Rothfus (R-PA-12th)

Everyday Gourmet

Ebensburg

PA

8/27/2015

Rep. Rothfus (R-PA-12th)

Chaye Coffee & Tea

Murrysville

PA

8/27/2015

Rep. Rothfus (R-PA-12th)

Aspinwall Beans n' Cream

Pittsburgh

PA

8/28/2015

Rep. Rothfus (R-PA-12th)

Bruster's

Pittsburgh

PA

8/29/2015

Rep. Rothfus (R-PA-12th)

Hopewell Windmill Snack Shop

Aliquippa

PA

8/13/2015

Rep. Langevin (D-RI-2nd)

Swift Community Center

East Greenwich

RI

9/1/2015

Rep. Langevin (D-RI-2nd)

Johnston Senior Center

Johnston

RI

8/18/2015

Rep. Sanford (R-SC-1st)

Daufuskie Island Market and General Store

Daufuskie Island

SC

8/18/2015

Rep. Sanford (R-SC-1st)

Hilton Head Farmer's Market

Hilton Head

SC

8/19/2015

Rep. Sanford (R-SC-1st)

Village Market by Harris Teeter

Johns Island

SC

8/20/2015

Rep. Sanford (R-SC-1st)

True Value Hardware

Moncks Corner

SC

8/21/2015

Rep. Sanford (R-SC-1st)

Bi-Lo

Edisto Beach

SC

8/25/2015

Rep. Rice (R-SC-7th)

John's 707 Diner

Myrtle Beach

SC

8/25/2015

Rep. Rice (R-SC-7th)

The Trestle

Conway

SC

8/13/2015

Rep. Black (R-TN-6th)

Wilson County Courthouse

Lebanon

TN

8/13/2015

Rep. Veasey (D-TX-33rd)

Forest Hill Library

Forest Hill

TX

8/14/2015

Rep. Barton (R-TX-6th)

Corsicana Government Center

Corsicana

TX

8/14/2015

Rep. McCaul (R-TX-10th)

The Egg and I

Tomball

TX

8/19/2015

Rep. Barton (R-TX-6th)

City Hall

Mansfield

TX

8/19/2015

Rep. Barton (R-TX-6th)

Crowley Recreation Center

Crowley

TX

8/21/2015

Rep. Green (D-TX-29th)

Baggett Community Center

Galena Park

TX

8/23/2015

Rep. Hurd (R-TX-23rd)

Helotes Dairy Queen

Helotes

TX

8/24/2015

Rep. Hurd (R-TX-23rd)

Castroville Dairy Queen

Castroville

TX

8/24/2015

Rep. Hurd (R-TX-23rd)

Uvalde Dairy Queen

Uvalde

TX

8/24/2015

Rep. Hurd (R-TX-23rd)

Del Rio Dairy Queen

Del Rio

TX

8/25/2015

Rep. Barton (R-TX-6th)

Ferris Public Library

Ferris

TX

8/25/2015

Rep. Green (D-TX-29th)

Lindale Park Civic Club

Houston

TX

8/25/2015

Rep. Hurd (R-TX-23rd)

Sonora Dairy Queen

Sonora

TX

8/26/2015

Rep. Barton (R-TX-6th)

Arlington City Hall

Arlington

TX

8/26/2015

Rep. Hurd (R-TX-23rd)

Dairy Queen

Pecos

TX

8/26/2015

Rep. Hurd (R-TX-23rd)

Big Lake Dairy Queen

Big Lake

TX

8/26/2015

Rep. Hurd (R-TX-23rd)

Dairy Queen

Fort Stockton

TX

8/26/2015

Rep. Hurd (R-TX-23rd)

City Hall

McCamey

TX

8/31/2015

Rep. Farenthold (R-TX-27th)

Ingleside Humble Youth Center

Ingleside

TX

8/31/2015

Rep. Farenthold (R-TX-27th)

Rockport City Hall

Rockport

TX

8/31/2015

Rep. Farenthold (R-TX-27th)

Garden Senior Center

Corpus Christi

TX

8/31/2015

Rep. Farenthold (R-TX-27th)

Port Aransas City Hall

Port Aransas

TX

8/31/2015

Rep. Flores (R-TX-17th)

Groesbeck Convention Center

Groesbeck

TX

9/1/2015

Rep. Farenthold (R-TX-27th)

Victoria College Student Center

Victoria

TX

9/1/2015

Rep. Farenthold (R-TX-27th)

Bay City Civic Center

Bay City

TX

9/1/2015

Rep. Farenthold (R-TX-27th)

Safety Council of the Texas Mid-Coast, Inc.

Port Lavaca

TX

9/1/2015

Rep. Farenthold (R-TX-27th)

Wharton Civic Center

Wharton

TX

9/1/2015

Rep. Flores (R-TX-17th)

C.H. Yoe High School

Cameron

TX

9/1/2015

Rep. Green (D-TX-29th)

Charlton Park Community Center

Houston

TX

9/2/2015

Rep. Farenthold (R-TX-27th)

Luling Oil Museum

Luling

TX

9/2/2015

Rep. Farenthold (R-TX-27th)

Shiner Central Station

Shiner

TX

9/2/2015

Rep. Farenthold (R-TX-27th)

City Hall

Bastrop

TX

9/2/2015

Rep. Farenthold (R-TX-27th)

Gonzales Courthouse

Gonzales

TX

9/2/2015

Rep. Green (D-TX-29th)

Houston Police Department

Houston

TX

9/3/2015

Rep. Barton (R-TX-6th)

Ennis Public Library

Ennis

TX

9/3/2015

Rep. Flores (R-TX-17th)

Pridgeon Center

Franklin

TX

9/3/2015

Rep. Flores (R-TX-17th)

Buffalo Civic Center

Buffalo

TX

8/19/2015

Rep. Stewart (R-UT-2nd)

Centerville City Hall

Centerville

UT

8/20/2015

Rep. Stewart (R-UT-2nd)

Grantsville City Hall

Grantsville

UT

8/17/2015

Rep. Scott (D-VA-3rd)

County Administration Building

Charles City

VA

8/18/2015

Rep. Brat (R-VA-7th)

Henrico County Western Government Center

Henrico

VA

8/18/2015

Rep. Scott (D-VA-3rd)

Surry County Community Center

Surry

VA

9/12/2015

Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI-5th)

Hartland Village Hall

Hartland

WI

9/12/2015

Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI-5th)

Germantown Village Hall

Germantown

WI

9/13/2015

Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI-5th)

Hartford City Hall

Hartford

WI

9/14/2015

Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI-5th)

Palmyra Village Hall

Palmyra

WI

9/14/2015

Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI-5th)

Sullivan Village Hall

Sullivan

WI

 

 

 

June 29, 2015 - 6:30 pm

Legislative Update

A look at the week ahead: 

On Saturday, the President and the first lady will host military families at the White House for a Fourth of July barbeque and concert. 

The House and the Senate are both on recess for Independence Day and return July 7. Keep an eye out for opportunities to attend a town hall meeting while your legislator is in town!

On our radar:

Sex Education Funding Decimated: Last week the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees passed Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) fiscal year (FY) 2016 funding bills out of their respective committees along party-line votes. Funding for medically accurate, comprehensive sex education was decimated. The House’s version cut $91 million (90%) and the Senate’s version cut $81 million (80%). The remaining funds must be spent on “sexual risk avoidance” education, defined in the bill as “voluntarily refraining from non-marital sexual activity.”

Adding insult to injury, the bill throws away $20 million dollars in taxpayer money on proven ineffective abstinence-only education, an increase of 300% over the maximum spent in previous years. Please email your legislators before they return from recess to vote on these bills.

Support Evidence-Based Policy Making: Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015, S 991, last week. It was voted favorably out of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and will come up for a vote on the Senate floor. The act would establish the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking in the executive branch. The 15-member committee, made up of academic researchers and data experts would use data to evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs and tax expenditure. Using evidence to inform policy will help ensure that policies will be effective and applicable, not only on paper, but in the real world. Taxpayer money shouldn't be wasted on policies that are unproven, untested, and unscientific. It is incredibly important to support bills that advocate for evidence and research-based policy. Contact your Senator through our Action Alert and urge them to support evidence-based policymaking!

Religious Refusal Claims Rampant Post-Marriage Equality: In response to the Supreme Court’s historic decision last Friday holding that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, state officials have already started issuing rules that allow state workers to opt out of performing them. On the Federal level, religious refusal legislation was pre-emptively introduced on June 17 in the Senate by Senator Lee (R-UT) and in the House by Representative Labrador (R-ID). The misleadingly titled First Amendment Defense Act (S. 1598/H.R. 2802) would allow for far-reaching, taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex couples and their families – all under the guise of religious liberty.

In case you missed it:

Here these issues and more discussed in detail during during our weekly political segment on Dogma Debate featuring Interim Executive Director, Kelly Damerow. Tune in live every Wednesday at 7 pm ET/6 pm CT on www.dogmadebate.com or download the podcast from iTunes, Spreaker, iheartradio, or from dogmadebate.com/listen. 

April 7, 2014 - 3:20 pm

On Friday Salon.com published an article critical of the Secular Coalition for America's Congressional Report Cards, "Liberals are overlooking a major political ally: Yes, there's a religious left!" In the piece, author, Elizabeth Stoker, rightly pointed out the rubric of the report cards' "logic is open to inquiry."

Unfortunately, many of Stoker's points of concern inaccurately portray the basic facts of the report cards via misstatements, inaccuracies, or logical fallacies which beg for clarification or correction.

On Darwin Day
Salon says:
"It's even more bizarre to try to work out exactly what [the Darwin Day Resolution] would have to do with the separation of church and state."

The SCA asserts: The text of the resolution, H.Res 41, states "the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States education systems." Using publicly funded schools to promote the religious belief in creationism is a textbook example of the separation of church and state.

Salon says:  "...it's absurd and insulting to imagine only non-religious people to be interested in the improvement of human life through scientific progress."

The SCA asserts: The Secular Coalition never stated, nor implied the bills we champion are only open to support from the non-religious, because that's not true. We regularly work with religiously affiliated allied organizations and continue to enthusiastically encourage their support for this bill. The separation of religion and government protects both the church and the state, which is why we work with religious organizations, including three of our own member organizations, The Society for Humanistic Judaism, American Ethical Union and HUUmanists.

On Health Care
Salon says:
 The Health Care Conscience Right Act, H.R. 940, is described as an attempt to "protect rights of conscience" as it would "signal the government's refusal to act upon individuals who, for reasons of conscience, did not want to perform a particular service. In that sense it's a clear-cut push for neutrality."

The SCA asserts: This bill, and this representation of it, continue the misinterpretation and misuse of religious freedom that has grown in the past few years. The truth is this bill exempts an individual from the requirement to purchase health insurance coverage if something they religiously or morally object to could potentially be covered. To be clear, the action required by the Affordable Care Act is purchasing insurance. The action religiously objected to is receiving various health services. These are distinctly different. There is no action which burdens religion to be exempted from here. The ACA is religiously neutral as written. This bill is not a push for neutrality, but a push away from it towards religious privilege.

On Religious Discrimination
Salon says:
 "That the SCA willingly aligns itself with symbolic legislation that takes a shot at religion writ large could, however, ultimately damage the prospects of the left as a coalition."

The SCA asserts: The Secular Coalition cannot align with "symbolic legislation that takes a shot at religion" as it does not exist. However, legislation that symbolically endorses religion is much easier to find. For example, the Congressional reaffirmations of "In God We Trust" as our national motto and "one nation under God" in the pledge of allegiance. Or possibly the 20 statements on floor of the House of Representatives honoring various reverends and pastors during the three weeks of March in which the House was in session. Pointing out favoritism is hardly an attack.

On Partisanship
Salon says:
"The breakdown of the lucky few who managed to score A's was telling: All were Democrats." "But based on the issues that appear meaningful to the SCA and the side they fall out on, it seems there's rather a political agenda tied up in their secularism, and it's a decidedly leftist one."

The SCA asserts: Correlation does not imply causation. The Secular Coalition is a nonpartisan organization. We reject political agendas, conspiracy theories and logical fallacies. The issues that are meaningful to the Secular Coalition are those which privilege religion by claiming a burden which does not exist; justify legislation with religious beliefs, not evidence nor reason; or send taxpayer money to houses of worship, exempt from any oversight or transparency. The political agenda tied up in these issues isn't ours. We will continue to recognize and thank whoever stands up to the monolithic religious-political complex pushing this agenda, no matter the party with which they are affiliated. 

 

January 31, 2014 - 2:38 pm

On Tuesday, President Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address. Recently, the Secular Coalition has been working more closely with the White House, including giving in-person input to encourage the recognition of nonbelievers and an accurate portrayal of religious liberty in the president's speech.

As a result of our work, the Presidential Proclamation on Religious Freedom Day, issued last week, recognized people of "no faith" and specifically included "atheists and agnostics" for the first time in over 200 years of Presidential proclamations.

In the lead-up to the speech, the Secular Coalition provided the White House with input on the State of the Union address. The submitted comments focused on areas in which secular issues aligned with the President's current policy agenda and covered issues of contraception coverage and false use of "religious liberty," the necessity of teaching evolution and fighting back against attempts to insert creationism in the classroom to provide a "high quality education," and recognizing the important role nonbelievers play in a religiously diverse country.

After all of our work with the White House, we were admittedly excited about this year's State of the Union Address. So, how did the President's speech do on secular issues? The results were mixed, but largely positive. While the president didn't specifically mention nontheists, he generally shied away from speaking about religion at all-which was one of our asks. He also made some key statements on issues important to the secular community, namely climate change. Here's how the President stacked up:

  • Someone needed it say it, and the President did. "The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact." And despite a spirited round of applause for his statement, there's an influential group of legislators who are not on board with what the rest of the country seems to recognize as settled science: the Republican members of the House Science Committee. This group has historically propped up false "scientific" debate and blocked legislation that would leave our children a safer world.
  • The President highlighted tax reform as a way to save money to invest in our country's infrastructure. His comment on "wasteful, complicated loopholes" focused on corporations; however, including churches and their "integrated auxiliaries" would raise billions for community improvement that helps all Americans, not just a select few. Addressing this issue would be simple: enforce the current tax exemption regulations against those churches that violate them. To make this possible, the current loopholes and protections need to be removed, creating a simpler and fairer tax code.
  • The President mentioned undoing the cuts to federally-funded research (including scientific research). Unfortunately, while this may be a priority of the President, this is a decision left up to Congress. Funding vaccine research and production is a core responsibility when it comes to protecting the safety and welfare of all Americans.
  • The President did mention religious groups during his speech once: he called on faith leaders (as well as business leaders, labor leaders and law enforcement) to act on immigration. The mention of religious groups understandably upset some in the nontheistic community, but we don't see this specific mention as necessarily negative. While not an issue of religion and government, immigration is an issue of community, hence the role of faith leaders. It is time for the secular movement to decide if addressing this issue is also important to the secular community. We do not need to agree, but as a community should discuss the moral, ethical, evidence-based reasons for immigration reform. If we want to be recognized as a community of invested Americans, we cannot stick our heads in the sand on issues that affect our entire country.
  • High quality education has always been a top priority for the secular movement. The skills highlighted by the President as crucial for the new economy, are skills the secular community champions: "problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, math." By focusing on these skills, the President is implicitly speaking out against programs that would diminish them, such as vouchers, and curricula that include the teaching of so-called intelligent design.
  • The President continued his push, from last year's speech, for high-quality pre-Kindergarten. He was clearly unhappy with the lack of progress and enlisted coalition partners to help get it done. That list had two obvious omissions: faith leaders and teachers. Faith-leaders is an omission we are pleased with, as the Secular Coalition has grave concerns as it relates to unlicensed religiously-affiliated child care centers. Their existence puts children in harm's way and the idea that they would receive federal funds to do so is atrocious. Fortunately, this has not been the case so far. However the omission of teachers is more concerning. While the listed coalition partners, including elected officials, business leaders and philanthropists are certainly necessary to get the structure of a nation-wide secular pre-K system in place, the framework of that system should be evidence-based on best practices in education.
  • President Obama spoke directly to women in the workplace. Specifically, to workplace mothers and pregnant women. Without diminishing those issues, women who want to hold off on having children, temporarily or permanently, were left out. He said "it is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a 'Mad Men' episode." What could be more outdated than debating birth control? An issue that was settled has now come back because employers want to tell their female employees to live their lives according to their boss' religion. If the President truly wants to "give every woman the opportunity she deserves," he will stand up against any and all attempts to limit a woman's access to controlling her body and her future.
  • The President spoke about our basic American ideals of "inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation." There could not have been a more perfect place to mention religiously motivated discrimination, especially against LGBT citizens. For his statement to ring true, anti-discrimination laws that protect the LGBT community should not have religious exemptions. Far from being "regardless of religion", these special provisions hold religion in the highest regard, written into our laws as a valid justification for hate.
  • Finally, the closing to every major speech given by almost any politician was the same on Tuesday night for President Obama: "God bless America." While the sentiment behind it is less religiously motivated and more ceremonial, it still makes 22 percent of Americans suddenly feel the last hour of inspiration was not for intended for them. Statements like these offer not-so-subtle insinuation that America offers "opportunity for all" with the usual footnotes of "if you believe in God." The problem is the lack of a good alternative --one that will speak to the entire country and evoke the same sense of closure to the speech and patriotism that are intended by these words. While challenging, this task is accomplishable, and the answer may already exist.

While the President's speech on Tuesday wasn't a major win for the movement, progress is being made, and we will continue to do our part in strengthening the separation between religion and government until the day it's no longer a question.

 

 

 

October 12, 2012 - 4:05 pm

The news on “nones” is the latest hot topic.(1) Not just around secular movement water coolers, but in the mainstream media. Major newspapers read: “losing our religion,” “one in five Americans reports no religious affiliation” and “labeled ‘nones’ because they claim either no religious preference or no religion at all.” While the public focus is on the changing religious identity of the average American, the takeaway for elected officials should be this: the religious unaffiliated are a growing segment of the electorate. Here are five reasons why politicians can no longer afford to ignore us:

1. Constituency Take-Over

Not just the fact that 46 million Americans are right now religiously unaffiliated, but the rate of growth is staggering! In the last five years alone, the percentage of U.S. adults who are unaffiliated with any religion increased from 15% to just under 20%. With each election, the number of unaffiliated voters grows. The religious pandering that won elections in the past, won’t fly in the future.

2. The Young Vote

Much of the growth comes from the young unaffiliated crowd coming of age. A third of adults under 30 are religiously unaffiliated and the old notion that young voters don’t make a difference no longer applies. In the last two presidential elections young voters gave the Democratic Party a majority of their votes.(2) It is unwise to alienate your most supportive voters by ignoring their demographics.

3. We May Be Persuaded

Campaigns are clamoring to appeal to the coveted undecided or non-party-line voters. Nones have a higher percentage of “Independents/other” and moderates than the general public. Here they are, now appeal to them.

4. Ahead of the Curve

Look at the trends in public opinion on major social issues and you’ll see nones ahead of the curve of the general public. 61% of nones supported same-sex marriage in 2001, when only 35% of the general public did. But the public is catching up, with support now around 50%.(3) Pay attention to nones and politicians might again be an inspiration to society.

5. It Goes Both Ways

Almost one quarter of Democratic and Democratic-Leaning registered voters are religiously unaffiliated. The party that aligns closer with nones on social issues pushes them away with unnecessary affirmations of religiosity, like awkwardly forcing God into the party platform. 

Although religiously unaffiliated voters lean Democratic, the percentage of the Republican or Republican-Leaning registered voters who do not identify with a religion is growing. More than one-in-ten Republicans is being told by his or her own party that he or she is not a true American. Knock it off Republican Party, and you could court the 50% of nones who would rather have a smaller government with fewer services. Uphold the most patriotic and traditional American value of all, a secular government, or risk losing your fiscally conservative, religiously unaffiliated voters. 

Let’s hope politicians keep this advice in mind as they persuade Americans to select their name on the ballot.  Because when given a list of religious options, a large and growing number of voters have no problem selecting “none of the above.”  

 


(1) "Nones" on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, October 9, 2012
(2) Young Voters in the 2008 Election, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, November 12, 2008
(3) Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, July 2012

 

July 30, 2012 - 1:45 pm

Catholic business owners claiming the contraception mandate violated their religious freedom may be celebrating too soon. On Friday a federal court in Colorado granted a Motion for Preliminary Injunction to Hercules Industries, Inc., a for-profit, secular employer engaged in the heating and air conditioning business, whose owners adhere to the Catholic faith. The injunction temporarily releases them from the requirement to provide contraception coverage in their health care plan. What's being hailed as a victory is no more than a ruling that enforcement of the mandate against Hercules Industries, Inc. will be put on hold until the trial. 

How can this be seen as a win? It's a win for the secular movement against those attempting to redefine the Constitutional principles of the religious clauses, as the Judge declined to address the validity of claims based on violation of Free Exercise or Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment. The court also noted this injunction applies only to Hercules Industries, Inc., and not to any other party looking for a religious loophole. The Secular Coalition for America is hopeful that when this case goes to trial the court will place the religious freedom of individuals, the employees, before the discriminatory desires of a corporation.  

May 24, 2012 - 10:21 am

Federal support for prayer at school board meetings has been introduced through resolutions in both the House and the Senate.(1 & 2) The resolutions make no attempt to hide that there is no secular purpose for school board meeting prayer, instead stating that "voluntary prayer acknowledges beliefs widely held among the people of the Nation." Neither the Constitution nor the courts have ever said the government is free to endorse a religion as long as it's the most popular religion. In fact, "indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion" was explicitly declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court when they struck down classroom prayer fifty years ago. (3)

Inaccurate and illegal justifications for school board prayer aside, the constitutionality of it hangs on the question of whether a school board meeting is more like a school-sponsored activity or a legislative session. This is an important legal distinction because religious intervention is prohibited at school-sponsored activity, while prayer opening legislative sessions does not always violate the Establishment Clause. (A bigger problem for another post)

The Supreme Court handles religious activity in schools differently because of the unique elements of the public school setting. Students are young, impressionable, and required to attend.(4) Additionally, public schools are particularly important to the maintenance of a democratic, pluralistic society. While the principle of separation of church and state, when applied to the public school setting, does not trample the religious freedoms of students, it does require that school officials refrain from any activity that promotes or endorses religion, including prayer.

The Supreme Court found prayers will unquestionably be perceived by students as endorsed by the school when they occur on school property, by a speaker representing the school, during school-sponsored events.(5) School board meetings are held on property own by the school district and school board members are school officials. They are school-sponsored events because actions taken by the school board, such as discipline or recognition of students or changes to school policies, are based upon and directly affect activities that occur exclusively in the public school setting. Prayers at school board meetings will be perceived by students as endorsed by the school and are prohibited.

The Congressional resolutions argue prayer should be allowed because a school board is more like a legislative body. The resolutions state that like legislative bodies, school boards hold sessions open to the public, their nature is not altered by the presence of students, and they enact policies that are given the force of law. Although these meetings are open to the public, their focus is not on regulating the public, but solely on school-related matters. Their proceedings are materially altered by the presence of students who wish to participate in the discussion of school-related matters. School board policies are direct communications to students to be enforced exclusively by school officials, not by or for the public. 

Opening a school board meeting with prayer has no purpose other than conveying the public school system's endorsement of religion. It is disturbing that both sides of Congress focused their precious time and resources to support an unconstitutional practice. Symbolic government actions in support of religion seem a lesser threat than other secular issues, but each one adds evidence to the false history that we are a Christian nation, which is why we must call them out every time.

 

(1) H. Res. 662

(2) S. Res 18

(3) Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 431 (1962).

(4) People of Ill. ex rel. McCollum v. Bd. of Educ. of Sch. Dist. No. 71, 33 U.S. 203 (1948).

(5) Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 120 S.Ct. 2266 (2000)

 

 

April 20, 2012 - 2:09 pm

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are appealing a recent federal court ruling that found unconstitutional the government authorization and funding of their religious-based restriction on services to help sex trafficking victims. Congress appropriated up to $10 million for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to carry out the Trafficking Victims Protection Act's purpose of providing services to victims of human trafficking. Despite the warning in its proposal stating the USCCB would not allow the government money to "provide or refer for abortion services or contraceptive materials for our clients," the HHS selected the USCCB as general contractor to administer these funds. As of June 2010, the government awarded the USCCB over $15.9 million.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLU) filed suit against the HHS for violating the First Amendment by allowing the USCCB to "impose a religiously based restriction on the disbursement of taxpayer-funded services." The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from suggesting that a particular religious belief is favored or preferred. The ACLU argued the government appeared to endorse a Catholic belief by authorizing the USCCB's religiously motivated restriction on reproductive services that beneficiaries of the TVPA program would otherwise have received.

The USCCB disagreed, arguing the government's acceptance of their restriction was an accommodation of their religious belief, not an endorsement. The government is allowed to accommodate religion to remove burdens on free exercise of religion. There is no question USCCB's restriction was motivated by deeply held religious beliefs, but this is not a burden on free exercise of religion because there is no legal obligation mandating the USCCB provide abortion or contraceptive services. If the sincerely held religious beliefs of the USCCB do not allow them to fulfill the requirements of this government contract, they are free to not take the money. This is about the government authorizing the use of taxpayer money by a religious institution to impose its beliefs on others.

Still, the USCCB cries this ruling is discrimination against religion. Demanding the government respect the separation of church and state does not discriminate against religion. It respects religion by refusing to favor any one faith over another. In a statement about their decision to appeal the ruling the Archbisops William E. Lori and Jose Gomez quoted Justice William O. Douglas that "when government acts to accommodate religion ‘it follows the best of our traditions.'" In the same case where he wrote those words, the Justice also wrote "there cannot be the slightest doubt that the First Amendment reflects the philosophy that Church and State should be separated. And so far as interference with the ‘free exercise' of religion and an ‘establishment' of religion are concerned, the separation must be complete and unequivocal."1 The well reason ruling of Judge Sterns in this case upholds the First Amendment and should withstand this latest challenge.

 


1. Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 312 (1952)

 

 

April 5, 2012 - 2:08 pm

Kansas' "Preservation of Religious Freedom Act" will protect discrimination based upon religious beliefs. Currently Kansas prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and housing on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry or familial status.  The Kansas cities of Salina, Wichita, Hutchinson, and Pittsburg discussed adding the classes of sexual orientation and gender identity to their local anti-discrimination ordinances. The Kansas House of Representatives responded by introducing the "Preservation of Religious Freedom Act" to block cities from expanding their anti-discrimination laws. The bill passed the House on Thursday, March 29th, by a vote of 91-33. It is now being considered by the Senate as Senate Bill No. 142.

Protection of discrimination masked as a protection of religion is a dangerous expansion of an individual liberty into a justification for intolerance. The constitutional right to Free Exercise of religion is not unlimited. The freedom to believe is absolute, but the freedom to act on those beliefs is not. There is already a system in place for determining when Free Exercise rights are unconstitutionally restricted by the government. When an anti-discrimination law restricts an individual's Free Exercise of religion, courts compare the importance of the preventing that discrimination against the burden on the individual. The government cannot substantially burden a sincerely held religious belief unless they have a "compelling government interest." This test is used by courts around the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Kansas House of Representatives twists this balanced approach into an unfair fight by stating discrimination against a class not already protected is NEVER a compelling government interest. Therefore, even if a city determines an unfair bias against select individuals is important enough to the welfare of its citizens to be considered a "compelling government interest," this law restrains the city government from taking action. This doesn't protect religion, it protects discrimination.

Authorizing an individual to discriminate against others based upon a quality for which he cannot be discriminated against shocks the conscience. This bill will protect the right of a Christian to refuse to rent to a gay couple only because they are gay, when it is illegal for a gay couple to refuse to rent to a Christian because he's Christian. This bill will allow landlords to use religion to refuse to rent to anyone for any reason not currently protected: unwed couples, single mothers, LGBT individuals and couples, the list continues indefinitely.

This is not to say that every characteristic of a potential renter's identity should be off limits as a reason for exclusion. But the identities and prejudices of our communities are evolving. If a local government deems the protection of a class of individuals is instrumental to the public welfare, it should be able to provide those protections. The use of religion as a shield to defend discriminatory activities should be concerning for every American, but especially to those in the nontheistic community familiar with discrimination under the guise of freedom of religion.

 

 

March 22, 2012 - 4:18 pm

On Monday, March 19th the Tennessee Legislature passed House Bill 368. The confusing double negative language of the bill prohibits school administrators from prohibiting teachers from helping students critique scientific theories. Support of critical scientific thinking from the Tennessee Legislature is unexpected and inspiring, to the point of raising eyebrows and red flags. Like a leopard can't change its spots, but is a master of camouflage; the Tennessee Legislature refused to give up on religion in public schools, so they disguised it. In place of an explicit endorsement of religion, the legislature cleverly inserts a prohibition on prohibitions. This is not their first use of this tactic to subtly insert religion into the public school curriculum. The Tennessee Legislature succeeded using this method in regards to school prayer (TCA §49-6-1004. Moment of silence; prayer) and Bible study (TCA §49-6-1062. Nonreligious academic Bible study; influence on the arts).

If the purpose of the House Bill 368 truly is to encourage critical scientific thinking, then it is at best unnecessary. That is why a bill that gives science teachers more instructional freedom is opposed by the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Center for Science Education, the National Association of Biology Teachers and all eight Tennessee members of the National Academy of Sciences. Critical thinking is already an integral piece of science education. Analyzing theories through the scientific process is already taught in classrooms and science fairs across the country and in Tennessee.

Evolution is named in the bill, with global warming, as a controversial theory that requires more critique and review. Evolution may be a religious and political controversy, but it is not a scientific controversy. As the Tennessee Science Teachers Association stated in their letter to the Tennessee House Education Committee, "...the scientific theory of evolution is accepted by mainstream scientists around the world..."

By authorizing unnecessary and non-scientific curriculum changes, it is clear the true purpose of this bill is to introduce non-scientific alternatives, such as creationism and intelligent design, into the public school science classroom. Any form of religious education in public schools violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Despite multiple courts striking down Tennessee's past public school religious instruction mandates, the message that their actions are unconstitutional was not received. The Tennessee Legislature perceives the Establishment Clause not as a right or the law, but as a problem to work around. Using a double prohibition to disingenuously authorize critical thinking to slip non-scientific alternatives into the science curriculum is brilliant, in an evil genius way.

UPDATE: This is now the law in Tennessee. Governor Bill Haslam did not veto or sign the bill, but Tennessee procedure dictates that a bill will become law if the Governor takes no action on it. Governor Haslam's decision to neither support nor reject the bill bolsters the argument that the contention surrounding evolution is more political than scientific.

 

The Secular District Featured blog posts from members of the coalition.