National Secular Movement Update Call

Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 12:00 - 13:00
Call In Details: 
Phone Number: 559-726-1300 Code: 199568
National Secular Movement Update
Newsletter and Call
Call Every Thursday from 12PM - 12:30PM (ET)
Phone Number: 559-726-1300 Code: 199568

October 4, 2012 

Table of Contents:
I. White House and Congressional Update
II. Secular Events and Calendar
III. Secular Movement in the News
IV. Legislative and Regulatory Update
V. Judicial
VI. SCA State Chapters
VII. Policy and Research Documents
VIII. Secular Coalition Expansion
IX. SCA Member Organization Announcements

Please join our movement today! Follow this link to the SCA sign-up page.

I. White House and Congressional Update

  • House of Representatives: The House will not come back into session until after the November elections. This is the earliest a Congress has recessed in an election year since 1960. They are scheduled to return on Tuesday, November 13.
  • Senate: The Senate is also scheduled to stay in recess through the November elections and return on November 13.
  • White House: The President gave remarks on Tuesday at the UN General Assembly. He also spoke at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. He was in Ohio on Wednesday for campaign events before returning to DC Wednesday night.
  • Campaigns: The first presidential debate was Wednesday night. There are two presidential debates remaining on October 16th in Hempstead, NY, and October the 22nd in Boca Raton, FL.  The VP debate will be on October 11th in Danville, KY.
  • UN: Last week we discussed a measure before the UN Human Rights Council (A/HRC/21/L.29) which stated that the HRC deplores: "... the use of print, audiovisual and electronic media ... and any other means to incite acts of national, racial or religious violence, xenophobia or related intolerance and discrimination against any religion, as well as the targeting of religious symbols and venerated persons." This language matches wording from "defamation of religions" resolutions approved by the UN every year between 1999 and 2010. However, in a significant move, the language was removed during oral revisions. Still, given recent promises from Islamic state leaders, we will almost certainly see the General Assembly take up the issue in the coming weeks, so stay tuned ... Also, the Center for Inquiry this week launched the Campaign for Free Expression, an initiative focused on promoting and defending the rights to freedom of belief and speech. You can find more at, which features information on cases, laws, and means of advocacy, plus videos and social media. (thank you to Michael DeDora for this update)

II. Secular Events and Calendar
The National Secular Calendar is on the Secular Coalition Website Homepage.  The calendar includes major secular events, state chapter calls, Secular Coalition speeches, and national secular calls.  If you have an event to add, or questions, please e-mail [email protected]

The Richard Dawkins Foundation, the Secular Coalition, and other organizations are also working on a shared calendar that will be able to be used by many secular organizations.  Look for more information soon!  (Elizabeth Cornwell)

Meet the Secular Coalition!

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Upcoming Meetings

  • We are working to reschedule our meeting with the staff of Sen. Rubio (R-FL). Last week’s meeting had to be postponed due to a scheduling conflict in the Senator’s office. 
  • We will be following up with several of the offices that attended our Congressional briefing.

If you are interested in attending one of these meetings, please contact [email protected].

Legislative and Regulatory Update Calls
Every other week on Tuesdays at 2pm a call featuring federal policy decision makers. Speakers will include Democratic and Republican House and Senate Staff members, Department of Defense, Education, and Health and Human Services policy officials.  We expect to feature at least one decision maker per call.  

The next legislative and regulatory call will occur on Tuesday, October 9th at 2pm (EDT).  These calls are open to donors and member organization staff.  Current donors will receive an invitation; if you are interested in participating in these calls, please donate today!

III. Secular Movement In the News

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news!

Secular Coalition in the News

Alerts, Press Releases, and Blog Posts

Other News

Future Events
Are there any upcoming issues or events that the movement needs to coordinate press around?

  • Freethought Day (October 12th)
  • October is Freethought Month
IV. Legislative and Regulatory Update
  • SCA held its first-ever Congressional briefing on Monday. It was a spectacularly successful event attended by staff from more than 35 Congressional offices. Many thanks to everyone who contacted their Member of Congress asking that someone attend the meeting. This was an excellent turnout for an initial event.
  • Chris attended a town hall meeting at the Department of Justice about the Uniform Crime Report. Law enforcement agencies submit statistics for the UCR on hate crime. Anti-atheist/agnostic crime is tracked in this report. Twice a year, the DOJ meets to consider changes to the report. This town hall meeting was called to address the recent attacks on the Sikh community in Wisconsin earlier this summer.
  • Chris accompanied Jason Torpy of MAAF to a meeting with staff from Sen. Blumenthal (D-CT)’s office. Sen. Blumenthal serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. We are looking into asking his office to send a letter to the Armed Forces Chaplain Board regarding treatment of atheist/agnostic servicemembers and prospective humanist lay leaders. 
V. Judicial
  • "Year of the Bible" suit dismissed:  In Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Saccone,  a Pennsylvania federal district court, while finding that plaintiffs had standing, dismissed on legislative immunity grounds a lawsuit challenging as an Establishment Clause violation a Pennsylvania House of Representatives resolution declaring 2012 to be the "Year of the Bible." The court nevertheless stated that the resolution was extremely problematic under the Establishment Clause.  
  • Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate challenge dismissed: A Missouri federal district court rejected a series of challenges to the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act brought by a business run by an owner who is Catholic.  The court found that the contraception coverage mandate does not infringe religious exercise rights.
VI. SCA State Chapters
State Legislative and Regulatory Update
  • Michigan – The House of Representatives opened its Wednesday, September 12th session with Rep. Lisa Brown adapting an invocation Secular Coalition for America president Herb Silverman’s delivered at a Charleston city council meeting. Here is an excerpt “I don’t ask you to close your eyes, but to keep your eyes constantly open to the serious issues that government can and should solve or improve. I don’t ask you to bow your heads, but to look up at what you can accomplish by applying your considerable talents and experience to the problems that confront us. As we work together on behalf of all who live in this state, may we gain strength and sustenance from one another through reason and compassion.”
  • Michigan – HB 4934 requires public schools to allow students to recite the pledge of allegiance with “under God” every day. It passed both houses and is awaiting the governor’s signature. Michigan was one of only 6 states without such a law.
  • Same-sex marriage is on the ballot in Maryland, Minnesota, Maine, and Washington State this election day.  
State Chapters
New State Chapters
  • Pennsylvania and South Carolina became officially recognized chapters this past weekend, joining Colorado and Massachusetts as operating chapters.
    • Secular Coalition for America Executive Director Edwina Rogers conducted a signing ceremony with Secular Coalition for South Carolina chapter co-chairs Amy Monsky and Matt Facciani the morning of Sunday September 30th at the Carolina Secular Conference in Charleston.
    • At the Pennsylvania State Atheist/Humanist Conference, Chief of Staff Eliza Kashinsky held a signing ceremony with chapter co-chairs Justin Vacula and Brian Fields.
  • Massachusetts and California became officially recognized chapters this week, becoming the fifth and sixth operating chapters!
    • Massachusetts co-chairs Ellery Schempp and Zachary Bos will be signing their chapter's memo of understanding shortly.
    • California co-chairs Caleb Weaver and Roger Schlueter will be signing their chapter's memo of understanding this weekend.
  • Visit for more information on your state’s chapter.
Conference Calls
  • Starting in the new year we will be rearranging the conference call schedule and employing online technologies to better facilitate chapter development and provide more flexibility to accommodate everyone’s schedule.
  • We will continue with the current conference call schedule through 2012. To join in, call in to 530-881-1400 and enter the participant code 978895 on your state’s scheduled date and time. Please spread the word about your state’s next conference call!
  • Call Schedule:
    • Thurs. Oct. 4th: 2pm ET Massachusetts, 3pm ET Utah, 4pm ET Alaska
    • Fri. Oct. 5th: 1pm ET Alabama
    • Mon. Oct. 8th: 3pm ET South Dakota, 4pm North Dakota
    • Tues. Oct. 9th: 1pm ET DC, 2pm ET Maryland, 3pm ET Delaware, 4pm ET Oregon
    • Wed. Oct. 10: 1pm ET Oklahoma, 2pm ET Wisconsin, 3pm ET Louisiana, 4pm ET Nevada
    • Thurs. Oct. 11: 1pm ET Maine, 2pm ET New Jersey, 3pm ET Illinois, 4pm ET Idaho
  • Agendas for the calls will be posted to each state’s page on a few days before the call and a replay of the call will be posted a few days after.
  • We encourage everyone to “like” the Facebook pages of their state chapter, listed as “Secular Coalition for [State].
  • Get the latest updates and sign up to receive emails about the chapter forming in your state on the state chapters page on our website.
  • Next week we will announce the dates and times for our final round of initial organizing calls for our patient phase 5 states of Alaska, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
VII. Policy and Research Documents
  • Powerpoints are now available on the website.  These speeches will be free and available to everyone in the movement.  
  • Introducing the Open Access on-line Research Library at the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society & Culture, Trinity College, Hartford, CT.  Go to  This is the academic website for ISSSC.  From there you can access (top right) all the reports and materials on the American Religious Identification Survey series since 1990. (Barry Kosmin, [email protected])
  • The Secular Coalition is looking for helpful research papers, to link to from our website and to determine where additional research needs to be done.  If you are aware of any, please send information to [email protected].
VIII. Secular Coalition Expansion
  • Coalition expansion drive underway!  We are looking to add Endorsing and Allied organizations through additional website sign up opportunities and meetings.  Please recommend any non-movement groups we should meet with to discuss common ground. 
  • We had 34 endorsing organizations in May; we now have 75.  Our new endorsing organization is:
    • Piedmont Humanist
    • Florence Atheists and Secular Humanists
    • Carolinas Secular Association
    • Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics
    • Secular Student Alliance at North Carolina State University
    • Secular Student Alliance at the College of Charleston
    • Coastal Atheists and Secular Humanists - Savannah, GA
    • Camp Quest South Carolina
    • Greenville Tech Freethought Organization
    • Secular Student Alliance at the University of South Carolina
    • Humanists and Freethinkers of Cape Fear Quest West
IX. SCA Member Organization Announcements

To sign up for newsletters, call announcments, and action alerts, please visit our website.


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