National Secular Movement Update Call

Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 12:00 - 12:30
Call In Details: 
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

February 28, 2013 


The House will vote today on whether to renew the Violence Against Women Act. The Secular Coalition sent an action alert yesterday urging representatives to vote “YES” on the Senate version of the bill and “NO” on the House substitute amendment that would allow for federally-funded employment discrimination through faith based charities. The Secular Coalition and many of its member organizations also signed on to a Coalition Against Religious Discrimination letter to all House Members urging them to adopt the Senate-passed Violence Against Women Act.

On March 27, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two  highly important cases, of particular interest to the secular community: United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which will weigh the constitutionality of both California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.  The Court's decision  is expected to pave the way for marriage equality. The Secular Coalition signed on to the amicus brief that the American Humanist Association is submitting to the Court in support of marriage equality. 

In related news, the LGBT organizations Log Cabin Republicans and GoProud are being shut out of  (Conservative Political Action Conference) . CPACChris Hayes, an MSNBC host who has identified on-air as an atheist, announced he would not accept the invitation to appear on the CPAC panel, opposite Ralph Reid (Head of the Faith and Freedom Foundation and former Executive Director of the Christian Coalition), unless GoProud is welcome back into the fold. SCA Director, Edwina Rogers, will attend CPAC March 14-16 in D.C.

Rep. Mike McIntyre
(D-NC), Co-Chairmen of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, sent an email to all of his constituents promoting the recently passed National Prayer Breakfast, with a video of him speaking on the House floor about "the importance of faith." A portion of his email read, "Even in its infancy, prayer was shaping our nation’s history, and that tradition of prayer continues today with both chambers of the U.S. Congress opening each day with prayer. Prayer is deeply rooted in the traditions of our society and rooted in the very fabric of American history." We have scheduled a meeting with his office for March 26.

The House Ways and Means Committee has announced 11 working groups for fundamental tax reform.  The SCA will be participating and submitting comments, developed from our "National Summit: Correcting Religious Privileging in the Tax Code" in December, including Politicking from the Pulpit, Direct Tax Privileges and Financial Disclosure Exemptions.

The SCA has completed our draft comments to the Department of Health and Human Services' final rule on contraceptive coverage requirements and exemptions for religious employers. Comments are due in early April and we will request member, endorsing and affiliate groups sign on to the comment letter. More information to follow!

The Secular Coalition is working to formulate a Model Secular Guide for Legislatures, a comprehensive document that will be distributed to policy makers and elected officials, outlining model policy and approaches to governing from a secular perspective. The Task force is forming and has a 30 minute call every Friday at 2 pm. To participate, call-in at 559-726-1300, code: 199568. shaping up to be one of the most unique events in the movement this year-- and one that you certainly won't want to miss! The Secular Summit will allow attendees to engage directly with legislators, thought-leaders and other decision makers on the issues important to the secular community. We are expecting two members of Congress, a representative from the White House and a host of other movers and shakers. Confirmed guests include:
  • Michael Gamel-McCormick, Education Policy Advisor to the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions
  • Barry Kosmin, Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture and Research Professor, Public Policy & Law Program at Trinity College
  • Leslie Griffin, a William S. Boyd Professor of Law at UNLV Law School
  • Brad Jacklin, Program Manager: Public Policy and Government Affairs at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
  • Steve Hill, Comedian, for the opening night reception! “They say if you want to start an argument, talk about religion or politics . Where should we start first?” – Steve Hill
New additions to the list of confirmed speakers are being made everyday! Among the panels for the conference are:  "Science Education under Assault: Stopping Anti-Science Legislation in its Tracks," "Religious Liberty vs. Health and Safety," "Legal Discrimination in the Name of the Lord," "Politics & Religion: How Tax Policy Privileges Religion and What Can be Done to Stop it." View descriptions of each panel and see the full agenda here. There will also be a donor reception Thursday night!

Following the Secular Summit, attendees will receive lobbying training and have the opportunity to lobby their lawmakers on Capitol Hill face-to-face!  It's going to be an event you won't want to miss.

April 24-26, 2013
Where: Hyatt Regency Washington, DC on Capitol Hill (discounted room rates available for attendees!)

Do you live in the Philadelphia area?
If so you won't want to miss our "Intimate Lunch with Richard Dawkins" on March 12 in Philadelphia, PA.
Only 25 seats are available for this intimate dinner with Dr. Dawkins, so  register now for the Philadelphia event!

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 and Associated Organization Announcements
X. Movement Charity Updates and Activities

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

I. White House and Congressional Update

I. White House and Congressional Update
  • House of Representatives: The House returned to session on Monday and dealt with renaming a research center after Neil Armstrong. They also voted to create a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math competition for students in each Congressional district. They also will consider the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act, which if passed will be sent to the President for his signature. The House will be in session next week. 
  • Senate: Republican Senators finally dropped their opposition to Chuck Hagel's nomination for Secretary of Defense. He was confirmed on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Senate moved toward the nomination of Jack Lew to be Secretary of the Treasury. The Senate may also finish the week by considering a sequester replacement bill. The Senate will be in session next week.
  • White House: The President has continued his ground game of talking about the effects of the sequester, visiting Newport News, VA to highlight the impact on the military. There will be a meeting of Congressional leaders on Friday to discuss alternative proposals to the sequester, which will take effect that day. 
  • UN: The International Humanist and Ethical Union drew news coverage this week after submitting a written statement to the UN Human Rights Council which highlighted the disturbing fact that atheists and non-religious persons in many countries around the world are not allowed to exercise their rights to freedom of belief and expression without facing severe punishment, sometimes even death. The written statement was based largely on the IHEU's recent report, Freedom of Thought 2012. The IHEU also delivered a joint oral statement on this same issue with the Center for Inquiry and British Humanist Association. I will pass along more information on this and other news next week. 
If you are interested in attending one of these meetings, please contact [email protected]. For UN-related questions or remarks for these meetings can email [email protected]. More information on the Committee and all its events can be found at (Thank you to Michael DeDora for this update, [email protected], 646.706.6080). Otherwise, contact Edwina Rogers, Executive Director, Edwina Rogers, at [email protected] or by phone at 202-299-101 ext. 207 or cell: 202-674-7800.

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. 

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Anything to add? Contact Lauren Anderson Youngblood at [email protected]. Please let us know if you'd like to attend one of these meetings: If you are interested, please contact Kelly Damerow at [email protected] for anything legislation-related. 

III. Secular Movement In the News

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news!

Secular Coalition in the News

Secular and Related News

  • NPR: Who Gets Religious Exemptions And Why- Under revised rules of the Affordable Care Act, religious groups can be exempt from paying their employees' insurance coverage for birth control. Religious exemptions are nearly as old as the nation and have been on the rise in recent decades.
  • House Conservatives Say Federal Funding Bill Should Block Obamacare’s Contraception Mandate -House conservatives, including Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), on Wednesday endorsed the idea of placing federal conscience protections in the upcoming continuing resolution, which – because of Congress' failure to pass appropriations bills – will fund the federal government at current levels beyond the end of March.
  • The GOP’s Conservative Christian Conundrum - How the GOP's Entangelment with the Christian Right is Decimating its Shot at Jewish Votes- Few social groups are further apart in their politics than conservative Christians and Jews. In 2012, the Public Religion Research Institute conducted a survey of Jewish voters. That survey painted a portrait of a group that remains one of the most socially liberal in the U.S...No political or religious group scored lower among Jews than the Christian Right. In 2012, these negative feelings about the Christian Right appear to have had significant consequences at the ballot box.
  • Young Hispanics Leaving Catholic Church for Protestant Faith - According to a new Gallup poll, young Latinos are shedding the Catholic faith of their parents and some are turning to Protestant alternatives with fervor. Most Hispanics are still Catholic, the poll found, but they are significantly less religious than their Protestant peers. And Hispanic Protestants are not only more religious, they're far more religious than American Protestants in general.
  • Republicans Sign Brief in Support of Gay Marriage — Dozens of prominent Republicans — including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress — have signed a legal brief arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry, a position that amounts to a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election.
  • Motorist Wearing Spaghetti Strainer Bounced In N.J. - Police were summoned to a Motor Vehicle Commission office when a New Jersey man refused to remove a spaghetti strainer from his head before posing for a new driver’s license photo. Aaron Williams claimed to be a “Pastafarian” and told state workers that “his pasta strainer was a religious head covering and it was his right to wear it for his license photo,” according to a South Brunswick Police Department “suspicious incident” report detailing the February 2 incident.“Pastafarianism” is less a religion than a satiric movement that opposes the teaching of creationism and intelligent design. The Internet-fueled group--members of which opt for colanders, not tin foil hats--calls its deity the “Flying Spaghetti Monster.”
  • (Tennessee) College discrimination policy bill advancing - A proposal that seeks to prevent public higher education institutions in Tennessee from "discriminating against religious groups" is advancing in the House. The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Mark Pody of Lebanon was approved 7-2 in the House Education Subcommittee on Tuesday. That measure tried to force Vanderbilt University — a private institution — to exempt student religious groups from its nondiscrimination policy.
  • Illinois Advances same-sex marriage bill -  A bill legalizing same-sex marriage cleared a Democratic-led committee late Tuesday and now moves to the full House, where the issue is expected to meet its toughest test. The bill received Senate approval on Valentine’s Day with Democratic support and a single Republican vote. A House OK would send the matter to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. He says he’ll sign it.
  • Oklahoma 'Creationism Bill': State's House Education Committee Passes Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act - Oklahoma's most recent creationism measure has made it over its latest hurdle. The Oklahoma Common Education committee passed the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act Tuesday in a close 9-8 vote, Mother Jones reports.Introduced by Republican state Rep. Gus Blackwell, the legislation would "permit teachers, schools, and students to explore alternative theories without repercussions," the Week columnist Dana Liebelson writes.
  • Secularism Destigmatized - Is secularism on the brink? Of collapse? Of wild success? Or, more modestly, of at least starting an essential conversation? That was the subject of a conference last week at Georgetown University, Secularism on the Edge, organized by Jacques Berlinerblau, the director of the university's Program for Jewish Civilization and author of the book, How to Be Secular. Berlinerblau's central argument is that secularism has a robust history in the United States, but that it needs to "check into rehab." As Berlinerblau told me when we discussed his book on Bloggingheads, secularism, as a social movement and political worldview, has been in a downward trajectory over recent decades in the United States. In his book, Berlinerblau offers a "12-step program" for a secularist movement to revitalize itself.
  • Records detail cardinal's failings in abuse scandal - Newly released church documents show the behind-the-scenes machinations of top officials within the Los Angeles archdiocese making decisions on how to deal with pedophile priests, hindering police investigations and saying, in private, something completely different than what they said in public.
Want daily updates? If you're interested in receiving our daily morning run-down of secular news stories, or for press inquiries, updates and other media related information, contact [email protected].

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

    • March 6 - Periodic Table Day
    • March 29 - April 6 - Atheist Week (Facebook)
    • April 13 - Birthdays of Christopher Hitchens & Madalyn Murray O'Hair
    • April 18 - National Ask an Atheist Day
    • April 19 - LGBT Day of Silence
    • April 22 - Earth Day
    • April 24-26 - SCA's Lobby Day and Summit
    • May 2 - National Day of Reason
    • May 11 - Richard Feynman Birthday
    • May 20 - Everybody Draw Mohammed Day
    • May 27 - Memorial Day 
    • June 6 - Atheist Pride Day 
    • June 14 - Flag Day 
    • July 4 - Independence Day

  • Have something to add to the calendar? Contact [email protected]
IV. Legislative and Regulatory Update
  • We joined CARD in sending a letter to all House Members urging them to adopt the Senate-passed Violence Against Women Act.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a series of gun-related bills.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the Senate companion (S. 13) to Rep. Hultgren (R-IL)'s bill to provide grants to organizations that provide "qualified sexual risk avoidance" education. 
  • We have put together a draft of the public comments on the Department of Health and Human Services's final rule on contraceptive coverage requirements for religious employers. Comments are due by April 8 so we will take the next week or two to finalize our comments before looking for additional cosigners.
  • Our annual Secular Summit and Lobby Day will be April 24-26 in Washington D.C. We have a limited number of rooms available at the event hotel (Hyatt Regency Washington). For more information, or to register, click here.
Contact Kelly Damerow with additional suggestions or information at [email protected].

V. Judicial
  • CFI Wins Settlement in Antidiscrimination Suit.  CFI has settled a religious discrimination and breach of contract lawsuit it brought last year against a Michigan country club.  The club cancelled its contract for CFI to hold a dinner at the country club after the club learned that the speaker for the event was famous atheist Richard Dawkins.  The club justified the cancellation by saying “the owner does not wish to associate with certain individuals and philosophies.”  The suit alleged a violation of public accommodations laws.
  • MI City Not Required to Add Winter Solstice Sign to Holiday Display.  The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected an Establishment Clause challenge brought by FFRF to a holiday display put up by the city of Warren, Michigan, in its civic center. The display included a lighted tree, reindeer, snowmen, and a nativity scene.  The court also held that the city was not required to include near the display FFRF’s own Winter Solstice sign, saying that the city’s display was government speech and that therefore no forum for private speech had been created.
  • Lawsuit Alleges CA School District’s Yoga Program As Establishment Claue Violation.  The National Center for Law and Policy has filed a lawsuit in state court in California challenging the Encinitas Union School District’s decision to offer a yoga program as part of its curriculum, claiming that the Ashtanga yoga being practiced is inherently Hindu in nature.  There is no evidence that the yoga activities include any express spiritual content at all. 
If you have any additions, questions or submissions for inclusion on the judicial section for next week, contact Bill Burgess, [email protected], 202-238-9088.

VI. SCA State Chapters
     State Legislation
    • Montana
      • HB 236 eliminating exemptions from licensing for religiously affiliated adolescent programs. House Judiciary Committee hearing was on Thursday, February 14th. Despite the Secular Coalition for Montana's support for this bill's efforts to reduce religious privileging and protect the children of Montana, it was tabled in Committee
      • HB 217 allows religious 501c3 organization to put ballot issue material in their literature. Hearing before Senate State Administration Committee on 2/20/13. No vote yet.
    • North Carolina
      • SB 21 granting church buses permanent license plates, a privilege currently only give to government, emergency, or select educational institution vehicles. Referred to Committee on Rules and Operations. The Secular Coalition for North Carolina has drafted an action alert encouraging local groups to contact members of the committee. For more information please contact [email protected].
      • SB 138 to provide for local boards of education to offer to students in grades nine through twelve an elective course in bible study. Introduced 2/26/13
    • Arkansas 
      • HB 1017 to allow school districts to adopt an academic study of the bible. Passed House. Hearing by the Senate Committee on Education on 2/27/13. 
    • Mississippi 
      • HB 1112 Schoolchildren's religious liberties act.  Passed House. Referred to Senate Education Committee
    • 48 states have kicked off their 2013 legislative session
      • Florida's starts March 5, while Louisiana will convene April 8
      • Legislation tracking is now available on the chapter pages of all officially launched Secular Coalition chapters! Coming soon to all pages!
    • 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.
If you have seen any bills that concern secular issues in your state, please email [email protected] with the state and bill number in the subject line.

Conference Calls 
To join in, call in to 530-881-1400 and enter the participant code 978895 on your state’s scheduled date and time. 
    • Saturday, March 2nd
      • California at 10am PT/ 1pm ET
      • Montana at 1pm MT/ 3pm ET
    • Legislation tracking is now available on the chapter pages of all officially launched Secular Coalition chapters! Coming soon to all pages!
Contact Kelly Damerow [email protected] or by phone 202-299-1091 ext. 204 with questions or concerns.

VII. Policy and Research Documents

Reminder: The Open Access on-line Research Library at the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society & Culture, Trinity College, Hartford, CT is available to everyone in the movement. 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.

Contact Barry Kosmin ([email protected]) Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society or Jenny Kalmanson ([email protected]), who sits on the Board of the American Humanist Association, with any additions or suggestions for this list.

Powerpoints, brochures, scorecards, and other resources are now available on the website.  These speeches will be free and available to everyone in the movement. 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 of 2012; we now have 112! Our newest endorsing organizations are: 
    • Republican Reason Caucus
    • R.E.A.S.O.N. (Rationalists, Empiricists and Skeptics of Nebraska)
IX. SCA Member and Associated Organization Announcements

American Atheists is working to win a booth and two registrations for Netroots Nation, a progressive political convention with training and networking opportunities within the progressive community. To help out, follow this link and then "Like" AA to cast your vote. American Atheists thanks you!

Secular Women
announced its current organizational goals: Advocate for women’s bodily autonomy and sovereignty, Promote secular women by providing opportunities to network and connect with other women in the secular community and Increase the financial stability and ensure the longevity of Secular Woman. For more info on secular women visit

Looking to work in the movement? Society for Humanistic Judaism and Camp Quest have exciting new job opportunities! SHJ is seeking a part-time HuJews Youth Program Associate, whose primary responsibility is to coordinate the organization's youth conclaves. Description and more information here

Camp Quest is hiring a second full-time staff person!  Learn more and apply here. They are also accepting applications for volunteer camp counselors for our summer sessions. Those who are interested can apply here.  If you're interested in sending your children (ages 8-17) to Camp Quest this summer, registration is now open!

Want to share your organization's efforts with the SCA?  Email updates, alerts, announcements or other items you'd like to share with the community to [email protected].

X. Movement Charity Updates and Activities:

The Stiefel Freethought Foundation’s generous donation of $100,000.00 is giving hope to Clergy Project members who feel trapped and unable to find secular employment. “Adam,” a founding member of the Clergy Project, closeted atheist and an active Pastor, is the first recipient of the Employment Transition Assistance Grant.

Foundation Beyond Belief is raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society! We are encouraging the secular movement to  take part in their Light The Night Walks and help raise money through the Foundation Beyond Belief team. More information at 

Foundation Beyond Belief staff will be reaching out to other secular organizations in hopes of incorporating their charity efforts into this report, and to provide a year-end summary of non-theist charity giving.  The LLS LTN initiative headed by Todd Stiefel and supported by many national secular organizations has made it extremely likely that nontheists will reach $1 million in organized charitable giving in 2012. 

Please contact Dale McGowan at [email protected]  if you would like your group's charity effort to be included.

To sign up for newsletters, call announcements, and action alerts, please visit our website. Don't forget to like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter

Contact Executive Director, Edwina Rogers, at [email protected] or by phone at 202-299-1091 ext. 207 or cell: 202-674-7800. 

Secular Coalition for America |
1012 14th Street NW, Suite 205, Washington, D.C., 20005-3429
Phone: (202) 299-1091 Fax: (202) 293-0922

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The Secular Coalition for America is the national lobby for atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheistic Americans. From our office in the nation's capital, our lobbyists and support staff engage public policy makers and the media on issues ranging from religion's influence on education and medical research to the privileging of faith groups by government. We are the first and only cooperative venture of freethought organizations coming together to improve the cultural and political situation of a previously unrepresented constituency: the tens of millions of atheists and agnostics in the United States. The Secular Coalition for America is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization.

Please consider joining or donating to one of our national member organizations: 
American Atheists
American Ethical Union
American Humanist Association
Atheist Alliance of America
Camp Quest
Council for Secular Humanism
Institute for Humanist Studies
Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers
Secular Student Alliance
Society for Humanistic Judaism


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