National Secular Movement Update Call
Call Every Thursday at Noon (EST)
Phone Number: 559-726-1300 Code: 199568
Newsletter and Call
Phone Number: 559-726-1300 Code: 199568
June 28th, 2012
I. White House and Congressional Update
House of Representatives: House in session this week and out next week for July 4th recess. The House will take up a resolution today holding Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress in relation to the Fast and Furious operation was passed on a party line vote. Possible consideration of long-term Highway bill and student loan interest rate bill. In July the House majority is expected to bring bills related to taxes, including extensions of the Bush Tax Cuts, to the floor.
Senate: Senate in session this week and out next week for July 4th recess. Scheduled to continue consideration of reauthorization of Flood Insurance. Very unlikely any Senate appropriations bills will come to the floor with the possible exception of Military-Construction/Veterans Appropriations bill. NDAA (Defense authorization) is a distant possibility in July but not likely.
White House: President continues to focus on the “to-do” list for Congress. He made headlines with his immigration enforcement announcement late last week. The Student Loan interest rates will still be a topic as will the coming expiration of the current Highway bill extension. On Monday, the President was campaigning in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Boston, Massachusetts. He also called and congratulated Mohammed Mursi, the new President-elect of Egypt, an Islamist from the Muslim Brotherhood and comparatively moderate (ran against a Mubarak-era general). On Tuesday, the President went to Atlanta, Georgia and Miami, Florida for campaign events. On Wednesday, the President had lunch with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed of the UAE, and the President also delivered remarks at the annual picnic with members of Congress.
Campaigns and Conventions: Democratic National Convention is September 4-6 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Republican National Convention is August 27-30 in Tampa, Florida. Green Party Convention is in Baltimore July 12-15; Jill Stein has been selected as their candidate. Libertarian Party Convention is already concluded; happened May 4-6 in Las Vegas; Gary Johnson was chosen as presidential candidate. Contacts established with Romney and Obama campaigns. Mitt Romney is coming to Washington, D.C. for several fundraisers on Monday, June the 25th. The campaign has started an informational call for coalitions every other Tuesday at 7pm, which we will participate in. The staff has also begun preparing our questionnaire for to distribute to the four presidential candidates who are on the ballot (Republican, Democratic, Green, Libertarian).
Supreme Court: On Monday, the Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeal to a case related to a cross displayed at a veterans’ memorial in San Diego (Mount Soledad Memorial Association v. Steve Trunk). The Supreme Court decision regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's constitutionality will be released on Thursday. Today is the last scheduled day for the release of opinions.
UN: The 20th session of the Human Rights Council is currently taking place in Geneva (June 18-July 6). The Center for Inquiry and International Humanist and Ethical Union will deliver several statements on topics such as freedom of belief and expression, specifically in regards to the Internet; violence against children accused of witchcraft; and a bill before the Ugandan parliament that would impose the death penalty for practicing homosexuals. We will also track religious freedom resolutions coming out of this meeting. Fortunately, these resolutions no longer contain the harmful “defamation of religions” concept, which was abandoned in 2011, but they still contain troubling language referring “incitement.” In other news, IHEU representative Matt Cherry has been elected president of the NGO Committee for Freedom of Religion or Belief, which tracks all UN actions regarding freedom of conscience. Under Matt’s leadership, we expect to continue focusing on problematic language that could provide cover for blasphemy-type arrests, while exploring new areas such as access to information on the Internet and a possible relationship with the United States Commission on Religious Freedom.
II. 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]
Meet the Secular Coalition!
- July 7th, 2012: President Herb Silverman Speaking at Secular Student Alliance Conference
- July 8th, 2012: Executive Director Edwina Rogers Speaking at Secular Student Alliance Annual Leadership Conference
- July 21st, 2012: Research and Advocacy Manager Kelly Damerow Speaking at the Colorado Secular Conference
Upcoming Conferences and Events
- June 29 to July 1: Alabama Freethought's "Glorious Fourth" Advance
- July 6 to 9: Secular Student Alliance 2012 Leadership Conference
- July 11 to 15: The Amaz!ng Meeting
- Staff from Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) on Monday, July 2nd at 2pm.
- Rep. Stark’s office (D-CA) and the Senate Armed Services Committee Democratic staff on Tuesday, July 3rd at 11am.
- The Senate Armed Services Committee Democratic staff on Tuesday, July 3rd at 10am.
- Staff with Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) on Wednesday, July 18th at 11:30am.
If you are interested in attending one of these meetings, please contact [email protected]
Legislative and regulatory update calls
We will have 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 two legislative and regulatory calls will occur on Tuesday, July 10th and Tuesday, July 24th at 2pm (EDT) (no calls will be held in August.) 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. In the News
Are there any upcoming issues or events that the movement needs to coordinate press around?
Secular Coalition in the News
- June 26, 2012 - Secular Coalition spokesperson discusses secular lobbying, The Examiner (Atlanta, GA)
- June 21, 2012 - South Carolina's Secular Crusader: In a new memoir, Herb Silverman recounts his legal battle against a state ban on atheists seaking public office, Tablet Magazine
- June 21, 2012 - The Secular Coalition for American prepares to lobby Missouri legislature, God Discussion
- More at our website!
Alerts, Press Releases, and Blog Posts
- Sometime in the near future - The Coalition for Liberty and Justice has drafted an op-ed to send on the behalf of the Interfaith Alliance and the Secular Coalition for America concerning the HHS contraceptive mandate and religious freedom. They are currently researching avenues to send it out.
- June 25, 2012 - The $71 Billion Break: Why Reforming Religious Subsidies Will Benefit Us All - Blog
- June 21, 2012 - Secular Coalition and 39 Organizations Raise Concerns about Hearing Targeting American Muslims - News
- June 21, 2012 - Tell Your State Senators to Oppose Religious Discrimination in Counseling (Michigan Residents) - Alert
- June 26, 2012 - Court Won't Rule on San Diego Cross (New York Times)
- June 25, 2012 - See Laura Ingraham Referee A Religious-Freedom Face-Off Between a Prominent Pastor and an Atheist Leader (Blaze)
- June 25, 2012 - Happy 50th Anniversary to Engel v. Vitale, the landmark court case that upheld the separation of church and state and ended the practice of sanctioned prayer in public schools!
- June 22, 2012- Gallup: For the first time, a majority of Americans say they'd vote for an atheist for president
- June 22, 2012 - Gallup: Many Americans Can't Name Obama's Religion
IV. Legislative and Regulatory Update
- Federal -
- All legislation is currently focused on economic/energy issues or expiring provisions (Surface Transportation, Student Loan Interest Rates, Flood Insurance).
- We are working with CARD to offer language to the Senate-passed Violence Against Women act that will strenghtne the anti-discrimination provisions.
- We will continue to watch House appropriations bills for possible troublesome amendments. It is not clear if the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill will ever be brought to the floor. It is consistently the most controversial bill with respect to policy riders.
- Update on CARD meeting on Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships:
- We are also reaching out to Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL).
- We have reached out to the staff person leading the International Religious Freedom Caucus in the House for a future meeting.
State Legislative and Regulatory Update
Florida- Amendment 8 “Religious Freedom”- Removes the prohibition now in the state
Constitution against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any
church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution. If voters approve it
in November, state funds may be used to pay for religious services. As the Florida newspaper the
Sun Sentinel put it “money, filthy lucre, a raw grab for taxpayers’ millions, is behind Florida’s
proposed Constitutional Amendment 8, purposely misnamed ‘Religious Freedom.’”
Michigan – HB 5040, the Julea Ward Bill - passed the Michigan House by a vote of 59-50
on June 12 and was transmitted to the Senate. On June 14 the bill was referred to the Senate
Committee on Government Operations. The Senate will remain in session until the end of June.
This misleading “Freedom of Conscience Act” would give students in the counseling, social
work, or psychology programs the right to discriminate against LGBT students or students who
do not agree with their religious views.
Pennsylvania - SB 1134 - A bill that would relax the qualifications for employees at religiously
affiliated child-care centers in Pennsylvania passed the state Senate Education Committee on
Tuesday. Additionally, this bill allows religiously affiliated child-care centers to forgo the annual
certification and inspections process required of child-care centers, and instead file a onetime
affidavit attesting to their meeting of requirements, free from oversight.
We are in the middle of Phase 2 of our initial chapter organizing conference calls. There is great
interest in motivation in starting chapters in these phase 2 states, many of which have some of
the most egregious examples of church/state violations.
Call in number and code (always the same!) 530-881-1400 code: 978895
Phase 2 Initial Organizing Conference Calls
Arkansas - Thursday, June 28th, 1PM ET / Noon CT
California - Wednesday, June 27th, 4PM ET / 1PM PT
Florida - Tuesday, June 26th, 1PM ET
Georgia - Tuesday, June 26th, 2PM ET
Missouri - Thursday, June 28th, 2PM ET / 1PM CT
Montana - Tuesday, June 26th, 4PM ET / 2PM MT
Rhode Island - Wednesday, June 27th, 3PM ET
South Carolina - Wednesday, June 27th, 2PM ET
Texas - Tuesday, June 26th, 3PM ET / 2PM CT
Phase 1 organization is underway. We are working on getting the chapter websites up and running, but until then we encourage people to “like” the Facebook pages of their state chapter,
listed as “Secular Coalition for [State]. Please spread the word about the next conference calls for
phase one states. 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.
Second Calls for Phase 1 States
Alabama - Friday, July 6th at 1pm ET/ Noon CT
Arizona - Monday, July 2nd at 3pm ET/ Noon Arizona time
Colorado - Tuesday, July 3rd at 3pm ET/ 1pm MT
Connecticut - Wednesday, August 8th at 1pm ET
Hawaii - Tuesday, July 3rd at 5pm ET/ 11am HAST
Kentucky - Wednesday, August 8th at 3pm ET/2pm CT
Massachusetts - Thursday, August 9th at 2pm ET
Michigan - Wednesday, August 8th at 2pm ET/1pm CT
Pennsylvania - Tuesday, July 3rd at 2pm ET
Virginia - Tuesday, July 3rd at 1pm ET
Thank you to our member organizations for spreading the word! Most of the call participants
learned about the chapter formation efforts through organizations they are already involved
in. We are already working on sending out invites to our phase 3 states and can use your help.
Please contact Kelly Damerow with any contacts you have in our phase 3 states! (Email:
[email protected]; P: 202-299-1091 ext:204)
Here are the remaining phases of the state chapter roll out. We will be releasing the exact call
dates and times for future phases approximately two weeks before the calls are scheduled to
begin. Please note that some states have moved from phase 4 to 5 to provide more balance and
phase 5 has been pushed back a few weeks due to the overwhelming response we’ve received
from our initial calls already.
- Phase 3 (July 16 - August 3) - Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New
York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington
- Phase 4 (August 13 - 17) - Alaska, Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois,
Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon
- Phase 5 (September 4-21) - Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota,
Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin,
VI. Policy and Research Documents
- Powerpoints are now available on the website. These speeches will be free and available to everyone in the movement. Others will be coming soon!
- The U.S. Department of State's annual International Religious Freedom Report for 2010 is available online for those who want to see what religious freedom is looking like on a national scale. Also of note is the Department of State's list of Countries of Particular Concern, which are countries restricting or imposing on religious freedom.
- 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].
VII. 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 have 3 new endorsing organizations:
- Tampa Bay Coalition of Reason
- Detroit Coalition of Reason
- Omaha Coalition of Reason
VIII. Member Organization Announcements
To sign up for newsletters, call announcments, and action alerts, please visit our website.