National Secular Movement Update Call

Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 12:00 - 12:30
Call In Details: 
559-726-1300 Code: 199568

 

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Secular Coalition for America

National Secular Movement Update
Newsletter and Call

Call Every Thursday from 12PM - 12:30PM (ET)
Phone Number: 559-726-1300 Code: 199568
May 2, 2013

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

Today is the National Day of Reason-- a more inclusive alternative to the congressionally endorsed National Day of Prayer, which is also today. Yesterday, the SCA issued a press release, applauding the support of the National Day of Reason by lawmakers at the federal and local levels and urges all Americans to support the constitutional principal of church-state separation by recognizing the annual observance. Rep. Michael Honda (CA) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) declared their support for the Day of Reason within the last several days. Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, President Obama's nominee for transportation secretary, issued a proclamation, naming Thursday A Day of Reason in the city. The Dunedin City Council in Florida also issued a Day of Reason proclamation.

Last week the Secular Coalition held its Secular Summit & Lobby Day on the Hill for a crowd of approximately 100 participants. Thursday at the Secular Summit our panels featured experts and decision makers from both the legislative and executive branch who discussed topics of key importance to secular Americans in education, health and safety, tax policy, and discrimination. Participants were addressed by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) who delivered a keynote speech that detailed his long-time support for separation of church/state issues. At lunch, participants heard from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) who gave a heartfelt speech on his respect for the notheistic community and admiration for the work we are doing. Listen to Sen. Harkin's speech here. Friday's Lobby Day kicked off with a training in best practices in lobbying, how to get politicians to listen and really create change.  Each lobby day participant meet with multiple offices, resulting in Secular Coalition supporters advocating secular issues in hundreds of legislative meetings in a single day. Two groups -- both from Connecticut met directly with a member of Congress. The SCA will offer video footage of Rep. Nadler's speech in the coming days. You can view photos of the event on our Facebook page. If you attended the Secular Summit & Lobby Day, please give us your feedback, by completing the post-event survey!

Boston Interfaith Exclusion of Nontheists - Executive Director, Edwina Rogers, signed the petition, "Help Us Tell MA Gov. Deval Patrick & Melissa Rogers: Healing Must Be For Everyone" on behalf of the SCA. The SCA and its Massachusetts state chapter worked tirelessly with Harvard Humanist Chaplain, Greg Epstein, to secure inclusion in the Boston Interfaith event following the bombing of the Boston Marathon, attended by president Obama. We are still working together on making strides for full inclusion of nontheists in these types of events going forward.

Massachusetts Senate Race--Democratic Rep. Edward J. Markey and Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez won their party nominations and will face off in the special election on June 25. The Secular Coalition will be producing a scorecard for the race in the coming weeks.

Hill Meetings - On Thursday, April 18th the Secular Coalition for America met with the office of Sen. John Vitter(R-LA). The meeting was in regards to a letter Senator David Vitter sent to constituents with Senate resources, espousing an overtly Christian message. It read in part, "Easter reminds us to look past our many self-made problems and remember that God gave his only Son for our salvation." Our Executive Director, Edwina Rogers met with Senator Vitter's and addressed the Secular Coalition for America's concerns. Despite the meeting, Vitter sent out another email on April 20, mentioning prayer twice, and signing off "God Bless." We will be requesting another meeting with the Senator to continue to make our concerns heard.

International - As CFI today holds its protests in support of the atheist bloggers arrested in Bangladesh, a similar case is unfolding in Morocco. Moroccan police are on the search for an atheist activist Imad Eddin Habib, 22. Potential charges: creating the “Council of ex-Muslims of Morocco”, and stating: “there is no God but Mickey Mouse.” Those close to the case believe Habib's life is in danger and he has gone into hiding. We are requesting a meeting with the Moroccan Ambassador, here in DC to discuss this matter.  A report issued by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom claims Western Europe is rife with “very aggressive secularism.”

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 
  • House and Senate: The U.S. House and Senate are out of town this week; however,  lobbying surrounding immigration, transportation and other hot-button issues will continue. The rushed bill to undo the effects of automatic spending cuts on the air traffic control system that Congress effectively cleared before leaving town is encouraging other creative approaches to canceling the sequester, although those efforts will surely encounter fierce resistance from fiscal conservatives worried about the deficit.
  • White House: President Barack Obama announces the first of what could be a series of recess week nominations, picking Charlotte, N.C. Mayor Anthony Foxx as his Transportation secretary designate. The president is also said to be close to choosing Chicago businesswoman and Obama fundraiser Penny Pritzker to be Commerce secretary and deputy national security adviser Mike Froman to be U.S. Trade Representative, according to multiple news reports.
  • International: Increasing calls for Islamization in Bangladesh, including death penalty for blasphemy. A Bangladeshi Islamist group is threatening a massive May 5 march on Dhaka, the nation’s capital, unless the government agrees to 13 demands, including the death penalty for blasphemy and the outlawing of women working with men. Today, the Center for Inquiry and other allies around the world will protest for free expression in Bangladesh. More information on the protests here. Meanwhile, Morocco's police are on the search for an atheist activist Imad Eddin Habib, 22. Potential charges: creating the “Council of ex-Muslims of Morocco”, and stating: “there is no God but Mickey Mouse”. The SCA is requesting a meeting with the Moroccan Ambassador, here in DC to discuss this matter.
If you are interested in attending one of these meetings, please contact Director of Federal and State Affairs, [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 http://unforb.wordpress.com/ (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
Anything to add? Contact Communications Manager, 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 Director of Federal and State Affairs, Kelly Damerow at [email protected] for anything legislation-related.

III. Secular Movement In the News

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and check out Secular News Daily for even more!

Secular Coalition in the News
Secular and Related News

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Calendar Events

  • May 2 - National Day of Reason
  • May 11 - Richard Feynman Birthday (American theoretical physicist known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics)
  • May 20 - Everybody Draw Mohammed Day
  • May 27 - Memorial Day 
  • June 6 - Atheist Pride Day 
  • June 14 - Flag Day 
  • June 17 - 50th Anniversary of  SC case, School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, resulting in a landmark ruling striking down coercive, school-sponsored forms of prayer and Bible reading in public schools.
  • July 4 - Independence Day
Are there any upcoming anniversaries, days of note, holidays or events that the movement needs to coordinate press around? Contact Communications Manager, Lauren Anderson Youngblood at [email protected]
 
IV. Legislative and Regulatory Update
Federal 
On Thursday, April 18th the Secular Coalition for America met with the office of John Vitter(R-LA). The meeting was in regards to a letter Senator David Vitter sent to constituents with Senate resources, espousing an overtly Christian message. It read in part, "Easter reminds us to look past our many self-made problems and remember that God gave his only Son for our salvation." Our Executive Director, Edwina Rogers met with Senator Vitter's and addressed the Secular Coalition for America's concerns.

Lobby Day and Secular Summit

  • More than 100 secular supporters, representing millions of Americans, stood together during the Secular Coalition for America's Lobby Day and Secular Summit. Participants from around the country traveled to Washington DC April 24 through 26 to discuss the issues that matter to them with federal government decision makers/
  • Thursday at the Secular Summit our panels featured experts and decision makers from both the legislative and executive branch who discussed topics of key importance to secular Americans in education, health and safety, tax policy, and discrimination.
  • Participants were addressed by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) who delivered a keynote speech that detailed his long-time support for separation of church/state issues. At lunch, participants heard from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) who gave a heartfelt speech on his respect for the notheistic community and admiration for the work we are doing.
  • Friday's Lobby Day kicked off with a training in best practices in lobbying, how to get politicians to listen and really create change. Then we took over Capitol Hill. Each lobby day participant meet with multiple offices, resulting in Secular Coalition supporters advocating secular issues in hundreds of legislative meetings in a single day.
  • Two groups met directly with a member of Congress.
  • The potential impact of our lobbying force cannot be overstated. 20% of this county is unaffiliated with any religion and the majority of Americans support a strong separation of religion and government. Hundreds of people marching up the Capitol steps are hard to ignore. We have the numbers, but we must speak up together. Lobby Day was an excellent opportunity to impress upon our elected officials that we are organized, informed, and we will show up.  Thank you to everyone  who attended and we look forward to seeing you again next year.
Contact Kelly Damerow, Director of Federal and State Affairs, with additional suggestions or information at [email protected]ular.org.
 
V. Judicial
  • AHA files suit to stop Christian assemblies in MS school.  The American Humanist association has filed a suit in federal court in Mississippi challenging the constitutionality of a series of assemblies at Northwest Rankin High School outside of Jackson.  At the school-organized assemblies held during the school day, students described how turning to Jesus solved their teen troubles, such as sex and drugs.  The presentations ended with a prayer. 
  • AHA files suit to stop Christian prayers at MD county board meetings.  The American Humanist association has filed a suit in federal court in Maryland challenging the constitutionality of the practice of the Carroll County board of commissioners of opening their meetings with prayers that are frequently expressly Christian in nature. 
  • Atheist materials to be made available to FL students.  The Central Florida Freethought Community will be making materials on atheism available to students in Orange County, Florida, high schools on the National Day of Prayer.  The school district’s lawyers concluded that the group should be able to make the materials available on the same terms as a Christian group was allowed to hand out Bibles in the schools recently. The materials will be left on a table in the commons area for students to take.
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 Calls
Join the call for your state chapter by dialing in: Call in number: (530) 881-1400 - Participant code: 978895.
  • New York - 5/3 - 12:00 PM Eastern
The Secular Coalition will be putting together scorecards for Virginia and New Jersey--the only two states to hold gubernatorial elections this year. We will review the gubernatorial candidates and problematic state legislators.The Secular Coalition will be putting together scorecards for Virginia and New Jersey--the only two states to hold gubernatorial elections this year. We will review the gubernatorial candidates and problematic state legislators.

Arkansas
  • HB 1017 to allow school districts to adopt an academic study of the bible. Passed House. Hearing by the Senate Committee on Education, originally scheduled for 3/6/13, pushed to 3/13/13. Read for the second time and adopted by the Senate on April 16th. Now Act 1440.
  • SB 1119 to Enact The Religious Freedom Restoration Act; And To Provide Remedies And Penalties For Violating Or Abusing Religious Protections Under The Act. Read the third time and passed the Senate 34/1 on April 2nd. 
Nevada
  • Nevada SB192 - "Enacts the Nevada Preservation of Religious Freedom Act toprohibit governmental entities from substantially burdening the exercise of religion." This would allow anyone to act or not act 'on religious grounds' alone in many circumstances. Passed Senate and moved to Assembly April, 23rd. 
  • Nevada SB314 - "Provides that the right of parents to make choices regarding the upbringing, education and care of their children is a fundamental right." This bill is being pushed by the religious home schooling lobbyists. Passed Senate and moved to Assembly April, 22nd. 
  • Equality Nevada SB445 - Allows companies to 'sponsor' educational choices - private schools and home schools. The company then getsa tax break for the money they spend, thus tax revenue for public education is lost, the company keeps the taxes they would have paid, while giving money to what amounts to state sponsored, faith-based, home school education.Re-reffered to the committee on Finance April, 15th.
North Carolina
  • HJR 599 Supporting Prayer Week in NC. Passed the House on April 11th and is currently in the Senate Rules and Operations Committee. SC-NC issued a press release regarding the Prayer Week on 4/16. 
  • SB 498 Modify Religious Employer Exception. This bill would allow any employer to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees. To Committee on April, 23rd.
Montana
  • HB 217 allows religious 501c3 organization to put ballot issue material in their literature. Hearing before Senate State Administration Committee on 2/20/13. Passed in the Senate on March 28th but has since returned to the House with amendments. As of April 9th, Signed by President and transmitted to the Governor. 
Oregon
  • SB 132 Eliminating Oregon's "religious exemption" from child immunizations. Public hearing held 2/19. Currently in the Health Care and Human Services Committee. Senate gave second reading on April 23rd.  
Texas 
  • HCR 58 Displays of the Ten Commandments in public educational institutions and other government buildings. Referred to state affairs on 3/4/13, testimony taken on 4/3 no votes yet left pending in committee.HJR 110 proposing a constitutional amendment relating to a person's freedom of religion, that the government may not indirectly burden, including assessing penalties, or exclusion from programs. Left pending in committee Arpil 3rd. 
More Information on States
  • 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 chapter’s 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.


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 www.secularisminstitute.org. 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 117.
 
IX. SCA Member and Associated Organization Announcements

American Humanist Association on Wednesday sued the Board of Commissioners in Carroll County, Maryland, for opening its meetings with Commissioner-delivered sectarian prayers. The AHA has been busy drumming up support for National Day of Reason on the Hill. Last week they met with the offices of Rep. Susan Bonamicci, Rep. Hank Johnson, Rep. John Conyers, Rep. Mike Honda, Rep. Lewis, and Rep. Rangel. Rep. Honda and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton ended up making statements, with Rep. Honda entering his statement in the Congressional Record. More info. This week the AHA will be meeting with Rep. Kennedy's office to introduce him to the AHA and express concerns with the recent cuts to scientific research.

Bill Nye and Susan Jacoby will headline The CFI Summit: a joint conference of the Center for Inquiry and its affiliate organizations, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism, taking place from October 24-27.

Through next Monday, May 6th, the Secular Student Alliance will be hosting SSA Week, an internet celebration of the important work the Secular Student Alliance is doing for high school and college students. Throughout the week, bloggers, artists, and others from the community will tell the world why they support the Secular Student Alliance. Follow the link to get involved.

Secular Woman unveiled "Abort Theocracy." It is focused on the intersection of religious power over women's bodily autonomy, dedicated to terminating that connection by opposing religious influence in government.  The campaign is designed to unapologetically confront religion's influence over women's rights and to appeal to and mobilize women in the secular community to fight for their rapidly eroding rights in the public and private sphere. Also, they are interested in talking with organizations that are looking to find partners that are working on the intersection of government, secularism v. religion, and women's bodily autonomy.  If your organization is already working in this area or it has lobbying experience and wants to move into this area Secular Woman is a natural partner.  Please email [email protected]g.

Registration for Camp Quest sessions is filling up fast. Chesapeake, Oklahoma, Texas, and South Carolina have already gone to waiting lists. Find a camp session and get registration information at www.campquest.org/register. Applications for volunteer counselors for week-long Camp Quest sessions this summer are being accepted. Go to www.campquest.org/volunteer
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:
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 http://foundationbeyondbelief.org/LLS-lightthenight. 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.
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