National Secular Movement Update Call: Fiscal Cliff, Tax Reform and Religious Privileging

Thursday, November 15, 2012 - 12:00 - 12:30
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

November 15, 2012 

REMINDER: There will be no call next week due to the Thanksgiving holiday.



As the country regroups after the election, all eyes are on the looming fiscal cliff, for which the President is spending this week holding meetings with various interest groups to discuss. Congress is welcoming new representatives, Nancy Pelosi has announced she will run again for House Democratic leader and the Senate will proceed on the National Defense Authorization bill.

Lost in the major news of last week were several important stories: Alabama's Judge Roy Moore, the ‘10 Commandments judge’ won his old job back as Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, Massachusetts rejected a "Death with Dignity" ballot campaign and Kyrsten Sinema was finally declared the winner in the newly-created Ninth District of Arizona.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal over a South Carolina public school program that offers religious classes  and  the city council of Lake Elsinore, California approved a war memorial depicting a soldier kneeling before a cross. This week the American Humanist Association launched its website "Kids Without Gods", which offers resources for the young and growing secular population.

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 of Representatives: The House returned to session on Tuesday and will be holding leadership elections in each party and conducting New Member Orientation. The balance of the week will deal with several bills addressing Congressional Budget Office reporting requirements for Recovery Act projects; natural gas supply; tobacco smuggling; judicial procedures for the U.S. Virgin Islands; and a Mark Twain Commemorative coin. They will also hold hearings on CIA Director, General Petraeus stepping down.  
  • Senate: The Senate has also returned to session. They are focusing on a Sportsman’s bill and filing amendments on that. A cloture vote is expected on Thursday morning. Majority Leader Reid has also made a motion to proceed on the Senate’s National Defense Authorization billl. Reid is also making moves to secure limits on the fillibuster.
    White House: 
    The President is spending this week holding meetings with various interest groups related to the fiscal cliff. On Tuesday he met with labor leaders. Wednesday he met with representatives of the business community. On Friday he will host the bicameral, bipartisan leadership in Congress and later in the day meet with civic organizations.
  • UN:  On Monday, the UN Human Rights Council announced election results for 18 of its open seats (of 47 total). Fortunately the United States was re-elected, but also elected were seven countries with particularly poor human rights records: Ethiopia, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. How this might change future votes on freedom of religion, belief, and expression remains to be seen. In other news, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Navi Pillay, recently visited Indonesia on a fact-finding mission. At her official press conference in Jakarta, Pillay implored the country's leaders to tackle increasing problems with discrimination and called for the end of its blasphemy laws. 
    •  A news article on the HRC election can be found here.
    • Pillay's address can be found here.

Anyone who would like to suggest 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)

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]

Meet the Secular Coalition!

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Upcoming Meetings

  • We have reached out to reschedule a meeting with Senator Rubio’s staff.
  • The next Legislative and Regulatory Update Call will be at 2 pm on November 20 and will feature a pollster to do a recap on the elections. 

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

III. Secular Movement In the News

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news!

Secular Coalition in the News

Other News, Blog Posts, Press Releases

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

    • Mark Twain's Birthday (November 30)
    • December 23, 2012- Festivus
    • January 16, 2013- National Religious Freedom Day
    • February 12, 2013- Darwin Day

IV. Legislative and Regulatory Update

  • Election Recap: 
    • White House: President Obama won 332  electoral college votes and received 50.6%  of the popular vote. Romney won 206 electoral college votes, with 47.8% of the popular vote. 
    • Senate: 53 Dem/45 Rep and 2 Independents---Democrats picked up 2 seats and Republicans lost 2 seats.
    • House: 195 Dem/233 Rep---Democrats picked up 9 seats and Republicans lost 3 seats. Of the seven remaining seats, Democratic candidates currently lead in 6 of the races.
    • Governors: 19 Dems/30 Reps and 1 Independent (Rhode Island).
    • State Legislatures: 19 Dems/26 Reps/4 Split and 1 Unicameral chamber (NE).
  • Next year Congress will be focused on tax reform, therefore, the Secular Coalition for America will be holding a summit concerning religious privileging  in the tax code, to develop our position and recommendations regarding tax reform. 
  • Kyrsten Sinema was declared the winner in the newly-created Ninth District of Arizona. Rep-elect Sinema spoke at the kickoff event for the Secular Coalition for Arizona in October 2010.
  • We are finalizing a welcome letter to New Members of the House and Senate to introduce them to SCA.
  • The Senate is expected to take up the National Defense Authorization bill later this week or possibly next if they remain in session before Thanksgiving. Passage of the Senate bill will allow for a conference with the House and expected removal of troublesome House amendments.

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, November 20th at 2pm (EDT) and the featured speaker will be a pollster. Current donors will receive an invitation; if you are interested in participating in these calls, please donate today!

Contact Chris Lombardi, Government Relations Manager for the SCA, with additional suggestions or information at [email protected]

V. Judicial

  • Supreme Court refuses to hear an appeal in a case challenging a SC “released time” program.  The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday denied a petition to grant a writ of certiorari in Moss v. Spartanburg County School District.  The 4th Circuit in that case upheld a South Carolina school system’s “released time” program that permits high school students to receive academic credit for off-campus religious instruction offered by a private Bible school.  The Supreme Court has previously found on-campus released time programs unconstitutional and later upheld off-campus programs.  It has never ruled on whether granting credit for such classes is constitutional.  AHA submitted an amicus brief supporting the plaintiff in this case.    
  • CA city approves war memorial depicting a soldier kneeling before a cross.  The city council of Lake Elsinore, California, has approved the funding and construction of a new war memorial to be located on city property.  The memorial is to consist of a large tablet with an image of a soldier kneeling before a Christian cross beneath a depiction of a bald eagle.  News reports indicate that the city may add a Star of David emblem as well.  The city council approved the memorial despite letters of opposition from the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, explaining how the monuments ignores soldiers who are not Christians (or Jews), and AHA, explaining that the memorial would be unconstitutional.  

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 Legislative and Regulatory Update


  • Alabama
  • Roy Moore,  known as Alabama’s Ten Commandments judge, has been re-elected chief justice in a triumphant political resurrection after being ousted from that office nearly a decade ago
  • Massachusetts
  • Question 2 Defeated -"Death with Dignity" Initiative  would have allowed for a terminally ill patient to be given lethal drugs.
    • Governor's Toss Up Races
      • Washington
        • Votes still being counted
        • Jay Inslee (D) leads Rob McKenna (R) by approximately 55,000 votes
      • Montana
        • Steve Bullock (D) won
      • New Hampshire
        • Maggie Hassan (D) won
      • North Carolina 
        • Party Switch, won by Pat McCrory (R)
  • 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:
      • Thursday November 15th
        • West Virginia at 1pm ET
        • Ohio at 2pm ET
        • Kansas at 2pm CT
        • Iowa at 3pm CT
      • Monday November 19th 
        • New Hampshire at 11 am ET
        • Michigan at 2pm ET
        • Indiana at 3pm ET
        • Nebraska at 3pm ET
      • Tuesday November 20th 
        • New York at 1pm ET
        • North Carolina at 2pm ET
        • Tennessee at 3pm ET/ 2pm CT
        • Washington at 1pm PT
      • Wednesday November 21st and Thursday November 22nd 
        • Cancelled for Thanksgiving
      • Tuesday November 27th
        • Florida at 1pm ET
        • Georgia at 2pm ET
        • Texas at 2pm CT
        • Montana at 2pm MT
      • Wednesday November 28th
        • Rhode Island at 1pm ET
        • South Carolina at 2pm ET
        • California at 1pm PT
    • 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.
    Contact Kelly Damerow, our Research and Advocacy manager, at [email protected] or by phone 202-299-1091 ext. 204.

    VII. Policy and Research Documents

    The Evolution of the Religiously Unaffiliated Vote, 1980-2008
    , By: Juhem Navarro-Rivera | Topics: 2012 Election, Politics & Government, RNS Blog [10.26.2012] "The religiously unaffiliated, or the “Nones,” are the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, now comprising about one-fifth (19%) of the adult population. Their growth is also evident at the ballot box, where unaffiliated voters now account for a significant slice of the electorate. The unaffiliated vote share in presidential elections more than doubled from 5% in 1980 to 12% in 2008. Currently, PRRI’s 2012 American Values Survey estimates that 16% of likely voters are religiously unaffiliated."

    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, Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society with any additions or suggestions for this list at [email protected].

    Powerpoints 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; we now have 97. Our newest endorsing organizations are:
      • Atheist Alliance International
      • Humanists of Rhode Island
      Last week, we had
    IX. SCA Member and Associated Organization Announcements

    AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION: This week launched its website "Kids Without Gods", which offers resources for the young and growing secular population. Additionally, the AHA sent a letter to new members of Congress urging them not to join the prayer caucus. The AHA is writing a piece for the Washington Post's On Faith section about what Thanksgiving means for the nontheistic.

    X. Movement Charity Updates and Activities:

    Secular donations for Hurricane Sandy relief have topped $20,000 ($20.8K) since the storm through the combined efforts of Foundation Beyond Belief's (FBB) Crisis Response program ( and the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund (HSRF) (, sponsored by multiple Freethought organizations. The HSRF committee has approved a $1000 grant to a local Freethought Haiti group for relief efforts, and is considering other applications for aid.  

    FBB 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 non-theists will reach $1 million in organized charitable giving in 2012. 

    Please contact Noelle George 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.

    Contact Executive Director, Edwina Rogers, at [email protected] or by phone at 202-299-101 ext. 207 or cell: 202-674-7800.

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