“What an amazing night.”The positive online comments keep pouring in!
There were several people in Lincoln today meeting about trying to organise a state chapter of the SCA in Nebraska.Organising people over in Omaha and Lincoln (the state capital) is not too hard, the…Continue
This organization is a very serious threat to a "Secular Nation." These people are using our tax dollars to go into school buildings after hours and teach this garbage to our children! I'm sure…Continue
I live in Southern, Ohio and the Bible-Belt runs strong through the hills in our community. I frequent many city council meetings because of the corruption that has been within our tiny city for…Continue
As the Religiously Unaffiliated Population Grows, So Must Recognition by America’s Elected Leaders
Washington, DC—The Secular Coalition for America expressed enthusiasm at news of the growing constituency of unaffiliated Americans. A Pew study released Tuesday found that religiously unaffiliated Americans—or “nones”—now make up nearly 23 percent of the population.
The study indicates a 41.6 percent increase in the number of “nones” –those who do not identify with any religion—since 2007. The share of self-identified atheists has nearly doubled in size since 2007, from 1.6 percent to 3.1 percent. Agnostics have grown from 2.4 percent to 4 percent.
“The study indicates that not only are the religiously unaffiliated a rapidly growing community, but the number of those who specifically identify as atheist or agnostic is increasing as well,” said Kelly Damerow, Interim Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “The findings lend credence to the growth we’ve witnessed within our community as a whole.”
According to the report:
“As our community continues to grow, we are also becoming increasingly organized as a political constituency,” Damerow said. “Forward thinking lawmakers who saw the writing on the wall have been working with us for years. It’s time for their colleagues to catch on.”
The Secular Coalition for America is the advocacy organization representing atheists, humanists, agnostics and other nontheists. The Secular Coalition represents 17 voting member organizations, as well as more than 200 associate, endorsing and affiliated organizations, and 50 state chapters. Find out more about the Secular Coalition at www.secular.org.
CONTACT: Kelly Damerow, Interim Executive Director, at email@example.com or (202)299-1091 ext. 207
Supporting Secularists in Southeast Asia - Casey Brescia
The freedom to express one’s beliefs is among the most basic human rights that governments are obliged to protect. That’s why the Secular Coalition for America met with the Office of Religion and Global Affairs and the Office of International Religious Freedom at the State Department yesterday to express concern over the growing threat to nonbelievers in southeast Asia. Joined by two of our member organizations, the Center for Inquiry and Ex-Muslims of North America, we outlined the dangers posed to nonbelievers in the region with a focus on the situation in Bangladesh.
During the past few years, there has been a disturbing rise of attacks on Bangladeshi nonbelievers. In February of 2004, author and poet Humayun Azad was attacked while leaving the Bangla Academy Book Fair. Though he survived the encounter, only six months later he was murdered while abroad in Germany by Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, a Bangladeshi Islamist group. In January 2013 secular blogger Asif Mohiuddin, whose blog covered topics including women’s rights and Islamic fundamentalism, was attacked and stabbed by four young men outside his house. Mohiuddin survived the attack only to be imprisoned by the Bangladeshi government and have his blog shut down. Only a month later another secular blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, was attacked by machete wielding men while leaving his house. The attack was so savage that a relative had difficulty identifying the body. The past three months have seen two more murders of openly secular activists. On February 26, Avijit Roy and his wife were returning home by bicycle rickshaw when two assailants stopped them and dragged them from the vehicle. They attackers proceeded to hack them with machetes, killing Avijit and seriously injuring his wife. Just a month later another secular blogger, Washiqur Rahman, suffered the same fate when he was attacked outside of his house.
Bangladesh is a secular state which guarantees its citizens the freedom of religion, belief, and expression in Articles 18 and 19 of its Constitution. Bangladesh is also a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which enshrines a commitment that “no one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
Yesterday, we urged the State Department to work with Special Envoy David Saperstein to ensure that nontheists would be counted as a protected minority group. A proactive approach to combating this violence will require that the State Department be familiar with nontheistic community of Bangladesh and the unique challenges they endure. We also asked that the State Department work with the Bangladeshi government to repeal the blasphemy laws that were used to arrest scores of bloggers in April 2013. This is not an unreasonable request, but it is an expectation that Bangladesh make good on its promise to respect freedom of conscience and expression as outlined in its Constitution and the ICCPR.
Bangladesh is a diverse country and ensuring that it remains so requires the government protect its citizens freedom of belief and expression. This includes the freedom to speak without fear of reprisal. If the people of Bangladesh, secular and religious alike, are meant to believe they have freedom of speech than the government must commit itself to protecting and securing justice for those who express unpopular ideas. The value of free speech is not limited by geopolitical borders and neither is our support for those who will bravely proclaim it.
A year ago last Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled in Town of Greece v. Galloway1 that prayer at town council meetings was entirely constitutional. The Court found that legislative prayers only become unconstitutional if they are overtly sectarian or coercive to engage in.2 The decision, although in line with lower court trends, completely disregards the basic constitutional principle enshrined in the First Amendment: the government cannot support the establishment of religion.
Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the majority, divided evenly on ideological and religious lines, explained that if a legislative body permitted anyone to lead a prayer and did not contain restrictions on what could be said was sufficiently non-coercive and non-sectarian.3 Nonetheless, objections to legislative prayer are substantial. Justice Kagan pointed out in her dissenting opinion that Town of Greece almost exclusively invited Christian ministers to perform the prayers, making the practice entirely sectarian. She also argued that because the prayers were focused on the residents, and not on the lawmakers, it further violated non-denominational rules.
The previous precedent set for legislative prayer was in Marsh v. Chambers4, decided in 1983. In that case, the Court ruled that legislative prayer could be allowed to such an extent that the chaplain hired by the legislature could be paid by public funds, as well as come from the same religious tradition for over 16 years. By ruling such a low standard for nonsectarian prayer, the court all-but-instituted Judeo-Christian legislative prayer as a standard practice throughout the country. Galloway only expanded the limits on legislative prayer, making it more difficult to challenge these offenses to our rights and the Constitution.
Legislative prayer has existed since the first Congress gaveled into session, so it won’t be going anywhere any time soon. In fact, Galloway showed that the trend is moving toward more legislative prayer, and more sectarian legislative prayer. This expansion makes the practice increasingly discriminatory not just against nonreligious Americans, but also against Americans of minority faiths that are not included in the increasingly sectarian prayers local governments are leading on a daily basis.