“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
A look at the week ahead:
After last night’s failure to extend all of the Patriot Act’s provisions during a session on Sunday, the Senate now moves forward with the House version of the reauthorization (the USA FREEDOM Act), which places new restrictions on the NSA’s ability to collect phone records. This was a setback for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had been urging colleagues for a clean extension of the Patriot Act before provisions expired. The USA FREEDOM Act still faces several hurdles, with several Senators promising to put forward amendments that would reinstate some of the phone metadata collection provisions. If that happens, expect the debate surrounding this bill and the reauthorization to continue.
We are also expecting the House to consider the Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill this week. During the bill markup in the Appropriations Committee, concerns were raised about cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as NASA’s Earth-based science program and how it will hinder climate change research. The House Appropriations Committee will be marking up the defense authorization this week as well.
President Obama will be hosting the King and Queen of the Netherlands today for an official state visit.
On our radar:
Adoption discrimination prohibition: Before Congress recessed for Memorial Day, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) introduced S. 1382 and H.R. 2449. These bills, both titled “Every Family Deserves a Family Act”, would prohibit any adoption or foster care agency from discriminating against potential placements on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status. This bill was introduced as a response to H.R. 1299, which would allow for agencies to continue to receive funds even if they discriminate or refuse services while citing a sincerely held religious belief. The Secular Coalition will be working closely with our partners in the LGBT community to move the Every Family Deserves a Family Act forward.
Conversion therapy ban: Also before the recess, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) along with 37 co-sponsors introduced a bill that would classify so-called “gay conversion therapy” as fraud. The bill (H.R. 2450), would ban all conversion therapy under the premise that being LGBT is not a condition to be cured, while providing an explicit exception for legitimate forms of counseling. The Secular Coalition supports this bill and looks forward to working with our allies to gather momentum behind it.
Next week, the Secular Coalition will be co-sponsoring a Congressional hill briefing with coalition members Center for Inquiry and the American Humanist Association. The briefing will examine the current status of international religious freedom and what Congress can do protect religious minorities abroad. Panelists include: Elizabeth K. Cassidy, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom; Tina Ramirez, Founder and Executive Director, Hardwired and former International and Government Relations Director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty; Mahmood Ahmad, from Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA; and Michael De Dora from the Center for Inquiry and President of the United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion Belief.
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.