National Secular Movement Update Call

Thursday, November 29, 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 29, 2012 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

November 4th was the Secular Coalition's 10 year anniversary! And we're celebrating with the announcement that we've just this week reached 100 Endorsing Organizations. 

The SCA will attend two White House events this week. Chris Lombardi will attend the meeting of the President's Advisory Council for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships on Thursday, November 29 and Edwina Rogers and Chris Lombardi were invited to attend President Obama's Holiday Reception on December 11th. In other White House related news, a petition urging the White House petition "Enforce the tax code, and strip violating Religious institutions of their tax exempt 501(c) status." has received more than 25,500 signatures--enough to receive a response from the administration. 

Next year Congress will be focused on tax reform, therefore, the Secular Coalition for America will be holding a summit on Wednesday, December 12 at 2pm EST concerning religious privileging in the tax code. Location: SCA Conference Room (1012 14th St NW, Suite 205), or Via phone: 530-881-1400 Code: 703905. This is an opportunity to involve secular thought leaders in the development of our approach and strategy regarding tax reform.

At the state level, a total of 12 chambers changed partisan control in the 2012 state legislative elections. Eight of those chambers were flipped to Democratic control, four are now in a Republican majority. A coalition of faith and civil liberties groups in fighting a "biblical strategy" used by a Florida prosecuting attorney who convinced a jury to vote for the death penalty by presenting explicitly religious evidence to the jurors and repeatedly citing the Book of Romans. In Virginia, Loudon County officials called atheists "terrorists" for attempting to put up their "holiday" display. Also, an Oklahoma federal district court denied a preliminary injunction in a suit by Hobby Lobby claiming that the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate violates its free exercise rights and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

 

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

I. White House and Congressional Update
  • House of Representatives: The House returned to session on Tuesday to consider six bills on Homeland Security issues. Wednesday and Thursday the House will rename several post offices and federal buildings. The final bill of the week will offer changes to the immigrant visa program for Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math professionals.
  • Senate: The Senate was unable to pass the Sportsman's Bill earlier this week. On Wednesday they will begin consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act and amendments to it. Passage is expected by Friday. Majority Leader Reid is also trying to work out passage of a treaty on global standards to promote equal rights for disabled individuals.
  • White House:  The President is continuing to hold meetings with Congressional leaders and other groups to push for an agreement on avoiding the fiscal cliff. On Friday, he will travel to a toy factory in Pennsylvania to highlight the impact of middle class tax rates rising after the first of the year. 
  • UN:  The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life has released its 2012 report on global laws restricting the rights to freedom of religion, belief, and expression. The study found that nearly half of the countries in the world (47%) have laws or policies that penalize blasphemy, apostasy or defamation. Of the 198 countries studied, 32 (16%) have anti-blasphemy laws, 20 (10%) have laws penalizing apostasy and 87 (44%) have laws against the defamation of religion. These results make clear that secularists have a lot of work to do in promoting and protecting the right of every human being to speak and act freely regarding matters of religion. The full report can be found here: http://www.pewforum.org/Government/Laws-Penalizing-Blasphemy,-Apostasy-and-Defamation-of-Religion-are-Widespread.aspx
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
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!

  • December 12, 2012- 2:00 pm: A National Summit: Correcting Religious Privileging in the Tax Code, Location: SCA Conference Room (1012 14th St NW, Suite 205), or Via phone: 530-881-1400 Code: 703905, check website shortly for more information
  • December 1, 2012 - 10:00 am: Nathan Cox speaking at Michigan Atheists 26th Annual State Convention

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Upcoming Meetings

  • Chris Lombardi will attend the meeting of the President's Advisory Council for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships on Thursday, November 29
  • Edwina Rogers and Chris Lombardi were invited to attend President Obama's Holiday Reception on December 11th.
  • Next week we will have three meetings with House offices confirmed. We are meeting with the offices of: 
    • Rep. Pingree (D-ME)--Tuesday, December 4 (time still being worked out)
    • Rep. Bonamici (D-OR)--Wednesday, December 5 (11am)
    • Rep. Chu (D-CA)--Wednesday, December 5 (1pm)
  • We may have a few more meetings next week pending replies from other office. We have also reached out to several Senate offices for the following two weeks. 
Anything to add? Contact Nathan Cox at [email protected]. Please let us know if you'd like to attend one of these meetings: If you are interested, please contact Chris Lombardi at [email protected] for anything legislation-related. 


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?

IV. Legislative and Regulatory Update
Federal 
  • Next year Congress will be focused on tax reform, therefore, the Secular Coalition for America will be holding a summit on Wednesday, December 12 at 2pm EST concerning religious privileging in the tax code. Location: SCA Conference Room (1012 14th St NW, Suite 205), or Via phone: 530-881-1400 Code: 703905. This is an opportunity to involve secular thought leaders in the development of our approach and strategy regarding tax reform. 
  • We sent out congratulatory letters to reelected Members of the House and Senate, briefing them on our issues and stating that we look forward to working together. This letter can easily be adapted and used at the state level. Find the text here.
  • We will send out a welcome letter to New Members of the House and Senate to introduce them to SCA when they are sworn in this January. 
  • Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) introduced the Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH) Act (H.R. 6597). This bill would create an additional religious exemption from the individual mandate requirement in the Affordable Care Act. In talking to offices associated with the bill, it appears it was introduced at the request of the Christian Scientist community. They have received exemptions in other health related legislation in the past but were not given one in the ACA.
  • A White House petition, "Enforce the tax code, and strip violating Religious institutions of their tax exempt 501(c) status." has received more than 25,500 signatures--enough to receive a response from the administration. 
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.  

***There are no Legislative and Regulatory Update Calls in December. Calls will resume in January.***  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
  • Good News Club challenges CA law requiring that schools charge for space used for religious services.  The Good News Club filed suit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of a California statute which requires schools to charge an amount at least equal to direct costs for use of school space for religious services but make charging of fees discretionary when school space is used by other civic groups.  The complaint alleges that this amounts to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination in violation of their free speech rights to make use of the “forum” of school meeting space. 
  • Court denies injunction against ACA contraception coverage mandate enforcement.    An Oklahoma federal district court denied a preliminary injunction in a suit by Hobby Lobby claiming that the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate violates its free exercise rights and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The court held that secular, for-profit corporations do not have a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion (nor rights under RFRA). As to claims by the individual owners of the companies, the court rejected the free exercise claims, finding the mandate to be a neutral law of general applicability.  The court concluded that the mandate does not impose a “substantial burden” on the free exercise rights of the individual owners of the business corporations in violation of RFRA, stating that the “burden of which plaintiffs complain is that funds, which plaintiffs will contribute to a group health plan, might, after a series of independent decisions by health care providers and patients covered by [Hobby Lobby’s] plan, subsidize someone else’s participation in an activity that is condemned by plaintiff’s religion,” and therefore is not substantial.  
  • Court refuses to issue injunction against Santa Monica over end to nativity scenes.  A California federal district court denied a preliminary injunction in a suit challenging a Santa Monica, California, ordinance that prevented a group from continuing a 60-year tradition of erecting a series Christmas story dioramas in Palisades Park during the holiday season. In recent years, secular groups won substantial space in a neutral lottery for space and put up their own displays.  The city then decided to ban displays altogether.  The court ruled that the city proved that it banned the displays not to squash religious speech but because they were becoming a drain on city resources, destroying the turf and obstructing ocean views.
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
  • Partisan Balance of State Legislatures BEFORE the November elections
    • Heading into the election, Republicans controlled 59 chambers: 28 State Senates and 31 State Houses
    • Democrats controlled 36: 19 State Senates and 17 State Houses
    • Three were split and Nebraska does not have party affiliations
  • State Chamber flips
    • A total of 12 chambers changed partisan control in the 2012 state legislative elections. 
    • Eight of those chambers were flipped to Democratic control: Colorado House of Representatives,  Maine State Senate,  Maine House of Representatives,  Minnesota State Senate,  Minnesota House of Representatives,  New Hampshire House of Representatives,  New York State Senate, and Oregon House of Representatives
    • Four are now in a Republican majority: Alaska State Senate, Arkansas State Senate, Arkansas House of Representatives, and  Wisconsin State Senate
  • Partisan Balance of State Legislatures AFTER the November elections
    • Republicans lost 4 chambers, but picked up 1 and now control 56 chambers: 28 State Senates and 28 State Houses
    • Democrats gained 5 chambers and now control 41: 20 State Senates and 21 State Houses
  • Political trifectas
    • A trifecta is when one political party holds the governorship and a majority in both chambers of the state legislatures. 
    • It's particularly important in the state lawmaking process because the Governor, Senate Majority Leader and House Majority Leader all play decisive roles in the legislative process. 
    • The nation appears to be shifting towards state politics being controlled by one party in any given state. Prior to the 2010 election there were 25 political trifectas. That figure rose after the 2010 elections and even further in this year's elections. 
    • There are now a total of 37 trifectas throughout the country. (Italicized are new after the Nov. election)
      • 23 Republican: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming
      • 14 Democratic: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia
State Chapter Updates
  • Secular Coalition for Michigan Co-chair Marc Shaberman spoke at a Michigan House committee hearing Tuesday in opposition to two bills that would ensure faith-based adoption agencies cannot be denied public funding and will be protected in their religiously-based discrimination against Michigan citizens. An immediately positive outcome of Marc speaking was committee members referring to the right "not to believe."
  • Conference Calls

  • Contact Kelly Damerow, our Research and Advocacy manager, at [email protected] or by phone 202-299-1091 ext. 204.

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


    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; we now have 100. Our newest endorsing organizations are:
      • WNC Humanists
      • WNC Atheists
      • Fayetteville Freethinkers (AR)
    IX. SCA Member and Associated Organization Announcements


    The Secular Student Alliance group, Atheists, Humanists & Agnostics, at the University of Wisconsin - Madison applied to their Student Services Finance Committee for was funded to the tune of $67,000 for the 2013-2014 school year.  Details can be found at http://wiscatheists.blogspot.com/2012/11/victory.html.

    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 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] or 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.

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

     

     

     

     

     

    Secular Coalition for America | http://www.secular.org
    1012 14th Street NW, Suite 205, Washington, D.C., 20005-3429
    Phone: (202) 299-1091 Fax: (202) 293-0922

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    The Secular Coalition for America is the national lobby for atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheistic Americans. From our office in the nation's capital, our lobbyists and support staff engage public policy makers and the media on issues ranging from religion's influence on education and medical research to the privileging of faith groups by government. We are the first and only cooperative venture of freethought organizations coming together to improve the cultural and political situation of a previously unrepresented constituency: the tens of millions of atheists and agnostics in the United States. The Secular Coalition for America is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization.

    Please consider joining or donating to one of our national member organizations: 
    American Atheists
    American Ethical Union
    American Humanist Association
    Atheist Alliance of America
    Camp Quest
    Council for Secular Humanism
    Huumanists
    Institute for Humanist Studies
    Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers
    Secular Student Alliance
    Society for Humanistic Judaism

     

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