National Secular Movement Update Call

Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 12:00 - 12:30
Call In Details: 
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


February 7, 2013 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

A win for our state chapters: Montana's Intelligent Design bill is dead! Following a House Education Committee meeting, at which the Secular Coalition for Montana spoke, HB 183 has been tabled.  Labeled as support for "critical thinking," H 183 is a stealth creationsim and intelligent design bill which seeks to teach theological arguments in the public schools science classroom. Furthermore, similar legislation in Colorado has also failed.

The SCA is meeting with the White House Office of Personal Engagement this week to introduce them to the SCA and discuss possible attendance at the Secular Summit.  We have meetings set up with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY),
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), and Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN). This week we sent a letter to all Congressional offices urging them to cosponsor the Darwin Day resolution.

A new, detailed agenda for the Secular Summit and Lobby Day is now available on our websote. If you haven't already registered for the Lobby Day and Secular Summit, register now to secure the early bird rate! Fees increase after February 15th!
 

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 will be in session next Tuesday through Friday. This week they considered minor bills related to pediatric hospital graduate medical education programs and to establish a national pediatric research network. The final bill was to require the president to submit a balanced budget within a decade. 
  • Senate: The Senate began the week by moving to consider the Violence Against Women reauthorization. They then recessed to hold their annual caucus retreats. They will resume consideration of VAWA on Thursday.
  • White House: The President on Tuesday released a series of spending cuts and tax loophole closures designed to be used to offset the coming sequester on March 1. On Wednesday, the President announced the nomination of Sally Jewell, current CEO of REI, to be Secretary of the Interior. He also met with Senate Democrats at their caucus retreat to shore up support for his budget proposals, immigration initiatives, and gun violence prevention efforts.
  • UN: Several days ago, the Head of Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, defended the prosecution of the all-female punk rock band Pussy Riot for religious hatred, and called for continued criminal prosecutions for blasphemy. Kirill said, in part, that "The law must protect ... objects with sacred meaning for believers and guard their religious feelings from insults." And, in a related story, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Kremlin are pushing for a bill that would make it illegal nationwide to hold public events that promote equality for gay persons (several Russian cities, including St. Petersburg, already have similar laws on their books).  These news stories come several months after the UN Human Rights Council passed a disturbing and little-discussed resolution promoting "traditional values" as a vehicle for "promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms." In hindsight, it appears Russia was simply trying to gain some cover for its suppression of ideas and expression critical of religion and other "traditional values." The HRC is set to meet again in March, and I can assure you that the Center for Inquiry and other organizations will be tracking this issue.
Upcoming Meetings
  • Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY)--February 7 at 3:00pm
  • Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY)--February 11 at 3:00pm (NCPE)
  • Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN)--February 19 at 1:30pm (NCPE)
If you are interested in attending one of these meetings, please contact chris@secular.org. For UN-related questions or remarks for these meetings can email mdedora@centerforinquiry.net. 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, mdedora@centerforinquiry.net, 646.706.6080). Otherwise, contact Edwina Rogers, Executive Director, Edwina Rogers, at Edwina@secular.org 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 nathan@secular.org

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Anything to add? Contact Nathan Cox at nathan@secular.org. Please let us know if you'd like to attend one of these meetings: If you are interested, please contact Chris Lombardi at chris@secular.org 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

Want daily updates? If you're interested in recieving our daily morning run-down of secular news stories, or for press inquiries, updates and other media related information, contact lauren@secular.org.

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

  •  
    • February 8-10 - Evolution Sunday
    • February 12 - Darwin Day
    • February 24 -  National Day of Solidarity for Black Nonbelievers and Allies (Information available soon)
    • March 29- April 6 - Atheist Week (Facebook)
    • April 24-26 - SCA's Lobby Day and Summit
    • May 2 - National Day of Reason

  • Have something to add to the calendar? Contact nathan@secular.org
IV. Legislative and Regulatory Update
Federal 
  • The President will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
  • Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced a tuition tax credit bill (H.R. 422). This is the most recent method that many states are using to circumvent concerns against vouchers and instead provide tax credits for education expenses for families that send their children to private schools.
  • Rep. Holt (D-NJ) will make a floor statement on Feb. 12 in connection with his Darwin Day resolution. SCA also sent out an email to all House offices encouraging them to cosponsor the resolution. 
  • Rep. Holt (D-NJ) has also introduced a bill to prohibit harassment of students in colleges and universities(H.R. 482). The bill's language includes prohibitions on harassment on the basis of religion.
  • Chris joined with CARD in meeting with the Department of Health and Human Services to discuss the Working Group Report issued by the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
  • Through our association with the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE) we will be participating in Coalition meetings with new Members of House and Senate Education and Budget Committees.
  • Our annual Secular Summit and Lobby Day will be April 24-26 in Washington D.C. We have a limited number of rooms available at the event hotel (Hyatt Regency Washington) and there is an early bird registration rate through February 15. For more information, or to register, click here.
  • We are putting together a tax-related briefing for Senate staff. We expect to hold that in the last two weeks of March. We are in discussions with several Senate offices to secure a room.
Contact Chris Lombardi, Government Relations Manager for the SCA, with additional suggestions or information at chris@secular.org.
 

V. Judicial
  • Court Upholds Exclusion of Religious Blessing From Student’s Speech At Middle School Graduation.  The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a free speech claim brought by a middle school student who was not permitted to include a religious blessing as part of her speech at a graduation ceremony.  The court concluded that the ceremony was an official, school-sponsored event and that her speech would be perceived as being endorsed by the school.  A school may limit the speech of those who speak on its behalf for legitimate pedagogical reasons, including avoiding an Establishment Clause violation.
  • RI Florist Sued For Discrimination After Refusing To Deliver Flowers To Winning Establishment Clause Plaintiff.  FFRF has filed a lawsuit against a florist who refused to deliver flowers ordered by FFRF to be delivered to Jessica Ahlquist, a successful plaintiff in an Establishment Clause case.  The suit alleges that this violates Rhode Island’s public accommodations law (similar to the federal Title II), which prohibits such businesses to discriminate against customers on the basis of their religious views.  
If you have any additions, questions or submissions for inclusion on the judicial section for next week, contact Bill Burgess, BBurgess@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088.

VI. SCA State Chapters
     
State Legislation
  •  
    • Montana
      • HB 183 has been tabled! Labeled as support for "critical thinking," H 183 is a stealth creationsim and intelligent design bill which seeks to teach theological arguments in the public schools science classroom. Representatives from the Secular Coalition for Montana spoke out against HB 183 at a House Education Committee meeting in Helena on Friday, January 25th at 3pm . 
      • HB 236 eliminating exemptions from licensing for religiously affiliated adolescent programs, is scheduled to go before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, February 14th. The Secular Coalition for Montana is supporting this bill's efforts to reduce religious priviledging and protect the children of Montana.
      • SB 107 exempting faith healing from medical neglect statutes passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is expected to be scheduled for a vote by the entire Senate soon. 
    • California
      • AB 20 exempting clergy from mandatory child abuse reporting, has been assigned to the Committee on Public Safety and is awaiting scheduling.
    • New Jersey
      • A2201/S2155 authorizing secular celebrants was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 13th, but is yet to be scheduled for a vote.
    • Rhode Island
      • H5105 marriage equality passed the House and has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Secular Coalition for Rhode Island is working with Rhode Islanders United for Marriage in support of this legislation. 
    • South Carolina
      • H3100/SB103 religious liberty protections for legislators at official meetings has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, but is unlikely to be placed on the schedule
    • Washington
      • HB 1215 will allow religious nonprofits that receive the parsonage exemption to be protected from losing the exemption if they receive rental income or profit. The House Finance Committee held a hearing on January 28th and we are waiting on their vote.
    • Legislation tracking is now available on the chapter pages of all officially launched Secular Coalition chapters! Coming soon to all pages!
If you seen any bills that concern secular issues in your state, please email Kelly@secular.org with the state and bill number in the subject line.
  • Conference Calls

    • The first dates of the 2013 call schedule are listed below! Many more soon to come. To join in, call in to 530-881-1400 and enter the participant code 978895 on your state’s scheduled date and time. 
    • If I have missed a major conflict with your state's call date and time, please let me know by emailing me at Kelly@secular.org
    • Please spread the word about your state’s conference call now being on evenings and weekends!
    • Call Schedule: 
      •  
        • Saturday, Febrary 16th 
          • Colorado at 2pm ET/ 12pm MT
          • Montana at 3pm ET/ 1pm MT
        • Tuesday February 19th
          • Washington at 4pm ET/ 1pm MT
        • Wednesday February 20th
          • Rhode Island at 7:30pm ET
      •  
    • Agendas for the calls will be posted to each state’s page on secular.org before the call and a replay of the call will be posted shortly 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 Kelly@secular.org 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 barry.kosmin@trincoll.edu.

    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 kelly@secular.org
    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 over 100! Our newest endorsing organizations are:
      • Reno Freethinkers
    IX. SCA Member and Associated Organization Announcements


    Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB) is now accepting submissions for the FBB Compassionate Humanism Meme Contest. We need your help to spread the word about humanism at work for a better world. If selected, your submission will be made available for use in social and other media. The creator of the top meme, selected by our staff, will receive a $50 Amazon gift certificate. Second and third place will each receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate. FBB reserves the right to designate fewer than three winners (or none).

    There's less than a week left! American Humanist Association is encouraging you to urge your representative to support the resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives “expressing support for designation of February 12, 2013, as Darwin Day and recognizing the importance of science in the betterment of humanity.”

    Camp Quest 2013 is now open for registration! Registration is now open is open for children aged 8-17. Sign up early for as space is limited, and get a $50 break!

    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 lauren@secular.org.

    X. Movement Charity Updates and Activities:

    Secular Community Steps Up for South L.A. Scholars. Over the past week, members of the secular community have stepped up mightily and helped Black Skeptics Los Angeles exceed its fundraising goal for the First in the Family Humanist scholarship fund. Because of the generous sponsorship of individuals and organizations like Foundation Beyond Belief, the American Humanist Association, Black Non-Believers of Chicago, Debbie Goddard of African Americans for Humanism and Ian Cromwell of the Crommunist Manifesto, BSLA will be able to offer four $1000 scholarships to college-bound South Los Angeles students.

    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 Dale McGowan at dale@foundationbeyondbelief.org  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.


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    Contact Executive Director, Edwina Rogers, at Edwina@secular.org or by phone at 202-299-1091 ext. 207 or cell: 202-674-7800. 

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    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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