National Secular Movement Update Newsletter and Call
Call Every Thursday from 12PM - 12:30PM (ET) Phone Number: 559-726-1300 Code: 199568
July 25, 2013
This is the last weekly call until September: Congress will break starting August 2 and return after Labor Day. There will be no weekly movement calls in August. We will return the first Thursday in September!
TONIGHT Grassroots Lobbying Training: Last chance: register now! Tonight from 7:00-9:00 pm eastern, The Secular Coalition for America will offer an exciting and informative two-hour grassroots lobby training webinar! Training topics include lobbying, fundraising, communications, and more! If you can't make the webinar, it will be available on our site after the event, so be on the lookout.
On the Hill- The Transporation, Housing and Urban Development Funding Bill is being considered on the Senate floor. Congress will be working on a student loan compromise bill, major issues concerning maintaining the "cap levels" and issues surrounding the sequester, including ensuring spending is not increased. The House is still focused on jobs, energy and controlling spending. Next week on the House floor, representatives plan to introduce between four and five bills entitled "stop government abuse" which are mainly aimed at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). One bill will allow anyone to tape telephone conversations they have with an government official.
Humanist Military Chaplains: On Tuesday, Congressman John Fleming (R-LA) introduced Amendment 35 to H.R. 2397, the Defense Appropriations Bill. The discriminatory amendment would prohibit the Department of Defense from allowing nonbelievers to serve as chaplains and restrict funding. The amendment would impact the 23% of the military does not identify with any religion. Despite that the amendment passed in a 253 to 173 vote, through our hard work the issue of Humanist Chaplains is quickly gaining traction. In June, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have allowed nontheistic chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces. The amendment was voted down in a 150-274 vote. That means that in the span of only weeks an additional 23 representatives voted in favor of nontheist rights, indicating that public opinion is moving quickly in the right direction. Rep. Fleming has consistently attempt ed to insert his personal religious beliefs into our secular government. Also, you may remember the story that made headlines in December of last year about a Muslim couple that was refused service at a Louisiana Subway restaurant. Rep. Fleming is the owner of that Subway, and at least 32 other Subway restaurants in the state. We are calling for a boycott of the Subway restaurants in Louisiana owned by Congressman Fleming, which follow the Congressman's lead in discrimination on the basis of religion.
His Holiness the Pope: Last week Pope Francis mentioned atheists yet again. He said that atheists should be seen as good people as long as they do good, in a move to urge people of all religions--or no religion at all--to get along. In that same spririt, the Secular Coalition sent a letter to the Pope requesting a meeting, as an opportunity to start an ongoing dialogue between Catholics and nontheists.
Ohio Must Recognize Gay Marriage: A federal judge in Ohio has ordered state officials there to recognize the Maryland marriage of a terminally ill gay Cincinnati man on his state death certificate. The decision by U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black to grant John Arthur and his husband, Jim Obergefell, a temporary restraining order against the 2004 Ohio law banning recognition of gay marriage came despite a warning from the state's attorney general that it could contribute to a broad rewriting of Ohio law in favor of such unions. Black referred to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the federal law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal and he challenged the notion that Ohio could pick and choose which out-of-state marriages to recognize.
Model Secular Guide: Huge news! On Monday Sept. 16, the SCA will hold House and Senate Hill Briefings to officially release our Model Secular Guide--a comprehensive guide to secular and related issues and policy positions that will be distributed to all of the offices on Capitol Hill. We will be calling on all friends, allies and nontheist groups to add their names to the list of groups that participated in the guide. All of our drafts will be ready by July 31st and we will go into editing and layout, with printing scheduled for the end of August.
State Chapter Calls: We have state chapter calls scheduled for all 50 states coming up in the months of August, but mostly September! Check them out below and mark your calendar now.
Please join our movement today! Follow this link to the SCA sign-up page.
I. White House and Congressional Update
White House: President Obama kicks off a series of speeches on rebuilding the economy with appearances at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., and the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. With his new economic policy push, Obama is trying to position himself for the coming showdowns with congressional Republicans over raising the debt limit and passing a budget. The White House is supporting a bipartisan student loan deal, simply explained by this graphic.
House of Representatives: Tuesday and Wednesday the House debated its Defense appropriations bill HR 2397. By a 253-173 vote, they passed by an amendment by Rep. Fleming (R- LA) that attempted to block Humanist chaplains, although its language is ineffective at doing so.House Republicans are meeting to talk strategy for reauthorizing nutrition programs as part of a farm bill.
Senate: The Senate considered Student Loan legislation on Wednesday, but is gearing up for the possibility of a floor fight on the controversial nomination of B. Todd Jones to head the ATF. This week the Senate considers Transportation appropriations
International:WIN-Gallup International "Religion and Atheism Index" collected data from 57 countries in order to find out which were the Most Religious Countries And Most Atheist Countries. The findings: Globally, the number of those claiming to be religious has dropped by 9% from 2005 to 2011, while the number of people identifying themselves as atheists has risen by 3%. Four countries have experienced a drop in religiosity in their populations that is greater than 20% between 2005 and 2012. France and Switzerland saw decreases of 21%, while Ireland's number of faithful declined by 22% and Vietnam's by 23%. The top 10 atheist countries included China, Japan, Czech Republic, France, South Korea, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Iceland, Australia and Ireland. The most religious countries were Ghana, Nigeria, Armenia, Fiji and Macedonia. The United States experienced a 13% decline in religiosity since 2005. In terms of comparative religiosity, the United States fell in the middle of the list, just below the Palestinian territories (West Bank and Gaza), Lebanon and South Africa.
July 26 - Senat Armed Services Committee Majority and Minority Staff on Military Chaplains
July 26 - Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chair Staff on FEMA funding for churches
Attending Democratic Governors National Events this week
Working on getting meetings with Senators Landrieu, McCain, Ayottee, and Graham.
If you are interested in attending one of these meetings, please contact Director of Federal and State Affairs, [email protected]. 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.
Sept. 30 - House & Senate Hill Briefings on Science Education with Richard Dawkins
Oct. 21 - House & Senate Hill Briefings on Sex Education with Marty Klein
Anything to add? Contact Communications Manager, Lauren Anderson Youngblood at [email protected]. Please let us know if you'd like to attend one of these meetings: If you are interested, please contact Director of Federal and State Affairs, Kelly Damerow at [email protected] for anything legislation-related.
Edwina Rogers was a guest on "Road to Reason" last weekend, with Elisabeth Cornwell, Executive Director for the Richard Dawkins Foundation and Larry Mendoza of the Director for Educational Outreach, Beltway Atheists, Inc.
Data shows liberal Christians will soon eclipse their conservative brethren. Public Religion Research Institute reports that 23 percent of 18-33 year olds are religious progressives, 17 percent are religious conservatives, and 22 percent are nonreligious. By contrast, only 12 percent of 66-88 year olds are religious progressives, while about half are religious conservatives.
November 24 - Publication date of “The Origin of Species” (1859)
Are there any upcoming anniversaries, days of note, holidays or events that the movement needs to coordinate press around? Contact Communications Manager, Lauren Anderson Youngblood at [email protected]
IV. Legislative and Regulatory Update Federal
August Recess - As Congress is out of session in August, many members will return to their districts to speak with constituents. Please take every opportunity to speak to your federal legislators about these issues! Show they that we are a constituency and we are paying attention!
National Defense Authorization and Appropriations
The House is debating its Defense funding bill. By a 253-173 vote, they passed by an amendment by Rep. Fleming (R- LA) that attempted to block Humanist chaplains. Although its language is ineffective at accomplishing it discriminatory goal, we sent a letter to all House offices on this issue. Congressmen Polis and Andrews spoke out against the amendment, and with 171 other members were part of a growing consensus of House members that recognize the armed services should be allowed to permit secular chaplains. Text of the debate can be found in the Congressional record on page H4941, beginning with "AMENDMENT NO. 35 OFFERED BY MR. FLEMING"
We are calling for a boycott of the Subway restaurants in Louisiana owned by Congressman Fleming, which follow the Congressman's lead in discrimination on the basis of religion.
We are meeting with both the Majority and Minority staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday to discuss the multitude of issues with both the Defense Authorization and Defense Appropriations bills.
FEMA Funding to Build Churches - S. 1274 Despite assurances that this bill, passed by the House, would not come up in the Senate, it was introduced on Thursday, co-sponsored by Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Blunt (R-MO).We met with top staffers in Senator Gillibrand's office, but were met with a shocking attitude of awareness and dismissal of constitutional issues. They directly addressed the amazing response by you through our Action Alert and their office is feeling the heat! We also sent a letter to all Senate offices detailing the immense problems with this bill. We are meeting with the Chair of the Committee this bill is assigned to on Friday.
Freedom to Pray Act - S. 1279 Sponsored by Senator Landrieu (D-LA) in response to the Department of Justice defunding the "Young Marines" for prayers before meetings and requiring church attendance in their creed. This bill would prohibit the revocation or withholding of Federal funds to programs whose participants carry out voluntary religious activities.
Student Success Act - Rep. Cantor's (R-VA) amendment passed the House. It will enable states to potential send Title I federal education funds to religious schools. We are working to get this removed when the Senate and House sit down to work out differences between the bills. We sent a letter to the offices of all Hill members and received many phone calls from Education staffers discussing the implications of this amendment.
Employment Non Discrimination Act - We successfully stopped an expansion of the exemption. The bill is expected to come up for a vote before the August recess.
Secular Tax Reform
Tax Reform Tour- Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.)are taking their tax reform inquiries to the people on a Tax Reform Tour. They are visiting Philadelphia on Monday July 29th. We'll keep you updated as dates are released. We highly encourage our supporters to attend these events and speak up about unfair religious privileging in the tax code!
Taxreform.gov was launched to receive public input on comprehensive tax reform through a joint effort by the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.). Visit secular.org/taxreform for more information.
Contact Kelly Damerow, Director of Federal and State Affairs, with additional suggestions or information at [email protected]. V. Judicial Presented this week by Andrew Seidel of Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Hamilton County Legislative Prayer lawsuit moves forward - A lawsuit challenging prayers before the Hamilton County (TN) Commission is moving to the next stage. Immediately after the lawsuit was filed, the commission amended its prayer policy. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, as written, the new policy does not violate the Constitution but that a challenge to the actual prayer practice (an as-applied challenge) can move forward in district court. Preliminary injunctions challenging the policy and prayer practice were denied but “the district court is now in a position to address [the as-applied] constitutional challenge. This case should continue through its regular course.”
Federal Court prohibits sectarian prayers in Rowan County, NC - The ACLU of North Carolina sued the Rowan County Commissioners for having sectarian prayers at their meetings. According to the ACLU’s complaint, more than 97 percent of meetings since 2007 opened with Christian prayers. The court enjoined the commissioners from “knowingly and/or intentionally delivering or allowing to be delivered sectarian prayers at meetings of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners during the pendency of this suit.” It did so because the “Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits of all claims.” The case is Lund, et al. v. Rowan County.
PA Lawsuit claims that a Sunday hunting ban violates the Constitution - Hunters United for Sunday Hunting filed suit against the Pennsylvania Game Commission to challenge a state law that makes it “unlawful for any person to hunt any furbearer or game on Sunday.” The hunters are claiming violations of several rights including that the Sunday ban is impermissibly based on a religious belief. They are also claiming that the rule substantially burdens their own free exercise. (Read up on the legality of Blue Laws/Sunday Closing laws here: http://ffrf.org/faq/state-church/item/14008-blue-laws-sunday-closing-laws)
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 or Rebecca S. Markert, [email protected], with the Freedom From Religion Foundation at (608) 256-8900.
The Secular Coalition will be putting together scorecards for Virginia and New Jersey--the only two states to hold gubernatorial elections this year. We will review the gubernatorial candidates and problematic state legislators. To see other scorecards such as the scorecard for the Massachusetts special Senate Election visit Secular.org for more.
Upcoming State Calls: Join the call for your state chapter by dialing in: Call in number: (530) 881-1400 - Participant code: 978895.
July 25 - New York,2:00 PM(Eastern); Massachusetts,3:00 pm(Eastern)
July 28- Montana,4:00 PM(Mountain)
July 30- North Carolina,6:00 PM(Eastern)
July 31- South Carolina,6:00 PM(Eastern)
August 26- Florida,6:00 PM(Eastern)
September 3- Washington,1:00 PM(Pacific); Colorado,4:00 PM(Mountain)
September 4- Kentucky,3:00 PM(Eastern)/2:00 PM(Central); Michigan,4:00 PM(Eastern); and New Jersey,6:00 PM(Eastern)
September 5- Vermont,2:00 PM(Eastern); Pennsylvania,7:00 PM(Eastern)
September 6- New Hampshire,1:00 PM(Eastern); Iowa,3:00 PM(Central)
September 7- California,10:00 AM(Pacific)
September 8- Nevada,2:00 PM(Pacific)
September 9- Tennessee,4:00 PM(Eastern)/3:00 PM(Central); Virginia,6:00 PM(Eastern)
September 10- West Virginia1:00 PM(Eastern); Maryland,6:00 PM(Eastern); Texas,6:00 PM(Central)
September 11- Missouri,3:00 PM(Central)
September 12- Illinois,2:00 PM(Central); Connecticut,6:00 PM(Eastern)
September 13- Wisconsin,12:00 PM(Central); Oklahoma,3:00 PM(Central
September 14- Minnesota,11:00 AM(Central); Alaska,12:00 PM(Alaska)
September 16- Nebraska,3:00 PM(Central); Ohio,6:00 PM(Eastern)
September 17- Mississippi,12:00 PM(Central); Delaware,5:00 PM(Eastern)
September 18- Oregon,12:00 PM(Pacific); Rhode Island,7:30 PM(Eastern)
September 19- Maine,2:00 PM(Eastern); Wyomming,2:00 PM(Mountain)
September 20- South Dakota,12:00 PM(Central)/11:00 AM(Mountain); Louisiana,2:00 PM(Central)
September 21- Hawaii,12:00 PM(Hawaii)
September 23- Kansas,1:00 PM(Central); Idaho,2:00 PM(Mountain)/1:00 PM(Pacific)
September 24- Georgia,2:00 PM(Eastern)
September 25- New Mexico,12:00 PM(Mountain); North Dakota,3:00 PM(Central)/2:00 PM(Mountain)
September 26- Arkansas,12:00 PM(Central); Utah,1:00 PM(Mountain)
September 27- Alabama,12:00 PM(Central); Indiana,2:00 PM(Central)
HJR V - Calling for the repeal of the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Michigan.
HB 232 - This bill modifies the laws governing professional counselors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists. As part of the bill, no funds that the director of health allocates to women's health services can be used to fund abortions or referrals/counseling, unless there is a medical emergency.
HB 59 - This bill prohibits abortions occurring after a fetal heartbeat has been detected and creates penalties for surgeons performing this procedure..
STATE LEGISLATURES Currently, 8 out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session.
California, Michigan, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina are in session.
Texas is meeting in special session. Montana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama are accepting prefiled bills.Click here for a printer-friendly chart.
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell (R) has 20 days upon transmittal (excluding Sundays) to sign or veto legislation that reaches his desk.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (D) has 15 days upon transmittal to sign or veto legislation that reaches his desk.
Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) has 15 days upon transmittal to sign or veto legislation that reaches his desk.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) has 60 days upon transmittal to sign or veto legislation that reaches his desk.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R)has 20 days upon transmittal to sign or veto legislation that reaches his desk.
Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (R)has five days upon transmittal to sign or veto legislation that reaches his desk.
Secular Assembly for the North East,October 19(New Haven, CT)
More Information on States
Legislation tracking is now available on the chapter pages of all officially launched Secular Coalition chapters sites!
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 thestate chapter’s page on our website.
If you have seen any bills that concern secular issues in your state, please email [email protected]with the state and bill number in the subject line.
VII. Secular Student Movement Update The Secular Student Alliance of Mesa Community College hosted a Stone a Heathen event to raise money for charity! View at pic at: pic.twitter.com/1bOznciNKO
School's out for summer! We will be rejoined by SSA in September with updates on student activism. For more information, questions, comments or additions to student-led efforts in the secular movement, Contact Jesse Galef, communications manager with the Secular Student Alliance at [email protected].
VIII. Policy and Research Documents
The Religious Make-Up of Federal Prison "Gen-Pop": Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Bureau of Prisons asking them about the religious makeup of prisoner. Not only did they have the information, they provided a faith-by-faith breakdown: Of the prisoners willing to give their religious affiliations atheists make up 0.07% of the prison population. 17% of prisoners reported no religious preference. Protestants make up 28.7% of the prison population; Catholics, 24%; Muslims, 5.5%; American Indians, 3.1%. Read more or view a a bare-bones spreadsheet with these numbers here.
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 ([email protected]) Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society or Jenny Kalmanson ([email protected]), who sits on the Board of the American Humanist Association, with any additions or suggestions for this list.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]
IX. 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 129.
X. SCA Member and Associated Organization Announcements This weekend in Queens, New York: A Rally for Atheists of Color. The BLACKOUT is the first event predominately featuring nontheists of color. The SCA and many of our member organizations will be there, so if you're in NY, come by the BLACKOUT and show your support. Also, on Sunday following the BLACKOUT, the join the SCA and Harlem Humanists for "Secular Humanism in Public Policy: THe Work of the Secular Coalition for America" at 2:15 pm at the Brecht Forum, 451 West Street (Between Bank & Bethune Streets), New York, NY. Email Harlem Humanists for more information.
Leadership at the American Humanist Association expressed concern that the recent verdict in the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman case could have a negative impact on questions of racial bias in America. God Discussion wrote, "Humanism is a positive philosophy founded upon the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. Humanists reject the notion of “inside” and “outside” groups, which is sometimes used by religious leaders to reinforce animosity and prejudices. Speckhardt added, 'Rather than putting faith in ancient texts and divine revelation, humanists use reason to solve our nation's problems, and we hope to join with others who are willing to address racial bias as a human dilemma.'"
Want to share your organization's efforts with the SCA? Email updates, alerts, announcements or other items you'd like to share withthe community to [email protected].
XII. Movement Charity Updates and Activities: Atheists Helping the Homeless is a non-profit organization, founded in March of 2012 in Dallas, Texas by LaDonna York, Jason Self, Brent Richison, and Marissa Lewis. The mission of DFW AHH is to bring assistance and hope to the homeless through compassion, kindness and helping hands. DFW AHH embraces free thought, integrity, equality, and social responsibility. The founders of DFW AHH believe in leading by example and encouraging all people to help those less fortunate. The organization has recently expanded to include an Austin chapter. Check out their Facebook page here.
Foundation Beyond Belief reached the $1 million milestone faster than expected! FBB is hoping to get someone in Congress to sponsor a resolution commemorating the achievement soon.
Foundation Beyond Belief is raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society! We are encouraging the secular movement to take part in their Light The Night Walks and help raise money through the Foundation Beyond Belief team. More information at http://foundationbeyondbelief.org/LLS-lightthenight. 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 nontheists will reach $1 million in organized charitable giving in 2012.
Please contact Dale McGowan at [email protected] if you would like your group's charity effort to be included.
XIII. Secular Artist of the Month:
Are you a secular artist looking to share your work with the community at large? Artists, musicians, poets, writers, comedians -- whatever your medium, we want to know about what you're doing and share it with nontheists across the country!
“They say if you want to start an argument, talk about religion or politics. Where should we start first?” Born in poverty on St Louis’ north side, progressive atheist comedian Steve Hill has acquired a lifetime of experience in what it’s like to grow up in America as an African American male. After a lifetime of experiences that shaped his world view, the mortgage meltdown and Wall Street corruption cemented his decision to speak for those in the middle class with no voice, lobbyist or advocacy group. With an extremely keen sense of humor, he hits the stage with a stand up performance that enables people to see relevant issues from a very funny, but drastically different, perspective. Steve performed at the Secular Coalition's Secular Summit and many other nontheist events, including Secular Student Alliance and National Atheist Party to name a few. You can meet Steve at theBLACKOUT: Secular Rally on July 27 in Queens, NY or at the2013 Pennsylvania State Atheist/Humanist Conference, the weekend of September 13-15, 2013.
Send submissions for Artists of the Month to [email protected], along with information about your work and any relevant links, videos, etc. that we can use to showcase it.