National Secular Movement Update Call: Scorecard Released

Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 12:00 - 13:00
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


October 18, 2012 

The Secular Coalition for America released its 2012 Presidential Candidate Scorecard for the general election–a guide for secular-minded Americans on the presidential candidates in the upcoming election.  Candidates from the two major parties, as well as significant third party candidates were included and received the following grades: Gary Johnson, Libertarian- B; Barack Obama, Democrat- C; Mitt Romney, Republican- F; Jill Stein, Green Party- Incomplete

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 Organization Announcements

Please join our movement today! Follow this link to the SCA sign-up page.

I. White House and Congressional Update

  • House of Representatives:  In recess until November 13.
  • Senate: In recess until November 13.  
  • White House: The President will spend Wednesday in Iowa and Ohio and the Vice President will be in Colorado and Nevada.
  • Campaigns: Last Thursday was the first and only vice presidential debate. Tuesday marked the second of three Presidential debates. The final presidential debate will be this Monday, October the 22nd in Boca Raton, FL. Governor Romney will be in Virginia and Rep. Ryan will be in Ohio.
  • UN: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has abandoned its bid to push for a global ban on blasphemy at the UN General Assembly this winter, according to Reuters. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the OIC, claims that his 57-nation body was unable to convince the United States or European countries to take their side and support such a measure. However, that does not mean the OIC will give up its effort to find international support for restrictions on criticism of Islam: Ihsanoglu said the OIC will instead appeal to states to apply hate-speech laws to criticism of Islam.  http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/15/us-islam-blasphemy-idUSBRE89E1... (Thank you to Michael DeDora for this update, mdedora@centerforinquiry.net, 646.706.6080)

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

Meet the Secular Coalition!

  • October 25, 2012: President Herb Silverman speaking at University of South Carolina
  • October 26, 2012: President Herb Silverman speaking to Charolotte Atheists and Agnostics, North Carolina
  • October 27, 2012: President Herb Silverman speaking at the Triad United Coalition of Reason, North Carolina
  • October 27, 2012: President Herb Silverman speaking to the WNC Humanists, North Carolina

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Upcoming Meetings

  • We finally heard from Sen. Rubio’s office. The staffer we had been coordinating a meeting with will be in Florida through the election. We agreed to arrange a meeting with him just after the election.
  • On Thursday, Chris will be meeting with several offices that attended our Congressional Briefing including Reps. Tsongas (D-MA), Bernice Johnson (D-TX), and Richmond (D-LA).

If you are interested in attending one of these meetings, please contact chris@secular.org.

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.  

The next legislative and regulatory call will occur on Tuesday, October 23th at 2pm (EDT).  Our speaker will be Charles Miller with an Alabama Case Study.  These calls are open to donors and member organization staff.  Current donors will receive an invitation; if you are interested in participating in these calls, please donate today!

III. Secular Movement In the News

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news!

Secular Coalition in the News

Alerts, Press Releases, and Blog Posts

Other News

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

  • International Religious Freedom Day (October 27th)
  • Carl Sagan Day (November 9th)
  • October is Freethought Month

IV. Legislative and Regulatory Update
Federal
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  • Last Thursday, Chris attended a conference at Georgetown University entitled “Which Model, Whose Liberty? Differences between the U.S. and European Approaches to Religious Freedom”. One of the presenters, Professor Leslie Griffin of UNLV Law School mentioned the rise of “Nones” in response to a question. After the panel was over, Chris spoke to her and discovered she is the faculty advisor for the secular student group at the Law School. 
  • We will also be circulating a letter among our Member organizations and other Coalition partners (CARD, Coalition for Liberty and Justice) to send to the IRS asking them to investigate churches that participated in the “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” event. On October 7, more than 1,500 churches openly defied the prohibitions that exist to prevent tax-exempt entities from openly endorsing candidates. This marks the fifth year that this event has occurred. 
  • The Senate is still trying to come to an agreement with the House on a way to move forward on the Violence Against Women Act. Earlier this year, the House passed its version (H.R. 4970) over our objections to language that would permit grants going to organizations that discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion. That language was not in the Senate version (S. 1925) which passed the bill in a bipartisan vote in April.

V. Judicial

  • Suit Challenges City’s Ban On Christmas Display In Park.  A suit has been filed in a California federal district court challenging the 2010 decision of the city of Santa Monica to adopt regulations that bar a church group from continuing a 60-year tradition of erecting Christmas story dioramas in a city park during the holiday season.  The city took the action after controversy in recent years when secular groups won substantial space in a neutral lottery for space and put up secular and anti-religious signs. The suit in Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee v. City of Santa Monica claims that the city violated the group’s First Amendment free speech rights and amounts to hostility to religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.  
  • School Ban On Student Distribution of Proselytizing Messages Violates Free Speech Rights.  In Gillio v. School Board of Hillsborough County, Florida, a Florida federal magistrate judge recommended issuance of a preliminary injunction to allow a 4th grade student to distribute invitations to a church organized Easter egg hunt to fellow classmates that states that the purpose of the event was “to have fun and learn the true meaning of Easter.”   The school’s policy bans the distribution of materials from religious institutions or organizations that “contain a proselytizing message.”  The court concluded that the religious message was the student’s own speech and therefore protected.
  • Denial of Religious Vaccination Exemption Upheld.    The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected constitutional challenges to New York’s denial of the plaintiff’s request for a religious exemption from the requirement their children be vaccinated in order to attend public schools.  The court upheld the trial court’s conclusion in Caviezel v. Great Neck Public Schools that the plaintiffs had failed to show a genuine and sincere religious belief which would prohibit vaccination.
VI. SCA State Chapters
State Legislative and Regulatory Update

 

  • Same-Sex Marriage on the 2012 Ballot 
    • Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in 6 states: New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire; and DC
    • 3 states have neither legalized same-sex marriage nor banned it: New Jersey, New Mexico and Rhode Island
    • Voters in 4 states will address same-sex marriage in November 2012:
      • Ballot measures to approve same-sex marriage: 
        • Washington - Referendum 74
        • Maryland - Question 6
        • Maine - Question 1 - Overturn the current ban
      • Ballot measures to ban same-sex marriage: 
        • Minnesota - Amendment 1
  • Alabama Supreme Court - The “Ten Commandments” judge is hoping to return to the Alabama Supreme Court. Roy Moore was removed from office in 2003 for refusing to follow a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse lawn. This year, he is challenging Judge Robert S. Vance in one of the nation’s costliest judicial campaigns to win back his seat on the Court. 
  • Pennsylvania - The first state chapter action alert, written by Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania co-chair Brian Fields, went out yesterday. It encouraged Pennsylvania residents to contact their representatives and express opposition to a resolution to make October the Month of Prayer. The resolution was introduced on Monday, and quickly noticed by members of the Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania executive committee, who worked quickly to act before the resolution hit the floor on Wednesday.

Conference Calls

  • Starting in the new year we will be rearranging the conference call schedule and employing online technologies to better facilitate chapter development and provide more flexibility to accommodate everyone’s schedule.
  • We will continue with the current conference call schedule through 2012. To join in, call in to 530-881-1400 and enter the participant code 978895 on your state’s scheduled date and time. Please spread the word about your state’s next conference call!
  • By the end of this week every state will have held their initial organizing conference call!
  • Call Schedule:
    • Thursday, October 18th
      • West Virginia at 1pm ET
      • Ohio at 1pm ET
      • Kansas at 2pm CT
      • Iowa at 3pm CT
    • Tuesday October 23rd
      • Florida at 1pm ET
      • Georgia at 2pm ET
      • Texas at 2pm CT
      • Montana at 2pm MT
    • Wednesday October 24th 
      • Rhode Island at 1pm ET
      • South Carolina at 2pm ET
      • California at 1pm PT
    • Thursday October 25th
      • Arkansas at Noon CT
      • Missouri at 1pm CT
  • Agendas for the calls will be posted to each state’s page on secular.org a few days before the call and a replay of the call will be posted a few days 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.

VII. Policy and Research Documents

  • Powerpoints are now available on the website.  These speeches will be free and available to everyone in the movement.  
  • On the heels of a recent report by The Pew Forum on the rise of religious "nones," the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) has just published a new working paper on the study of spirituality. Co-authored by sociologists Courtney Bender and Omar M. McRoberts, the paper is the result of a collaborative SSRC project on spirituality, political engagement, and public life.
    Read an excerpt from the working paper at The Immanent Frame: http://tif.li/RxkBpI
    Download the full paper (PDF): http://tif.li/Qlx1AI (Barry Kosmin, barry.kosmin@trincoll.edu)
  • 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; we now have 88.  Our new endorsing organization include:
    • Myrtle Beach Humanists & Freethinkers
    • Central Florida Freethought Community
    • Flathead Area Secular Humanist Association
    • Alabama Freethought Association
    • East Alabama Freethought Association
    • Fort Rucker Atheists and Secular Humanists
    • Montgomery Area Freethought Association
    • West Alabama Freethought Association
    • Mobile Atheists Community
    • Enterprise State Secular Student Alliance
    • Auburn University Montgomery Secular Student Alliance
    • Auburn High School Freethinkers
    • North Alabama Freethought Association
    • DeKalb Freethinkers
    • Ask Atheist Nexus
    • Tallahassee Atheists
    • Alabama Atheists and Agnostics
    • Skeptics, Atheists, Agnostics, Freethinkers, Empiricists (SAAFE)
IX. SCA Member Organization Announcements'

 

  • Nontheists are raising a huge amount of money to fight cancer through the Light the Night Walks with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Foundation Beyond Belief is a team partner with the LLS, and there are now 148 nontheist teams, with over 1300 fundraisers walking for the teams.  Over $300,000 has been raised to date.  At the Light the Night walk in Raleigh, North Carolina this weekend, it was announced that the Foundation Beyond Belief team was the top fundraising team in North Carolina. More information can be found at http://foundationbeyondbelief.org/LLS-lightthenight


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