June, 2016 Newsletter of the Lake Superior Freethinkers
Gail Matthews, editor – email@example.com
June 5th - Radisson Hotel - 9:00 AM Social – 9:30 Breakfast - 10:00 Presentation
Freethought Quotes by Notable Freethinkers
I have seen even those who have long since abjured God die in grace…Atheists don’t use their dying to bargain for a better seat at the table; indeed, they may not even believe supper is being served. They are not storing up “merit”; they just smile because their heart is ripe. They are kind for no particular reason.
“A large proportion of the noblest and most valuable teaching has been the work, not only of men who did not know, but of men who knew and rejected the Christian faith.”
—John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859
On today's "Pray In Jesus Name" program, Religious Right activist and Colorado state legislator Gordon Klingenschmitt shared his thoughts on a lawsuit filed against a California school district for refusing to inform students about scholarships that were being offered by atheist groups.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation and a local freethinker organization were offering college scholarships but district officials refused to include them on a list of scholarships that was distributed to students even though the list featured several overtly religious scholarships.
In Klingenschmitt's view, this is perfectly okay because trying to "bribe" public school students with an atheist scholarship is unconstitutional.
"To advertise atheist scholarships to all of the Christian students or the Jewish students or even the homosexual students," he said, "to say that everyone should be able to get this money if you just renounce your faith, that, to me, is itself unconstitutional. There is no place for atheist recruiters to come into your schools and recruit children to violate their parent's religion."
Offering Christian scholarships, on the other hand, is totally acceptable because the majority of students in public school are Christians, Klingenschmitt said, and so "for an opportunity to be offered to a Christian child that, if they write an essay about God that they should get Christian scholarship money, that's not bribery. They're keeping their own religion ... You're reinforcing what the parents want their kid's faith to be. This is a parental rights issue."
Sure, some atheist parents might object to students being offered a scholarship for writing Christian essays, Klingenschmitt admitted, but that is totally different than saying "to Christian children that we're going to bribe you with [a scholarship] if you convert and renounce your parent's faith about how great it is to be an atheist."
"That would be upsetting and offensive to parents who want their children raised in a Christian faith," he stated, before praying that school officials will fight this lawsuit and "stand up for the freedom of religion for Christian students in public schools to not be coerced and bribed to convert to atheism against their parent's faith."
WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – On the same day many Americans of different faiths were praying – on the National Day of Prayer May 5 – the Freedom from Religion Foundation was filing a lawsuit against U.S. House of Representatives Chaplain Patrick Conroy.
According to the lawsuit, Father Conroy, a Jesuit Catholic priest, would not allow FFRF's Co-President Dan Barker, a former minister who now professes atheism, to offer a "secular" invocation before the House. Barker had been invited in February 2015 to offer the invocation by Rep. Mark Pocan, who represents the district of Madison, Wisconsin.
Almost a year later (in January 2016), Conroy's office notified Barker he could not deliver the invocation because the chaplain's office requires guest chaplains to be ordained and submit an ordination certificate and the content of their prayer, which must at least reference a "higher power."
Conroy also noted, the filing said, that Barker had renounced his father and was no longer a "true minister of the gospel" entitled to appear before Congress.
Barker, however, insists that his ordination certificate – received at the onset of his 19 years in ministry for a religion to which he no longer adheres – is still valid. He also submitted at the time a prayer which, according to the suit, referred to "We, the People of the United States" as the only "higher power."
The lawsuit claims that Conroy "has imposed requirements for guest chaplains that discriminate against the nonreligious and minority religions, and has explicitly refused to allow Plaintiff Dan Barker, who actually met the requirements, to serves as guest chaplain because Barker is nonreligious."
The filing also claims that Barker believes only in the power of reason, rather than "the supernatural," and "there is no governing entity behind Barker's deeply and sincerely held beliefs that issues ordinations."
Other members of the House are also included in the lawsuit, as is Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Barker alleges discrimination against "non-believers" because no non-believer has ever been invited to offer an invocation. Non-believers, he claims, "constitute one-fourth of the U.S. population."
According to the latest Pew Research Center Religious Landscape Survey, 22.8 percent of Americans classified themselves as "religiously unaffiliated" or, in other words, perhaps religious but unattached to a denomination or historic religion. Within that segment, only 3.1 percent classified themselves as atheists, while another 4 percent claimed to be "agnostic."
Still, FFRF's complaint alleges that 97 percent of the prayers over the past 15 years have been offered only by Christian ministers, while 2.7 percent were offered by Jewish rabbis and less than one-half a percent were offered by Muslim or Hindu religious leaders.
The chaplain's office for the U.S. House coordinates religious services for House members who adhere to a variety of religions. A schedule of House religious’ services reveals that Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Christian Science, Episcopal, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Non-denominational, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Quaker, Reformed and Seventh-Day Adventist services are coordinated on a regular basis. Non-Christian services, including, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Mormon services, are also provided. The chaplain's office does not provide services for "non-believers" who, according to the definition of non-belief, do not have religious services.Barker alleges in the complaint that Conroy is violating his First Amendment rights, the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Article VI, Section III of the Constitution, which prohibits a religious test for public office holders or public trusts.
FFRF welcomes Do No Harm Act to amend RFRA
The Freedom From Religion Foundation welcomes the introduction today of the "Do No Harm Act" to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA. FFRF applauds U.S. Reps. Bobbie Scott of Virginia and Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts for their leadership in seeking to reform a law that has protected religious privilege, at the expense of true religious freedom.
Scott and Kennedy contend that RFRA is being used as a weapon against liberty rather than as a shield to protect religious freedom. RFRA has been invoked to undermine Civil Rights Act protections, limit access to healthcare, and refuse service to minority populations.
The bill would limit the use of RFRA in cases involving discrimination, child labor and abuse, wages and collective bargaining, access to health care, public accommodations and social services provided through government contract.
Scott said the law, since being adopted in 1993, "has been misconstrued as allowing the sincerely-held religious beliefs of one person to trump the civil rights of others."
"The right of Americans to freely and fully express our faith is sacred in this country," said Kennedy. "But in order to guarantee that liberty for every citizen, our system must ensure that my religious freedom does not infringe on yours or do you harm."
FFRF has been calling for the repeal of RFRA since the Supreme Court's disastrous Hobby Lobby decision in 2014. That decision permitted for-profit corporations to invoke religion to deny women workers contraceptive health coverage. Along with leading RFRA critic Marci Hamilton, FFRF filed an amicus brief seeking RFRA's repeal.
RFRA is a super-statute that effectively amends every other federal law, including laws meant to protect citizens from unfair treatment. The Do No Harm Act would limit which laws RFRA applies to. For instance, RFRA would no longer allow believers to be exempt from the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Violence Against Women Act, or laws that require coverage for any health care item. The bill, if enacted, could undo some of the damage caused by the Hobby Lobby decision. "Religious freedom is already protected in our nation. That protection is called the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.