September, 2016 Newsletter of the Lake Superior Freethinkers
Gail Matthews, editor – email@example.com
Freethought Quotes by Notable Freethinkers
“Mr. Lincoln was never a member of any Church, nor did he believe in the divinity of Christ, or the inspiration of the Scriptures in the sense understood by evangelical Christians. When a boy, he showed no sign of that piety which his many biographers ascribe to his manhood. When he went to church at all, he went to mock, and came away to mimic. When he came to New Salem, he consorted with Freethinkers, joined with them in deriding the gospel story of Jesus, read Volney and Paine, and then wrote a deliberate and labored essay, wherein he reached conclusions similar to theirs.”
—Colonel Ward H. Lamon (a religionist and Lincoln's longtime friend), Life of Abraham Lincoln, pp. 486, 487, 157 (1872), cited by Franklin Steiner in The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents
"The atmosphere of piety in American public life has become stifling. Where is it written that if you don't like religion you are somehow disqualified from being a legitimate American? I'm pretty sure there is no such thing as god."
—— Hendrik Hertzberg, from his book, Politics: Observations and Arguments, 2004 NPR excerpt
Cash-strapped public transit systems are considering running ads from controversial sources.
Last year, a controversial group sought to plaster Philadelphia buses with photos of Adolf Hitler in an ad campaign equating Islam with anti-Semitism. The region’s transit agency—the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority—faced a tough choice. The agency could run the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s ad and offend many of its riders and employees, or it could reject the ad and probably find itself in court fighting accusations that it violated the group’s constitutional right to free speech. That, after all, is what happened when transit agencies in New York and San Francisco rejected ads from AFDI.
The offer, however, couldn’t be considered on moral terms alone. SEPTA, like its peers across the country, is strapped for cash, and public transit agencies increasingly rely on a variety of things—including ads—to generate revenue to keep trains and buses running. AFDI’s campaign would have covered the sides of two buses for about five weeks, generating between $5,000 and $10,000.
Barely $14 million of SEPTA’s $1.2 billion annual operating budget comes from advertising. The rest comes from fares, subsides, and other sources. “We operate on such a thin margin,” said Jacky Grimshaw, who researches transportation issues as a vice president at the Center for Neighborhood Technology, an advocacy group, and serves on the board of the Chicago Transit Authority.
Ultimately, SEPTA officials declined to accept the ads, mainly because the agency’s rules prohibit ads that disparage groups based on religion. The AFDI sued. “We were willing to fight,” said Jerri Williams, a SEPTA spokeswoman.
Earlier this month, a federal judge rejected SEPTA’s argument, writing that the agency’s anti-disparagement rules violate the First Amendment. SEPTA now finds itself in the hole for legal fees far in excess of the potential
Register now for FFRF’s 39th national convention in Pittsburgh
You aren't going to want to miss the 2016 FFRF national convention in Pittsburgh held the weekend of Oct. 7-9!
The national convention, hosted at the Wyndham Grand hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, will include such notable speakers as cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, award-winning author Susan Jacoby, biology professor Jerry Coyne and theoretical physicist and author Lawrence Krauss.
For more information, go to ffrf.org
Arizona public college hotel now 'bible free',
Publicly supported hotel rooms at Thunderbolt Executive Inn in Glendale, Ariz.are now bible free, thanks to a request from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
FFRF, a state/church watchdog with 24,000 members, contacted the Thunderbird School of Global Management after receiving a consumer complaint. The school became a unit of Arizona State University last year.
“State-run colleges have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion,” wrote FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler.
Ziegler noted that the mission of the Gideon Society is to “win the lost for Christ.” Distributing Gideon bibles, which are Christian, inappropriately sends an unconstitutional message of endorsement of one religion’s so-called “holy book” over others, and of religion over nonreligion.
“Anyone zealous enough to need the bible as bedtime reading will travel with one,” noted FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The rest of us paying guests seek a vacation from proselytizing when we’re on vacation. What is offensive at private hotels and motels, however, becomes unconstitutional at public-supported rooms.”
Northern Illinois University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Pennsylvania State University, Portland State University and the University of Iowa also have removed bibles from their public-supported hotel rooms in recent years after FFRF contacted them to express concerns by patrons and students.
Something you’ll never see in a church
FFRF complaint ends unconstitutional Wisconsin preschool tie-up -
An unconstitutional tie-up between a Wisconsin school district and a parochial preschool has been nixed following a Freedom From Religion Foundation complaint.
In Beaver Dam Unified School District, 3-year-old public school students with developmental delays were often being sent to private preschools. FFRF's complainant, who has an eligible child, was offered only one choice: a Catholic school, St. Katharine's, whose preschool is named God's Little Miracles. To quote the school itself, its "program is based on the theme 'Thank you, God.'" Materials the complainant received from a Beaver Dam Unified School District teacher contained many religious references and images.
"It is wildly inappropriate for the School District to send 3-year-old public school students to private schools for religious instruction," FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote in June to Stephen Vessey, superintendent of the Beaver Dam Unified School District. "Courts have repeatedly struck down public school practices that affiliate public schools with religious groups and religious instruction. By sending students to receive religious instruction at St. Katharine's, the district is violating this constitutional principle."
The School District investigated the situation and told St. Katherine's what it would have to do to comply with the law and district policy. St. Katherine's decided to stop participating altogether in the 3K program rather than make any changes, revealing that religious instruction was its primary goal. (It did agree to requested modifications in its 4K program.)
"After being advised of the changes that would have to be made to the 3K program, [St. Katharine Drexel] School indicated it no longer wished to provide the Early Childhood (3K) program to district students, and the district has accepted the school's withdrawal from participating in the program," Vessey recently replied. "Any students who were enrolled in the school's Early Childhood program by the district for the coming school year have since been moved to a program offered at a different site."
FFRF hails the School District's investigation, but also wishes to highlight the implications of St. Katharine's move.
"Once alerted, Beaver Dam school officials did do a good job of rectifying the situation," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "However, St. Katharine's proselytizing motivations are laid bare by its refusal to modify its curriculum to continue participating in the 3K Early Childhood program."