Secular Coalition’s Morning Read for April 9, 2013

The Secular Coalition yesterday submitted comments to to the Department of Health and Human Services regarding proposed changes to the HHS contraception mandate. The comments were signed by the Coalition’s 11 member organizations. Additionally, the Secular Coalition yesterday urged the Obama Administration to end hiring discrimination in faith-based initiatives, following Obama’s executive order on Friday to extend the Faith-Based Advisory Council. Morning Read

Politics, Policy and Issue-Related News
White House fights Catholic Church subpoena on birth control
he Obama administration has gone to court to try to block a subpoena from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York seeking White House documents about the government’s requirement of insurance coverage for birth control.

Catholic schools failing to keep up enrollment
Since 2003 the number of students attending a Catholic school has fallen nearly 22%, according to NCEA’s Annual Statistical Report on Schools, Enrollment and Staffing…Strides also are being made in other cities, including Indianapolis, where a voucher program is helping to boost enrollment.

Radical ‘heartbeat’ abortion bans aim straight for Roe
Laws like personhood and “heartbeat” have dramatically curtailed abortion rights since social conservatives swept the 2010 midterm elections. Last year alone, 19 states passed 43 laws to make abortion more costly, laborious and humiliating―a tally second only to the 92 laws enacted in 2011.

Why Americans Are So Ignorant?
…Most American voters are: (1) ignorant about major international events, (2) knew little about how their own government runs and who runs it, (3) were nonetheless willing to accept government positions and policies even though a moderate amount of critical thought suggested they were bad for the country, and (4) were readily swayed by stereotyping, simplistic solutions, irrational fears and public relations babble. And, last but certainly not least, there is the  unending war against teaching evolution in U.S. schools. This Christian fundamentalist effort often enjoys temporary success in large sections of the country and is ultimately held at bay only by court decisions reflecting (to date) a solid sense of reality on this subject.

General News
The Iron Lady’s Religion Informed her Politics
Her writings and speeches are unequivocal in the provenance of her theo-political worldview. In Statecraft, she wrote: ‘I believe in what are often referred to as “Judaeo-Christian” values: indeed my whole political philosophy is based on them’. In the second volume The Path to Power she went further: ‘Although I have always resisted the argument that a Christian has to be a Conservative, I have never lost my conviction that there is a deep and providential harmony between the kind of political economy I favour and the insights of Christianity’.

Of Interest
Rabbi Alan Lurie: Is the Bible the Word of God?
At one of the Republican presidential primary debates, viewers were invited to present questions to the candidates via YouTube. One questioner was an intense young man who held a King James Bible. He asked, “How you answer this will tell us everything about you. Do you believe every word of this book, and I mean specifically THIS book that I’m holding in my hand?” This young man was challenging the candidates to commit not only to the literal truth of the Christian Bible, but also to this one particular version of it. And, presumably, any answer less than a firm “yes” would demonstrate to the questioner that the candidate is not a “man of faith.”…Beyond his odd circular reasoning, the truth is that no matter how much one may want to read the Bible as a clear account of strict rules and actual events, the Bible inherently resists such literalism, for the following reasons…

Cohabitation is lasting longer, becoming more common
“Cohabitation is a common part of family formation in the United States, and serves both as a step toward marriage and as an alternative to marriage,” the report says.

(South Dakota) Sen. Johnson says he now supports gay marriage
South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson, who announced his retirement last month, has reversed his position on gay marriage, saying Monday that he supports the legalization of same-sex unions.

(Tennessee) Plans finalized to put ‘In God We Trust’ on Anderson Co. courthouse
A committee has finalized plans to put the phrase “In God We Trust” on one county’s courthouse.

In the Middle East, not America, Christians are actually persecuted
American Christians have a persecution complex. Whenever a public figure criticizes the Christian movement or offers believers in other faiths an equal voice in society, you can bet Christians will start howling. Claims about American persecution of Christians are a form of low comedy in a country where two-thirds of citizens claim to be Christians, where financial gifts to Christian churches are tax deductible, where Christian pastors can opt out of social security, and where no one is restricted from worshipping however, whenever, and wherever they wish…Rather than asking pastors to abstain from endorsing presidential candidates from their pulpits in exchange for tax-exempt status, persecution looks more like the recent experience of Saeed Abendini. The American pastor was sentenced to eight years in Iran’s Evin prison, where it is suspected that he is undergoing beatings, torture, and brainwashing techniques.

Angry atheists, history and America’s future
After more than a year of litigation, a federal judge dismissed American Atheists’ lawsuit, with the court noting: “The Museum’s purpose is to tell the history surrounding September 11, and the cross … helps tell part of that history.” Yet as important as the past is, this case is also about the future. Unless this lawsuit is defeated resoundingly – not just defeated in court but also thoroughly rejected by the public and politicians – future museum curators will think twice about telling the truth about America’s religious heritage.

Movement & Related
Business Owner Pulls out of on Camp Quest Fundraiser at Last Minute
Joe Davidson, CEO of Oklahoma Joe’s Barbeque told FOX23 people have a right to believe whatever they want, but he said Camp Quest Oklahoma goes against his beliefs. Davidson told FOX23 he’s a Christian and he can’t support atheist or agnostic views. Davidson said just a couple of weeks ago he agreed to raise cash for Camp Quest Oklahoma, a science camp.

Years Later, Secular Student Group Recognized On A Religious Campus: Here’s How It Happened
In my first ever piece for The Huffington Post Religion, published in 2010, I wrote about Moorhead, Minn.-based Concordia College’s refusal to recognize “Secular Students of Concordia,” a student organization centered around nontheistic values. In that piece I argued that, in order to be truly inclusive, interfaith dialogue and collaboration must also include — and defend — those without faith, who are often marginalized and discriminated against in the United States. Last week, the same college gave official recognition to the “Secular Student Community” — an organization similar in name and still centered around nontheistic values, but with a different vision. This long-overdue affirmation of secular students’ place within an otherwise predominantly religious institution owes largely to precisely the kind of interfaith dialogue and collaboration called for in my 2010 piece — the kind of approach that encourages mutual respect and solidarity between atheists and the religious, rather than scorn or derision.

April 14 marks “4-11 Window” — Believers will pray that 2 billion children turn into Christians and ‘transform the world for Christ’
Sponsors of the “Global 4/14 Day” want at least 1 million Christians to pray for 2 billion children on Sunday, April 14, so that children between the ages of 4 and 14 will discover Jesus and become the next generation of Christians.

A Mormon glass ceiling shattered
Not one, but two women offered prayers at sessions of the annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was earth-shattering, even in its simplicity. It turned out Monday morning that the banks did not fail, cows did not stop giving milk, the lofty Rocky Mountain peaks did not crumble. Mormons did not need to tap into the five years of canned food they store the basement.

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