SCA’s Morning Read for 8/21/13

Coalition MembersMorning Read
This man wants to be the Navy’s first humanist chaplain (Jewish World Review)
ason Heap grew up in Texas among Baptists and Lutherans. He earned a master’s from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. Now, at age 38, Heap wants to be a U.S. Navy chaplain.

Barbara Hillary, First African-American Woman to Reach North Pole, Will Speak at Atheist Convention (Friendly Atheist)
The American Atheists’ 2014 Convention already features LGBT activist and NFL punter Chris Kluwe, Survivor: Philippines winner Denise Stapley, and Spin Doctors bass player Mark White. Today, they’re adding two more exciting names to their slate.

How the Chuck Hagel Fight Changed the American Jewish Landscape in Washington (The Daily Beast)
On Thursday morning, January 31, 2013, the Armed Services Committee of the United States Senate convened to consider the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska as secretary of defense. It was the first major political confrontation of President Obama’s second term, and anticipation had been building for weeks throughout the political world.

Pastor-Turned-Atheist Teresa MacBain Will Soon Be Heading to Harvard to Support Godless Congregations (Friendly Atheist)
In March of 2012, former pastor Teresa MacBain came out as an atheist for the first time. Since then, she’s been about as public an atheist as you can get, holding positions as the Public Relations Director for American Atheists and the executive director of the Humanists of Florida Association.

(WV) Abortion rights group rallies in state Capitol (The Journal)
About 200 abortion rights advocates rallied Tuesday at the West Virginia Capitol in an effort to counter recent calls for the state to begin regulating the procedures, fearful abortions could become more expensive and difficult to obtain. West Virginia is one of 11 states that don’t require a licensed doctor to perform an abortion.

(VT) Group Urging Repeal of Vermont’s End of Life Law (Northeast Public Radio)
A group opposed to Vermont’s new End-of-Life-Choices law has begun running ads on local television stations urging its repeal. Vermont’s End-of-Life-Choices law allows terminally ill patients with less than six months to live to receive a prescription for a lethal dose of medicine. It went into effect on May 20th this year, when Governor Peter Shumlin signed the bill following a 10-year effort to get it enacted.

Humanist and Nontheistic Chaplains
Letters: Armed forces could use him (LA Times)
Unbelievable. Congressional Republicans oppose funding a humanist chaplain to serve humanist armed forces personnel.

Reproductive Health & Right to Choose
Editorial: Contraception coverage in state health plan is ‘intrinsically evil.‘ Really? (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
We must take state Rep. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, and his wife, Teresa, at their word when they explain why they’re suing the federal government for an exemption from the contraception coverage in their state health insurance plan: They think the coverage is evil. Even if they don’t use it.

Catholic League Petition Demands End to HHS Mandate (National Catholic Register)
A new online petition is asking the federal government to withdraw the Department of Health and Human Services’ controversial contraception mandate on the grounds that it violates the fundamental “inalienable right” to religious liberty.

Atheist Prison Group Deserves Reconsideration (Courthouse News Service)
A Wisconsin inmate’s request to form an atheist study group deserves the same consideration afforded to a recognized “religious” group, the 7th Circuit ruled. This is the second case in which inmate James Kaufman has attempted to compel the prison system to allow him to form and participate in an atheist group, the same way other inmates are allowed to create religious study groups.

Feds say OK to atheists on religion tax break (WBIR)
The federal government wants to give Annie Laurie Gaylor a tax break for leading an atheist group. Gaylor, head of the Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, wants to stop them – and she’s asking a federal judge for help.

Religion, atheism and skeptics: The rising tide of disbelief (All Voices)
In 2005, only one percent of Americans identified themselves as atheists in a WIN-Gallup International poll. Today, that number is up to at least five percent. Fewer young people consider themselves religious, or affiliate themselves with a church. But does this mean atheism is on the rise?

An atheist’s guide to the good life (Washington Post)
Do you know why atheists are so happy? Because they’re the freest people on Earth, and their only responsibilities are to their fellow human beings, not phantasms.

Bob McLaughlin: School vouchers should not support religion (Wisconsin State Journal)
I was pleased to read Chris Rickert’s column in the Sunday State Journal in which he points out the most objectionable aspect of the school voucher program in Wisconsin. Many Wisconsinites resent that our tax dollars will go to pay for parents to have their children indoctrinated with religious fantasy (such as creationism) as if it were scientific fact.

Eagle editorial: Islam flap a cultural lesson (The Wichita Eagle)
So public school administrators now must worry about something on a wall being photographed and then uploaded for cultural warriors everywhere to see, misunderstand and condemn. That’s chilling and sad.

ACLU Issues Findings on Student Access (Kentucky News Network)
Public school superintendents across the state are being notified by the ACLU of Kentucky about the results of an investigation into the ability of outside groups to distribute non-educational materials to students during school hours.

Why Ken Cuccinelli’s Plan for Education Is Concerning (Huffington Post)
According to his epitaph, one of Thomas Jefferson’s proudest moments was his development of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. (More so, by the same metric, than his time in the White House.) This law became the first of its kind in the nation, guaranteeing Virginians the right to exercise their faith how they pleased while protecting government from the overzealous who wished to use Virginia’s halls of power as vehicles for proselytization.

Master sergeant files lawsuit against Air Force claiming religious discrimination (KTRK)
An Air Force master sergeant is fighting back against the Air Force, claiming he was discriminated against because of his religious beliefs. For 19 years, Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk has served his country in the U.S. Air Force.

Should CNN Religion Writer Accept Award From Religious Advocacy Org? (Religion Dispatches)
The Becket Fund recently announced that Eric Marrapodi, Senior Producer at CNN and co-editor of the CNN Belief Blog, will be the recipient of its first annual Vine and Fig Tree Award. Named for a reference in George Washington’s letter to the Jews of Newport, the award will be given on September 19, 2013 to a journalist who, in their estimation, demonstrates “excellence in reporting on religious liberty issues.”

The case for religious liberty: Re-reading the Qur’an (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
The words of the Qur’an and hadith contain rich resources for supporting the democratic order. If Muslims are to embrace modernity, including life in a pluralistic, democratic society, without abandoning their faith, they must take up the argument for religious liberty that is embedded in their history and that stands at the centre of their most sacred texts.

Equal Rights & Discrimination
Chris Christie Gets It Right on Gay Conversion Therapy, Needs to Support Gay Marriage(Huffington Post)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signed a bill barring licensed therapists from trying to make gay minors straight. In doing so, New Jersey becomes the second state to ban the “therapy,” following in the footsteps of California, which outlawed so-called “conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy” in January.

Marriage-equality talks heat up in Hawaii (San Diego Gay & Lesbian News)
Same-gender marriage is back on the agenda in Hawaii, where the entire congressional delegation and faith leaders have come out in favor of the freedom to marry. U.S. Senators Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz and U.S. Representatives Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard issued statements supporting marriage equality, all urging Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat who also wants same-gender marriage, and the state legislature to pass a law to approve same-gender marriage.

Alabama GOP Wants To Purge Young Republican Leader Who Is OK With Marriage Equality(Queerty)
There are so few young Republicans these days, you’d think the party would treat them like gold. Not in Alabama, though. The party is about to change its bylaws so that any deviation from the party platform on marriage equality is cause for execution–oops, expulsion.

Black clergy divided over GLBT as civil rights issue (Washington Post)
GLBT groups will be officially involved at this weekend’s MLK speech anniversary march, but some pastors say their cause doesn’t fall under the “civil rights movement”

Science & Technology
Creationism 3.0: Meet Intelligent Design’s Huckster (Religion Dispatches)
There’s a temptation to review each new book that makes the case for intelligent design by publishing a laundry list of every fact, experiment, subtheory, and interpretation that the author gets wrong. I’ll spare you that exercise, partly because it’s been done elsewhere, by scientists, and partly because Stephen Meyer, the author of Darwin’s Doubt, is not your typical creationist hack.

Archbishop won’t deny communion to Irish pols over abortion bill (Washington Post)
Irish Catholic politicians and Parliament members who voted for a controversial law that allows abortion under certain circumstances will not be excommunicated or denied Communion, the future primate of Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, said. Speaking on a Radio Ulster program, Martin said he had never refused Communion to anyone.

Media Advisory: Secularists Praise City of Windsor’s Decision to Stop Raising Christian Flag(Bazinga)
The Canadian Secular Alliance (CSA), a public policy non-profit organization advancing church-state separation and the neutrality of government in matters of religion, congratulates the City of Windsor in ending its practice of raising the Christian flag over Windsor City Hall.

Secular parent wins battle against Gideon Bibles in schools (Canadian Legal Magazine)
Students in Niagara Region won’t be getting those Gideon Bibles so many Canadians remember receiving in class unless their local school board agrees to let atheists distribute their own materials. That’s the word from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, which ruled on an atheist father’s challenge to the long-standing practice of distributing Gideon Bibles in schools last week in R.C. v. District School Board of Niagara.

UN deeply concerned by rise in homophobic violence in Haiti (Caribbean News Now)
The United Nations in Haiti on Monday called on key political, religious and community leaders to inspire respect for rights and encourage restraint from expressions of hatred and contempt amid increase in homophobic violence in the country. “The UN Mission and United Nations agencies and programmes in Haiti are deeply concerned by the recent increase in homophobic violence in the country,” the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) said in a statement.

Anti-superstition leader Narendra Dabholkar shot dead; Prithviraj Chavan announces Rs10 lakh reward for info on killers (DNA India)
Anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar, who was at the forefront of a campaign to persuade Maharashtra government to pass an anti-superstition and black magic bill, was shot dead by two unidentified youths at 7.20 am on Omkarweshwar bridge near Cosmos Bank in Pune on Tuesday morning.

Quebec Ponders Turban, Kippa, Hijab Restrictions (Huffington Post)
Quebec has launched its next debate on minority accommodation — and this one could make the erstwhile soccer-turban ban look like a leisurely stroll down the pitch. The government is preparing to introduce long-awaited, controversial legislation that would restrict religious symbols in numerous places.

Political Islam on the defensive across the Middle East (Religion News Service)
The backlash against Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt comes as secular forces across the Middle East are rising up in opposition to political Islam. Divisions reach from top leaders to the street. Political leaders in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Jordan have sided with the Egyptian military and secularists who backed the July 3 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.

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