SCA’s Morning Read for 9/27/13

NOTE: Due to the Capitol Hill Briefings, there will be no Morning Read on Monday. Have a great weekend and we’ll see you in October!
Morning Read
SCA News
MEDIA ALERT: SCA Hosts Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker on Capitol Hill, Monday
U.S. House Briefing
Date: Monday, September 30, 2013
Time: 10:30am-Noon
Location: Congressional Visitor’s Center, Congressional Meeting Room North
Address: Entrance at First and East Capitol St. NE, Washington, D.C. (Across from the Supreme Court)

U.S. Senate Briefing
Date: Monday, September 30, 2013
Time: 1:00pm-2:30pm
Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 562
Address: 239 Dirksen Bldg, Washington, DC 20510

SCA in the News
Rise of the “Nones” (American Prospect)
Online, the intrepid seeker can find secular wedding vows and baptism alternatives, as well as links to support groups and defenders of nonbelievers’ rights like the Secular Coalition for America. There is also an increasing amount of information about how to raise children in a nonreligious household, how to say a godless grace, and how to grieve without God or an afterlife. None of this pretends to be definitive. Rather, it’s a collective effort to grapple with a widely shared set of questions and anxieties. Among the unaffiliated, the will to create non-religious community is humming. But rather than being handed down from on high, it’s being crowdsourced.

Atheists Give NJ Republican Candidates An “F” (NJ Today)
The Secular Coalition for America today released its 2013 New Jersey Senate Candidate Scorecard and its 2013 New Jersey Gubernatorial Candidate Scorecard for the upcoming elections —guide for secular-minded New Jerseyans on the candidates.

Secular Coalition for America Gives Cory Booker an ‘A’ and Chris Christie an ‘F’ in Latest Scorecards (Friendly Atheist)
The Secular Coalition for America (in conjunction with the Secular Coalition for New Jersey) just released its scorecards for the upcoming gubernatorial and senatorial elections in New Jersey and, in both races, the grades couldn’t be further apart.

Family Planning and Development Prevention
Taking Note: See the Abortion Documentary ‘After Tiller’ (New York Times)
“After Tiller,” a new documentary focused on the four doctors in the United States openly performing third-trimester abortions, takes a complicated subject beyond the familiar muck of abstract and often ill-informed talking points to deliver a frank portrayal of the real life situations of the physicians and their desperate patients.

Science
U.N. climate change report points blame at humans (CNN)
The world’s getting hotter, the sea’s rising and there’s increasing evidence neither are naturally occurring phenomena. So says a report from the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change, a document released every six years that is considered the benchmark on the topic. More than 800 authors and 50 editors from dozens of countries took part in its creation. Climate scientists are 95% confident — that is to say, surer than ever — that humans are responsible for at least “half of the observed increase in global average surface temperatures since the 1950s.” This is the major headline from the report, as it marks a stark spike in confidence over the last 12 years, as scientists were 90% confident in 2007 and 66% confident in 2001 of the same conclusion.

Religion and Politics/Policy
Why is religious pandering so prevalent? (Salon)
Politicians from Obama to Bush just can’t resist the “God strategy.” Can we ever evolve toward secular government?  Religion has long had an extraordinary influence in U.S. politics compared to other democracies. But this isn’t just a far-right phenomenon: If the Obama administration has its way, this influence might go even further. For example, the administration recently filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court arguing that it is constitutional to conduct official Christian prayers at town council meetings.

U.S. House OKs religious liberty envoy (Baptist Press)
The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a bill requiring appointment of a special envoy for the promotion of religious liberty in such countries as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria.

Dolan Calls Pope’s Tone on Sexual Morality a ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ (New York Times)
Three days after Pope Francis set a new tone for the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan (the archbishop of New York and president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which does a significant amount of lobbying), embraced the “magnificent interview” in which the pope chastised the church for its obsession with sexual morality, and called him “a breath of fresh air.” aving vigorously fought the legalizing of same-sex marriage in New York, Dolan said the church could be more welcoming of gay men and lesbians.

Conservatives ‘disturbed’ by pope’s remarks (CNN)
“I’ll be honest; I was disturbed,” writes Matthew Archbold in the conservative National Catholic Register. “While it’s clear that the pope is not changing church teaching, he is clearly changing the emphasis. The pope with a few words has unsettled so much.” Archbold said that he’s concerned that the pope’s words will be used against anti-abortion activists and opponents of gay marriage in the United States.

For the Public Good? Nonprofits and Political Donations  (Huffington Post)
What is a charity? In general, we think of it as an organization that does something to further the public good, doesn’t make a profit and is tax-exempt. We feel good about giving to them because they help people or do something good for society. But charities and nonprofits are a murky world these days. Big charities handle millions of dollars and the highest paid director of a charity makes over $2 million dollars. That’s a far cry from the local food bank, little league team or crisis hotline, and not what most of us picture when we think of a charity. And while they may accept donations and be tax-exempt, not all non-profits are charities. Under the IRS code, there are 28 designations for tax-exempt status including charitable, educational and recreational so there is a wide-range of groups that fall under nonprofit or tax-exempt status.

Atheism, Movement & Related
College students divided on God, spirituality (USA Today)
College students are almost evenly divided into three camps when it comes to faith, according to a new study released Thursday. About a third, 32%, are true believers. Another 32% are spiritual but not religious. And 28% consider themselves secular.

Bill Maher: Atheism Will Become ‘The New Gay Marriage,’ As Nonbelievers Come ‘Out Of The Closet’ (Huffington Post)
Maher’s remark came in response to a question about whether he would ever consider seeking office. He called himself the “the last person who could ever win,” citing his lack of faith as just one reason. Maher is a vocal atheist, and in 2008 he starred in “Religulous,” a film that poked fun at a variety of organized religions and their beliefs.

Education
The Kansas Board of Education Sued for Teaching Evolution in Science Classes (Kansas City Star)
The group, Citizens for Objective Public Education, had criticized the standards developed by Kansas, 25 other states and the National Research Council for treating both evolution and climate change as key scientific concepts to be taught from kindergarten through 12th grade. The Kansas State Board of Education adopted them in June to replace evolution-friendly standards that had been in place since 2007.

Discrimination and Equal Rights
George H.W. Bush Serves As Witness At Gay Wedding (PHOTO) (Huffington Post)
The Washington Post reports Bush served as an official witness at the wedding of Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen, who own a general store together in Maine. Thorgalsen posted the following photo to Facebook showing Bush signing their marriage license.

International Blasphemy Rights Day: An Interview With Persecuted Atheists (CFI)
The Center for Inquiry will mark International Blasphemy Rights Day on Monday, September 30, in part by hosting an online discussion with Alber Saber and Kacem El-Ghazzali, both of whom were recently forced to leave their home countries over blasphemy charges. The event will begin at 4 p.m. ET.

World
No faith in the system (The Hindu)
Atheists in Indonesia, who have gained little acceptance in a deeply religious society, often find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

A Predicament of the Mainstream (New York Times)
Religious intolerance is no longer the preserve of extremist groups; it is endemic throughout Pakistan.

Nairobi Westgate mall terrorist attack is part of Kenya’s sharp rise in religious hostilities (Pew)
The number of people killed in religion-related terrorist attacks in Kenya has dramatically increased in recent years. According to reports analyzed by the Pew Research Center as part of our ongoing global study of religious restrictions and hostilities, more than 300 people were killed, injured or displaced as a result of religion-related terrorist attacks in Kenya in 2012, more than twice as many as in 2011 and more than a five-fold increase from 2010.

Threats to Syrian Christians Heighten Concerns in Congress About Aiding Rebels (National Journal)
Members of Congress know that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad is the bad guy, but they’re increasingly worried about toppling him from power, after Christian organizations have galvanized America’s religious base.

Religion
Rape of Muslim Women; All in the Name of Jihad (Christian Post)
The sex jihad is back in the news. Last Thursday, during an address to the National Constituent Assembly, Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Bin Jeddo announced that Tunisian girls who had traveled to Syria to perform “sex jihad” had returned after being sexually “swapped between 20, 30, and 100 rebels and they come back bearing the fruit of sexual contacts [from pregnancies to diseases] in the name of sexual jihad and we are silent doing nothing and standing idle.” Other interviewed women have told of how they were “fooled,” or how their husbands (they being one of four wives) divorced and sent them to Syria for the sex jihad, with assurances that they would be guaranteed paradise in the afterlife. One 16-year-old explained how her father ordered her to have sex with several jihadi “liberators.”

Meet the Catholic Church’s Newest Radical Nun (Juicy Ecumenism)
Sister Forcades has a history of butting heads with the Catholic Church, which she has labeled as a “misogynist and patriarchal” organization. In 2009, the Vatican demanded she explain her public support for legal abortion and legal access to Plan B. Sister Forcades was forced to declare a clarifying statement stating her allegiance to the Magisterium (presumably muttering “eppur si muove” as she did). Unfortunately, her alleged allegiance to Church teaching seems not to have stuck; one of the planks in her new ten-point manifesto is “a woman’s right to choose an abortion”.

Meet the American Religious Right Figures Thrilled by Russia’s Brutal Anti-Gay Laws (Alternet)
Putin has achieved much of what the American right-wing dreams of, and American religious conservatives are ecstatic.

Reporter: negative stereotypes on religion plague journalism (Baylor Lariat)
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, a national correspondent for Religion News Service,  thinks American media has a secular swing, often putting religion in a negative light. Religion reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey explained why that is and how Christians can combat the negative stereotype.

As denominations decline, numbers of unpaid ministers rise (RNS)
Though small evangelical congregations have long relied on unpaid pastors, mainline churches haven’t. They’ve generally paid full-time or nearly full-time salaries, said Scott Thumma, a Hartford Seminary sociologist of religion.
Jeremiah Griffin (left) and Mark Marmon (right) in procession during Ordination on June 15. They are two of 13 people ordained to the diaconate at Christ Church Cathedral. Photo by Carol Barnwell, Episcopal Diocese of Texas. That’s changing, however, as churches face declining numbers and look to new ministry models to make ends meet. Thumma sees more mainliners cutting back to halftime or one-quarter-time packages for clergy, who increasingly work second jobs.

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