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Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter – No. 15

Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible.

The Main Events


IMG_6250 copy.jpegWorking for Free Expression at the UN Human Rights Council

Our public policy chief Michael De Dora is also CFI’s main representative to the United Nations, and this week he’s in Geneva, Switzerland, to represent us at the UN Human Rights Council, which is meeting for its 27th session.  

On Wednesday, Michael delivered a statement on the plight of Raif Badawi, the Saudi dissident who is about to endure a sentence of 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for “insulting Islam.” His appeal was recently denied, and his punishment will be inflicted on him soon. Michael spoke strongly and called upon Saudi Arabia to free Raif, to abide by its obligations as a member of the Human Rights Council, and to seriously reform its oppressive laws. See how you can take action and see video of Michael’s address here.

On the subject of online censorship, Michael spoke on behalf of fellow CFI representative Josephine Macintosh, who wrote in opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy law and its use as a means to limit dissenting speech. You may remember Josephine as the woman who faced down Saudi Arabia’s attempts to silence her in June over their treatment of Badawi and his fellow activist Waleed Abu Al-khair. You can see the video of Michael delivering Josephine’s statement here.

The picture here is of Michael with Samar Badawi, sister to Raif and wife of Al-khair.

 


point-of-inquiry-will-teach-you-to-debate-1.jpgPoint of Inquiry Praised by Business Insider, plus Episodes on Meat and Death

We’re as proud as can be of our Point of Inquiry team, as Business Insider just dubbed the show one of the “9 Podcasts That Will Make You Smarter,” along with hits like This American Life and Startalk Radio. Drake Baer writes that “hard-charging journalists” Lindsay Beyerstein and Josh Zepps deliver “the best philosophy class you could imagine.” Congratulations, POI! 

Last week on the show, Lindsay interviewed Caitlin Doughty, a mortician and creator of the web series Ask a Mortician. Doughty looks to change attitudes about death from a secular perspective, as well as to educate the public about the myths and reality behind the death industry. 

This week, Josh tackles an entirely different and perhaps equally mysterious business: factory farming and the meat industry. He talks to investigative journalist Christopher Leonard about the morality of super-industrialized meat production, the iron grip of certain large corporations, and how the centralized system of factory farming is, to Leonard, “Soviet-esque.”

 


0913-air-force-atheist.jpg.jpgFighting for Church-State Separation in Indiana and the U.S. Air Force

A World War II memorial on Indiana public land has made news of late for its inclusion of a Christian cross, blatantly violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Our legal director Nick Little and CFI–Indiana executive director Reba Boyd Wooden wrote to the governor and the state’s Director of Natural Resources this week to ask them to remove the cross, saying it “denigrates the sacrifice” of non-Christian veterans. “The message is either that non-Christians did not participate in the terrible battles in Europe and the Pacific, or that their contribution is not worth memorializing,” they write, noting that if the cross remains, CFI will consider legal options. Our opposition to the cross was noted in the Indianapolis Star, and Nick appears in this short piece about the issue for WIBC radio.

We also reached out to the U.S. Air Force, which recently refused to reinstate an airman who refused to utter “so help me God” as part of his oath for reenlistment. In a letter to the Air Force Secretary and Inspector General, Nick requested that they “act with honor” and revert back to their previous policy, wherein enlistees could opt out of the oath’s “God” reference, as is the case for the U.S. Army, for example. Little writes that the regulation “sends the message that patriotic service is not open to atheists, and that atheists are not welcome to help defend the rights and freedoms that are protected by the United States military.” And there’s great news: The Air Force has changed its tune and will once again make the “God” part of the oath optional. The airman at the center of this case is being represented legally by our friends at the American Humanist Association, and they deserve a hand for their work.

 

News from HQ and the CFI Community


stephenlaw__full170.jpg
Stephen Law Joins CFI’s Free Thinking Blog

This month, philosopher Stephen Law, provost of CFI–UK, began a regular column at the Center for Inquiry’s Free Thinking blog, a center of free expression and serious deliberation of topics that span the skeptic and humanist spectrum. Stephen has dubbed his new blog The Outer Limits, where he’ll present his unique voice, a voice of both deep contemplation and engaging wit. His first piece is up now, and it’s a clear-eyed look at the delicate and precarious balance we strike when trying to respect the rights of religious believers when they clash with laws or societal norms. Welcome, Stephen!



HARRIS 170
Sam Harris with CFI in Washington, DC and Portland

Last Sunday, Sam Harris took the stage at Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC, for an interview with the Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein and a Q&A session before an audience of seven hundred. Presented by CFI–DC, the event has generated discussion and debate throughout the freethought community. Boorstein wrote about her conversation with Harris for the Post, and Harris posted thoughts on his own blog, where he’s also followed up on some concerns about some of his remarks. Our own Ron Lindsay offered his observations on some of the controversy in his own post.

Harris will next appear at a CFI event with a talk for CFI–Portland on October 2.

 


speakers-branch.jpgBrains Fully Fed at CFI–Los Angeles

CFI–Los Angeles is bustling with activity of all kinds. Earlier this week, as part of the group’s “Feed Your Brain” lecture series, the deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, Glenn Branch, gave a presentation on the unceasing efforts to get creationism and intelligent design taught in public schools, even after intelligent design’s defeat in 2005 in Dover, Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, comedian Marc Maron, host of the popular WTF podcast, is appearing at CFI–L.A.’s Steve Allen Theater for several weekly stand-up shows. And this Sunday, secular activists Ed Buckner (former head of the Council for Secular Humanism) and CFI–L.A.’s chief Jim Underdown will give lively discussions about why we’re not a Christian nation, in Hollywood and Costa Mesa. 

 

CFI on the Web and in the Media


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●   CFI’s Ed Beck writes at the Keep Health Care Safe and Secular blog about the efforts of the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium (which is as pro-woo as it sounds) to lobby for inclusion in the Affordable Care Act.

●   Reason magazine picks up our request to the Air Force to change its policy regarding the “so help me God” portion of their oath.

●   Indiana Public Media and Eagle Country WSCH report on our efforts to have the Indiana World War II cross removed.

●   At Skeptical Inquirer, Kylie Sturgess interviews Alom Shaha (pictured here) about his recent work to get parents and kids excited about science together. 

●   Jesse Ventura has a book about the EXPLOSIVE conspiracies in U.S. politics, and Ben Radford suffers through it.

●   Skeptical Inquirer is heavily cited in, of all things, a post about superstition and the game of bingo.

●   Physics Today talks to CSI Fellow Mark Boslough about his career and his “passion for asteroids.”

●   In a Skeptical Inquirer cover story, James McGaha and Joe Nickell investigate the UFO-looking clouds over Mt. Rainier.

And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.

 

Upcoming CFI Events


September 20:

     •  CFI–Michigan holds a service day cleaning up the Grand River.

     •  CFI–Portland helps sponsor the Portland Humanist Film Festival.

September 21:

     •  Ed Buckner and Jim Underdown will take a critical look at the revisionist history peddled by science deniers in an event at CFI–Los Angeles.

September 21-27:

     •  Banned Books Week: A celebration of the freedom to read in response to the ongoing efforts to ban certain books from schools and libraries.  

September 27:

     •  Comic-musician Roy Zimmerman performs for CFI–Indiana.

September 28:

     •  CFI–NYC joins the NYC Skeptics for a live recording of the Rationally Speaking podcast with guest Steven Novella.

September 30:

     •  International Blasphemy Rights Day: a day to show solidarity with those who challenge oppressive laws and social prohibitions against free expression, to support the right to challenge prevailing religious beliefs without fear of violence, arrest, or persecution.

October 2:

     •  CFI–Portland hosts Sam Harris.

October 4:

     •  CFI–Northeast Ohio holds its 2014 Conference: Science Peers into the Future: Research for the 21st Century and Beyond

Don’t forget to SAVE THE DATE for CFI’s 2015 National Conference! Mark June 11–14, 2015, on your calendars—it’s time to come home. Join us in Amherst, New York, next summer for our biggest conference of the year, a reunion of skeptics, seculars, humanists, and atheists, all coming together where it all began—the headquarters of the CFI family of organizations, where Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer were launched thirty-five and (almost) forty years ago. Stay tuned for more details.


Thank you!


Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!


I Support Reason, Science, and Freedom of InquiryFortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

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Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter
is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in
Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a
secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI’s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.

 

Secularists and human rights campaigners have stepped up their calls for the Law Society to withdraw its controversial practice note on sharia succession rules.

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Rip Off Britain, the BBC consumer rights program which investigates viewers’ stories of being ripped-off, this week covered chancel repair liability – an ancient law which can make homeowners liable for the upkeep of their local Anglican church.

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Parents in Flintshire have complained of religious discrimination after it emerged that non-Catholics wouldn’t be permitted to use a bus provided by the local authority to a Catholic faith school.

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Luxembourg is considering a church tax as part of a range of possible measures to replace direct state funding for religious organisations.

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Renewed calls have been made for a national debate about the requirement on schools to hold acts of collective worship. The calls came during an Education Committee evidence session on extremism in schools.

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Many of you already know who Stephen Law is: an accomplished humanist philosopher, a senior lecturer at Heythrop College at the University
of London, and the author of several popular books on philosophy, in…

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The National Secular Society has criticised a decision by Central Bedfordshire Council to reinstate a Christian registrar who was previously dismissed after refusing to conduct same-sex weddings.

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Hundreds of thousands of German tax-payers are leaving their officially designated religions to avoid paying a ‘church tax’ levy on capital gains.

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Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible.

The Main Events


HARRIS 170Sam Harris in Conversation on Point of Inquiry and with CFI–Washington, DC

Point of Inquiry, the flagship podcast of the Center for Inquiry, welcomed Sam Harris this week to discuss his efforts to claim “spirituality” and transcendence from the grip of religion. In his new book, Waking Up, Harris asserts that the exploration of altered states of consciousness in no way requires belief in the supernatural and that the examination of the mystical fills “one of the great holes of secularism.” He and host Josh Zepps cover a number of topics besides, including Harris’s take on secularism’s progress in the ten years since the publication of his first book, The End of Faith, which is credited with kicking off the “new atheism” phenomenon. 

If you’re anywhere near Washington, DC, next week, you’ll want to catch Sam Harris as he comes to CFI–DC on September 10 for a special on-stage conversation, interviewed by Washington Post religion reporter Michelle Boorstein.

 


10626399_10152370953615698_2073850941687388058_o-1.jpgVictor Stenger, 1935–2014

On August 27, the freethought community lost one of its boldest voices, as Dr. Victor Stenger died at age 79. A fellow of both CFI and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and a contributor to both of our magazines, Stenger was best known as the author of numerous books on the some of humanity’s biggest questions, such as the New York Times bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis and the just-released God and the Multiverse. He’s also the person who coined the antitheistic slogan, “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.”

“One thing I liked about Vic was his lack of pretense and posturing,” said CFI’s president and CEO Ron Lindsay. “He didn’t trim his arguments—or his beard—to please others. He was interested in determining the truth. Period. What others thought of his occasionally rumpled look or his refusal to soft-pedal his arguments was a matter of indifference to him.We’ll miss both his intellect and his intellectual integrity.”

 


paul_offit_II.pngPaul Offit Comes to CFI–WNY to Receive Balles Prize in Critical Thinking

Awarded yearly by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking honors an author whose work best exemplifies healthy skepticism and has the greatest potential to cut through myth and misinformation on crucial scientific issues. This year, that honor belongs to Dr. Paul Offit for exposing the dangers of alternative medicine and the anti-vaccine movement with his book Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine. With his work in vaccinology and immunology, and perhaps most notably with the invention of the rotavirus vaccine, Dr. Offit has already proven to be a literal lifesaver. With the knowledge he imparts in his book, he may well save many more.

We’ll present the Balles Prize to Dr. Offit at CFI headquarters in Amherst, New York, on Saturday, September 6. Following the award presentation, Dr. Offit will deliver a talk on “The Philadelphia Measles Epidemic of 1991: Lessons from the Past” and be available for an audience Q&A. If you’re in the area, don’t miss it!

 


dan cTown of Greece’s Long Moment of Silence over Exclusionary Prayer Policy

The recent Supreme Court case of Greece v. Galloway paved the way for government assemblies such as city council and legislature meetings to open with sectarian prayers. Many nonreligious activists have taken up municipalities’ promises of inclusiveness by volunteering to offer secular invocations at many such meetings across the country, including in one town at the issue’s center, Greece, NY, itself. In July, atheist Dan Courtney delivered a moving invocation before Greece’s town board, and we were on hand to lend support

Now, however, the Town of Greece has suddenly issued new rules about who can and cannot offer such invocations, rules that seem to exclude the nonreligious. We responded, calling the move “a disappointing step backward.” Our disapproval was picked up by the media, and when confronted by Kimberly Winston of Religion News Service, town attorney Brian Marianetti could offer no explanations or clarifications. The news has also been covered by Raw Story, the Washington Times, and The Blaze, which says we’re “riled” by Greece’s guidelines. 

 

Action Alert!


shutterstock_123381388.jpgDon’t Let Religious Discrimination Keep Kids in Need from Loving Homes

We recently alerted you to the introduction of the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014, a deceptively named bill that actually seeks to allow adoption and foster care agencies that receive taxpayer funding to discriminate based on the religious beliefs of their proprietors. This means that these operations could deny adoption and foster services to same-sex married couples, unmarried heterosexual and same-sex couples, and individuals who belong to other religions, or none at all—and still continue to receive government funds. Apart from the stark problem of taxpayer dollars subsidizing discrimination, this bill would also keep children in need from having a better life with loving families because of religious disapproval of nontraditional relationships. 

This week, we joined a coalition of groups opposing this bill and supporting a new one, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. In the coming weeks, you’ll see more efforts from us on this issue, leading up to November, which is National Adoption Month. But you can have an impact right now by contacting your congressional representatives and telling them you oppose the discriminatory Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act. 

 

News from HQ and the CFI Community


Benton.jpgAdia Benton on Point of Inquiry: the Human Side of the Ebola Outbreak

Recent reports are warning that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is becoming harder for medical officials to control. On Point of Inquiry, Lindsay Beyerstein explores the panic surrounding the outbreak with Dr. Adia Benton, professor of medical anthropology at Brown University. Dr. Benton explains not just the medical facts about the disease but how affected communities cope with its emergence, what real people believe—rightly or wrongly—about how it’s transmitted, and how best to communicate the best prevention methods. 



t10.JPG
$5000 Raised for Ugandan Humanists

Last month, we activated our Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort (SHARE) program to come to the assistance of Uganda’s Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity, and Accountability. Burglars took everything of value from HALEA’s offices and severely beat the security guards. Happily, the global secular community has rallied, and through the SHARE program alone, over $5000 was raised to help HALEA rebuild. HALEA has been doing inspiring work in Uganda, and we’re delighted that our community has been able to lend a hand, so they can continue their important efforts.

 


AF_Blu-ray_Box_1024x1024.pngFreethought Documentary Shown at Woodstock

American Freethought is a documentary film series, delivering a long-overdue chronicle of the history of secularism and censorship in the United States. It was produced in association with the Council for Secular Humanism and features our own Tom Flynn, Council’s executive director and editor of Free Inquiry. Historical figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Robert Green Ingersoll, and Thomas Paine feature prominently in the film. This past weekend, American Freethought was shown as part of the Woodstock Museum Film Festival. You can purchase DVDs or Blu-rays of the series here

 


9407194_orig[1].jpgHigh School Students Present Original Documentary on Vaccinations

CFI–Los Angeles’s monthly Café Inquiry event featured a 42-minute documentary, Invisible Threat, which focuses on the necessity of vaccinations and criticizes parents who deny the science and exempt their children. Making the film all the more remarkable is the fact that it was made by 16 students from Carlsbad High School. The film features extensive interviews with top medical experts, including Paul Offit. Notably, this past Wednesday, the L.A. Times featured a front-page article on the frightening drop in vaccination rates among children in California due to the exemptions claimed by so many parents.

 

CFI on the Web and in the Media


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●   Ron Lindsay takes to Huffington Post to suggest a “third way” of addressing the church-state problem of the Pledge of Allegiance (particularly in regard to schoolchildren): make “under God” optional. He writes, “The coercion to take part, the pressure on nonreligious students to say something they don’t believe, is undeniable.”

●   At our Free Thinking blog, CFI Education Director David Koepsell says that skepticism and humanism should be thought of less as “stances” and more as “projects” or ongoing endeavors.

●   The September issue of Church & State, the magazine of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, includes two articles featuring CFI: One on the invocation in Greece, NY, and another on our major victory for Secular Celebrants in Indiana.

●   Eugenie V. Mielczarek and Brian D. Engler at Skeptical Inquirer expose the waste of taxpayer dollars on alternative medicines and therapies, which amounts to an “inconceivable focus on non-science-based medicine.”  

●   Tom Flynn offers a detailed recap of the recent weekend conference, Robert Green Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative, held in Amherst, NY, and other locations in Western New York.

●   Kenneth L. Feder encounters a creature he can’t explain—in a Whole Foods parking lot no less!—and uses this as a lesson about how sightings of the paranormal are “a reflection of the demand placed on our brains.”

●   Joe Nickell takes on the myth of the “incorruptible” corpse of St. Cecilia and reminds us that while this is a sign of holiness to Catholics, to Slavic countries it’s evidence of vampirism!

●   Alejandro Borgo updates us on the many activities of CFI–Argentina.

●   Aaron Friel of the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers & Inquirers (UNIFI) offers tips on coalition-building on campus, which turns out to be a less-than-formal process than it sometimes sounds.

And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.

 

Upcoming CFI Events


September 10:

     •  Greta Christina talks to CFI–Michigan in Grand Rapids about her book Coming Out Atheist.

September 11:

     •  Greta Christina is with CFI–Michigan again, this time in Farmington Hills.

September 13:

     •  Greta Christina brings Coming Out Atheist to CFI–Western New York

September 14:

     •  Glenn Branch comes to CFI–Los Angeles to talk about the aftermath of the Dover “Intelligent Design” trial.

     •  CFI–Indiana holds its annual picnic.

September 17:

     •  Greta Christina comes to CFI–Indiana.

September 20:

     •  CFI–Michigan holds a service day cleaning up the Grand River.

September 21:

     •  Ed Buckner and Jim Underdown will take a critical look at the revisionist history peddled by science deniers in an event at CFI–Los Angeles.

Don’t forget to SAVE THE DATE for CFI’s 2015 National Conference! Mark June 11–14, 2015, on your calendars—it’s time to come home. Join us in Amherst, New York, next summer for our biggest conference of the year, a reunion of skeptics, seculars, humanists, and atheists, all coming together where it all began—the headquarters of the CFI family of organizations, where Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer were launched thirty-five and (almost) forty years ago. Stay tuned for more details.


Thank you!


Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!


I Support Reason, Science, and Freedom of InquiryFortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

       •  Follow CFI on Twitter.

       •  Like us on Facebook

       •  Encircle us on Google+

       •  Subscribe to us on YouTube.

 


Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter
is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in
Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a
secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI’s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.

 

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