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Judges’ religious service criticised by secular lawyers

Secular lawyers have called for a separation of the Church of England from judicial affairs after judges marked the start of the legal year with an Anglican service.

Tower Hamlets has denied newspaper claims that a Trojan Horse ’2′ is soon to be uncovered in the East London Borough.

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The National Secular Society has given its backing to one of the country’s top state schools after it came under fire for upholding its policy of banning the niqab.

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Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, the highest ranking Catholic to be investigated over child abuse, is now under house arrest at the Vatican pending a criminal trial following accusations of the sexual abuse of minors in the Dominican Republic.

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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

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

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!

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


●   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!

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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.


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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 programme 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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