Protecting the constitutional principle of the separation of state and church
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Freethought Today

Vol. 21 No. 2 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
March 2004

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In the News

An American Airlines pilot terrified passengers on a flight from Los Angeles to New York in early February by asking who was a Christian as the plane was about to take off.

Captain Roger Findiesen said: "I just got back from a mission. You know, they say about half of Americans are Christians." He told passengers to raise their hands if they were Christian. Then he told nonChristians to talk to them about their faith, saying "everyone who doesn't have their hand raised is crazy," passenger Amanda Nelligan told CBS News.

He added: "Well, you have a choice: you can make this trip worthwhile, or you can sit back, read a book and watch a movie." He said he would be available to discuss religion after the flight.

Alarmed flight attendants notified ground control. Several passengers, considering the pilot's words threatening or an indication of instability, tried to phone relatives from mobile phones for help.

American Airlines' chief executive Gerard Arpey apologized about a week later, saying "we take this very seriously and are conducting a thorough investigation." The pilot was grounded.


  • The body of Carlie Brucia, an 11-year-old whose abduction on Sunday, Feb. 1, was recorded by a car wash security camera, was found in the woods behind a church on Feb. 6 in Sarasota, Fla. Arrested for first-degree murder and kidnapping was Joseph P. Smith, whose previous arrests include two attacks on women.

  • Nearly 250 Muslim worshippers died in a stampede during a hajj, or Muslim pilgrimage, on Feb. 1 in Saudi Arabia, during the annual "stoning of Satan." Hajj Minister Iyad Madani said: "All precautions were taken to prevent such an incident, but this is God's will."


    The Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 13 announced it will delay its decision for 90 days on whether to permit the morning-after pill to be sold over-the-counter nationwide. Its own expert panel advised permitting the drug to be sold without restrictions.

    Three pharmacists who refused to fill an emergency contraception prescription for a rape victim were fired in late January by Erkerd Corp. in Denton, Texas.


    Edinburgh University, one of Britain's oldest universities, responded to complaints by staff and students by replacing traditional Christian prayers at graduation ceremonies with a secular "period of reflection."

    Scottish Parliament opens with a "time for reflection," not prayer. Will Garton, president of the student association, said: "We support the change because the majority of us aren't Christian." The Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church and some university chaplains condemned the reform.


    Nonreligious views will be covered along with the mandatory study of religion under voluntary drafted guidelines approved by the British Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in February.

    "There are many children in England who have no religious affiliation and their beliefs and ideas, whatever they are, should be taken very seriously," said a QCA spokesperson.

    "There are huge numbers of people who are atheists or whose families are atheists and who are coming into a class where their family's view is not acknowledged. You should be able to have a conversation about ethics that doesn't collapse into a conversation about religion," said Ben Rogers, author of a report for the Institute for Public Policy Research. The report proposes renaming Religious Education "Religious, Philosophical and Moral Education."

    The Guardian reports only 7% of Britons attend a weekly religious service.


    Argentine Pres. Nestor Kirchner has proposed self-described "militant atheist" Carmen Argibay as a member of the Supreme Court of Justice. Argibay supports abortion, which is banned by Argentina's Constitution. Bishop Jorge Luis Lona of San Luis issued a statement rebuking Argibay's pro-abortion position and her nomination.


    The Chicago Tribunereported that Israel's Tourism Ministry gave its annual award to an American demonstrating support for its Zionist state to Rev. Pat Robertson in February. Tourism Minister Benny Elon, who presented the award, recently called on Christians to "go from mosque to mosque and bring the Muslims into the light."


    March 2004 Excerpts