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Freethought Badge

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ABadgeScouts' dishonor?

Earn a freethought badge and challenge BSA discrimination against nontheists

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has produced a badge to reward freethinking youths and to challenge the Boy Scouts of America's discriminatory policy against the nonreligious. The badge, based on the Dawkins' "A," is being issued in collaboration with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

The Boy Scouts of America formally discriminates against nonreligious boys and their families, officially excluding atheists, agnostics and nonbelievers. Currently, BSA maintains "that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God."

FFRF maintains that no one can grow into the best kind of citizen who discriminates against the nonreligious, and that it's what you do — not what you believe — that makes you a good person.

Social disapproval prompted BSA to largely drop a similar ban on membership against gay Scouts. But BSA persists in stigmatizing those who use reason and critical thought to evaluate religious claims.

FFRF, at the urging of its member Richard Kirschman, has produced a badge similar to BSA's merit badges, which are typically sewn on uniforms or sashes.

Scouts who wish to earn this badge are asked to help disprove BSA's misguided claim that nonbelievers cannot be good citizens. The requirements, paralleling typical merit badge requirements, ask Scouts to learn about secularism and the rich history of dissent from religion.

Because this unauthorized "badge" is intended to protest BSA policy, it's expected that Scouts won't be able to work with a typical merit badge counselor to demonstrate completion of requirements. So FFRF will ask a parent, guardian, sibling over the age of 18, teacher or other adult in their lives to attest that Scouts have fulfilled them. At Dawkins' suggestion, the Scout is also required to send FFRF a short essay that addresses BSA's claim that nonbelievers can't be good citizens. Unlike BSA badge providers, FFRF will not charge Scouts money for the badge.

FFRF intends the badge to reward Boy Scouts who have persevered in an organization that basically has instituted a 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy about atheist and agnostic participants, but has regularly expelled open nonbelievers. While BSA officials dictate the discriminatory policy, Scouting troops vary widely in their enforcement of the ban, so it's believed many Scouts are nonreligious.

But if any young boy — or girl — fulfills the requirements, FFRF will be delighted to reward them with this badge. Many nonreligious students who might otherwise wish to join BSA never join, knowing of its bigoted policy. This is their chance to be rewarded for critical thinking and to earn a keepsake at the same time.

BSA

FFRF hopes someday very soon that BSA itself will change its policy and adopt its own official merit badge rewarding critical thinking. It urges those who care about equality for nonbelieving children to contact BSA to protest this invidious discrimination.

To apply for a badge:

  • Read and fulfill the requirements 
  • Have a parent, guardian or other adult fill out and return the form attesting that you have fulfilled the requirements
  • Remember to write the short, required essay referenced at the end of the Requirements.
  • Email the essay and signed form to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or mail to:

FFRF
Attn: Freethought Badge
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701

Please help publicize this opportunity to young freethinkers in your life and community.

FFRF thanks Richard Kirschman for subsidizing the cost of the badges.

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Georgia Religious Freedom Bill Summary

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HB 837 uses new language to achieve the same result as last year’s SB 129, a so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” bill that was appropriately killed after Indiana experienced national opposition, business outcry, and threats of boycotts for passing its state RFRA bill. The newly proposed HB 837 would apply the national RFRA to Georgia and would strip state officials of sovereign immunity protections if they interfere with a person’s sincerely held religious beliefs, even if that interference comes from a law that applies to everyone. The bill suffers from all the same flaws as Indiana’s bill, including allowing businesses and individuals to use religion to openly discriminate.

HB 816, the so-called “Georgia Student Religious Liberties Act of 2016,” begins by restating what is already required by the Constitution, that students be allowed to express their personal religious beliefs free from discrimination and pray “to the same extent that students may engage in nonreligious activities or expression.” No one objects to this. The bill then takes a sharp turn toward fostering religious privilege by forcing public schools to allow students to promote their personal religious beliefs at school-sponsored events. The legislators are well aware, of course, that a school forum will be dominated by students from the Christian majority while students who hold minority religious beliefs or practice no religion at all will be effectively silenced. The bill contemplates requiring student speakers at all football games and other athletic events, during morning announcements, at assemblies and pep rallies, and at graduation.

HB 757 purports to solve a problem that doesn’t exist: it decrees that no minister of the gospel shall be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of his or her right to free exercise of religion. That, of course, has always been the case. Church leaders can discriminate against whomever they wish when choosing to perform marriage ceremonies. Only the state must treat all legal marriages equally.

The bill goes on, however, to grant special status to those who worship on Saturday and Sunday, as traditional religious “rest days,” by making it illegal for a county or municipality to require a business to operate on either of those days. This is another clear example of legislating Judeo-Christian privilege. Never mind that Friday is the “day of rest” for many Muslims and for those of the Bahá'í Faith, while other minority religions observe rest days based on lunar cycles (Buddhists, Cherokees) or seasonal changes (Wiccans).

Finally, HB 757 legalizes discrimination by religious organizations. It allows them to refuse to let a person rent or otherwise use property “for purposes which are objectionable to such religious organization.” Among other problems, this law would legalize housing discrimination by religious organizations against gay families, religious minorities, and the nonreligious.

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Abortion Rights

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Terry Sunday

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Terry Sunday
El Paso, Texas, City Council
Oct. 6, 2015

FFRF member Terry Sunday, a "retired aerospace engineer, inveterate world traveler, ethnic cook, prolific Amazon reviewer and lifelong atheist," gave the following secular invocation to the El Paso City Council:

Good morning, Mayor, City Council representatives and fellow El Pasoans, As we meet to conduct the business of the city of El Paso, we must always bear in mind that we all have different needs, wants, views and beliefs. We like and dislike different things, we harbor different notions of right and wrong, we have different levels of tolerance for others' lifestyles, and we envision our roles in society differently.

But surely we can agree that our actions will succeed only to the extent that they best serve the interests of all El Pasoans.

While differences in ethnicity, gender identity, age, religious viewpoint, sexual orientation, skin color, political affiliation and other things distinguish each of us from another, in America we are all equal under the law. Our common ancestors applied their intellects and skills to benefit humankind and bring us to where we are here today. We can do no better than to continue that timeless practice.

As we consider issues in today's meeting:

  • Let us show each other respect, tolerance and kindness.
  • Let us listen intently and thoughtfully to each other.
  • Let us graciously acknowledge and sincerely consider opposing viewpoints.
  • Let us demonstrate reason, common sense, cooperativeness and a willingness to compromise.
  • Let us commit to do what is right and just, not only in letter but in spirit as well.
  • Let us conduct today's meeting with honesty, civility, integrity and open-mindedness.
  • And finally, let us always act inclusively, morally, openly, professionally and in the best interests of all the citizens of El Paso.

Now make it so.

Thank you.

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Steven Belstra

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Steven Belstra
Grandville, Mich., City Council
Dec. 27, 2015

After the Town of Greece vs. Galloway decision allowing sectarian prayers at certain public meetings, Michigan resident Steven Belstra wanted to let his city council know that there were more than just Christians in its contituency.

"Every time the council had an invocation, it was done by a pastor of some local church," Belstra writes. "People who aren't religious needed some representation. I wouldn't have done it at all if there weren't prayers already taking place at every single other council meeting."

Here is the invocation given by Belstra:

Thank you, Mayor Maas and the Grandville City Council, for having me speak today. My name is Steven Belstra and I am not an ordained minister or priest of any faith. I request from the council and our community that we don't turn toward faith or religion to guide government decisions, but rather good will toward all people in our community.

I speak for the minorities in the area who identify as being secular humanists, atheists and one of the fastest growing groups in America, the nonreligious. Grandville contains many different people who have different beliefs, traditions and cultures, all of which we want to see considered when making decisions for our community. I ask that for today and all future meetings we can approach decisions this way. But it isn't just in our local city council meetings where this should apply, but in all other aspects of human interaction.

2015 will be remembered as a year that major human rights decisions were made in the Obergefell vs. Hodges case, which granted state recognition to all same-sex couples. This decision by the Supreme Court of the United States is a great example of what I am alluding to.

It is in our best interest as a community to view all of our citizens as equals, regardless of their beliefs about an afterlife or their beliefs about human sexuality. So what I ask of my local city council is that you govern with reason and empathy toward all people, regardless of the church I do or don't attend, the person who I marry, or the beliefs that you may or may not share with other citizens of the community.

Thank you for your time, council.

Steven Belstra, 26, is a business systems analyst who worked with FFRF in 2013 trying, unsuccessfully, to erect a Winter Solstice banner next to a nativity scene in Fremont, Mich.

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Aleta Ledendecker

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David G. Marcus

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Bernard Drumm, Gennadiy Gurariy & Ryan Davis

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Robert Ray

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Cheryl Kolbe

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