Mark Welsh, who was rejected by Tiger Cubs in a Chicago-area troop back in the late 1980s because of the nontheism of his family, earned his Bachelor of Science degree and graduated on Dec. 19 from Purdue University.
Proud father Elliott Welsh, who valiantly tried to sue the Boy Scouts as a place of public accommodation" for discrimination, writes that Mark graduated "With Highest Distinction," majoring in computer science and mathematics.
Elliott, as a First Amendment victor before the U.S. Supreme Court, is an honorary officer of the Foundation. He won rights for nonreligious conscientious objectors in Welsh v. United States, 1970.
Newdow Refiles on Pledge
Michael Newdow, M.D., who took his case to challenge "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance before the Supreme Court last year and lost on standing, filed a new lawsuit on Jan. 5 against the religious pledge. Joining him are eight co-plaintiffs, all custodial parents or students.
"I want this decided on the merits," said Dr. Newdow, who is both a physician and an attorney.
Newdow also filed suit in early January seeking to enjoin prayers from President Bush's inauguration on Jan. 20.
On Jan. 14, U.S. District Judge John Bates denied Newdow's claim, ruling Newdow had already filed and lost a similar lawsuit in a federal appeals court challenging prayer at Bush's first inauguration.
Newdow plans to appeal. At the inauguration, Rev. Kribyjon Caldwell ended his benediction "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."
Member Recalled Over Pledge
After 12-year Estes Park Board member David Habecker refused to stand for the religious Pledge of Allegiance before meetings of the Board of Trustees, critics gathered the 246 required signatures to recall him in a special election scheduled for Feb. 15.
The pledge was only added to the board agenda last May. Habecker said he will stay seated until "under God" is stricken:
"I have not been standing for the Pledge of Allegiance due to a conflict I have with the wording of the pledge, specifically the words 'under God.' "
12-Year-Old Won't Pledge
The objections of a 12-year-old student, Gabriel Allen, to being forced to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance persuaded the Spotsylvania County School Board in January to change school policy to confirm to Virginia law, which allows students to opt out of the pledge.
His objections were based in part on inclusion of the phrase, "under God."
FFRFer Baited by Donohue
William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, released this statement on Dec. 23:
"Robert Tiernan, a spokesman for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is demanding that atheists be represented in next year's Parade of Lights in Denver. He wants a 'winter solstice' float instead of a Christian one. He deserves better.
"Atheists deserve to have their own holiday--Nothingday--the purpose of which would be to honor what they believe in which is absolutely nothing. Nothingday would be held on the day of the winter solstice and would be celebrated by holding nationwide conferences explicitly designed to accomplish nothing." (And it went on and on.)
Are You "Christianophobic"?
The Vatican has been campaigning to get "Christianophobia" recognized as a phenomenon equal to anti-Semitism by the United Nations. The General Assembly is expected to approve the terms "Islamophobia" and "Christianophobia," despite objections from Buddhists, Hindus and Confucians.
It's About Time!
The American Medical Association in December approved a policy asking the federal government to stop spending money on abstinence-only programs unless there is scientific evidence that the programs work.
"The cost of teenage pregnancy--from the cost of prenatal care to the cost of caring for babies born to teens--is outrageous, not to mention the public health consequences of sexually transmitted diseases. Given those facts the AMA is compelled to take a stand on this issue."
Feds Give $1 Mil to Christian College
The 3-year-old Alaska Christian College, run by the Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska to produce ministers to serve in rural Alaska, received more than $1 million in public funds from the federal Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. The college is the only unaccredited, nondegree school in the nation to get money in 2004, with federal aid amounting to $20,000 per student.
The college website announces it is "a Bible centered college" where students will "study and apply God's Word" and "serve Christ."
The Juneau Empire editorialized (Dec. 28, 2004): "Alaska's congressional delegation might just as well have put a $1 million check in the church collection plate."
Courthouse Bible Gone
As religious protesters prayed and sang hymns, a bible was removed from a 49-year-old monument in front of the county courthouse in Houston in early January.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request by Harris County to allow the bible to remain during an appeal. The monument is owned by a Star of Hope mission.
Real estate broker Kay Staley sued last year. U.S. District Judge Sim Lake ordered the book removed.
Evolution Inserts Nixed
A federal judge ruled on Jan. 13 that public schools in Cobb County, Ga., must remove stickers criticizing evolution from science textbooks. The stickers refer to evolution as "a theory not a fact."
U.S. Dist. Judge Clarence Cooper ruled that the stickers undermine evolution, sending "a message that the school board agrees with the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists and creationists."
The Cobb County school board immediately voted 5-2 to appeal the ruling.
Dover Design Policy Sued
Eleven parents represented by the ACLU and Americans United filed suit in mid-December against the school board in Dover, Penn., to challenge its Oct. 18 vote to encourage students to study "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution.
Christians Defend Slavery
Students at Cary Christian School, N.C., are reading a booklet, "Southern Slavery, As It Was," which offers a biblical justification for slavery and avers that slaves lived "a life of plenty, of simple pleasures." The church-published booklet is by Douglas Wilson, a pastor in Moscow, Idaho, and Steve Wilks, a member of the League of the South.
Faith-based Political Bribery
A case is made that Bush and the Republican Party "bought" religious votes in the last election, specifically black votes, by key funding of black churches in swing states ("Bush Rewarded by Black Pastors' Faith," by Peter Wallsten, Tom Hamburger and Nicholas Riccardi, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 18, 2005).
One example is Bishop Sedgwick Daniel's $25-million Milwaukee complex, "Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ." Daniels, formerly Democratic, turned Republican when his church, now claiming 8,000 members, became the recipient of federal funding. The complex includes a school, health clinic, credit union, senior housing complex and will add a water park and retail center. Daniels' office is decorated with a photo showing Daniels with the Bushes at the White House, and another of him with ministers at a table seated by Bush, Karl Rove and Jim Towey, the Times reports.
Although there was only a 2% increase nationwide in black support for Bush (11% of the national black electorate went for Bush overall) on Nov. 2, bigger gains showed in swing states. Bush nabbed 14% of Wisconsin's black vote last year, and 13% of Florida's (up 6 percentage points from 2000). Black ministers were exhorted to attend White House faith-based conferences and meetings. Two-thirds of travel by White House faith czar Jim Towey during 2004 was to "a dozen battleground states," the reporters noted.
A group headed by Bishop Harold Ray, who gave an invocation at a Florida rally for Vice President Dick Cheney, received $1.7 million in taxpayer funds. The trend is in keeping with the January revelation that the administration gave $240,000 to black radio personality Armstrong Williams to promote Bush's education agenda.
It's a Miracle!
Freedom From Religion Foundation Life Member Bruce Flamm, M.D., has been widely quoted in recent news articles around the nation debunking a 2001 bogus prayer study showing intercessory prayers aided fertility. He reports:
"An event has just taken place that almost makes me believe in miracles. After three years of ignoring all my emails, letters and phone calls, the Journal of Reproductive Medicine actually published my most recent letter." The JRM published the original study and has refused to retract it. (For more, read Dr. Flamm's article in Freethought Today (Nov 04, also online).
Festivus for the Rest of Us
When the Polk County Commission in Bartow, Fla., voted in late December to continue hosting a nativity scene across the street from the courthouse, it also voted to designate the area as a "public forum." Among the alternative displays was a sign reading: "Festivus for the Rest of Us: donated to Polk County by the Seinfeld Fan Club."