Freethought Today · Vol. 29 No. 1 January/February 2012

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

In the News January/February 2012

Gaylor, Barker join March Reason Rally

Nineteen humanist groups are planning for a Reason Rally on March 24 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Go to reasonrally.org for a complete list of speakers and entertainers, which includes Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Tim Minchin, FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, Taslima Nasrin, James Randi, Greta Christina, Jamila Bey, Bad Religion, Jamie Kilstein, Hemant Mehta, David Silverman, Todd Stiefel, Roy Speckhardt and many more.

Jessica Ahlquist, successful plaintiff in a Rhode Island case against the Cranston School District over a prayer banner, will also speak.

The free rally, which starts at 10 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m., is slated to be the largest secular event in history. The goal is to unify, energize and embolden secular people nationwide. See page 24 to attend an FFRF dinner party before the rally.

 

Birth control gets federal victory

The Obama administration announced Jan. 20 it will give religious groups another year to comply with a rule requiring employers that offer employees health insurance to include coverage of birth control without out-of-pocket costs. However, the Washington Post reported, the rule and types of employers covered by it remain unchanged, which angered groups like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which want a permanent exemption for employers who think Jesus would hate birth control.

The delay option isn’t available to religious institutions that already offer contraception coverage, including many Catholic universities and hospitals in states that have their own birth control requirements.

While most Catholic leaders oppose birth control, about 98% of sexually active Catholic women use contraception, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a New York group that supports the use of contraception, the Wall Street Journal reported.

 

Indonesian beaten for Facebook post

An Indonesian civil servant who posted “God does not exist” on his Facebook page was taken into protective police custody afer being badly beaten, the Jakarta Globe said Jan. 19. The man, identified as Alexander, 31, now could lose his job or be jailed for up to five years unless he accepts one of six official state religions.

Alexander said he was born a Muslim but stopped all religious activities in 2008.

 

Cop whose wife died needlessly sues

Caleb Horner, a police officer in Lee’s Summit, Mo., whose wife died at home without seeing a doctor, has sued the city, claiming he was fired because of his religious beliefs. Horner alleges the department refused his repeated requests to return to work after Misty Horner died in January 2007, 31 days after she home-delivered a stillborn fetus.

Police officials, friends and family pleaded for weeks with Horner to get help for Misty, the Kansas City Star reported Jan. 8. He claims she didn’t want medical attention. She was a Lee’s Summit police dispatcher.

Horner was fired in 2008 for failure to contact the medical examiner to report the death. Reports said he and friends spent 14 hours trying to raise Misty from the dead.

Misty’s brother, Brian Pierson, said he went to see her as she lay dying, but was threatened by Caleb Horner and his friends. “He didn’t feed her, didn’t get her a doctor and kept her family away. He should have been [criminally] charged.”

 

Fetal personhood pushed in states

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel rejected on Jan. 3 a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban some abortions. McDaniel cited ambiguities in the measure submitted by Personhood Arkansas. He said the text was misleading about the relationship between the amendment and federal law.

The president of Personhood Arkansas, Preston Dunn Jr., said the amendment will be resubmitted. “We are determined. We will try to overcome any obstacles that come before us.” If the proposal is certified, Personhood Arkansas would have until July 6 to collect 78,133 signatures.

Efforts are underway in at least seven states to adopt fetal personhood laws via constitutional amendments, including Wisconsin, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America. Voters in Mississippi and Colorado defeated personhood initiatives in 2011 and 2010. Federal lawmakers are circulating similar measures.

 

Sect: ‘Western education is sinful’

Shortly before 8 a.m. Dec. 25, a Toyota stopped in front of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, near the Nigerian capital Abuja, just as hundreds of worshippers were coming out. The driver then suddenly plowed into the crowd and the vehicle exploded, Der Spiegel reported. At least 39 people died.

President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, called it “an ugly incident.” Boko Haram, a Muslim sect whose name means “Western education is sinful,” claimed responsibility for the attack.

 

Swedish Kopomists say CRTL+C is sacred

Since 2010, the Swedish group Kopomi has been trying to gain official recognition as a religion to remove the legal stigma from file-sharing. According to PC World, the Missionary Church of Kopomism is now officially registered in Sweden.

Kopomi is Swedish for “Copy Me.” Kopomists hold CTRL+C and CTRL+V as sacred symbols and believe “communication is sacred.” Founder Isak Gerson, a philosophy student, said the church has more than 3,000 members.

 

Poll: Would you vote for atheist?

A phone survey conducted Dec. 15 by Poll Position asked 1,133 registered voters, “Would you vote for a U.S. presidential candidate who was an atheist?”

The poll found 58% said no, 27% said yes, and 15% were undecided or had no opinion.

Democrats (36% yes, 45% no) and independents (35% yes, 49% no) were more inclined than Republicans (12% yes, 78% no) to say they’d vote for an atheist to be president.

 

Ultra-Orthodox males spit on girl, 8

Naama Margolese, 8, is another victim in the struggle in Israel over religious extremism. A Dec. 27 New York Times story told how ultra-Orthodox men spit on Naama on her way to school in Beit Shemesh and called her a prostitute because her modest dress did not adhere to their very strict dress code.

Riots broke out in the area where her tormenters are thought to have come from. Hundreds of men and boys poured out of a synagogue and a seminary holding signs calling for the exclusion of women.

 

Can’t convert ’em? Then kill ’em!

“Left Behind 4: World at War” went on sale in the U.S. just in time for Christmas. It’s the latest video game based on Rev. Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series of novels.

Players assume the role of Christian gang members roaming post-apocalyptic Manhattan, according to publiceye.org. To score points and advance to higher levels, players must convert as many Jews, atheists or others who serve the Antichrist. If unable to convert the nonbelievers, players may kill them.

Christian video game publisher Left Behind Games Inc. is offering a free demonstration model to churches. “We see it as a beacon of light that could shine in the dark world of video games,” said Director of Outreach Ministries Jerome Mikulich.

 

Hawaii, Delaware extend civil rights

CNN reported Jan. 2 on same-sex couples in the first minutes of New Year’s Day in Honolulu becoming the first in Hawaii’s history to enter into civil unions.

“We really don’t want to wait any longer, because we have been together for 33 years waiting for the opportunity and our rights and everything that goes with it,” said Donna Gedge, who was with her partner Monica Montgomery.

Delaware also on Jan. 1 became the seventh state to recognize same-sex civil unions.

Two churches are suing Hawaii state officials over the law: Emmanuel Temple the House of Praise and Lighthouse Outreach Center Assembly of God.

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