Freethought Today · October 2012

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

State/Church Bulletin

Buddhist stupa ordered out of park

A 10-foot-tall Buddhist stupa was removed in September from New Mexico’s Petroglyph National Monument after an opinion from the Department of Interior’s solicitor general that it endorsed religion.

The agency bought the stupa, a mound-like structure housing relics, when it acquired park land in 1990. It will be donated to the Buddhist community in Albuquerque.


School avoids prayer ban by singing

Republican state Rep. Justin Harris told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Sept. 29 that in order to get around a ban on religion in state-funded preschools, he will have children sing prayers at the school he operates through Growing God’s Kingdom in West Fork, Ark.

A new rule, which went into effect Oct. 26, allows religious music under certain circumstances. Records show Growing God’s Kingdom has received $2.6 million from the state since 2005.


No coach-led prayer, says Portales, N.M.

Coach-led prayers will not be allowed in Portales, N.M., city league sports, the Portales News-Tribune reported Sept. 13.

League Director Mike Doerr told coaches he’s watched them leading prayers. “We have multiple ethnicities, nationalities and religious backgrounds involved in our city leagues. As much freedom as everyone has to express religious views, we must have the courtesy to respect the views of others.”

Players still have the freedom to pray or observe a moment of silence at practices and games, Doerr said.


Delaware vote for Psalm 23 is 3-2

The Sussex County Council, Georgetown, Del., voted 3-2 on Sept. 11 to substitute Psalm 23 for the Lord’s Prayer to open meetings.

Four county residents had sued to stop the Lord’s Prayer. U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark ruled in May that the plaintiffs would likely win the case because use of a Protestant version of the prayer “constitutes government endorsement of the Christian faith.”

County attorney J. Scott Shannon explained the perceived legal difference to the Sussex Countian: “Because The Lord’s Prayer is from the New Testament, the judge in this case found that it was specifically Christian and therefore not permitted under the Constitution. Psalm 23, on the other hand, is a recognized prayer in Judaism and Christianity and also is acknowledged in Islam, so it meets the Supreme Court’s test.”


2 of 3 Pussy Riot sentences upheld

One member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot had her sentence overturned by a Moscow appeals court Oct. 10, but the court upheld two of her bandmates’ sentences for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.”

Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, was freed after serving six months. She and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, were sentenced to two years in August for a “punk prayer” on the altar of the city’s main cathedral. The prayer asked the Blessed Virgin to rid Russia of Vladimir Putin.

Defense lawyer Mark Feigin told Reuters the only difference was Samutsevich spent 15 seconds at the altar compared to 45 seconds for his clients.

“We did not want to offend believers,” Alyokhina told the court. “We came to the cathedral to speak out against the merger between spiritual figures and the political elite of our country.”


Wisconsin board votes against cross logo

The combined Catholic and public school Messwood football team in Shorewood, Wis., replaced a religious logo on players’ helmets after the Shorewood School Board on Oct. 9 unanimously agreed after a district parent complained to the district that a Christian cross on the logo violated separation of state and church.

The new logo has “2012 PLAYOFFS” in red set on a blue football and replaces the old one. The Catholic Messmer High School and the public Shorewood High School have co-oped in football for 12 seasons.

“It’s clearly a Christian cross,” board member Michael Mishlove said. “I think it’s inappropriate to have on a uniform or any sort of school-authorized clothing, as I think it could be viewed as an endorsement,” reported Shorewood Now.

“We are not happy about it,” Brother Bob Smith, Messmer president, told WTMJ Radio. He called the decision “hurtful for the team.”


Pastor banned from Ind. school lunchroom 

The Associated Press reported Oct. 20 that the Southwest Allen County School District, Fort Wayne, Ind., has banned a youth pastor from addressing students in the lunchroom. 

It announced the policy less than an hour after John and Linda Buchanan, whose 11-year-old daughter attends Summit Middle School, sued in U.S. District Court. The family is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

The minister, from a nondenominational church called The Chapel, was allowed to hand out materials and move from table to table, talking with children, the claim stated.

Linda Buchanan, 44, said her daughter brought home religious anti-abortion literature. “We’re not a bunch of heathens,” she said. “We’re not anti-religion; we’re anti-religion in public school.”

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