Freethought Today · May 2013

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

State/Church Bulletin

Ohio coalition pushes prayer amendment

Efforts to amend the Ohio Constitution to give students the right to pray in school have been delayed.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a petition May 2 for the proposed “Amendment to Return Prayer to Our Public Schools” due to technical flaws.

The amendment says, “The right of Ohio citizens to express their religious beliefs shall not be infringed” and “Schoolchildren have the right to pray and acknowledge God voluntarily in their schools.”

Rev. Henry Johnson of Canal Winchester heads the Coalition to Return Prayer to Our Public Schools. “We’re going to redo the petition format and make sure it meets the criteria of the attorney general, and we’re going to get it done,” he told the Columbus Dispatch.

The coalition would have to submit than 200,000 valid signatures by July 3 to qualify for the Nov. 5 ballot.

Under the proposed amendment, “The right of Ohio citizens to express their religious beliefs shall not be infringed” and “Schoolchildren have the right to pray and acknowledge God voluntarily in their schools.” It also would require public schools to display the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.

Atheists under attack
in Muslim world

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged stern action April 1 against people found guilty of defaming Islam on the Internet, reported the Indian Express, as right-wing Islamic parties threatened to wage an intensified campaign against “atheist bloggers.”

“As a Muslim, I have the responsibility to take action,” Hasina said at a party meeting of the Awami League, which she heads.

Police arrested three atheist bloggers in the capital of Dhaka for defaming Islam, Agence France-Presse reported. The three were paraded in handcuffs at a press conference amid demands for the death penalty for them.

A fourth man, Asif Mohiuddin, 29, was arrested a day later for “hurting religious sentiment through his writings on blogs and Facebook,” police spokesman Masudur Rahman said.

Hardline Islamists have submitted a list of 84 atheists they claim are spreading propaganda against Islam.

A Turkish court in Ankara convicted in absentia pianist and composer Fazil Say on April 15 of denigrating religion through comments he made on Twitter. He was given a suspended 10-month prison sentence.

Say, 43, who has played with the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Symphony and other premier orchestras, has strongly criticized Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a conservative Muslim.

The Associated Press reported Say tweeted about a call to prayer that he said lasted only 22 seconds: “Why such haste? Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki [alcoholic drink] on the table?”


Kentucky governor’s veto overturned

The Kentucky General Assembly voted March 26 to overturn Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s March 22 veto of the “religious freedom” bill, which was opposed by FFRF and many human and gay rights groups and leaders of some of Kentucky’s biggest cities. The override passed the House 79-15 and the Senate 32-6.

In his veto message, Beshear cited “significant concerns that this bill will cause serious unintentional consequences that could threaten public safety, health care and individuals’ civil rights. As written, the bill will undoubtedly lead to costly litigation.”

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