Freethought Today · December 2013

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.


Catholic bishops sued over care denial

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of Tamesha Means, a pregnant woman who miscarried and was denied appropriate care by a Mercy Health Partners hospital in Muskegon.

According to a Dec. 2 ACLU press release, Means rushed to Mercy Health when her water broke after 18 weeks of pregnancy. “Based on the bishops’ religious directives, the hospital sent her home twice even though Tamesha was in excruciating pain; there was virtually no chance that her pregnancy could survive, and continuing the pregnancy posed significant risks to her health.

“When Tamesha returned to the hospital a third time in extreme distress and with an infection, the hospital once again prepared to send her home. While staff prepared her discharge paperwork, she began to deliver. Only then did the hospital begin tending to Tamesha’s miscarriage.”

The directives prohibit “pre-viability” pregnancy termination, even when there’s little or no chance that the fetus will survive, and the life or health of a pregnant woman is at risk.


City turns down atheists’ $3K check

Friendly Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta’s charitable check for $3,000 was returned, not for insufficient funds, but because of political cowardice that shows the divisiveness of religion.

Mehta, 30, Naperville, Ill., a public school math teacher (and FFRF member), sent the check to the Morton Grove Park District after a local American Legion post dropped its $2,600 annual subsidy because a park board member refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. In October, Commissioner Dan Ashta took a public stand against the pledge, saying no one should have to pledge allegiance to any government, adding that people with religious objections shouldn’t have to feel isolated for not standing.

In an email to Mehta, Park District Executive Director Tracey Anderson said the board “has no intention of becoming embroiled in a First Amendment dispute.”

Ashta is a lawyer specializing in constitutional law, according to the Chicago Tribune. Mehta said his fundraising effort was in appreciation of Ashta’s stance.

“I know everyone who gave money wanted to help the Park District make up for that injustice that happened,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Park District would rather lose money than take the charity of atheists and their supporters.”


Ad company refuses skeptical billboards

Billboard ads planned to be placed in Vancover by the Centre for Inquiry Canada were rejected by the advertising agency Pattison Outdoor. The ads showed a woman and the words “Jenn 13:1 Praying won’t help. Doing will. Without God. We’re all good.”

Pattison Outdoor didn’t respond to a request for comment from the Vancouver Sun. Pat O’Brien, a CFI Canada board member, said CFI may file a complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

In October, reported that Pattison designed a billboard called “Signs for Life.” The ad showed the head of a fetus and the words “Abortion: Aren’t we forgetting someone?”

“If they don’t like controversial ads,” O’Brien said, “they certainly ran anti-abortion ads in Halifax.”

Pattison is the third-largest privately held company in Canada. According to Funding Universe, comedian Bob Hope once called British Columbia a suburb of Jim Pattison [who gives millions of dollars to Christian schools and other Christian entities].


Christian student body head is atheist

Eric Fromm, student body president at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Ore., “came out” as an atheist in an article in the school’s online newspaper, said a Nov. 7 story in the Eugene Register-Guard. “I don’t have to hide anymore,” said Fromm, 21. “I know that people accept me for who I am.”

In the Beacon Bolt story, communications major Fromm, baptized Lutheran and raised Methodist, wrote, “I couldn’t force myself to believe in God.”

Student reaction has been mixed, he said. Some peers have stopped talking to him, others have ridiculed him, but a surprising number have been supportive.

Michael Fuller, NCU vice president for enrollment and student development, called Fromm “a man of very high character and respect. He’s a great advocate for our student body, which is exactly what he’s supposed to be and do.

“If we all had our wishes, we wish Eric would be a strong Christian man,” Fuller added. “We’re an open and welcome community, and we meet students exactly where they’re at.”

Fromm said he still attends chapel meetings almost every week. “I use it as my own personal time, to gather my thoughts.”

Breyer’s cryptic remark fuels speculation 

Is Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer a closet atheist? A comment by Breyer, who is Jewish, during Nov. 6 oral arguments in Town of Greece v. Galloway, a government prayer case, fueled speculation he may be.

Breyer’s remark came after Catholic Justice Antonin Scalia asked a lawyer for the town, “What is the equivalent of prayer for somebody who is not religious?” The lawyer, Thomas Hungar, had trouble formulating an answer, according to the Huffington Post.

Breyer then appeared to suggest that Scalia’s question may have been directed at him. “Perhaps he’s asking me that question and I can answer it later,” Breyer said.

The story said, “Nonbelievers have responded with excitement to the possibility that Breyer may not have a religious faith at all.”

Breyer’s daughter is an Episcopal priest.

Kansas City atheists’ help not wanted

The Kansas City Atheist Coalition was told by the Kansas City Rescue Mission that nonbelievers couldn’t help deliver Thanksgiving food to the poor and elderly.

“We are an unapologetically Christian organization, and we always have been,” said Julie Larocco, development officer. Larocco told the Kansas City Star, “We want to share the message with the people we serve that ‘God loves you, and you are not alone.’ It seemed to us that this group probably would not want to deliver those meals.”

Atheist Coalition President Josh Hyde posted on the group’s website that the mission told the coalition it “would not be a good fit” for its charitable work.

Larocco confirmed that each meal and food box contained a religious message.

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