Martin County Board
May 3, 2016
FFRF Member Elizabeth Murad was a nun for 13 years before leaving the Catholic Church in 1971 and becoming an atheist. She lives in Florida.
On behalf of the Humanists of the Treasure Coast, I would like to thank Martin County commissioners for inviting us to deliver today's invocation.
Let's begin this and every meeting with hope, reason and compassion. Let's put aside our personal differences and work toward the greater goal of building consensus in Martin County. Let's not be swayed by personal biases as to race, gender, politics or any of the things that may divide us.
Let's seek to find areas of agreement and work from there rather than focus on our differences. Let our voices be strong but respectful.
We are a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, humanist and atheist nation of people. We are a secular nation, with plenty of room for all of us in our beliefs and convictions.
So let's avoid the pitfalls that seem to swallow up so many political bodies. Let's envision a county dedicated to the well-being of all of our citizens.
Finally, let's show the world, or at least Florida, that we can disagree without rancor, name-calling or denigration of other views.
Clark County Board
April 5, 2016
Cheryl Kolbe is the president of the Portland Area Chapter of FFRF, which she started in 2013. She first learned about FFRF from its billboard campaign in Portland in 2008 and attended her first convention in 2009 in Seattle. In 2012 she was elected an FFRF state representative.
Please be seated during this secular invocation.
Let us think about trust. Trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something.
What do the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution say about trust? Trust isn’t mentioned in the Declaration of Independence or in the Bill of Rights. Our Constitution references an office of honor, trust, or profit, a reference to executive branch positions, and trust connotes the idea of a public trust that accrues to the office holder.
Some quotes on trust:
Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator: “The trust of the people in the leaders reflects the confidence of the leaders in the people.”
Our president, Barack Obama: “If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists — to protect them and to promote their common welfare — all else is lost.” May we treat each other with respect and courtesy. May we listen, not just to give the person their turn, but to hear and think about the value of their viewpoint. It is easier to trust people who are most like us. Yet, in government, the challenge is to build trust in your very diverse community. May we recognize that we have many varying viewpoints, and may we recognize which of those viewpoints are relevant to county business and which are not.
“In God We Trust” reflects the view of many people. Those of us, like me, who do not trust in a god or any gods, are not part of ‘we’ and have a very different view. I encourage Clark County, as you move forward, to be as inclusive as possible.
When conducting Clark County business, let us all demonstrate to each other that we are trustworthy. With trust in each other, may we build a stronger and better Clark County. Note: In February 2015 Clark County councilors voted to prominently display ‘In God We Trust’ in the main hearing room. That display is now on the wall.
Waterloo, Iowa, City Council
May 2, 2016
FFRF Member Justin Scott, also a member of the Cedar Valley Atheists and Eastern Iowa Atheists, delivered the first secular invocation in Waterloo, Iowa, City Council history. He also accepted the mayor's issuance of a "Day of Reason" proclamation for May 5, 2016, for the city. See page 19.
Thank you, mayor and council members, for this opportunity to hopefully provide an inspirational start to your meeting tonight and do so from a minority point of view. My name is Justin Scott. I am a proud atheist here in Waterloo and I stand before you all humbly representing the Cedar Valley Atheists, the Eastern Iowa Atheists and the growing and vibrant secular community across Waterloo and Iowa.
The secular community is made up of atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists and skeptics predicated on community without the aid of the supernatural. It is also committed to defending and strengthening the separation of church and state while promoting positive non-theism and critical thinking. Regardless of the label they identify with, these are happy, compassionate and productive members of our society and I am proud to be representing them in this chamber tonight.
Tonight, as our elected officials work to make the best decisions for the city of Waterloo and the residents who call it home, instead of closing our eyes and bowing our heads in prayer, let us instead keep focused on the serious issues that our city government faces. And as our elected officials take on these issues in their thankless positions, let us all embrace the indelible words of some of the most influential freethinkers, past and present, starting with one of the leading astronomers of our time, Dr. Carl Sagan.
And I quote: Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. End quote.
Regardless of the issues that get deliberated by this body tonight and in the future, regardless of the accomplishments and shortcomings of this chamber, it's with the sentiment of Dr. Sagan's comment that this chamber should conduct its business tonight and going forward. Each of us in here and across this city is precious; no citizen is more important than any other.
Let this chamber keep in mind that with every yay or nay vote, precious lives of Waterloo citizens will be affected, hopefully for better, but some for worse. While coming to their decisions, this chamber should rely solely on reason, observation and experience, or what Robert Ingersoll, "The Great Agnostic" of the mid-1800s, referred to as the "holy trinity of science."
Let this chamber deliberate with the understanding that not everyone in the room shares the same values, the same life experiences or same religious beliefs. These differences can help to enrich these governmental tasks but only when they aren't used to limit or censor free speech, denigrate or treat certain groups as second-class citizens or promote religious belief over nonbelief or one religious belief over all the others.
Let this chamber keep in mind that, in every circumstance, the minority viewpoint is just as valuable as the majority one. The rights and dignity of all Waterloo citizens should be respected regardless of their race, gender identity, sexuality, religious belief or lack thereof, for the future and well-being of our great city is enriched only when its diversity is embraced and equality for all is held as a guiding principle. With this said, I appeal to this chamber to follow one of the many tenets of humanism that reads, "We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance."
Let this chamber never forget that even though their beliefs often inspire their decisions, many decisions have real-world implications so they should never be made in haste. Every decision made in this chamber should be the product of informed reason, inquiry and skepticism. As the 18th-century philosopher David Hume reminds us, "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."
Just as you've welcomed an atheist to take part in this invocation process for the first time, you are encouraged to build on tonight to make your government even more open and accessible to more people, which will help make it as inclusive as possible. Open your arms to other Waterloo citizens living in the shadows of a certain minority group; together we truly will achieve more and the experience will be much more rewarding.
In closing, I'd like to leave you with a thought from Thomas Paine, Founding Father of the United States and English-American political activist: "The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion."
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Your free trial membership entitles you to three months of FFRF’s newspaper, Freethought Today, reporting on FFRF’s activism and accomplishments on your behalf. There’s nothing to lose (FFRF holds all membership data in confidentiality) and a wealth of information to gain! Freedom depends on freethinkers.
March 22, 2016
Thank you members of the Jacksonville City Council for this opportunity to give the invocation prior to today's City Council meeting.
As I start, we've had a bad week, and I just want to remind everyone to please keep in your hearts and minds our good friends and allies in Europe — and in particular, in Belgium.
In 1903, a poem called "The New Colossus," written by Emma Lazarus, was inscribed on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the lower level of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. In part, it said:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Many people, past and present, have accepted the invitation on that bronze plaque. They come from a multitude of cultures. Some of their descendants might be in this room today.
We are gathered today, both religious and nonreligious, young and old, liberal and conservative, with the shared belief that we must treat our fellow human beings with respect and dignity, and equally important, treat each other as colleagues in the day-to-day business of living together and amongst each other.
Each of us in this room is a member of a minority in some way, whether it be a minority view related to politics, society, race, religion, or any other aspect in which we may be regarded as different. It's a very lonely feeling when you are regarded as different.
At the same time, each of us is also a part of a majority. Each of us, in some way, is a part of something big. It's when we are wearing our majority hats that we need to be most mindful of how we treat each other.
We must pledge our best efforts to help one another, and to defend the rights of all citizens of this city.
This afternoon I invoke humanity's potential to use intellect, empathy and cooperation as a way in which to make this city a great and peaceful place to coexist.
Today I also invoke the freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution, especially the First Amendment, as a compass to govern by: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech; or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble; and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
And lastly, I invoke the essence of teamwork and collaboration to help us put aside inclinations to fear each other, and instead, find common aspirations and goals where we can work together for the betterment of our city.
As a Humanist and an atheist, it is a great feeling of inclusion to be up here. It is my hope that we can find representatives of all worldviews for future invocations.
Thank you very much.
• • •
Coggins would like to give credit to the following people:
Emma Lazarus, author of the poem "The New Colossus," part of which was used in this invocation.
James Madison, author of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, all of which was used in this invocation.
Herb Silverman, part of the first paragraph of his 2006 invocation was used in this invocation.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State sample invocation for their Operation Inclusion project. Their invocation was not used, but was inspirational in creating my invocation.
Ken Hurley, for suggestions on what to include in my invocation.
Earl Coggins in the founder of First Coast Freethought Society in Jacksonville.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation invites you to make your plans now to attend the June 4 Reason Rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., being sponsored by a coalition of secular groups, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The world's largest gathering of nonbelievers and freethinkers will get to hear some of the most well-known freethinkers in the country, including Bill Nye, Johnny Depp, James Randi, and of course, FFRF's own Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker. Hotel rooms reserved for Reason Rally participants are still available, but please book now because the special rates are only good through mid-May. We have secured special rates with these nearby hotels: Washington Court Hotel, Liaison Capitol Hill, Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Crystal Gateway Marriott and Sheraton Pentagon City.
The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion.
about the freedom from religion foundation
In modern times, the first to speak out for prison reform, for humane treatment of the mentally ill, for abolition of capital punishment, for women's right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for the right to choose contraception, sterilization and abortion have been freethinkers, just as they were the first to call for an end to slavery.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church.
What is FFRF's purpose?
The purposes of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., as stated in its bylaws, are to promote the constitutional separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.
Incorporated in 1978 in Wisconsin, FFRF is a national membership association of more than 23,000 freethinkers: atheists, agnostics and skeptics of any pedigree. FFRF is a non-profit, tax exempt, educational organization under Internal Revenue Code 501 (c)(3). All dues and contributions are deductible for income tax purposes.
why is ffrf concerned with state/church entanglement?
First Amendment violations are accelerating. The religious right is campaigning to raid the public till and advance religion at taxpayer expense, attacking our secular public schools, the rights of non-believers and the Establishment Clause.
FFRF recognizes that the United States was first among nations to adopt a secular Constitution. The founders who wrote the U.S. Constitution wanted citizens to be free to support the church of their choice, or no religion at all. Our Constitution was very purposefully written as a godless document, whose only references to religion are exclusionary.
It is vital to buttress the Jeffersonian "wall of separation between church and state" which has served our nation so well.
what are ffrf's accomplishments?
FFRF and its growing legal department act on countless state/church entanglements on behalf of its members and the public, ending hundreds of violations each year through education and persuasion, such as: Prayers and proselytizing in public schools and events, public funding for religious purposes and religious symbols on public property.
FFRF keeps several challenges in the courts at all times, and has ended a variety of violations of the First Amendment including: Removing a devotional Jesus painting from a public middle school (Ohio), ending a city chaplaincy and prayers (Pismo Beach, Calif.), removing a Ten Commandments display from schools (Virginia, Pennsylvania), halting a school Child Evangelism subsidy and removing a nativity scene from a city hall entrance (both Wisconsin).
Other victories include:
- Winning a legal challenge ending 51 years of illegal bible instruction in Rhea County (Dayton, Tennessee) public schools.
- Winning a federal court decision overturning a law declaring Good Friday a state holiday.
- Barring direct subsidy to religious schools, in a federal lawsuit upheld by an appeals court.
- Declaring unconstitutional the creation of a state post to "assist clergy" to save marriages.
- Stopping public financing of an annual nativity pageant at a state capitol.
- Ending commencement prayers at a Top Ten university.
- Halting religious postal cancellations.
what else does ffrf do?
- Publishes the only freethought newspaper in the United States, Freethought Today.
- Sponsors annual high school, college and grad student essay competitions with cash awards.
- Funds a separate Nonbelief Relief charity.
- Conducts annual national conventions, honoring state/church, student and freethought activism.
- Sponsors an online forum for members.
- Bestows "The Emperor Has No Clothes" Award to public figures for "plain-speaking on religion."
- Promotes freedom from religion with educational books, literature and music CDs.
- Provides speakers for events and debates.
- Maintains a website at ffrf.org.
- Broadcasts Freethought Radio.
- Places freethought billboards and bus signs.
how can i join ffrf?
FFRF's modest membership dues (single $40; household $50) include 10 issues annually of the newspaper Freethought Today and the biannual "Private Line," which reports financial and organizational information.
Help strengthen the freethought movement and maintain the treasured wall of separation between state and church.
Complete the membership form here and mail it in or go to ffrf.org/join!
Click on images to view high-resolution.
Rep. Juan Mendez
March 3, 2016
The traditional opening prayer given prior to the start of the session of the Arizona House was given by atheist Democrat Juan Mendez, but since it did not reference a higher power, Republicans in the House were upset and had a Baptist minister give another prayer that gave thanks to God.
After Mendez' invocation, House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro said the decision not to pray to God didn't meet the rules he issued for the opening prayer.
Earlier this year, Mendez signed up to give an invocation, but Montenegro blocked him, citing an unofficial rule that all invocations had to be made to a higher power.
"Prayer, as commonly understood and in the long-honored tradition of the Arizona House of Representatives, is a solemn request for guidance and help from God," Montenegro wrote. He said anything else, including a moment of silence, does not count.
Seráh Blain was at the meeting and told Hemant Mehta what happened, which he published on his Friendly Atheist blog: "Immediately after Mendez gave it, House Majority leader Montenegro rose for a point of order saying that the rule calling for the House to open with a prayer was not fulfilled. Speaker of the House [Andy] Tobin said the point was well taken and called on a minister waiting in the wings to give a prayer to our heavenly father. Representative [Rusty] Bowers took a point of personal privilege to accuse Mendez of impugning people who pray."
Here is the invocation Mendez gave:
"We are here today, as everyday, to represent our pluralistic society — of which I am grateful to again be included in.
To represent that beauty of our multi-cultural state that reflects our diversity of color, of heritage, of religion and lack thereof.
Spanning across communities both urban and rural; we are the same. Yearning to better our lives. Looking to better the lives of others.
Let us embrace those that want to help our society grow. Let us accept each other for our differences. Let us work to help those we represent flourish.
We need not tomorrow's promise of reward, to do good deeds today. For some may seek the assistance of a higher power with hands in the air, there are those of us that are prepared to assist directly, with our hands to the earth.
Take these words to heart as we move this great state of Arizona forward: It is our responsibility to honor the Constitution and the secular equality it brings.
And so shall it be."
Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.
Absolutely nothing! The word "abortion" does not appear in any translation of the bible!
Out of more than 600 laws of Moses, none comments on abortion. One Mosaic law about miscarriage specifically contradicts the claim that the bible is antiabortion, clearly stating that miscarriage does not involve the death of a human being. If a woman has a miscarriage as the result of a fight, the man who caused it should be fined. If the woman dies, however, the culprit must be killed:
"If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
"And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth . . ."--Ex. 21:22-25
The bible orders the death penalty for murder of a human being, but not for the expulsion of a fetus.
When Does Life Begin?
According to the bible, life begins at birth--when a baby draws its first breath. The bible defines life as "breath" in several significant passages, including the story of Adam's creation in Genesis 2:7, when God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Jewish law traditionally considers that personhood begins at birth.
Desperate for a biblical basis for their beliefs, some antiabortionists cite obscure passages, usually metaphors or poetic phrasing, such as: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Psalm 51:5 This is sexist, but does nothing other than to invoke original sin. It says nothing about abortion.
The Commandments, Moses, Jesus and Paul ignored every chance to condemn abortion. If abortion was an important concern, why didn't the bible say so?
Thou Shalt Not Kill?
Many antiabortionists quote the sixth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" (Ex. 20:13) as evidence that the bible is antiabortion. They fail to investigate the bible's definition of life (breath) or its deafening silence on abortion. Moreover, the Mosaic law in Exodus 21:22-25, directly following the Ten Commandments, makes it clear that an embryo or fetus is not a human being.
An honest reader must admit that the bible contradicts itself. "Thou shalt not kill" did not apply to many living, breathing human beings, including children, who are routinely massacred in the bible. The Mosaic law orders "Thou shalt kill" people for committing such "crimes" as cursing one's father or mother (Ex. 21:17), for being a "stubborn son" (Deut. 21:18-21), for being a homosexual (Lev. 20:13), or even for picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-35)! Far from protecting the sanctity of life, the bible promotes capital punishment for conduct which no civilized person or nation would regard as criminal.
Mass killings were routinely ordered, committed or approved by the God of the bible. One typical example is Numbers 25:4-9, when the Lord casually orders Moses to massacre 24,000 Israelites: "Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun." Clearly, the bible is not pro-life!
Most scholars and translators agree that the injunction against killing forbade only the murder of (already born) Hebrews. It was open season on everyone else, including children, pregnant women and newborn babies.
Does God Kill Babies?
"Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones."--Psalm 137:9
The bible is not pro-child. Why did God set a bear upon 42 children just for teasing a prophet (2 Kings 2:23-24)? Far from demonstrating a "pro-life" attitude, the bible decimates innocent babies and pregnant women in passage after gory passage, starting with the flood and the wanton destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, progressing to the murder of the firstborn child of every household in Egypt (Ex. 12:29), and the New Testament threats of annihilation.
Space permits only a small sampling of biblical commandments or threats to kill children:
Numbers 31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones.
Deuteronomy 2:34 utterly destroyed the men and the women and the little ones.
Deuteronomy 28:53 And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters.
I Samuel 15:3 slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.
2 Kings 8:12 dash their children, and rip up their women with child.
2 Kings 15:16 all the women therein that were with child he ripped up.
Isaiah 13:16 Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled and their wives ravished.
Isaiah 13:18 They shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes shall not spare children.
Lamentations 2:20 Shall the women eat their fruit, and children.
Ezekiel 9:6 Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children.
Hosea 9:14 give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.
Hosea 13:16 their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
Then there are the dire warnings of Jesus in the New Testament:
"For, behold, the days are coming, in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the womb that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck."--Luke 23:29
The teachings and contradictions of the bible show that antiabortionists do not have a "scriptural base" for their claim that their deity is "pro-life." Spontaneous abortions occur far more often than medical abortions. Gynecology textbooks conservatively cite a 15% miscarriage rate, with one medical study finding a spontaneous abortion rate of almost 90% in very early pregnancy. That would make a deity in charge of nature the greatest abortionist in history!
Are Bible Teachings Kind to Women?
The bible is neither antiabortion nor pro-life, but does provide a biblical basis for the real motivation behind the antiabortion religious crusade: hatred of women. The bible is anti-woman, blaming women for sin, demanding subservience, mandating a slave/master relationship to men, and demonstrating contempt and lack of compassion:
"I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."--Genesis 3:16
What self-respecting woman today would submit willingly to such tyranny?
The antiabortion position does not demonstrate love for humanity, or compassion for real human beings. Worldwatch Institute statistics show that 50% of abortions worldwide are illegal, and that at least 200,000 women die every year--and thousands more are hurt and maimed--from illegal or self-induced abortions. Unwanted pregnancies and complications from multiple pregnancies are a leading killer of women. Why do antiabortionists want North American women to join these ghastly mortality statistics? Every day around the world more than 40,000 people, mostly children, die from starvation or malnutrition. We must protect and cherish the right to life of the already-born.
Do Churches Support Abortion Rights?
Numerous Christian denominations and religious groups agree that the bible does not condemn abortion and that abortion should continue to be legal. These include:
American Baptist Churches-USA
American Ethical Union
American Friends (Quaker) Service Committee
American Jewish Congress
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Lutheran Women's Caucus
Moravian Church in America-Northern Province
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church
United Synagogue of America
Women's Caucus Church of the Brethren
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Catholics for Free Choice
Evangelicals for Choice
Belief that "a human being exists at conception" is a matter of faith, not fact. Legislating antiabortion faith would be as immoral and unAmerican as passing a law that all citizens must attend Catholic mass!
The bible does not condemn abortion; but even if it did, we live under a secular constitution, not in a theocracy. The separation of church and state, the right to privacy, and women's rights all demand freedom of choice.
Nontract No. 7.
© 1995 by Annie Laurie Gaylor. All rights reserved.
Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.
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