Weekend Coffee: November 2

Coffee

• After serving most of a ten-year prison sentence for tax evasion, Kent Hovind was due to be released next year... but now the government is pressing new charges, saying that he filed fraudulent liens in an attempt to stop them from seizing his property as part of the punishment for his original conviction.• Virgin Galactic's experimental rocket plane SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight in the Mojave Desert, killing one of its two pilots. It's a tragic setback and a … [Read more...]

Maher, Harris and Atheist Islamophobia

Kaaba

Last week on Bill Maher's TV show, Maher, Sam Harris and Ben Affleck sparred over Islam and whether it's prone to violence:"Freedom of speech, freedom to practice any religion you want without fear of violence, freedom to leave a religion, equality for women, equality for minorities, including homosexuals, these are liberal principles that liberals applaud for," Maher continued, "but then when you say in the Muslim world this is what's lacking, then they get upset."... "How about the … [Read more...]

Book Review: Nature’s God

NaturesGod

(Editor's Note: This review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)Summary: A dense philosophical-historical synthesis that rewards the diligent reader by opening up a new window on the beliefs of America's founders.Matthew Stewart's book Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic, like Susan Jacoby's Freethinkers or Jennifer Michael Hecht's Doubt: A History, plumbs the freethinking ideals that played an outsize role in the … [Read more...]

The Battle of the Eruv

WalledGarden

Hemant wrote about a story I also wanted to mention: the Freedom from Religion Foundation has written a letter of complaint to the city government of Miami Beach, Florida, demanding the dismantling of Orthodox Jewish eruvin on public property.An eruv is a Jewish ritual boundary made of string or wire, stretched between objects such as trees or light poles, to create a symbolic enclosure which is considered to be part of the "inside". With an eruv set up, observant Jews can carry objects like … [Read more...]

The Supreme Court Unleashes Chaos

The Supreme Court handed down its Hobby Lobby decision this week, and it was as bad as many of us had feared. In a 5-4 ruling (of course), five conservative male justices handed down the worst church-state decision in years, possibly even worse than the atrocious Hein decision: that a privately held corporation can impose limits on how workers use the health insurance they've earned as part of their compensation.For better or for worse, past cases about religious exemption have turned on the … [Read more...]

Outrageous Attacks on Supporters of Church-State Separation: Death Threats, Murdered Pets, and Vandalized Property

StatueOfLiberty2

This article was originally published on AlterNet.Although the United States is a democracy where the will of the majority is sovereign, our framers knew that being persecuted by a mob is no better than being persecuted by a tyrant. That's why they designed the Bill of Rights to be a counter-majoritarian document, limiting what laws can be passed and protecting the rights of minorities against the overreach of the majority. There's no better example than the First Amendment, which forbids … [Read more...]

The Supreme Court’s Ignorance on Secularism

GavelAndJustice

I'm coming late to the subject, but I wanted to circle back and talk about the Supreme Court's ruling in Town of Greece v. Galloway, where a 5-4 conservative majority held that official prayers before town meetings are constitutionally permissible.Make no mistake, this is a bad ruling, although not as bad as it could possibly have been. The one consolation is that the court didn't slam the door completely, as they could have done and have done in other cases; they didn't wipe out the right … [Read more...]

Should We Reach Out to Conservative Atheists?

Chessboard

Last month, American Atheists sought to rent a booth at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference. Surprisingly, CPAC accepted their money at first, only to change their mind at the last minute.That entirely foreseeable outcome would have been more than sufficient as free publicity, but American Atheists president Dave Silverman decided to attend as an individual. While he was there, he gave several interviews asserting that atheism should have a bigger place among conservatives. … [Read more...]

Remembering the Holocaust, Respecting the Constitution

OhioHolocaustMemorial

In Ohio, the state legislature recently approved a plan to build a Holocaust memorial on the grounds of the statehouse, with public money to be contributed towards the cost of construction. The winning design incorporates two tall structures of stainless steel, engraved with the testimony of an Auschwitz survivor, that are shaped so as to create a prominent negative space in the shape of a Star of David. You can see an image of the design above, to get a sense of it for yourself.The Freedom … [Read more...]

New on AlterNet: Harassment of Church-State Plaintiffs

My latest column is now up on AlterNet, Outrageous Attacks on Supporters of Church-State Separation: Death Threats, Murdered Pets, and Vandalized Property. In it, I report on the campaigns of harassment, persecution, and even criminal violence that are all too often waged against First Amendment advocates in religious areas of the country. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the rest:As often happens in these cases, FFRF plaintiffs asked to have their identities concealed … [Read more...]


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