An Atheist Just Sued the State of Illinois for Not Allowing Secular Celebrants to Solemnize Marriages

In Illinois, the only way atheists can have their weddings solemnized is by going to a judge or having a religious leader (even one from an online church) sign the paperwork. A Secular Celebrant just filed a federal lawsuit against the state arguing that it’s a violation of the Equal Protection Clause to prevent him from offering the same opportunity to non-religious couples.

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Bangladeshi Blogger Shammi Haque, Threatened for Her Secular Views, Granted Asylum in Germany

Shammi Haque is one of several Bangladeshi atheist bloggers whose life is currently in danger. Some of her colleagues have already been murdered. She could very well have been next — she received death threats and saw her name on a “hit list” going around online.

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But the Center For Inquiry is trying to prevent that fate for Haque. Using donations from their Freethought Emergency Fund, and with the help of the German government, they helped her move the hell out of Bangladesh:

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The Woman Saudi Arabia Tried to Shut Up: An Interview with Josephine Macintosh

Last month, I wrote about the remarkable events at the UN Human Rights Council, where Saudi Arabia attempted to shout down Josephine Macintosh, a representative of my employer the Center for Inquiry, as she delivered a forceful statement condemning Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, specifically the persecution and imprisonment of Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair (who just this week was sentenced to 15 years in prison).

The Saudi representative was desperate to quiet her, demanding that the council president “shut that woman up!”, but delegations from the U.S., Ireland, Canada, and France stood up for Josephine’s right to deliver her statement. (You can read my full writeup here.)

I finally managed to actually make contact with the hero of the whole story, Josephine herself, who’s been busy traveling and without regular Internet access. I took the opportunity to ask her about the whole episode and to learn a little about what motivates her, too. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation. I’ve emphasized some key portions.

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What Made Saudi Arabia Panic at the UN Human Rights Council?

[Note: This is an expansion on a previous post, meant to give full context and background to the story for those just learning about this issue.]

The human rights abuses of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are not secrets. A monarchy under Islamic Law, with only rare and arbitrary local elections, and almost total subjugation of women, the West looks on with disapproval, but impotence. They are, infamously, a U.S. “ally,” being a huge source of oil and perceived as a bulwark against Islamic terrorism in an unstable region of the world. We see the oppression, the medieval treatment of half its population, and the astounding opulence of its aristocracy, and we shrug. It’s their culture; what can we do?

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Saudi Arabia Tries to Shout Down Center for Inquiry at UN Human Rights Council

Yesterday, we got a rare glimpse of how sensitive Saudi Arabia is to its human rights abuses being exposed. At a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, a representative of my organization, the Center for Inquiry, was repeatedly shouted down by the Saudi representative in an attempt to stop her from delivering our statement condemning its crackdown on free expression and belief, and its persecution of dissidents such as Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair.

And lucky for us, there’s video. [Read more…]