Free Parking for the Religious in This British Town, but Atheists Are Out of Luck

If you happen to find yourself in Woking, Surrey, a large British town of some 100,000 people, you might be entitled to free Sunday parking in local municipal garages. But there’s a catch: the offer is valid only if you’re religious.

In that case, a local church or mosque will validate your parking stub. So count your blessings… and your savings! Woking subsidizes “religious” parking to the tune of £41,000 ($64,000) a year.

Ray Morgan, Woking council’s chief executive, said people shouldn’t have to “pay to pray”:

“We take a view that those people who worship… have a special role in our society,” he said. “The way austerity is going in our society, faith groups might be the only people left standing who are doing any of the lower level social care.”

The view seems to be that being a worshipper “encourages one to participate in society.”

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Gov. Rick Perry: ‘Religious Freedom Does Not Mean Freedom From Religion’

We knew this was going to happen weeks ago but it’s finally official: You won’t be punished in Texas if you say “Merry Christmas” (everyone can breathe out now):

The bill, signed into law Thursday by Governor Rick Perry, promises that teachers and students can say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” or “happy holidays” without repercussion. Even though no one was ever stopping them from doing that…

Religious holiday displays will also be allowed, as long as they don’t overtly promote one particular religion (tough loopholes are everywhere):

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This Woman is Being Denied U.S. Citizenship Because She’s an Atheist

On Thursday, I received an email from Chris Johnson, familiar to readers of this site because he’s been working on a multimedia book about atheists and what gives them joy and meaning in life.

It turned out his 64-year-old stepmother was applying to become an official U.S. citizen after living here for more than 30 years.

Part of the application asked her if she would “take up arms in defense of the United States” — join the military, in essence — and she responded, in part, like this:

… The truth is that I would not be willing to bear arms. Since my youth I have had a firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or in the bearing of arms. I deeply and sincerely believe that it is not moral or ethical to take another person’s life, and my lifelong spiritual/religious beliefs impose on me a duty of conscience not to contribute to warfare by taking up armsmy beliefs are as strong and deeply held as those who possess traditional religious beliefs and who believe in God

That bit at the end is what caught the eye of someone at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They told her that if she had a “conscientious objection,” it had to be on religious grounds, not moral ones.

Her atheism wasn’t good enough.

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No, Salon, Atheists Are Not ‘Just as Obnoxious as Christians’

Mary Elizabeth Williams, writing for Salon, thinks that atheists are “just as obnoxious as Christians.” She lowers us to their level because atheists recently fought to be treated like Christians in a Florida school district.

Atheists aren’t being “obnoxious” when we force government officials to treat us like they do Christians — we’re being strategic under the rules of the law. And it works.

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House Votes Down Amendment Allowing Non-religious Military Chaplains, but 150 Democrats Voted for It

Earlier this week, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) put forth an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow for non-religious military chaplains:

The Secretary of Defense shall provide for the appointment, as officers in the Chaplain Corps of the Armed Forces, of persons who are certified or ordained by non-theistic organizations and institutions, such as humanist, ethical culturalist, or atheist.

Republicans (and some Democrats) in the House Armed Services Committee voted against the amendment 43-18 so it didn’t leave the committee.

That didn’t mean the end of the legislation, though. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) tried to get the amendment through without the support of the Committee:

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