Michigan House Passes Bill That Will Allow Discrimination If It Conflicts With Your Religious Beliefs

Yesterday, the Michigan House passed a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would essentially allow people to get away with discrimination if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. (A similar bill was vetoed earlier this year in Arizona by Governor Jan Brewer.)



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Austin City Council Candidate Says Her Atheist Opponent is Ineligible to Hold Public Office

A couple of days ago, I posted about a runoff race for the Austin City Council in Texas. Normally, it’d be off my radar, but candidate Laura Pressley had posted a graphic on her website explaining the differences between her and her opponent Gregorio Casar. She implied that his atheism was a problem:

Except he’s not an atheist. He’s a self-described Catholic.

More importantly, why would it make a difference even if he were an atheist?

Pressley never apologized for making that unnecessary distinction. Instead, she told the Austin American-Statesman his atheism disqualified him from hold public office:

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In Lake Worth (Florida), An Atheist’s Invocation Offered Thanks to Allah, Zeus, Satan, Buddha, Krishna, and Thor

Earlier this week, atheist activist Preston Smith delivered the invocation at the Lake Worth (Florida) City Commission meeting.

Not only did four of the five commissioners walk out before he had said a single word, Smith showed what happens when the door to giving invocations is wide open thanks to Christians wanting to pray at government meetings. (Blogger Lynn Anderson said that Commissioner Christopher McVoy remained in the room, as did the city manager and city attorney.)



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There Are Humanists in Ferguson: The Humanist Social Justice Tradition

In the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the Humanist movement has received a battery of well-deserved criticism. Sarah Jones writes that while “communities are organizing themselves to effectively fight for change… Atheist communities tend to be absent.” Anthony Pinn insists, “It’s time for humanists to stop being so lazy regarding issues of race violence.” Sikivu Hutchinson laments that “when it comes to anti-racist social justice, even the ‘kinder, gentler’ Humanist community often nods its head in well-intentioned sympathy, issues a press release, then shuffles into oblivion.”

I agree with the critique Jones, Pinn, and Hutchinson are offering. I believe they strike at the core of a fundamental problem with today’s organized atheist movement: a limited focus on a narrow slice of issues at the expense of a broader perspective committed to fighting injustice whatever its form. I’m with Pinn when he argues that “all too often, humanists… are simply content to tackle issues of science education, separation of church and state, and a variety of similarly arranged policy issues,” while taking a pass on anti-racism work. I cheer when I read that “Race and the consequences of our racist society must become a priority within the humanist movement.” It must. I’ve struggled within my own movement — my own congregation — to convey the urgency of acting now to end racial injustice. I could be doing more, the Ethical Society could be doing more, and the Humanist movement could be doing more.

Yet these excellent articles do not tell the whole story: they miss the work that is being and has been done by humanists to combat racial injustice and to further equality and dignity for all. If they give the impression that there are no organized Humanist groups, and no individuals motivated by Humanist values, working to end racial injustice, then they do Humanism a disservice. That narrative is not just wrong — it’s damaging, because it reinforces the popular idea that the only way to achieve lasting change and to find ethical improvement is through traditional religion.

That isn’t true. I know it’s not true because in the months since the killing of Michael Brown I have seen numerous examples of moral courage and commitment to change from people who have no traditional religion, and who are members or friends of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, where I work. As far as I am aware, we — a non-theistic congregation dedicated to Humanist values — are the only organization that might plausibly be referred to as an “atheist community” in the Ferguson area, and, far from being absent, we have been engaged — as an organization and through the efforts of individual members and friends — at multiple levels, from on-the-street civil disobedience to behind-the-scenes legal support.

Yes, the Society issued a statement on the shooting (the first public statement we’ve made on any issue in quite some time), which is hosted on the website of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, our region’s biggest newspaper: just for this we were denigrated as “race apologists.” But we did not then “shuffle off into oblivion,” as Sikivu Hutchinson fears we might.



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Once Again, a Todd Starnes Tale of Anti-Christian Bias Doesn’t Hold Up After All the Facts Are In

Something you notice when you follow Fox News’ Todd Starnes is that he’s always very quick to write about a particular story. And there’s a simple reason for that: He puts out his side of the story (the Christian Persecution version) before the other side even knows what the hell is going on.

By the time they’ve corrected the misinformation or even offered their perspective, it’s too late. The bullshit has spread everywhere.

Starnes knows this perfectly well. A real journalist would give the other side a fair amount of time to respond before moving forward with a story. But Starnes isn’t a real journalist.

That explains why he was so eager to complain about Disney when he received an email about a girl named Lilly… without waiting to hear their side of the story:



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