Activism

The booth for the Kentucky Secular Society and Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers is now up and ready for the Kentucky State Fair to start! We will be there the whole time, from the morning of Thursday, August 18 to Sunday, August 27.
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The Kentucky State Fair is our biggest outreach activity. Our goals are to reach out to atheists among the general public, to normalize atheism, promote the separation of church and state, and support accurate science education.

We are in booth 1436. Our location is marked in red in the map at the link below.

South Wing map showing LAF booth location

Yesterday we joined with Tri-State Freethinkers to protest the opening of the Ark Encounter theme park. It was a very well attended protest and a great time! But perhaps more importantly, we got lots of media attention.

The day before the protest, Ed and I were interviewed by WDRB and the story aired the same day at 4pm. You can read the story and see the video here.

http://www.wdrb.com/story/32385364/atheists-planning-to-protest-at-public-opening-of-ark-encounter

They also did a follow-up interview at the protest itself, and the story can be seen here.

http://www.wdrb.com/story/32395779/ark-encounter-opening-draws-passion-from-both-sides-of-biblical-argument

Due to the protest, rather than news stations doing fluff pieces on a new theme park in Kentucky, they also covered the opposition and reasons that we oppose it. And that is good news!

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by Lyz Liddell
Executive Director
Reason Rally 2016

The latest polls show that the percentage of people who don’t care about a candidate's religion is increasing, and that “nones” are an ever-growing segment of the under-45 population — key voters! That’s great news for those who support separation of church and state, critical thinking, and just plain good sense. As the Pew Research report [http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/] states:

Meanwhile, the number of religiously unaffiliated adults has increased by roughly 19 million since 2007. There are now approximately 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S., and this group – sometimes called religious ‘nones’ – is more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants, according to the new survey. Indeed, the unaffiliated are now second in size only to evangelical Protestants among major religious groups in the U.S.

We all have the opportunity to celebrate our increasing numbers — and build our power as a voting bloc — by attending Reason Rally 2016, June 4, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. You’ll hear great speakers and entertainers — Carolyn Porco, Bill Nye, Julia Sweeney and more — as well as comedians, lots of music, and a good time for all.

It’s a Voting Bloc Party for those who believe that public policy should be made based on scientific evidence, not religious beliefs. It’s also an opportunity to take the message of science-driven public policy directly to your own members of Congress on the lobbying days that precede Reason Rally 2016. The focus of the lobbying will be sex education and the wasted money devoted to abstinence-only curricula that have been shown to be counter-productive. IN fact, abstinence-only sex ed correlates with increased teen pregnancy!

So check out the speakers, hotel and travel deals, and sign up to lobby at our website, reasonrally.org. Bring your friends, then go home and vote in every election, from school board to president. Let’s Speak Up for Reason! Let’s make the media and politicians court us as much as they court the religious right.

 

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DSC_0055In the January 2013 meetup of Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers, Suzanne Lamb spoke to the group about a situation in a Muhlenberg county high school. When challenged about letting the Gideons distribute bibles in the school during class time, the school board decided to implement an "open forum" policy to allow any group to distribute literature, but did not originally put the policy in writing nor publicize it. Suzanne Lamb discovered that the school board was using the policy to allow special access to the the Gideons (but not necessarily any other group) by examining the school board minutes, and decided to do something about it. With the help of the Secular Student Alliance and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, she put pressure on the school board to honor the "open forum" policy by allowing her to distribute FFRF materials on the school grounds.

Here are a few important points from the presentation:

  • Open Forum policies regarding access to public schools by outside organizations can be used as loophole strategies to give religious groups privileged access. It is important to know of these policies and be sure they are being implemented appropriately.
  • If you become aware of potential Church/State violations in your district, you can contact groups such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Secular Student Alliance for legal advice. Oftentimes, it only takes a letter from a national organization to solve the issue. These situations do not always have to lead to a lawsuit.
  • If children are raised from K-12 with consistant endorsement of religion in the schools, they come to see such Church/State violations as normal and to be expected.
  • We need to remember that this is not an issue for atheists only. We have religious allies in Church/State Separation issues. In her presentation Suzanne speaks of a Baptist minister who spoke out strongly in favor of her case.

You can read more about the case at Suzanne's blog, What to Tell the Neighbors. Posts specific to the Muhlenberg County case may be found under the label "Gideons" in the right sidebar.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union has recently published the findings of a unique study on the discrimination against, and sometimes outright persecution of, atheists and the non-religious all around the world. The examples from a variety of countries range from increased difficulty for atheists in finding jobs due to religious bias, to laws that require choosing a religion and participating in religious rituals,  to actual prison time and hard labor for statements expressing disagreement with religion on social media sites. Even in countries where freedom of religion is the law, many important aspects of life such as family law may be handed over to religious authorities who are almost inevitably biased against the non-religious. I encourage everyone to read the report for themselves, and I have provided a link to the PDF formatted report below.

While much has been written about persecution of religious minorities, very little study has been done on the persecution and discrimination against the non-religious around the world. When such a report is published, it is vital that we inform ourselves and then spread the word that freedom of belief, conscience  and speech is just as important for atheists and the non-religious as it is for those who follow a religion. "Freedom of Religion" does NOT mean freedom only for the religious but for all humans.

IHEU Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Nonreligious

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Ed was on the Mandy Connell show today, and did a fantastic job representing Louisville Atheists in a pretty hostile environment. Topics covered include the Kentucky Homeland Security case, claims that America is a "Christian Nation," discrimination against atheists, and the case by the Center for Inquiry to gain legal marriage rights for secular celebrants. You can listen to the whole hour below.

Ed Hensley on Mandy Connell

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In a sad decision against religious equality, the Indiana federal court court ruled that it is a necessary part of religious freedom for churches and religious organizations to have rights in marriage that are denied to the non-religious.

“According to the court, what is a required accommodation for the religious, is just a matter of convenience for the nonreligious. It would be difficult to imagine a clearer way to classify nonbelievers as second-class citizens,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI. “A wedding is one of the most important ceremonies in a person’s life, and it is just as meaningful to atheists as it is to theists. It’s disappointing that a 21st-century court refused to recognize this reality."

If marriage were merely a religious affair, it would not come with legally binding rights and responsibilities. And clearly if it were a religious thing only, then atheists would have no more interest in getting married than they would have in going to church. For any country with freedom of religion to favor believers in the supernatural legally in this way is shameful. Why should secular citizens have to get a generic bureaucrat to sign papers to make their marriage legal when the religious get to have the leader of their community offer both a meaningful AND legally binding service in one step?

The full CFI press release, and the text of the court decision, may be found at Court Denies Atheists Right to Choose How to Get Married