Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Progressive vs School Vouchers

Matthew Rothschild, editor for the past 19 years of The Progressive (founded over a century ago by Wisconsin Senator Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette), is turning over the editorship of the magazine to current political editor Ruth Conniff. In making the announcement in the September issue, Rothschild has this to say about Conniff ---

"In the past few months, she's been pouring herself into a crucial project she designed to defend our public schools. She has brought together some of the leading researchers who are fighting against the vultures who would voucherize, privatize, and destroy public education."

The Progressive is published in Madison, Wisconsin, where the first school voucher plan was started a generation ago by Republican politicians who thumbed their noses at the state constitution and denied the state's  voters the opportunity to vote on the matter. Wisconsin is the state in which Gov  Scott Walker and the Republican dominated legislature have been working overtime to wreck the state's public schools and crush their teachers.

It would be great if other other magazines -- liberal, progressve, moderate, even conservative -- would follow suit.

Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty (arlinc.or g)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Davies' Prescience

A. Powell Davies (1902-1957) served as minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington until his untimely death. In that prestigious pulpit he became one of the most well known liberal, progressive voices in the country on a host of issues. His sermons were regularly reported in the press and his packed services attracted even members of the Supreme Court and Congress.

Near the end (p 231) of his splendid biography, A. Powell Davies and His Times (Skinner House Books, 1990), author George Marshall wrote this paragraph: "The issues of church and state in the postwar world were fought on three fronts: the requests for public funds for parochial or religious education, government recognition of the Vatican, and the question of applying Catholic medical ethics to public policy and administration." How prescient! Let's look at these three areas of concern.

1. The campaigns for diverting public funds to church-run schools got well under way in the 1960s, with 27 state referenda on the matter from coast to coast between 1966 and 2012, numerous court cases, school voucher or tax-credit neo-voucher measures passing only in states where voters were denied the opportunity to say yea or nay (Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, etc), and opinion polls (such as the Gallup/PDK poll reported in August 2013) showing overwhelming public opposition to match the results of the referenda.

2. Ronald Reagan and Congress finally in 1984 granted diplomatic recognition to the Vatican (Holy See), making just one church the beneficiary of such US government recognition. Since Davies' time the Holy See has become the only religious Permanent Observer at the UN, a position it has consistently used to block or impede international action on women's rights and overpopulation, with painfully obvious impact on the resource depletion and climate change problems.

3. Since the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling the drive to apply the Catholic hierarchy's (note that I use the word "hierarchy" rather than Catholic people's) medieval medical ethics to public policy and administration, a  matter that cannot have escaped anyone's attention. (For a devastating in-depth critique of the Vatican's take on medical-sexual-women's ethics see German Catholic theologian Uta Ranke-Heinemann's book Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality and the Catholic Church [Doubleday, 1990]. See also Catholics for Choice's journal Conscience [2013, No.2.].)

So, well over a half century ago this far-sighted minister-lecturer -writer put his finger on three of the most important controversies facing us in America today.

Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty (

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Religious privileging in Maryland laws

By Mathew Goldstein

Laws that accommodate religious beliefs are sometimes appropriate, and even necessary, to respect individual religious liberty.  Laws should make a reasonable effort to accommodate religious beliefs, even when the religious beliefs are themselves foolish and deserving of disrespect (as is often the case).  Legal accommodation of some peoples' religious beliefs becomes unreasonable religious privileging when it is not protecting free exercise or when it infringes upon other peoples' freedom, civic equality, health, or safety.  Maryland law, like most other state law, includes some religious privileging.  Following are some examples, this is not a comprehensive summary of all such laws in this state.

There are a number of provisions in Maryland that accommodate faith healing.  Faith healing is a good example of a foolish religious belief that arguably negatively impacts primarily the religious believer and thus is at least partially protected as a religious liberty.  But Maryland law sometimes goes further and grants parents the ability to deny prudent medical care for their children. 

Most notable in this category is a religious exemption from a law that requires pregnant women to be tested for syphilis when they first become pregnant and again during the final trimester.  About 50 percent of pregnant women with untreated early syphilis end up with a baby who's infected. That's compared to 1 to 2 percent of women who get treated (thanks to atheist and materialist medicine that some people mistakenly characterize as exhibiting a methodological naturalism bias). They may lose the baby in miscarriage, stillbirth, or soon after birth, or the baby may be born with severe neurological problems. Syphilis also increases the risk of preterm birth and intrauterine growth restriction. This religious exemption from syphilis testing of pregnant women in Maryland is unconscionable and should be eliminated.  Other examples of questionable religious privileging in Maryland law that undermines the welfare of innocent children are exemptions from hearing, eyesight, and lead poisoning screening and from vaccinations.

Clergy are partially exempted from reporting child abuse revelations to law enforcement and judicial authorities.  Maryland law also has a second provision that broadly exempts clergy from testifying as a witness in judicial hearings "... on any matter in relation to any confession or communication made to him in confidence by a person seeking his spiritual advice or consolation."  Parents should think twice before passing their children over to religious institutions in Maryland.

Article 37 of the Declaration of Rights in Maryland's constitution  permits "... a declaration of belief in the existence of God" mandate "... as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State".  The U.S. Supreme Court declared this provision of Maryland law to be a violation of the first and fourteenth amendments in 1961, however this law has still not been amended to comply with the federal constitution.  Oaths of office for the National Guard and the Maryland Defense Force include a "So help me God" appeal.  Article 10 of the Rules of Interpretation contradicts these oaths while still incorporating an appeal to a god as follows:

The form of judicial and all other oaths to be taken or administered in this State, and not prescribed by the Constitution, shall be as follows: “In the presence of Almighty God I do solemnly promise or declare”, etc. And it shall not be lawful to add to any oath the words “So help me God”, or any imprecatory words whatever.

Article 36 of the Declaration of Rights permits anyone who does not believe "... in the existence of God, and that under His dispensation such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefor either in this world or in the world to come" to be involuntarily disqualified from serving as a juror or witness.  This Article was amended in 1970 but the amendment did nothing to eliminate this religious privileging.  Instead, the amendment endorsed government establishment of theism by adding this sentence:  "Nothing shall prohibit or require the making reference to belief in, reliance upon, or invoking the aid of God or a Supreme Being in any governmental or public document, proceeding, activity, ceremony, school, institution, or place."

The theistic Pledge of Allegiance must be recited in public schools.  There is an opt out provision for both students and teachers.  Laws like this make it difficult for people to keep their personal beliefs private.  And children in particular shouldn't be instructed by the state that theism is the more patriotic belief.

There are exemptions from sales and property taxes for religious organizations, including a parsonage exemption from property tax.  Another provision gives localities the option of refunding part or all of the property tax that religious organizations would otherwise be required to pay.  There are also regulation exemptions for religious organizations regarding cemeteries, obtaining a trader's license, and erecting advertisement signs.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Alabama, Oh My!

by Edd Doerr

Roy Moore, the  Alabama supreme court chief justice who was removed from that bench for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building a decade ago but who was returned to that office by the voters in 2012, is up to his old tricks. In a WFSA TV interview on August 21 Moore said that putting up the monument was "the right thing to do." He added that "the Constitution ... and the First Amendment [state] basically we must acknowledge God to have a moral basis for our society and to retain [our] freedom of conscience." Moore  evidently has not read the Constitution or the First Amendment.

Dean Young, one of nine candidates running in the September Republican primary to fill a vacant House seat, is pushing his rivals to sign a pledge that they will oppose same-sex marriage and that they belong to a church whose "tenants" [sic] oppose same-sex marriage. Moore is evidently not familiar with Article VI of the US Constitution and Article I,  Section 3 of the Alabama constitution, both of which prohibit religious tests for public office.

Is there something strange in the water in Alabama?

Visit the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum

Gary Berg-Cross

Robert Green "Bob" Ingersoll, the great, progressive orator of the late 19th century,  was born August 11, 1833 at 61 Main Street in  Dresden, New York. . That’s 180 years ago this month.  By chance I happened to be in the Dresden area on that August 11th weekend.  Thanks to a timely tip from the Ingersoll Oratory Contest held in June, I knew of the  Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden and stopped by to perused the collection of Ingersoll memorabilia and literature.

It gave some time to reflect on the life of this great human being who had so much to say on politics, the arts, science, and the intrusions of religion into these and other aspects of American life.  I was familiar with many of Bob's writings, but less so on the details of his life in the Midwest, his wife and family and some famous people touched by Ingersoll's oratory - Walt Whitman, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison and  Mark Twain. On Ingersoll death of heart failure in July of 1899 at the age of 65 Mark Twain wrote the following to Ingersoll’s niece:

“Except for my daughter’s, I have not grieved for any death as I have grieved for his.”

If you are ever in the Finger Lakes area of NY, I recommend a stop by for a chance to walk with an exceptional mind. There is also a video to see and it is also online.

I learned a bit of the history and effort to save this house as a museum and the story is told in the museum this way:

The house has been restored on three occasions. It was first restored in 1921 by a blue-ribbon committee whose members included Thomas Edison and Edgar Lee Masters. It operated as a community center until the Great Depression. It was restored in 1954 by atheist activist Joseph Lewis, and operated as a museum until the mid-1960s. It was near collapse when it was purchased in 1986 by the Council for Secular Humanism. After raising and spending more than $250,000, the Council rehabilitated the birthplace and in 1993, opened it as a museum. It is open weekends each summer and fall. 

Thank you. Council for Secular Humanism and director of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum Tom Flynn. Tom, BTW, will the speaker at the WASH MDC chapter meeting Dec. 14th which will be held at the Rockville library (2-4).

While you are in the area you might organize some of your tine along the Freethought Trail of update NY to peruse as you travel.  This is a collection of locations in West-Central New York such as the Elmira home of Mark Twain,  important to the history of freethought. 
The Freethought Trail website is a project of the Council for Secular Humanism, a nonprofit educational organization based in Amherst, New York and we have (again)  the Council’s Tom Flynn , along with Sally Roesch Wagner of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation to thank for it.

Image Credits
From the museum site and

Photo by Gary Berg-Cross

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Energy and the Evolution of Culture Life: Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

On Saturday Oct. 12, 2013 from 2-3  Nancie L. Gonzalez will present a talk on the topic of Energy and the Evolution of Culture Life:  Nancie a Ph.D. anthropologist (Univ. of Michigan) is  Professor Emeritus from the  Univ. of Maryland, College Park. She has conducted ethnographic and ethnohistorical research on marriage and family patterns in a number of societies, including the American Southwest, the Caribbean, Central America, China, and the West Bank and has published widely since the 1960s.  She lives in Richmond, Virginia. Below is a small abstract of the talk.

We start by defining culture broadly as that body of acts, objects, ideas and sentiments that depend upon symbols and abstract thought for their existence.  This view also asserts that culture distinguishes humans from all other life forms, and that the symboling ability developed after certain brain mutations occurred in ancestral primates. Articulate speech was one of those that proved successful in developing and passing on to new generations ways to improve the quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Some other animals can learn cultural symbols, but they are not known to invent them.

            Using data from archaeological sites and ethnography in societies ranging from preliterate foragers to modern, industrial, urban civilizations, this talk argues that the key to cultural evolution has been the kind and amount of energy humans have harnessed and controlled at different points over the past 200,000 years.  Non-cultural animals, including early hominids, had only the energy of their bodies at their disposal, and had to depend upon their biological makeup for food, defense, and the acquisition of mates for reproduction and care of the young.  Beginning with the domestication of plants and animals, and ending with the discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels and atomic energy, it is suggested that the globalized society we now know has perhaps sowed seeds of its own destruction and may not continue to persist as we know it until and unless new forms of energy are discovered and harnessed.

70% Opppose Vouchers: Gallup/PDK

by Edd Doerr

The Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa poll released today (Aug 21) shows that 70% of Americans polled oppose school vouchers and tax-credit "neo-vouchers". This closely matches the 2 to 1 opposition registered in 27 statewide referendum elections from coast to coast, from Alaska to Florida and from Massachusetts to California and states in between.

The question used: "Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?" This very neutral wording made no mention of the sectarian religious nature of the vast majority of private schools, of their selectivity, or of the fact that tax support of private schools would fragment the school population along creedal, ethnic, class and other lines.

Over the years the primary political thrust for vouchers and similar schemes has come from the Republican Party in Congress and state legislatures and from the Religious Right and the Catholic bishops.

More details on the Gallup/PDK poll will appear in the next issue of Americans for Religious Liberty's journal Voice of Reason, deu off the press in two weeks.

For more details on the state referenda and vouchers in general, see my monograph "The Great School Voucher Fraud" at

Friday, August 16, 2013

" A Principled matter for Virginia"

(posted by Edd Doerr)

This letter was published in the Washington Post on 8/16/13 ---

Virginia gubernatorial aspirant Ken Cuccinelli II ["Cuccinelli's K-12 plan would let parents take over failing school," Metro, Aug.  14] wants to amend the state constitution to remove language prohibiting the diversion of public funds to religious institutions,  i.e., sectarian private schools. That language was the foundation of the US Constitution's First Amendment and should remain in Virginia law. Similar provisions in the majority of state constitutions, based on the Jefferson/Madison principle of church-state separation, guarantee the religious freedoms of all Americans.

Ken Sandin, Rockville, MD

The writer is a member of the board of directors of Americans for Religious Liberty.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Abortion and Morality

by Edd Doerr

A Pew Rsearch poll released on August 15 shows that 49% of US adults consider abortion to be morally wrong, while 15% consider it to be morally acceptable and 23% regard it as not being a moral issue (Yes, I know that adds to only 87%, but that is what Pew reports). White evangelicals lead in saying that abortion is immoral, followed by Hispanic Catholics and Black Protestants. Only 25% of the religiously unaffiliated, with white mainline Protestants (38%) and white Catholics (53%) somewhat less so, agree. The poll also showed that approval increases with one's amount of education. This poll is largely worthless for several reasons.

1. Abundant polls for years have shown that opinion varies all over the map depending on the reason for an abortion. Large majorities approve of abortion in cases of rape, incest, threats to a woman's life or health, or severe fetal deformity. Other reasons are approved to lesser degrees. Approval or disapproval varies according to the stage of gestation at which the procedure is performed. The later the procedure the stronger the disapproval. Too often not considered in discussions of the issue is that about 90% of abortions are performed during the first trimester, and about 99% by 20 weeks. Procedures after 20 weeks are performed only for serious medical reasons. Before 14 or so weeks abortions are far safer for women than continuing pregnancies to term, particularly for women under the age of 18.

2. Moral approval or disapproval is irrelevant. What is relevant is what is legal. Roe v Wade in 1973 dealt with legality, not morality. Today's conservatives and Republicans confuse the two, and have pulled out all the stops in trying to either outlaw abortion altogether or throw so many barriers in the way that abortion becomes less and less available and more costly, particularly for poorer women.

What is important is the religious freedom, rights of conscience, and health of individual women. Transient or permanent majorities in legislatures, especially as they are predominantly male, should not be making the rules and decisions for individual women and the medical personnel who care for them. Every one who supports women's religious freedom and rights of conscience must get active in defending these rights.

(Edd Doerr is president of Americans for Religious Liberty --

Monday, August 12, 2013

Wikipedia and School,Vouchers: Orwellian Manipukation

by Edd Doerr

On August 12 Wikipedia "modified" its 16-page entry on school vouchers (see "vouchers") to reflect a hardline Republican/chericalist pro-voucher, pro-diversion-of-public-funds-to-religious-and-other-private-schools stance. To say that the entry is an Orwellian "selective manipulation of history" would be a gross understatement. It is a piece of sleazy political propaganda that would have made Josef Goebbels proud.

The entry makes no mention of these very clear facts: That the overwhelming majority of private schools that benefit from voucher schemes are pervasively sectarian religious institutions; That opinion polls for the last 40 years have consistently registered opposition to vouchers; That in 27 statewide referendum elections from coast to coast vouchers or their analogs/variants have been rejected by many millions of voters by an average 2 to 1 margin; That serious studies of the voucher systems in Wisconsin and Ohio have shown that voucher aided religious schools do a worse job than the public schools despite their advantage of being able to push out the students they do not want. The entry does not mention that no voucher plan has ever been approved by voters and that the only voucher plans in existence were passed by legislatures fearful of voter reaction. The entry fails to mention that Florida's attempt to amend its constitution to authorize vouchers was defeated by the voters in November 2012 by a landslide margin.

The entry weirdly distorts facts. It mentions Chile's voucher plan but does not reveal that it was imposed on the country by the brutal Pinochet military dictatorship. It distorts the truth when it describes Ireland's tax support of Catholic schools as a voucher system; it is not. It distorts the truth when it discusses the school finance system in the Netherlands, carefully overlooking the fact that direct tax support of Catholic and Dutch Reformed schools was the result of a historic coalition of religious political parties that worked for years to undermine religiously neutral public schools. It distorts the  situation in Sweden by ignoring that the country is overwhelmingly secular.

The literature opposing vouchers is extensive. A good summary of why vouchers are bad for education is my monograph "The Great School Voucher Fraud" at

Friday, August 09, 2013

The Appeal to Common Sense

By Gary Berg-Cross

Everyone appeals to common sense. President Obama recently used it:
“The idea to shut down the government at a time when the economy is gaining some traction ... I am assuming that they will not take that path… I have confidence that common sense in the end will prevail.”

I’m not so sure he’s right there that sound judgment will prevail.

You hear in the debate over Immigration (A plea for common sense and compassion in the immigration debate) where the common sense appeal to is one of a humanitarian and, ultimately, moral basis in distinction to economic, social and enforcement aspects of the issue.
I might agree with that priority, but this argument is not that common. common sense is a term with philosophical origins, which is today commonly used to refer to a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge things which is shared by ("common to") nearly all people, and can be reasonably accepted by nearly all people without any need for debate. A practical example these wet summer days is if it looks like rain take an umbrella when you go out.

This comes out of our everyday world of seemingly direct perception and experience of getting wet.  Common sense evokes the idea of practical world and easy, harmonized knowledge and reasoning we can use to plan our day.
There is idea of a reasoning independent of particular training and experience and hence shared by us all.  Or perhaps we might say that just the common life experience of growing up in the world gives us the base to reason from.  It’s not an idea that holds up well under examination given the appeals to it we see used widely.  
The trouble is that common sense appeals often seen to be about values that immediate perception and involving basic knowledge acquired from age 2-8. .
All too often the topic is something we might or should agree on and don’t. In these cases common sense gets argued for secondary things, not the primary ones and that is an important debating point.  Such hidden agendas are technically way beyond a topic of 8 year olds. The argument in the previously cited article is for an immigration bill that “upholds values Americans cherish—hard work, opportunity and compassion.” 
Sounds great but values are much more abstract than immediate and a subject for well informed and reasoned debate with agreed upon facts. Consider the reasoning applied to the recent Farm Bill:
Today we have crops that are more resilient to extreme weather and disease, meaning that the livelihood of my family is less tied to the whims of Mother Nature. In fact, about 90 percent of corn and soybeans have been improved with biotechnology today. By producing a higher yield, these crops allow me to do more with less and help meet the growing food needs of our world.
Any technology that helps me and my family earn a little bit more for each hard-fought acre we farm is a welcome advancement. But not everyone chooses to see the benefit of these technologies for America’s families.
It’s a simple, linear type argument but not everyone would agree with the chain of reasoning because our knowledge, experience and reasoning differ:
·         less tied to nature’s whims is good (does nature really have whims?)
·         Biotech improves crop yield (or does it reduce pest damage if we use it with,,,?)
·         Result more food crops that the world needs (cost/benefit analysis please)
·         It helps my family so it is good (what about damaging other families with pesticide food?)

All too often we get the inverse labeled as “common sense”. There is, for example, a common sense show It is a little disconcerting to see some of its topics:

o   Sharia law, illegal immigration and the free trade agreements are designed by the globalists to subvert the Constitution and to undermine the national identity

We should be progressing in better and better common sense.  Some blame education for the lack of it. I think the reasons go deeper and include an anti-intellectual culture attitude which dis-respects reflection and encourages a divisive acceptance of shallowness.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A History Lesson

Many humanists and secularists today are familiar with the Secular Coalition for America, but too few are aware of the history of such organizations. So here is a quick history lesson.

In 1968 Edward Ericson, leader of the Washington Ethical Society, social justice activist and writer, got the American Humanist Association and the American Ethical Union to start the Council for Humanist and Ethical Concerns (CHEC) with initial financial support from humanist philosopher and writer Corliss Lamont and matching funds from the AEU. An office with paid staff was created in Washington. Within a couple of years Ericson sought to expand the operation to include the Unitarian Universalist Association, and thus was born the Joint Washington Office for Social Concern (JWO).

The JWO moved into the UU lobby office in the Methodist Building on Maryland Avenue across the street  from the Supreme Court. Expenses were split between the AHA, the AEU and the UUA. Robert Edwards Jones, who had been the UU representative in the nation's capital and was one of the most highly esteemed lobbyists in Washington, headed the new paid staff. The WJO had an advisory board of 10 (later 11) from the three national organization which met monthly with Jones to develop policy on church-state, religious liberty and other issues. (Ericson, representing the AEU, and I, representing the AHA, served on that board for six or so years,) Working with religious and other non-profit organizations, the JWO became well recognized in Washington.

After the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v Wade ruling, the JWO was involved with other groups in the founding of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, now the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a coalition of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish groups, the UUA, the AEU and the AHA.

Later in the 1970s both the AHA and the AEU ran short of funds and the JWO ceased operations.

In 1982 Ericson and Sherwin Wine, founder of the Humanistic Judaism movement, combined two organizations based in New York and Michigan and formed Americans for Religious Liberty. Subsequently, ARL CEO Edd Doerr represented ARL and the former JWO groups in testimony at congressional hearings on various church-state matters.

Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty (

Science, Evolution, Climate Change

Conservative and Religious Right attacks on evolution, teaching evolution in public school science classes, and the reality of  anthropic climate change are serious problems in the US today. So let me recommend an organization that gets too little notice but which is of importance to all of us ---

National Center for Science Education, PO Box 9477, Berkeley, CA 94709.

The NCSE, which has been around for 30+ years, publishes the informative bi-monthly journal Reports of the National Center for Science Education. Check it out.

Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty (ARL),

ARL, also around for 30+ years, publishes the quarterly journal Voice of Reason, which reports on the ongoing and accelerating attacks on public schools, abortion rights, religious freedom and related matters and reviews more books in this area of concern than any other publication.

Both ARL and NCSE are non-profit organizations dependent on voluntary contributions from concerned individuals like you.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Another Pastafarian Sighting

by Gary Berg-Cross

Two years ago we faithfully reported that the "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM)" had gone viral. That was a story out of Austria about Niko, a self-proclaimed atheist, who applying for a new driver's  license wearing a strainer as 

"religious headgear. "

Well it has happened again in 2013.  This time its been reported that a  Czech freethiker named Lukas Novy who received legal permission to wear a colander on his head as part of an identification photo.

He made the reasonable argument that he was a devout "Pastafarian" and the past  bowl was a religious garment per his belief.

As reported in the Prague Daily Monitor:

"Czech officials ruled that rejecting his request would be a breach of the country’s religious equality laws, and have subsequently turned the other cheek as the 28 year old, from Brno, updated his ID card with the controversial image."
They also note that the  Church of the Spaghetti Monster first emerged in the USA in 2005 as a mockery of organised religion. 
"Now the thousands of online followers insist that 'Pastafarianism' is a genuine religion, and refer to their almighty as 'His Noodliness'".
Let noodliness reign.

Rand Paul's War on Women's Rights

Rand Paul, the loony Republican/Tea Party senator from Kentucky and possible 2016 presidential aspirant, has launched a new war on women's rights of conscience, religious liberty and health. Seeking to upset the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v Wade ruling recognizing every woman's fundamental right to choose to terminate a problem  pregnancy, Paul and the "National Pro-Life Alliance" are pushing, in his words, a "massive, national, grass-roots campaign" to pressure Congress to pass a theology-based "personhood at conception" bill to undo Roe.

Paul is soliciting donations to pay for a massive television, radio and ad campaign, planted newspaper columns "to be distributed free to all 1,437 daily newspapers" in the US, "extensive personal lobbying of key members of Congress", and an "extensive email, direct mail and telephone campaign to generate at least one million petitions to Congress".

This is really quite a stretch, considering that even voters in poor, Republican-dominated, Religious Right leaning Mississippi defeated a "personhood at conception" state constitutional amendment by 58% to 42%.

Senator Paul either has not read or does not agree with the constitution of his own state, which declares in its Bill of Rights, Section  5, that "No human authority shall in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience."

Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty (

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Atheism here, there, and everywhere

By Mathew Goldstein

The logical appeal of atheism transcends national borders.  Arab atheists, though few, inch out of the shadows as reported by the Times of Israel.  Atheism Africa blog features articles on atheism within Africa.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Bennett Bites the Dust

by Edd Doerr

The big news in the media today, August 2,  is that Florida school chief Tony Bennett has resigned as a result of his  alleged involvement in a charter school grade altering scandal in Indiana. The big question is why Florida Gov Rick Scott named him to head Florida's public schools scant weeks after Indiana voters had booted him out of the same job in that state. Was it because he was a favorite of former Florida Gov Jeb Bush, the reputedly smarter brother of  former President George W. Bush, and of other school pseudo-reformers given to undermining public education?

Why did Hoosier voters oust Bennett, who outspent his Democratic opponent, teacher Glenda Ritz, by 4 to 1 in what was mostly a GOP sweep in Indiana, the same day, incidentally, that Florida voters rejected a school voucher constitutional amendment by a landslide? Because Bennett was part of the sleazy conservative cabal with Gov Mitch Daniels (now president of Purdue University, appointed by the board that he himself had appointed) and the Republican state legislature that defecated on the state constitution (Article I, Sections 4 and 6) to enact the most ambitious school voucher program in the US to divert public funds to religious private schools. Bennett had made it clear during his tenure in Indiana that he disliked public schools and public school teachers and favored the corporatization of education through charter schools. Charters, you will recall, were found in June 2013 by the Stanford University CREDO project to be no net improvement over regular public schools.

But the disappearance of Tony Bennett is not enough. The conservative drives to undermine public schools, wreck teacher unions, and disintegrate K-12 education into an expensive anarchy of sectarian indoctrination centers and for-profit charter school networks are barreling ahead full steam. Americans, with 90% of our kids in financially starving public schools, need to come together and stop this nonsense -- at the ballot box. Americans for Religious Liberty ( and other organizations can use all the help we can get.