Friday, August 27, 2010

International News: Use of Government Property to Relocate NYC Mosque Raises Serious Legal Questions, Says Americans United

Virginia Attorney General’s Advisory On Religious Displays May Lead To Lawsuits, Says Americans United

Posted: 26 Aug 2010 10:30 AM PDT

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s advisory on Christmas Nativity scenes and other religious displays on public property is deeply misguided, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Cuccinelli, in an official opinion issued Aug. 20, said local governments and government employees may erect religious displays under certain circumstances. The opinion downplayed church-state separation and emphasized government accommodation of religion.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “This opinion reads more like an op-ed than a legal advisory. Cuccinelli is encouraging local governments to wade into a deeply controversial arena of the law without adequate guidance.

“This is almost certain to lead to bitter community divisiveness,” Lynn continued. “It is a green light to Religious Right activists to cajole local officials into erecting sectarian displays on public property. Unless local officials are extremely careful, this is likely to lead to lawsuits.”

Lynn said it is particularly repugnant that the attorney general is joining the Religious Right’s annual campaign to impose religion on all Americans at Christmas.

“Cuccinelli is turning Christmas, a holiday sacred to many, into another front in the culture war,” said Lynn. “That’s deplorable and about as far from the spirit of the season as you can get.

“If Cuccinelli wants to see a Nativity scene, why doesn’t he put one in his front yard at home?” Lynn asked. “He should not try to impose his personal religious beliefs on all Virginians through government action.”

Lynn also deplored Cuccinelli’s attempt to downplay the importance of church-state separation in the advisory.

The attorney general, a close ally of the Religious Right, suggested that the First Amendment is only intended to prevent government endorsement of a national religion or preference among sects. He quoted court decisions that diminish Thomas Jefferson’s view that the American people through the First Amendment have built a “wall of separation between church and state.”

Said Lynn, “When it comes to First Amendment analysis, I’ll take Thomas Jefferson’s view over Ken Cuccinnelli’s any day.The framers wanted to keep government out of religion entirely; Cuccinnelli clearly has the opposite opinion.”

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3.      Use of Government Property to Relocate NYC Mosque Raises Serious Legal Questions, Says Americans United

Congress Should Reject Conservative Religious Groups’ Call For Taxpayer-Funded Job Bias, Says Americans United

Posted: 26 Aug 2010 10:27 AM PDT

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today urged Congress to reject an appeal for public funding of “faith-based” charities that discriminate in hiring on religious grounds.

In a letter to every member of Congress today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, World Vision and other conservative religious organizations demanded that faith-based charities get government subsidies even if they hire only job applicants who meet certain religious criteria.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, “I am appalled that these religious leaders are trying to undermine the civil rights protections that every American counts on. If government pays for a social work position, every qualified applicant should be considered for the job regardless of their views on religion.

“At a time when the economy is hard-hit and a lot of people are out of work, it is disgraceful that some religious leaders want to deny government-funded job opportunities on the basis of religion,” he continued. “Members of Congress must say no to this exercise in discrimination.”

Lynn said the signers of today’s letter represent only one part of the broad spectrum of religion in America. He noted that groups representing the Jewish, Baptist, United Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Unitarian and Quaker communities have strongly opposed government-subsidized job bias.

Leading civil rights and civil liberties groups have also opposed this kind of hiring discrimination.

Lynn noted that public opinion polls show that Americans reject publicly funded faith-based bias by a wide margin. According to a 2008 Pew Research Center poll, 73 percent of Americans say organizations that hire only people who share their religious beliefs should not receive government grants.

Related articles:

1.       Virginia Attorney General’s Advisory On Religious Displays May Lead To Lawsuits, Says Americans United

2.      Use of Government Property to Relocate NYC Mosque Raises Serious Legal Questions, Says Americans United

3.      Americans United Applauds Court Ruling Against Proposition 8

SFB: 8/26/2010 Atheist Cartoon

Posted: 26 Aug 2010 10:24 AM PDT

Historian releases “Sex Rites: The Origins of Christianity”

Posted: 25 Aug 2010 06:59 PM PDT

Historian Diana Agorio has released Sex Rites: The Origins of Christianity.

Sex Rites describes the evolution of religious rituals involving sex, drugs, and human sacrifice as the foundation of Christian myth and ritual. Diana’s description of the religious rituals and myths which led up to Christianity is far more damning than the typical atheist critique of religion. In particular, it describes the outrageous suffering of children at the hands of ancient religious leaders. She describes rituals in which children were mutilated, raped, drugged, and killed, as acts of faith. She also highlights positive aspects of ancient cultures, which were the origins of humanism and secular government.

Diana Agorio began her studies of West Asia as a conservative Christian kid in Alaska. After living in Israel; then, traveling and studying ancient history for the last 25+ years, she ended up a liberal atheist. But, unlike many other atheist critics of religion, Diana knows and loves the ancient cultures which invented the Abrahamic faiths. No theist can accuse her of reading the Bible like a fundamentalist. She has an in depth knowledge of the political and economic environment which shaped the minds of the Biblical authors.

Diana graduated magna cum laude with a BS in History. Her primary fascination is with the cultures of the Bronze Age and Iron Age Levant. But, she is a generalist with historical interests ranging from Sumer, to Anatolia, to Egypt, to Greece, and Rome. Her methodology is based on meme theory, following changes in cultures as fashions, avoiding racial descriptions. This method provides a powerful new understanding of ancient peoples, describing their evolution in dynamic terms, rather than as static ethnicities. Diana makes extensive use of primary source material and cites experts in the fields of archaeology, theological studies, and art history, in scholarly journals and peer reviewed books.

A virtual book party launch is ongoing on Diana’s Facebook page. Stop by and pay a visit! Additional information about the book is also available at:

Related articles:

1.       In Brief: Religious accommodationism at Evolution 2010

2.      Disproving Christianity: A new addition to your freethought library

3.      In Brief: S.C. Gov. Race Heats Up over Haley's Religion | Politics | Christianity Today



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