Thursday, September 9, 2010

International: Burning Qur'ans: Don't Hate, Celebrate!

FFRF qualifies again for federal charitable campaign

Posted: 08 Sep 2010 10:17 AM PDT

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has once again qualified for inclusion in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC).

The CFC is the only officially sanctioned program for soliciting federal government employees on behalf of charitable organizations. The CFC conducts annual campaigns in the workplace and allows federal employees to make donations through payroll deductions or other forms of payment to an approved list of charities. It’s part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was first included on the CFC list of eligible charities in 2008. “Federal workers had contacted the Foundation in the past, noting the many religious charities on the listing, and wishing there were a nontheist alternative,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president.

“We’re delighted to announce now again in 2010 that our activities throughout the United States, including the many scholarships we grant students, helped FFRF meet the rigorous eligibility criteria,” Gaylor said.
To the Foundation’s knowledge, it’s the only freethought group on the list, which includes hundreds of religious groups. All dues and donations to FFRF are deductible for income-tax purposes.

“Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.” will appear in the listing of “National/International Independent Organizations” that’s published in each local campaign charity list in the early fall.

The solicitation period for 2010 campaign donations is Sept. 1 through Dec. 15, 2010. Deadlines vary by region. The CFC code that donors will use to designate their contribution to FFRF is 32519.


Another way to give is via matching grant donations, which have become a significant boost to FFRF in recent years. Many companies offer to match (fully or a percentage of) their employees’ donations to charitable nonprofits. These matches multiply the impact of the initial donation to further FFRF’s goals.

Charity Navigator gives FFRF its highest rating of four stars, which means “exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its cause.”

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Religious Prejudice in Hawaiian Campaign Ads

Posted: 08 Sep 2010 10:10 AM PDT

Neil Abercrombie. Image: Hawaii News Now

Religiously motivated attacks have been launched on one of Hawaii’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Neil Abercrombie. The claims, which declare Abercrombie’s voting record “anti-Christian”, were produced by Island Values, a group comprised in part of volunteers and supporters of Muffi Hannemann, Abercrombie’s Democratic primary opponent.

“There are acceptable and unacceptable candidates,” the Island Values statement read. “Neil Abercrombie is unacceptable. He declares no religious affiliation. In Congress he voted for partial birth abortion, and human cloning and it’s no secret he will enact same sex marriage. Unacceptable.”

“This attack on Neil Abercrombie is filled with blatant religious prejudice that has no place in a productive, civil campaign” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Religious affiliation doesn’t indicate how qualified a candidate is to serve the public. Claims that having no religion is ‘unacceptable’ are inconsistent with the intent of our nation’s founding fathers.”

The U.S. Constitution’s No Religious Test Clause, Article VI, paragraph 3, states “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

“The AHA, while taking no sides in the electoral process, is supportive of balanced civic participation,” said Speckardt, “and it is critical of any effort to disqualify candidates who happen to be humanists, freethinkers, or simply wish to keep their religious affiliation a private matter.”

Instead, Island Values encourages Republican voters to pull Democratic Party ballots in the primary and vote for Abercrombie’s opponent, Democrat Mufi Hannemann. But even the Republican leadership is appalled.

“I think it’s an act of desperation on the part of Mufi Hannemann and his supporters obviously knowing they are behind amongst democrat primary voters they’re trying to convince republicans to vote for him, it’s a pattern of deception and misrepresentation,” said Dylan Nonaka, Hawaii Republican Party Executive Director. “It’s Mufi Hannemann’s M.O. it’s what he’s been doing all along and it gives us even more reason to believe his people are behind it.”

Further evidence? The deputy treasurer of Island Values is attorney Kenneth Wong. Until recently, Wong’s name appeared on Hannemann’s website, as a member of the Hannemann Committee. His name has since been removed from Hannemann’s site.

Says Abercrombie, “This time [Hannemann] is using religion to attempt to divide us, to attack my integrity and character. I will repeat: this is not what a governor does. This is not what someone running for governor should be doing. The first time he did it, I said I was calling him on it. Now that he is doing it again, I’m asking you the voters to call him on it.”

An Abercrombie campaign spokesman states that Abercrombie is Episcopalian.

Abercrombie’s campaign website may be found HERE.

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Burning Qur’ans: Don’t Hate, Celebrate!

Posted: 08 Sep 2010 09:14 AM PDT

Perhaps burning a Qur’an is not ‘OK’ as the act of informed and enlightened individuals within a civil society, but that doesn’t mean that Pastor Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach congregation, numbering around only 50, don’t have the right to do it. Unless those Qur’ans are stolen, or having a fire violates an ordinance, those people have the right to burn their own property.

The fact that evangelical Christians are exercising their right to burn these books is their unwitting acknowledgement that Muslims have the right to build a Mosque at Park51, and expand the existing one in Murfreesboro Tennessee. Offensiveness, insensitivity, ignorance, and bigotry, are not a reason to deny Constitutional guarantees. Both groups are exercising their constitutionally protected rights to freedom of religion, speech, and expression.

If Christians can burn the book that Muslims consider holy on the final day of Ramadan, Muslims can build a Mosque a few blocks from the site of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Although the burning of books does not equate to mass murder, the principles that apply are the same.

The attacks were reportedly committed by terrorists and fundamentalists, not all Muslims. This blanket application of blame is no more appropriate than if blame were to be applied to all Christians for the Olympic Centennial bombing, the Oklahoma City attack, or Pastor Jones and his flock of misguided pyromaniacs. Christians blaming all Muslims for the attacks of 9/11 is no different than Muslims declaring Jihad against all Christians for the actions of a few.

If the reaction to this demonstration causes any loss of life or property it will be the responsibility of those committing those action, not of the demonstrators. Taunting someone does not give that individual the right to strike their antagonist. Violence is not an acceptable response to non-violence, regardless of how offensive. Barbaric threats and intimidation cannot be allowed to erode constitutional freedoms whether they are issued by Islamic Extremists or Christian Nationalists.

No religion has the right to use threats or violence to stop another religion from voicing or demonstrating its dissent. There are very real concerns about triggering a backlash of violence from Islamic communities around the world that may endanger civilians and military, both Christian and Muslim. If there is a way to prevent this, it must be explored and attempted. The true crime would be a violent reaction to a peaceful, allbeit ignorant and inflammatory, demonstration.

Pastor Jones has stated that his intention is to send a message. In addition to his twisted logic that the burning of Qur’ans in some way honors those that died on September 11, 2001, many of whom were Muslim, he wants to send a message to Islam that he will not tolerate Sharia law or radical Islam. Apparently radical Christianity is OK. Although no one is attempting to introduce, let alone impose, any Sharia law in the united states, he feels it’s important for him to make this statement.

Rather than burn Qur’ans, which, other than simply being distasteful, reminds everyone of Nazi fascism, Pastor Jones might be better served in his goal of preventing Sharia law by convincing his Christian brethren to assist in honoring, and therefore strengthening, the First Amendment, rather than continuously trying to subvert it. For all the disagreements that may exist about the true nature of the relationship, or division, between Church and State, one thing that receives almost universal acceptance is the principle that all religions are equal, and no religion has rights not afforded to any other.

If Christians continue to insist that their doctrine must be considered in legislation, and that no legislation should pass that does not adhere to their religion, they must be prepared to allow the same rights and influence to other religions. If Christians want to ban the building of Mosques in certain areas, they must be prepared to have the same restrictions placed on their own building and expansion plans. If Christians insist on legislation that discriminates against homosexuals, and women’s reproductive rights, they must be prepared to allow Sharia legislation that they feel discriminates against women in other ways. If Christians want to insist that their creation story, prayers, and devotions, be taught in public schools and performed in public gatherings, they must be prepared to allow the same for all other religions.

The work of evangelical Christians to impose Christian doctrine on the rest of society benefits all religions. If Christians are allowed to continue to impose their religious requirements on the rest of society, they must be prepared to allow the same for all other religions. If society continues to allow Christians to impose their doctrine, society must be prepared to accept the same influence from all religions. Equal protection under the law for all, minorities included. That is what the constitution guarantees. No one religion can have institutionalized preference through government or law. What is allowed to one religion must be allowed to all religions.

If Pastor Jones wants to keep Sharia law out of the American system he should work to keep Christian biblical law out of the American system. The only way to protect Americans from the imposition of any religious law, is to protect Americans from the imposition of all religious law. This is why the founding fathers established the separation of church and state. This is why the First Amendment, and Article 6, section 3, of the Constitution exist. Where the First Amendment makes it very clear that government should stay out of religion, preceding that, as part of the original Constitution, Article 6 makes it very clear that religion should stay out of government.

The best way to counteract the acts of division, hatred, and bigotry, that will be on display this September 11, will be to have even larger displays of inclusion, tolerance, and acceptance. Rather than telling Muslims that they need to tone down their celebration for the conclusion of Ramadan, Christians should join them and throw a bash that would drown out the insanity of the ironically named Dove World Outreach center in Florida, and the Islamophobes preparing to descend on the site of the Park 51 Mosque in Manhattan. It would also send a message to Muslims and Christians around the world perhaps preventing the mayhem that General Petraeus fears, and Pastor Jones seems intent on causing.

General Petraeus may want to get creative and consider similar acts of diplomacy rather than interfere with Pastor Jones embarrassing display. If a violent reaction is possible from the Afghan people, he may want to consider what actions he can take to counter the misrepresentation of Americans being provided by America’s Conservative Christians, American Christian Nationalists, and the likes of Pastor Jones. Support, food, and general assistance in throwing the biggest and best end of Ramadan party that Kabul has ever seen might be a good start. Other than that, as a General of the military, Petraeus should be concerned with protecting the freedoms of American citizens, not limiting them in order to make his job easier.

An emergency meeting of religious leaders was held at the White House today. Condemnation for both the burning of Qur’ans, as well as the general tide of Islamophobia sweeping the nation, was declared. The group specifically cited the silent accent for this growing environment of fear and intolerance from conservative politicians. They called for education and understanding, and issued strong statements of unity and called for pluralistic coexistence. These leaders represented the vast majority of believers of all the main religions in America. Unfortunately, that vast majority does not include the extremists who are causing the problem.

The conflict is not between Christian or Muslim, but between rational people and irrational people. It’s between enlightened individuals and ignorant haters. The conflict is between the majority of the population and the fundamentalists. Everyone needs to take a stand against extremists. Rational and responsible individuals need to rise up against religious fundamentalism.

If Americans, Christian and Muslim alike, really want to end the hatred being spread by the very vocal religious right; rather than choose between either protesting or hiding on September 11, they will come together. Muslims, invite your Christian neighbors to the end of Ramadan. Christians, call your Muslim friends, or the local Mosque, and ask if you can invite yourself. Throw a party that will make the protesters and Qur’an burners look like the ignorant, hate-filled minority of malcontents that they are. Muslims shouldn’t have to hide from the Christian haters in America, and Christians should not have to fear the reaction of Islamic haters. Ignore those bent on causing division. Drown them out. Turn up the volume and throw the biggest, most inclusive Ramadan party the country has ever seen.

In the spirit of practicing what I’m preaching, I called the local mosque. I introduced myself and stated in no uncertain terms that I am an atheist, an anti-theist, a Secular Humanist. I told the gentleman that I’m interested in supporting freedom of religion, because it guarantees me freedom from religion. I stated that I wanted to support the right of Muslims to worship and celebrate the end of Ramadan, and not have their rights, and by extension mine, to worship or not, limited or eliminated. Their party is on private property, not at city hall.

So, on Saturday evening, I’m going to do something I do on many Saturday evenings. I’m going to party with people whom I don’t share a belief system with. I’m going to spit in the eye of hatred and spend some time with people that are willing to spend some time with me. I may not like religion, but I love people, and I love a good party. Screw the book burners and protesters, Liam’s going to Eid ul-Fitr.

Related articles:

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3.      President Obama and the ‘No Religious Test’ Clause


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