Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Humanists Launch Largest National Advertising Campaign Critical of Religious Scripture

Parliamentarians discuss localism and secular public services

Posted: 09 Nov 2010 03:45 PM PST

An urgent need to protect and promote inclusive, secular public services was the clear message coming out of last night’s meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG). The BHA provides the secretariat to the APPHG, which has over 100 MPs and Peers as members from across parties.

Chaired by former minister Lord Warner, humanist parliamentarians heard from four speakers covering various aspects of the “Big Society”, the localism agenda and the contracting of public services to religious organisations.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said that the BHA’s work on public services in recent years had made clear the potential problems for discrimination by religious employers, and stated that the Big Society agenda will greatly exacerbate those problems.

Sanchita Hosali from the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) said that the Human Rights Act provides a useful framework in public services, giving extra protection for those who may not be covered by equality legislation.

Speaking particularly on the impact in employment, Richard Exell from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said that the more jobs were taken religious organisations contracted to provide public services, the less job opportunities there would be for people who do not share that faith.

Pragna Patel from Southall Black Sisters raised serious issues of the impact on vulnerable women of having often socially conservative and discriminatory religious groups provide services. Ms Patel said there had been a communalisation of Asian communities, with the reorganisation of resources along faith lines only.

Following the speakers there was in depth discussion by MPs and Peers of the issues raised. The BHA will be supporting members of the APPHG as they take forward work in parliament on localism, public services and the “Big Society”.


Read more about the BHA’s work on public service reform, human rights, equalities, and Government and “faith communities”.

The BHA provides the Secretariat for the APPHG but it is not affiliated to, or part of, the BHA. For more information about the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, see

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Humanists Launch Largest National Advertising Campaign Critical of Religious Scripture

Posted: 09 Nov 2010 03:37 PM PST

A national multimedia ad campaign – the largest, most extensive ever by a godless organization – launches today and will include a spot on NBC Dateline on Friday, November 12, as well as other television ads, that directly challenge biblical morality and fundamentalist Christianity. The campaign, sponsored by the American Humanist Association, also features ads in major national and regional newspapers and magazines demonstrating that secular humanist values are consistent with mainstream America and that fundamentalist religion has no right to claim the moral high ground.

The ads juxtapose notable humanist quotes with passages from religious texts, including the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Quran. The ads then ask the audience to “Consider Humanism.” One example is the following pairing: The Bible: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” I Timothy 2 (New International Version) Humanism: “The rights of men and women should be equal and sacred—marriage should be a perfect partnership.” Robert G. Ingersoll, in a letter dated April 13, 1878.

Another pairing is: The Bible: “The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.” God, Hosea 13:16 (New International Version) Humanism: “I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own—a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty.” Albert Einstein, column for The New York Times, Nov. 9, 1930

To see images and videos of the ads and find more information about the campaign please visit:

“Humanist values are mainstream American values, and this campaign will help many people realize that they are already humanists and just did not know the term,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Humanists believe in and value love, equality, peace, freedom and reason – values that are comparable to those of moderate and liberal religious people.”

In addition to the television ad on NBC, ads will also be displayed on cable channels. Print ads will appear in major newspapers, including USA Today, the Seattle Times, the Village Voice, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Independent Triangle, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and magazines, including Reason and The Progressive. Ads will also appear on Metro trains in Washington, D.C., on billboards on I-95 near Philadelphia and in Moscow, Idaho, and on buses in select cities.

“We want to reach people in every corner of the U.S., from all walks of life, to raise the flag for humanists and show others that they have more in common with us than with biblical literalists,” said Speckhardt.

“It’s important that people recognize that a literal reading of religious texts is completely out of touch with mainstream America,” Speckhardt added. “Although religious texts can teach good lessons, they also advocate fear, intolerance, hate and ignorance. It’s time for all moderate people to stand up against conservative religion’s claim on a moral monopoly.”

All quotes from religious texts were checked by scripture scholars to ensure accuracy, context and proper translation.

The Stiefel Freethought Foundation was the primary sponsor of the Consider Humanism campaign with a $150,000 donation. Another $50,000 was raised from supporters of the American Humanist Association for the launch of this campaign, bringing the total ad buy to $200,000 so far.

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Ancient lessons on modern life

Posted: 09 Nov 2010 03:28 PM PST

The Ancient Guide to Modern Life, a recently released non-fiction title by Natalie Haynes, writer, comedian and British Humanist Association (BHA) Distinguished Supporter, is “a salient reminder of the significant continued legacy of a long tradition of non-religious ethical thinking,” according to BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson.

Mr Copson continues, “This lively, considered and entertaining account of the impact of the classical world on our own is an important reminder of how the work of ancient thinkers permeates down the generations, and continues to influence a broad spectrum of our cultural life; from language to social and political views.

“Haynes vividly demonstrates how humanist ideas of making sense of the world through reason and human experience are present at some of the earliest stages of recorded political and philosophical discourse. This strain of non-religious ethical thought, most of which pre-dates the majority of monotheistic religions, is deeply ingrained in our culture and our understanding of what constitutes fair and just society.”

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What Ever Happened To Separation Of Powers?

Posted: 09 Nov 2010 12:01 AM PST

If someone were to arrive the United States today, having no knowledge of our past, they would quickly get the idea from the most common assertions currently being made that the main concern of the country’s founders was religion. The assertion by the religious right that the country was founded as a “Christian nation” and its citizens should, therefore, “return” to a religious frame of mind has overtaken the normal conversations about the country’s historical beginnings.

Articles of Confederation

Religion, however, was not the main issue of the time.

In the first attempt to create a root document on which to found an alliance of some sort between the states–The Articles of Confederation (completed in 1777 and ratified in 1781)–religion is only mentioned once, and only as part of a larger list of issues for which a concerted and coordinated defense would be mounted by the individual states.

The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.

(As an interesting note, the term “country” is not even used. “States” is offered instead, giving another major hint as to the mindset of the founders.)

When the U.S. Constitution eventually replaced the Articles of Confederation in 1787, religion wasn’t mentioned at all. Not until the first ten amendments were added at the end of 1791 (known as the Bill of Rights) did religion get mentioned, and then very briefly. Like the Articles of Confederation, it’s included as one part of a larger list of issues, meaning it doesn’t stand out as particularly noteworthy.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It’s never been mentioned since.

So, what was the major issue? Arguably, separation of powers–along with checks and balances–that’s what, in order to eliminate the concentration of power so it couldn’t be exercised unchecked.

Anger with the English monarchy and its exercise of power without (or with little) discussion or consultation with “the colonies” was the major catalyst for the revolution to have taken place. It was natural, then, for the issue of concentration of power to be paramount. The fear was so great that it resulted in a document so weak that the “league of friendship” it formed soon failed.

The Articles of Confederation was not written about this idea directly, however. It was a purposely weak document, though, not meant to form a country at all, really–at least not how we think of a country today. The terms used to describe what was being created are “Confederacy,” “union” and “league of friendship.” Country is never used in this document or its eventual replacement, the U.S. Constitution.

The term “United States” is used, but it is not used as a proper name, only a descriptor of the arrangement being agreed to. For example, in Article IX of the Articles of Confederation, begins…”The united States in congress assembled, shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war…” The phrase “the united States in congress assembled” is used 25 times within an overall use of “united States” or “United States” 59 times.

When the constitutional convention produced the replacement for the Article of Confederation, the result was much different, spelling out much more clearly how power will be diffused. The U.S. Constitution is organized with it’s first three articles separating powers between the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch–one article for each. The fourth article, “The States,” is arguably a fourth point of separation. (The final articles, V-VII, are housekeeping procedures, mostly.)

The Articles of Confederation has no such clearly outlined format contained within it.

U.S. Constitution

Given this environment–and the resulting documents–is it more likely that a system that includes a single religion holding sway would have been considered a good thing, or that keeping religion out of governemnt be the wise thing to do?  

If someone were to arrive the United States today, having no knowledge of our past, and was given these two documents, along with copies of the debates in which the signers were engaged, there is no way that person would be able to extract religion as a major force in the process. Yet, in the 21st century, that is the assertion being made. Millions are falling for it.

It is likely time for professional historians to become political and stand up to the distortions being asserted. This falsehood of a “Christian nation” is not being challenged by those who have the credentials to do so. As a result, the major media outlets have no opposing voices from which to pull, resulting in the growth of false beliefs about the country.

A recent article in Newsweek tells us that, among other scary things Americans hold true, “Only two out of five respondents … can correctly identify the executive, legislative, and judicial branches as the three wings of government.” How can a country’s citizens know the truth about its founding if they don’t even know the principles on which it was founded?

E Pluribus Unum is being replaced by In God We Trust, a phrase the founders would have never even considered.

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Oklahoma Sharia ban blocked; Still has nothing to do with Ten Commandments

Posted: 08 Nov 2010 08:44 PM PST

A Federal judge today blocked Oklahoma’s ban on Sharia law. Does this undo the gleefully-reported side effect of the measure, which supposedly “banned” the Ten Commandments? No. The Ten Commandments were never banned . . . because they aren’t the basis of judicial decisions.

On November 2, 2010, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 755 by a 7-to-3 margin. The measure, called the “Save Our State Amendment”, would require that judges be restricted to considering only Federal and state laws:

This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.

International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.

The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.

Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.

Shall the proposal be approved?

This proposal had two intended impacts. First, the most obvious, to strike a pre-emptive blow against the spread of Islam. The second, to block implementation of UN resolutions or regulations which are not ratified at either the Oklahoma state or the Federal level.

The reference to international law was unnecessary. As Jess Bravin at the Wall Street Journal notes:

Neither the laws of foreign countries nor international law, which concerns dealings among nations, ever have been binding on state or federal courts. The Constitution authorizes the federal government to make treaties, which, like acts of Congress, are the “supreme law of the land,” binding state judges and superseding state constitutions.

State and federal judges occasionally cite in their opinions nonbinding materials for context or to illustrate points. References to Shakespeare and Bob Dylan, as well as to the courts of other nations and international courts, have been used in this way.

Long story short, measure passed in landslide, Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) sued, claiming the amendment violated the First Amendment to the US Constitution, and U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange issued an injunction blocking certification of the vote until the case is heard.

Caught up? Good.

In the meantime, a single law professor has been widely quoted (and misquoted) as suggesting that the passage of this amendment has “banned the Ten Commandments“:

Rick Tepker, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma School of Law believes the “Save Our State” constitutional amendment may have the unwanted side effect of preventing judges from referencing the Ten Commandments. Tepker called the measure “a mess.”

“Many of us who understand the law are scratching our heads this morning, laughing so we don’t cry,” he told CNN. “I would like to see Oklahoma politicians explain if this means that the courts can no longer consider the Ten Commandments. Isn’t that a precept of another culture and another nation? The result of this is that judges aren’t going to know when and how they can look at sources of American law that were international law in origin.”

International law is described clearly in the ballot question . . . and it has a specific meaning which does not include “laws which may have been derived from laws of other nations at some point in the distant past”.

Meanwhile, it appears that the actual measure text was not of great interest to anyone in the media.

The Courts provided for in subsection A of this section, when exercising their judicial authority, shall uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the United States Constitution, the Oklahoma Constitution, the United States Code, federal regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, established common law, the Oklahoma Statutes and rules promulgated pursuant thereto, and if necessary the law of another state of the United States provided the law of the other state does not include Sharia Law, in making judicial decisions. The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia Law. The provisions of this subsection shall apply to all cases before the respective courts including, but not limited to, cases of first impression.

Coming from the mainstream media, bloggers, and online discussion forums, derisive laughter is spewing toward those silly Oklahomans who have just learned about “the law of unintended consequences” by “banning the Ten Commandments”.

Given that the United States is a nation composed predominantly of Christians (78%, plus or minus), I can’t see how a Biblical reference is that of “other nations or cultures”. However, the suggestion that the Ten Commandments are “banned from judicial decisions” suggests that they, or quotes from any religious books, have a place there to begin with . . . beyond Bravin’s aforementioned “nonbinding materials for context or to illustrate points.”

I am curious. Which of the Ten Commandments does Tepker believe to be presently enforced in Oklahoma, by reference to the Book of Exodus or the Book of Deuteronomy?

Murder, adultery, theft, and perjury (Commandments 6, 7, 8, and 9) are covered by Oklahoma statutes. Three of these are also presently Federal crimes. The fact that modern Oklahomans consider violent crime, breach of marital vows, property crimes, and false testimony worthy of punishment does not mean that they got the idea from ancient Jews . . . or from the Code of Hammurabi, for that matter.

Six of the Ten Commandments are, in fact, widely ignored in Oklahoma:

§ People have gods before Yahweh (Commandment #1, “no gods before me”). Oklahoma, despite the desires of some, is not a Christian theocracy.

§ There are plenty of Catholic churches, full of idols. Commandment #2 is out the (stained glass) window.

§ There’s no law against taking the name of the Lord in vain. So much for #3.

§ People do not remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy; no, they go to stores and bars, they work and do all sorts of things, trampling #4 in the process.

§ #5? Honor thy father and mother? Not since Roseanne came on TV.

§ Coveting of your neighbor’s wife, your neighbor’s ass, your neighbor’s wife’s ass, whatever. Last I checked, envy was perfectly legal. Ta ta, #10.

Are the Ten Commandments the basis of any laws in Oklahoma? I don’t believe so. Tepker’s words, and the rapid spread of “Ten Commandments Banned in Oklahoma, Ha Ha” articles across the Internet, serve only to reinforce the mistaken belief that the Bible is the foundation of the American legal system . . . exactly what the Religious Right would like us all to believe.

Tepker used SQ 755 to candy-coat the Religious Right’s lie and the media hyped a story colorful as a Skittles ad. Secularists across the country eagerly gulped it down, ignoring the fact that they, themselves, were reinforcing the “Christian nation/Christian principles” lie with their HFCS-induced euphoria.

I’m sorry, but that’s one toxic rainbow I have no desire to taste.

Related articles:

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