President Obama goes after the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill

At the National Prayer breakfast this morning President Obama made some comments on The Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill.

“We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are — whether it’s here in the United States or … more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda,”

This was in response to the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill that would put punishments on gays, lesbians, and  transgendered people.  The punishments range from life imprisonment to death for those that practice that kind of lifestyle. This bill which was being pushed by  The Family.  The Family aka The Fellowship aka The Foundation is a secretive group for politicians and other high-ranking officials to go around and practice their Bible studies and general god talk.  They’re members include,Rep. John Ensign and former Gov. Mark  Sanford.

The best part of this however is that President Obama made these remarks at The Family’s sponsored event, The National Prayer Breakfast.  I really was disappointed that the President was actually going to attend the event, however this makes it a little better.  I still think that him going constitutes a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  How is going to a Christian Prayer service, while bringing other heads of state, not saying that “Hey yeah the government likes this religion”?

Hopefully next year will be different and Mr. Obama will stay back and start to distance himself from events like these, or at least maybe attend a Secular Humanist Breakfast?


Help Recognize Darwin Day

The American Humanist Association is running a Darwin Day campaign,

We need our elected leaders to speak out about the importance of scientific knowledge and its contribution to the advancement of humanity, and send a signal that religious infiltration into our science classrooms will not be tolerated. That’s why we’re asking you to sign our petition urging President Obama to recognize Darwin Day.

To sign the petition go here

Getting recognition like this is one of the many steps President Obama can make to promote science, something his budget and initiatives have said , lets hope this is another.

I joined the SSA yesterday

I signed up as a non-student member of the Secular Student Alliance yesterday.  This allows me to vote in SSA board elections, and have access to certain forum topics visible to members only.  Needless to say I expected to see a thriving community with the membership, a forum with many topics and a range of things to discuss and share with others.

I was unfortunately disappointed.

The site is basically structured as a forum with only the topics visible as static pages, with no replies as far as I can see(maybe there just weren’t any).  I tried to find the forum main page, so I could see all the sub-forums and topics and couldn’t.  I noticed at the top in my address bar that the address for the page I was on was so I trimmed it to just the forum part and saw the normal forum look that you’d see with something like PHPBB. I started reading and noticed that it was basically the menu to the left on the page, sigh.  I checked through some of the topics, the jobs and volunteer topics specifically, and noticed that most of the topics were ,on average, a year or so old.  I would have thought there would have been an active online community there thriving, and discussing a variety of issues.  I hope that will change in the future, or that they will get a better discussion forum going for us members.

Maybe I’m just missing something, I’d be very happy to be wrong on this one.

A Bad Ruling

An appeals court has overturned a ruling that the Ten Commandments can not be displayed in Grayson County Kentucky’s courthouse.   The display of the Ten Commandments was put up as part of an educational display to display the foundations of law.  Also included in the display was the Magna Carta as well as the Declaration of Independence and a few other documents.  The display was put up after a Baptist minister suggested it:

The minister said he wanted the commandments posted “to keep government from pushing God out,” but mentioned putting up other documents so the display might not be challenged, according to a court document.

The fiscal court gave its approval, and the preacher paid for the documents and hung them.

–Via the Lexington Herald Leader

The Emphasis is mine.

The minister knew that what he was doing violated the first amendment establishment clause and then tried to skirt around it!  The majority opinion from the court  basically says they don’t know if the fiscal court meant to have it as a religious display or a historical display, that only the minister meant it.  This is like someone saying hey you like cheeseburgers then agreeing and then later saying no I didn’t say I liked cheeseburgers.  The lower court had this one right and I really hope that the ACLU of KY appeals this one.

You can find the opinions of the court here

The minister said he wanted the commandments posted “to keep government from pushing God out,” but mentioned putting up other documents so the display might not be challenged, according to a court document.

The fiscal court gave its approval, and the preacher paid for the documents and hung them.

A Bad Law…with a bit of an upside.

The Kentucky House today passed a bill that would allow for the creation of  license plates that bears “In God we Trust” on it as an alternative to the general plate that is given to Kentuckians at no charge.  Now I know that as our “national motto”, (and I use that loosely), the phrase does not come without controversy.  Yet just last year this happened:

The Transportation Cabinet rejected that request, saying that the group promotes a “specific faith or religious position.”

Unfortunately since this is a Kentucky congressional matter it most likely won’t be held up to the same standards as a private group would.  I urge you to write to your state senator and ask them to oppose this as it basically discriminates against people who don’t trust in god, mainly atheists, agnostics, and non-theists.  Thankfully the transportation cabinet denied the group who applied for a specialty plate last year, on the grounds that it violated KRS186.162(pdf) The specific section are as follows:

(e)The group shall not have as its primary purpose the promotion of any specific faith, religion, or antireligion;

Unfortunately, the license plates are being put into the same section of law as the general license plate requirements section which will basically bypass the special group requirements.  The specific bill  creates/amends sections of the Kentucky Revised Statutes(Kentucky Law) ; it can be found here.

One good bit of new from all of this, one representative voted against the bill, Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville.  I will personally be writing her to thank her for taking the right stance on this and sticking up for those who don’t believe in a god or gods, and I’d encourage every Kentuckian out there to do the same.  I’m sure she’s catching lots of flak from people for voting against it.  Let’s let her know that we appreciate that kind of stance in our legislature.

Update: The corresponding Kentucky Senate bill is SB 36