ACLU to Represent Mayfield, KY Muslims

In Mayfield, Ky a local group of Muslims was recently denied a zoning permit for them to use a spot in a strip mall as a mosque.  Originally the zoning board approved the permit but after public outcry, the decision was revoked.  Another meeting was arranged so the public could comment on record,however when a representative from the Muslim community arrived to make the Muslim community’s case , he was turned away at the door because the room was full of all other locals, many if not all of them opposed to the plan. The permit was denied due to “inadequate parking”, the allocated space for the rented section of the strip mall only had 6 spaces. You can read more about the decision via the local NPR station.

Thankfully the ACLU has taken up the case:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Kentucky have agreed to represent Khadar Ahmed, a resident of Mayfield, Kentucky, who was denied a permit last month by the Mayfield Board of Zoning Adjustment to operate a Muslim worship center in the town’s central business district.

Michael Aldridge, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kentucky [said,] “The fact that Mr. Ahmed was initially granted a permit and then had it taken away without there being any change in circumstances is troubling.”

“Preventing any group from freely practicing their faith is unlawful and contrary to core American values,” said Daniel Mach, Director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “While we remain open to alternative avenues of resolution, governmental actions that have the effect of denying individuals the right to practice their religion must be challenged.”

Hopefully the local Mayfield Government will realize that they made a huge mistake and will do the right thing before they cost themselves and the citizens of Mayfield lots of money in a legal battle.

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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

A few interesting things…

I figured I’d post a few links to some sites/blogs/podcasts I frequent

  • Friendly Atheist – Hemant Mehta’s site, features an advice column from an atheist as well as general atheism/secular news.
  • Pharyngula – PZ Myers’s Blog featuring topics confronting evolution denial to general secular news to polls and more.  A great site if you’ve only got time to read one blog out there.
  • The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe – a weekly podcast covering lots of topics from the skeptical point of view.  They also do interviews with lots of skeptics/freethinkers and bring up good news, with a focus on medicine,biology, and emerging technology.
  • NPR’s Science Friday – A great show that is all about scientific discoveries and debates that are ongoing in science, as well as Science’s role in the government and politics.
  • Bad Astronomy – Phil Plait’s blog about Skepticism, Astronomy news and general “sciency” stuff.

I also tend to use the SkepDad’s link site for lots of good blogs and podcasts and such.

First Post

Well this is my first little adventure into the blogosphere, one I hope that
will last for a while.  I'm guessing I should provide a bit of background
on myself and how I got here to start with. 

I grew up in a town in central Kentucky about an hour away from Louisville;
I started my education with a Montessori School run by the Sisters of Charity
and stayed there through kindergarten.  There I learned my first intro
into science and my first intro into religion through their approach at
teaching.  They let us kids explore and pick the subjects we wished to
study, providing hand's on activities that showed us the concepts and skills we
needed to think about subjects ourselves.  These were much more than the
simple puzzles with different shapes, I specifically remember the teachers
there sitting down with each individual student to go over items with us. One
activity sits in my mind; it had a series of beads divided into units that the
teacher would explain to us. A single bead showed us ones, ten beads strung
together showed us tens, ten of those strings strung together showed us what a
hundred looked like, and ten of those showed us what a thousand looked
like.  Another interesting byproduct of that exercise I realized later was
that it got us thinking in dimensions early on.  One bead being a point,
tens being a line, hundreds being 2d objects and thousands being 3d
objects. 

This sort of interactive thinking I believe had some part in coming to where
I am today as a skeptic, atheist and more.  While this sort of teaching
that my preschool/kindergarten gave me was well and good they started with the
Christian teachings early too.  I remember us always doing a Christmas
program and an Easter program recounting the specific tales of Christ being
born, the magi coming to visit, the Stations of the Cross and the story of the
resurrection being shown to our parents in sheets made to be tunics and robes,
with fake beards and miniature props for us tiny kids. 

After kindergarten my parents proceeded to enroll me in the local Catholic
grade school, there a new subject was added to my curriculum besides the usual
of math, spelling, reading, science and social studies.  Religion of
course wasn't just any ole religion it was basically Catholic Sunday school
during the afternoon.  Here I went through all the rituals of my first
reconciliation and Eucharist, I also later completed the act of Confirmation at
school however I was already on my way to where I am today at that point. 

I do have several things to be grateful for though for attending the school
I did, mostly in the junior high years there.  I had a few teachers whom I
greatly appreciate now for challenging my ability to think critically. 
One was my7th grade reading/social studies teacher.  He introduced us to
the other religions besides just Catholicism or Christianity, something nearly
all the other teachers at the school had done.  He introduced these
through his blend of Christianity and eastern religions, specifically Buddhism. 
He taught us some about the 7chakras of the body and some about karma; he also
showed us several films on Buddhism and Hinduism the title of which have long
since eluded me.  This started my thinking of how in the world we knew
that Catholicism or any other religion was correct and how we knew what in the
bible was true and what wasn’t (something I decided to look into on my own when
I reached college) 

The other teacher whom I very much appreciate now is my junior high science
teacher, a man that was a RN at a local Nursing Home in his time not at
school.  Our first few weeks we had him in6th Grade he made us memorize
all of the major bones of the body, all of which I can name still to this
day.  He also instilled in me and my classmates an understanding of the
scientific method and, something to which I'm very, very thankful for and think
needs to be taught in all schools, the difference between a scientific theory
and the general language usage of theory.  He also gave us a pretty great
understanding of general science and biology (sans evolution, though most high
school people have trouble with this).  He opened my mind to the wonderful
world of science and helped start me on my path to skepticism. 

That basically gives some background on me, and kind of how I got started to
me being here.  I'd love to hear feedback from anyone out there and look
forward to blogging more. It will probably be more of my background and whatnot
for now until I find my stride with this.