Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 3
April 4, 2014
Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible.
The Main Events
Leighann Lord to Perform at Women in Secularism III
Exciting news for Women in Secularism III, as comedian Leighann Lord is slated to perform for the conference’s special Saturday night dinner event! Brilliantly funny both on stage and on the web, Leighann has also been the face of two major CFI outreach campaigns, most recently the Living without Religion campaign. The complete schedule for Women in Secularism III is now online, so register now and make sure you also get your separate ticket for the Saturday night dinner with Leighann Lord!
The Supreme Court Hears Hobby Lobby Arguments
The Hobby Lobby case challenging the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act is one that we at CFI have been deeply invested in, creating a handy resource page, filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, and joining with allies in the Coalition for Liberty & Justice in opposing Hobby Lobby’s position. Our CEO Ron Lindsay saw the arguments before the Supreme Court in person and wrote about his impressions at the CFI blog, reporting that the majority of the Justices “appear prepared to accept Hobby Lobby’s claim, and with it a radical restructuring of the relationship between religion and government.” We’ll continue to track this case and work on this crucial issue.
Camp Inquiry 2014, August 3–9 in Holland, NY: “CI is DIY!”
Camp Inquiry is coming! We know that young skeptics already possess the essential foundations for discovery and inquiry: curiosity and imagination. Camp Inquiry will provide them with hands-on learning experiences and guidance from some of today’s brightest minds, giving them the tools they’ll need to apply rationality, creativity, and critical thinking to the world they’re getting ready to lead. Find out more by visiting campinquiry.org.
Religious Exemption or Religious Privilege?
Our Office of Public Policy has been hard at work lobbying the Senate to reject a bill recently passed in the House that would create a broad religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act. As of this writing, you can still urge your U.S. Senators to reject this bill.
Say “No” to Public Funding of Religious Schools
At the same time, we’ve been working with the National Coalition for Public Education to lobby against a series of bills moving through Congress that, if passed, would direct the majority of federal funding for public education toward school vouchers for private and religious schools. There’s still time to get out ahead of these, so contact your representatives in Congress and tell them to oppose these bills.
News from HQ
Florida Sheriff Sponsors Prayer Event
We recently learned that the Sheriff’s Department of Vero Beach, Florida, was a named sponsor of a Christian prayer breakfast, even using prisoners to provide state-funded printing services for the event free of charge. CFI’s legal director, Nicholas Little, wrote a letter to the Sheriff protesting the office’s sponsorship, which violates both the U.S. and Florida constitutions. Stay tuned for forthcoming developments.
Edwin Kagin, 1940-2014
Longtime secular activist Edwin Kagin, a founder of Camp Quest and national legal director of American Atheists, died last week at the age of 73. Our own Tom Flynn shared some of his thoughts about him, saying, “To call Edwin Kagin bombastic or colorful is to concede the inadequacy of language.” Read the whole statement here. We offer our sincere condolences to his friends, family, and colleagues.
A Call for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
In the lead-up to President Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia on March 28, CFI was one of several non-governmental organizations to sign on to a letter from 70 members of Congress of all ideological stripes urging the president to raise the issue of human rights violations with Saudi King Abdullah. Read more about the letter in this report.
CFI Community News
Skeptic activist and Skeptical Inquirer contributor Robert Blaskiewicz has been passionately working to challenge the false medical claims of Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski and his dubious cancer treatments. In a special report for Skeptical Inquirer, Blaskiewicz describes how people in the skeptical movement are working hard to both shed light on the damage Burzynski has done and to support those battling cancer with real, evidenced-based treatment. Blaskiewicz has just launched a Change.org petition, asking the U.S. Congress to take action to protect desperate patients from further harm. Also see Dr. David Gorski’s report on the case’s background.
We were delighted to get a guest post from George Ongere of CFI–Kenya, who writes at our Free Thinking blog about his personal embrace of social justice causes through his humanism and reports on some of the fantastic work his organization is doing battling superstition in Kenya (such as belief in witchcraft), and supporting its victims.
CFI–Michigan and Grand Valley State University’s CFI On Campus group held a panel discussion event on March 24 titled “Why I Don’t Believe in God,” which included Freethought Blogs impresario Ed Brayton. Maria Beelen, a student and participant, told the Grand Valley Lanthorn, “Don’t be afraid by the title of the panel. We’re human beings, and we’d love to sit down and talk with people about religion no matter what religion you are.”
Highlights from CFI on the Web
Noah starring Russell Crowe is getting a lot of attention for what many believers feel are the film’s “inaccuracies” (an ironic objection if ever there was one), but at the Huffington Post, our boss Ron Lindsay wonders if they should instead be cringing over the aspect of the story the movie gets right: God’s petulant, violent, genocidal mania.
“Let’s not mince words: if the story of the Flood is to be believed, God is a moral monster,” writes Ron. “For those who accept the truth of scripture, the ‘lessons’ of Noah are that violence and destruction are perfectly acceptable means of addressing problems, human rights (let alone animal rights) are an illusion, and power is ultimately what counts. God could destroy humanity and all animal life because—well, who’s going to try to stop him?”
Josh Zepps talked to author Frank Schaeffer on Point of Inquiry about the danger of fundamentalist thinking and what lessons we can take away from the life and death of Fred Phelps. Meanwhile, CFI–DC’s Simon Davis interviewed Phelps’s estranged son Nate Phelps (of CFI–Calgary) for Vice UK.
This past week on Point of Inquiry, Lindsay Beyerstein interviewed Meredith Dank of the Urban Institute about human trafficking, and the study of the sex worker economy. (Or, as Lindsay tweeted, “It’s hard out there for a pimp, but how hard, exactly? That’s where science comes in.”)
ALSO NEW ONLINE
• Bill Cooke calls out the Vatican for evading the requests of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
• Sarah Kaiser looks at a proposed New York bill that would impose tougher penalties on crimes committed in places of worship.
• Kylie Sturgess interviews evolution rapper Baba Brinkman.
• Ben Radford reveals Charles Darwin the alt-med skeptic.
• University of Northern Iowa student Ryan Lode reports back on his group’s successful Darwin Week events.
• Joe Nickell, seen above, sits for a “psychograph” reading (or maybe that’s a steampunk hair dryer).
And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.
Save the Date! Upcoming Events
• Caltech’s Heather Knutson, named by Popular Science as one of the top 10 brilliant young scientists in the nation, talks to CFI–Los Angeles about the search for exoplanets.
• CFI president and CEO Ron Lindsay visits CFI–Michigan to talk about how secularism is necessary for a genuine democracy.
• CFI–Michigan offers a service opportunity as they beautify the banks of the Grand River.
• CFI Skeptics of Eugene, Oregon, celebrate “Zombie Jesus Day,” where one is encouraged to come dressed as “a bunny rabbit, zombie or just yourself.”
• CFI–Indiana holds its Arts and Science Day for Kids.
• Ron Lindsay speaks before the Missoula Area Secular Society about the virtues of secularism.
• Ron Lindsay closes out his Montana “Three Cheers for Secularism” tour by speaking before the Flathead Area Secular Humanist Association.
• CFI–Michigan hosts Rabbi Jeffrey Falick for a talk on Humanistic Judaism.
• Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State will talk to CFI–DC about what “religious liberty” does and doesn’t mean.
• CFI–Los Angeles hosts a special screening of the documentary The Unbelievers, followed by a panel discussion with Lawrence Krauss himself, plus director Gus Holwerda and producer Luke Holwerda.
Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values. Donate today!
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Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI’s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.