CFI Advocacy Update — October 2016
November 1, 2016
Welcome to the Office of Public Policy's monthly Advocacy Update. The Office of Public Policy (OPP) is the Washington, D.C. political arm of the Center for Inquiry (CFI). Our mandate is to advocate for reason, science, and humanist values at all levels of government — statehouses, Congress, the Administration, and the United Nations.
This newsletter will update you on some of our activity over the past month.
- Each October, under the guise of "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," religious leaders across the United States purposefully break federal law by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. To mark this day, two members of the House of Representatives have introduced the "Free Speech Fairness Act," a bill that would amend IRS law to allow partisan political activity by tax-exempt, non-profit organizations. On October 4, OPP issued an action alert urging U.S. representatives to oppose this bill.
- On October 16, the 100th anniversary of the founding of Planned Parenthood, we issued an action alert in support of Senate Resolution 590, a measure "commemorating 100 years of health care services provided by Planned Parenthood," noting that the organization provides services to underserved people, and stating that it should not be "defunded, attacked, or discriminated against for being a women’s healthcare provider."
- On October 18, CFI's Vice President and General Counsel, Nick Little, and the Director of CFI's Office of Public Policy, Michael De Dora, attended the Official Arrival Ceremony welcoming Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy. President Obama and the First Lady were present for the ceremony, which was held at the White House.
- On October 20, we issued an action alert urging members of the Senate to oppose the Russell Amendment, a provision within the National Defense Authorization Act that would require all federal agencies to allow religiously affiliated contractors and grantees to discriminate in employment on the basis of religion when using taxpayer money. We previously joined 82 partners in the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination in sending a letter to the Senate Committee on Armed Services and a letter to the House Committee on Armed Services that voiced strong opposition to any such amendments.
- On October 13, we issued an action alert to our members in Washington, D.C. urging them to tell their councilmembers to support the Death With Dignity Act, a measure which would legalize physician-assisted dying. The Council is expected to vote on this proposal November 1.
- We are continuing to work on a federal lawsuit we filed in Illinois to allow secular celebrants to perform marriages.
- CFI's main representative to the United Nations, Michael De Dora, presided over and attended several events with the new UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed, and the UN special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune.
- On October 5, CFI's Michael De Dora was amongst signatories to a letter sent to the National Assembly of Vietnam expressing shared concerns about the proposed Law on Belief and Religion in Vietnam.
- On October 13, Secular Rescue recipient Ahmedur Rashid Tutul won the 2016 PEN International Writer of Courage award. Almost exactly one year ago, on October 31, 2015, attackers stormed the offices of Tutul’s publishing house where he was among those badly injured and left for dead. Another publisher was killed that same day at a different Dhaka publishing house. Tutul survived. With our help, Tutul was able to relocate to safety in Norway with his wife and two daughters, and continue his work. CFI sent a fundraising email to announce this development.
- We have continued to work with various advocacy organizations and government officials and agencies on behalf of non-religious individuals, secularists, and religious dissidents who face threats on their lives or else government charges in their home countries regarding freedom of religion, belief, and expression. We will keep you updated if and when anything happens. You can support our efforts by donating to the Freethought Emergency Fund.
- On October 3, CFI's Michael De Dora was quoted in a Deseret News article on efforts to allow preachers to endorse political candidates from the pulpit.
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