Advocacy Update — February 2014: Darwin Resolution, Forum on Religious Liberty, Indiana Civic Day
March 3, 2014
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 public policy based on reason, science, and secular values. This includes lobbying at all levels of government — Congress, the Administration, and the United Nations — to promote and defend separation of church and state, the role of scientific evidence and secular humanist ethics in policymaking, and basic civil and political rights.
This newsletter will update you on some of our activity over the past month.
- On Feb. 7, CFI Office of Public Policy Director Michael De Dora was among a wide range of speakers at a day-long forum held in Washington, D.C. by the Coalition for Liberty & Justice. You can watch Michael’s panel here (his remarks begin around 21:00).
- Throughout February, CFI and several hundred of our followers urged members the House of Representatives to support a bill, proposed by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), “expressing support for the designation of February 12, 2014, as Darwin Day, and recognizing the importance of science in the betterment of humanity.” The bill remains in committee, but you can still take action.
- On Feb 8., CFI-Indiana held its third annual Civic Day at the statehouse in Indianapolis. Speakers included Dr. Stuart D. Jordan, Senior Staff Scientist (Emeritus) at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, who is currently authoring a new position paper for CFI on climate change. The following week, many of the attendees met with their state elected officials in the House and Senate.
- On Feb. 26, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed state Senate Bill 1062, which would have allowed religious believers to refuse services to others based on religious objections. While explaining her decision, Brewer stated “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value. So is non-discrimination.” CFI joined other church-state groups in applauding her move.
- In case you missed it, CFI-Ohio recently issued an action alert opposing Ohio House Bill 376, which uses deliberately vague and broad wording to allow religious institutions and believers to avoid complying with general laws simply by claiming it “burdens” their religion in some way.
- CFI-Michigan is beginning to make plans for a civic day in May or June. We will let you know when details are finalized.
- In early February, the European Parliament Working Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief issued its first annual report, marking the first time members of the European Parliament have issued a report on this topic. The 24-page report details examples of persecution, including the cases of Alexander Aan and Fazil Say, and conclusions and recommendations for a range of offending countries. You can read the report here. CFI applauds all those involved in producing this important document.
- On Feb. 24, CFI issued a news release detailing its upcoming work at the 25th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
- On Feb. 25, Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs hosted a discussion with Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Andrew Bennett, and Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. During his remarks, Ambassador Bennett made clear that “religious freedom” includes the right to leave religion, be an atheist, and express atheistic views. He also mentioned by name CFI’s Michael De Dora for his advocacy for freedom of religion, belief, and expression for all persons, including religious believers.
- We have continued to work with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S Commission on International Religious Freedom on behalf of secularists and skeptics who face life-threatening blasphemy and similar charges in their home countries regarding freedom of belief or expression. We will keep you updated if and when anything happens.