Advocacy Update — January 2014: Comprehensive Sex Ed, Church-State in Ohio, Aan Released From Prison

February 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.

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FEDERAL

- On Jan. 6, CFI called on members of the House of Representatives to support a bill, proposed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), that would stop taxpayer funding for abstinence-only programs and support comprehensive sexual education. The bill remains in committee. 

- On Jan. 21 and 28, CFI and several hundred of our followers urged the House of Representatives to reject a bill, proposed by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), that would eliminate abortion coverage for millions of women. The measure passed 227-188. You can learn how your Representative voted here.

- CFI is preparing to participate in a day-long forum on Feb. 7 in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the Coalition for Liberty & Justice, the event will feature a wide range speakers, including OPP Director Michael De Dora, who will discuss real religious liberty and lay the groundwork for a path that protects justice and equality for all. 

STATE

- On Jan 28., CFI-Ohio held its second annual Secular Summit at the statehouse in Columbus. Speakers included State Rep. Michael Foley (D-14), who discussed his efforts to defend secular government, and OPP Director Michael De Dora, who led a lobby workshop. After the talks, the more than two dozen attendees met with their state elected officials in the House and Senate. 

- 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.

INTERNATIONAL

- CFI confirms news reports that on Jan. 27, Alexander Aan, a former Indonesian civil servant jailed for expressing his lack of belief in a God on Facebook, was released from prison after serving 18 months of a 30-month sentence.  

- 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.

MEDIA

- On Jan. 30, Brian Pellot of the Religion News Service published an interview with Michael De Dora on CFI’s work to defend the right to freedom of expression. You can read the interview here.    

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