Advocacy Update—July 2013: Birth Control, School Vouchers, and Google’s Support for Science Deniers

August 1, 2013

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 July 1, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a finalized birth control rule, which requires all employers — apart from houses of worship and religiously affiliated organizations — to provide employees contraceptive coverage without charging a co-payment. CFI’s response was a mix of satisfaction and disappointment.

- On July 9, CFI expressed shock over reports that Google had given tens of thousands of dollars to groups and individuals actively engaged in misleading the public about the science of climate change, such as Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe.

- On July 11, CFI issued an action alert that urged our members to tell Google executives to stop supporting politicians and special interest groups that are actively engaged in misleading the public about climate science.

- On July 30, OPP Director Michael De Dora attended a pro-school voucher forum on Capitol Hill hosted by U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). You can read more about this event here

- Throughout July, CFI lobbied various members of the U.S. House of Representatives to oppose any of several proposed amendments to the House reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that would create a federal school voucher program. We are thrilled that, on July 19, the House approved an education bill free of voucher amendments.

STATE

- On July 22, CFI-Northeast Ohio issued an action alert that urged members to contact their state lawmakers in opposition to a number of recent legislative attacks on reproductive rights.

- CFI-Michigan continues to oppose a measure in the statehouse that would broaden the state’s religious conscience protections to allow employers to deny coverage for any type of care they object to, including birth control. If you are a Michigan resident, you can contact your state senator here

INTERNATIONAL

- CFI has updated its Campaign for Free Expression website to reflect recent news on several of the cases we have been tracking, including that of Saudi Arabian activist Raif Badawi, who earlier this week was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for insulting Islamic religious figures. 

- 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.

Note: there will not be an update in August.