CFI Advocacy Update — February 2017

March 1, 2017

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.

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FEDERAL 

- Throughout February, we worked, especially with partners in the National Coalition for Public Education, to raise concerns regarding various school voucher schemes in Congress.

- In early February, a draft executive order from President Trump on religious freedom was leaked to the public. The Center for Inquiry reviewed the order and considers it a veritable religious blank check for conservative Christians to claim special privileges because of their religion and discriminate in almost every area of public life. On February 7, we issued an action alert urging the public to message and call the White House and tell President Trump to not issue the order.

- On February 13, we issued an action alert urging the public to message their members of Congress and tell them to reject the misnamed “Free Speech Fairness Act” (H.R. 781 and S. 264), which would give religious leaders expanded influence in the political process.

- On February 15, we issued an action alert urging the public to message their members of Congress and tell them to reject resolutions (H.J. Res. 27 and S.J. Res. 4) that would block the D.C. Death With Dignity Act from being implemented. Fortunately, these resolutions did not pass, though Congress other means by which it could attack the Act.

- On February 23, we issued a statement condemning denouncing an announcement by the Trump administration that it would reverse the guidance issued by the Obama administration requiring that public schools allow transgender students to use the bathroom which corresponded to their gender identity.

STATE

- On the Center for Inquiry’s community in Ohio held its fifth annual civic day. Speakers included CFI’s Director of Government Affairs, Michael De Dora, and Legal Director and General Counsel Nick Little. Attendees spoke to 19 representatives and 16 senators.

- On February 21, we issued an action alert urging Florida residents to tell their state representatives and senators to reject a bill that that would grant special privileges to religious beliefs in public schools, the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act” (HB 303 and SB 436).

- On February 28, we issued a statement applauding the introduction of a bill in the Ohio State Senate by Sen. Michael Skindell that would grant secular celebrants the right to solemnize weddings in the state. 

- Recently constituents have been packing town hall meetings with Congress to discuss pressing issues. If you are interested in attending a town hall near you, we suggest the Town Hall Project website as a resource.

INTERNATIONAL 

- On February 22, we issued a statement condemning the charge of blasphemy brought by Danish prosecutors against a man for burning a copy of the Quran in an online video. 

- We are proud to announce that we are official co-sponsors of The Hague Freedom Book Fair 2017.

- We are currently preparing for the ​​​​​​​​​​34th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, to be held February 27 to March 24 in Geneva, Switzerland. 

- 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. You can support our efforts by donating to Secular Rescue.

MEDIA

- On February 9, CFI-Ohio leader Monette Richards was quoted in the Columbus Star regarding her community’s efforts to allow secular celebrants to solemnize weddings in the state.

- On February 23, CFI-Indiana leader Reba Wooden was quoted in the Indianapolis Star regarding attacks on Planned Parenthood. 

- On February 23, the director of CFI’s Office of Public Policy, Michael De Dora, appeared on the radio program “Afternoons With Rob Breakenridge” to discuss the enforcement of blasphemy laws in Western countries such as Denmark.

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