CFI Advocacy Update — July 2014

August 1, 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 policies 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 June 2, we wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration requesting that the agency reverse its inexplicable decision to green-light the clinical trials of Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, whose expensive experimental cancer treatments have proven scientifically baseless and dangerous. Learn more about our campaign at SafeandSecular.org

- On July 9, we sent an action alert urging people to contact their U.S. Senators to support a bill that bars employers from refusing to cover any health coverage – including contraceptive coverage – promised to employees and their dependents under federal law. 

- On July 11, we announced that we are suspending our support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would bar employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals nationwide. For an explanation of our reasoning, please see this blog post by CFI’s director of public policy, Michael De Dora. 

- On July 14, in a landmark ruling, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously ruled that the state of Indiana must allow marriages to be performed and solemnized by Secular Celebrants, such as those certified by the Center for Inquiry, the group that brought the case. 

- On July 15, we joined 98 religious, secularist, civil rights, and other organizations in writing a letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to reject calls to include a religious exemption in a proposed executive order designed to protect from discrimination lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals who work for federal contractors.

- On July 21, we praised President Obama for resisting religious pressure and not including a religious exemption in his historic executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees.

- On July 30, we joined 36 national organizations in declaring our formal support for a new proposal in the U.S. Senate that would provide for comprehensive contraceptive coverage and family planning counseling for all servicemembers, as well as their dependents who rely on the military for health care. 

STATE

- On July 17, we announced that our Northeast Ohio branch has partnered with Ohio State Representative Mike Foley to introduce a bill, House Bill 591, which will authorize Secular Celebrants to solemnize marriages in Ohio. 

- On July 23, we issued an action alert urging Ohio residents to contact their state representatives and press them to support or co-sponsor House Bill 591.  

INTERNATIONAL

- On July 7 and 24 we joined more than two dozen organizations in sending letters to the U.S. House of Representatives (here) and U.S Senate (here), respectively, to urge swift passage of H.R. 4653, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2014. 

- July 28, the U.S. Department of State released its International Religious Freedom Report for 2013

- 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 July 16, the Christian Post covered our decision to suspend our support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (note: the article contains an incorrect interpretion of the religious exemption in ENDA; in fact, it does not apply to most corporations). 

- On July 25, USA Today health reporter Liz Szabo mentioned our efforts to press government agencies to crack down on Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, whose expensive experimental cancer treatments have proven scientifically baseless and dangerous. 

- On July 28, Sarah Jones wrote an article on the Religion News Service blog that mentioned our efforts, as part of a coalition of 125 organizations, to urge to the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the New York Police Department for spying on Muslims without suspicion of wrongdoing.

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