CFI Advocacy Update — May 2017

June 1, 2017

Welcome to the Office of Public Policy’s monthly Advocacy Update. The Office of Public Policy (OPP) is the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy 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 

- On May 2, we were amongst 118 organizations to issue a joint statement calling on Congress and other officials to support a robust U.S. foreign assistance budget in the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations process, specifically regarding women and girls around the world.

- On May 4, we denounced President Trump’s executive order “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” decrying the order as a cynical pander to the religious right. The order which was signed on the National Day of Prayer, is intended to ease the restrictions on politicking by tax exempt religious institutions, and “provide regulatory relief” to those who hold religious objections to health care, such as to the contraceptive coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act. 

- On May 16, we co-sponsored an event on Capitol Hill with members of the International Panel of Parliamentarians on Freedom of Religion or Belief

- On May 17, CFI’s Director of Government Affairs Michael De Dora attended the launch of the annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. 

- On May 19, we issued an action alert urging people to tell their U.S. senators to support a bill that would nuffily President Trump’s recent executive order “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” which lays the groundwork for discrimination against women, LGBTQ individuals, religious minorities, and others under the pretext of religious freedom. 

STATE

- On May 11, we applauded passage of Oregon House Bill 2113 through both houses of the legislature. The bill authorizes nonreligious officiants to solemnize marriages in Oregon. Once signed into law by the governor, atheist, humanist, and religiously unaffiliated Oregonians will have the option of being married by a Secular Celebrant, such as those trained and certified by CFI.

- 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 May 10, CFI joined 40 organizations in urging Facebook to address campaigns to silence religious dissent. Individuals can join this effort by signing a petition on Change.org.

- On May 15, a coalition of writers, publishers, academics, and human rights advocates issued a petition urging the Danish Parliament to approve a bill that would repeal the blasphemy ban in section 140 of the Danish criminal code. Signers included Robyn Blumner, CFI’s President & CEO, and Michael De Dora, CFI’s Director of Government Affairs and Main Representative to the United Nations. 

- On May 23, we signed a letter to the Vietnamese government calling for the release of Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh. 

- 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 May 16, the German news outlet Deutsche Welle covered the case of Secular Rescue recipient Arnab Goswami.

- On May 19, CFI Portland Communications Chair Dani Tofte spoke with Jefferson Public Radio regarding Oregon’s secular celebrant bill.

- On May 19, Secular Rescue recipient Tausif Sanzum wrote an article for The Huffington Post on the campaign of persecution being waged — by the state and by vigilantes — against gay men in Bangladesh. 

- On May 22, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel Nick Little was sought out for comments on two articles:

  • Amanda Knox’s article for Broadly on how prisons use religion and “cult tactics” to control inmates; and
  • Gabby Bess’ article for Vice on a case where doctors in Detroit are arguing that performing a female genital mutilation is constitutionally protected under the First Amendment. 

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