CFI Advocacy Update — November 2016

December 1, 2016

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 

- On November 10, we issued an action alert urging members of the Senate to oppose the Russell Amendment, a provision within the National Defense Authorization Act that would require all federal agencies to allow religiously affiliated contractors and grantees to discriminate in employment on the basis of religion when using taxpayer money. We previously joined 82 partners in the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination in sending a letter to the Senate Committee on Armed Services and a letter to the House Committee on Armed Services that voiced strong opposition to any such amendments. 

- On November 16, we praised the Federal Trade Commission’s new enforcement policy statement on the marketing of homeopathic drugs, promising to hold the health-related claims made by the manufacturers of these pseudoscientific “alternative” remedies to the same standards as any other remedies. CFI has been leading the effort to press federal agencies to take seriously the harms posed by homeopathy, and is cited in the FTC’s full report.

- On November 22, we signed a coalition letter sent to the House Appropriations Committee opposing Section 136 of the House Financial Services bill, which would weaken the ban on houses of worship engaging in partisan politics (known as the Johnson Amendment). 

- On November 30, we issued a statement condemning President-elect Donald J. Trump’s call to criminalize flag burning.  

STATE

On November 15, we welcomed news that the Council of the District of Columbia voted 11-2 to pass the Death With Dignity Act, a measure which would legalize physician-assisted dying. 

- We are continuing to work on a federal lawsuit we filed in Illinois to allow secular celebrants to perform marriages. 

INTERNATIONAL 

- On November 21, CFI’s main representative to the United Nations, Michael De Dora, spoke at a civil society briefing at the United Nations on challenges to the Declaration on the Elimination on All Forms of Intolerance & Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. 

- On November 21, CFI was amongst 799 non-governmental organizations to sign a letter urging members of the United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee to reject an an attempt by some states to defer consideration of parts of a recent United Nations Human Rights Council report. While the proposed resolution specifically targeted the creation by the Council at its June session of an Independent Expert to address violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the same reasoning could apply to undermine any decision validly taken by the Council at any time. Click here to see the list of signatories. Fortunately, the Third Committee rejected this effort.

- On November 29, we joined more than a dozen organizations in signing a letter urging Peter Dutton, the Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, to grant clemency for a blogger from Bangladesh who is confined in an Australian detention center for breaching his visa, and faces imminent deportation to his country of origin.

- 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. We will keep you updated if and when anything happens. You can support our efforts by donating to Secular Rescue.

MEDIA

- On November 1, the Deseret News quoted CFI’s Michael De Dora in an article on President Obama’s legacy on religious freedom. 

- In November, our response to the FTC’s enforcement policy statement was covered by media outlets including VoxBusiness InsiderSmithsonianSnopes, and Buffalo News

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