The Lone Voice of Reason Among Travis County Commissioners

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Sarah Eckhart

Sarah Eckhardt sided with humanity when she voted against displaying the Christian cross on a governmental seal.

In Travis County, Texas, county commissioners were presented with the opportunity to remove a cross present in the county seal since 1975.

By a 4-1 vote, they decided instead to keep the Christian symbol, and continue to exclude from government people who don’t subscribe to Christian beliefs.

The lone dissenter, Sarah Eckhardt, said, “I think that this presents us with an opportunity to update our seal to something that’s more in keeping up with the changing population and demographic in our county.”

She added: “In 2012, to … put in an implicit preference for Christianity is inappropriate.”

It’s outrageous and hugely unfortunate that her fellow commissioners did not agree with her, instead choosing to once again spit in the eye of humanists and non-Christians, and violate the U.S. Constitution at the same time.

Afghan Woman Murdered After She Gave Birth to Third Daughter

afghan woman

An Afghan woman and child in Parwan Province, Afghanistan.

The Los Angeles Times has reported another horrific case of brutality against women in Afghanistan.

Authorities there said that a husband, angry that his wife had not yet borne a son, strangled her soon after she gave birth to their third daughter.

When will this end?

Check out these organizations to help out Afghan women.

Women for Women

Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

Afghan Women’s Mission

President Jimmy Carter is Mistaken about Faith and Morality

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Jimmy CarterIn a recent interview with Time magazine, former President Jimmy Carter said, “I don’t see how you can separate faith from moral values.”

So infuriating.

You’re wrong, President Carter. It is entirely possible for a person to be moral and yet not “faithful” to a mythology. One absolutely does not need to believe in fairy tales in order to be a good, moral person.

To suggest otherwise is astonishingly insulting to those of us who live moral, yet godless, lives. And there are more of us than you might think.

Dallas Mayor Won’t Sign Pledge Supporting Marriage Freedom

Mayor Mike Rawlings has refused to sign the “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” pledge, which has been signed by more than 100 mayors from cities around the nation, including Texas mayors in San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Shavano Park and Castle Hills. Despite having been supportive in the past of the right for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals to marry, Mayor Rawlings now refuses to sign his name to the pledge, calling into question the depth of his support for all Dallas residents.

In response, GetEQUAL TX planned a demonstration to urge Mayor Rawlings to change his position and sign the pledge. The Mayor’s office contacted GetEQUAL TX and asked for a meeting, on the condition that the demonstration be cancelled—but noted that he had no intention of signing the pledge. Daniel Cates, the North Texas District Lead for GetEQUAL TX, refused to cancel the demonstration, but offered to meet the Mayor beforehand regarding the issue. In order to avoid demonstrators, Mayor Rawlings cancelled his scheduled appearances this week.

Cates stated, “The Mayor seems to think he can dodge the voice of the people of Dallas and thereby avoid the pressure on him to sign the pledge, but he’s wrong. We will keep pressuring him until he either agrees to take action to support human rights or we have a new mayor who will.”

GetEQUAL TX has planned a new demonstration to encourage Mayor Rawlings to sign on to the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry Pledge:

WHEN: Friday, January 27, 2012, 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla Street, Dallas, TX 75201

Mayor Rawlings actively courted the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community during his run for mayor and has stated that he supports marriage equality. Jay Morris, the State Co-Lead for GetEQUAL TX noted, “Mayor Rawlings gladly asked our community for votes, money and volunteers to help get him into office, only to turn his back on us when it came time to take action instead of just give lip service. Where would the Mayor be today if our community had simply said, ‘We support you for Mayor, but we won’t donate, volunteer or vote for you?’ That is exactly the position the Mayor is taking.”

Mayor Rawlings has scheduled a meeting with LGBT leaders for Saturday at The Resource Center Dallas, but his office has made it clear that he will not sign the pledge. GetEQUAL TX is encouraging other community leaders to continue the pressure on the mayor. Tiffani Bishop, Secretary of GetEQUAL TX and its Central Texas Lead stated, “The time for compromising, the time for excuses, the time for caveats to equality is long past. We have a simple demand, full equality. Anything less is not equal.”

GetEQUAL Texas is a state-based chapter of the national direct action group GetEQUAL. The mission of GetEQUAL TX is to empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual,transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and our allies in Texas to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way.

Washington Could Legalize Gay Marriage

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According to the Associated Press, Washington’s Legislature now has enough votes to legalize gay marriage.washington state could legalize gay marriage

Democratic Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen Monday said Monday she will support the measure to legalize gay unions, becoming the 25th vote needed to pass the bill out of the Senate. The House already has enough support, and Gov. Chris Gregoire has endorsed the plan.

Washington would become the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriages, following New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

3 Florists Refuse to Deliver Flowers to Jessica Ahlquist

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A 16-year-old who stood up for her constitutional rights has been targeted by florists in her Providence, Rhode Island suburb.

Jessica Ahlquist, a junior at Cranston High School West, sued her school in April, arguing that the prayer banner hanging in the school’s auditorium represented a formal government recognition of religion in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. After the Cranston School Committee voted to keep the banner, Ahlquist partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union to take her argument to the U.S. District Court in October.

Ahlquest won her suit, and the Cranston community is not happy.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation wanted to congratulate the brave freethinker, but couldn’t find a florist in Cranston who would deliver the flowers. Two florists refused and one said they were closed, according to the group. The Madison, Wis.-based organization finally found a florist in Warwick, R.I., who agreed to deliver the bouquet.

“Freedom From Religion Foundation tried to send me flowers so they called 5 flower shops here and none of them would do the delivery. Really?” Ahlquest tweeted.

T-shirts, both in support of and in opposition to, the banner-removal debate have gone on sale in the community.

Ahlquest has become something of a celebrity, with more than 10,000 Twitter followers and dozens of Facebook pages.

Sign a Petition to Eliminate Mandatory Religion Question for Military Recruits

Sign this petition to the White House:

Every new military recruit is asked the question, “What is your religion?” This causes undue stress and pressure to conform as the recruit considers the predominant Christian culture of the military and the US. Having the “right” answer on ID tags and official records might make the difference in peer treatment, and in equal opportunity in military assignments and promotions. Slight changes will make options acceptable for those who choose to voluntarily update their records.

– Eliminate the religious preference question in entrance processing.

– Change the default entry from “No Religious Preference” to blank (no entry).

– Eliminate the “No Religious Preference” option (to facilitate change).

– Add “Humanist”.

– Add “Spiritual But Not Religious”.

Sign this petition here.

AHA Applauds Ruling to Remove Religious Banner from Public School

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American Humanist Association leaders applauded the ruling issued last night by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald R. Lagueux ordering the immediate removal of a prayer banner in a Rhode Island high school. The suit was brought by student Jessica Ahlquist, and the ruling supports her claim that the banner violates church-state separation legal principles.

“We are so proud of Jessica for fighting to protect church-state separation,” said American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. “She recognized injustice, stood up for what is right, and persevered in the face of harassment. She fought for the rights of nonbelievers and religious minorities and is an example for everyone.”

The banner, hanging in the auditorium of Cranston High School West in Cranston, Rhode Island, is labeled “School Prayer” and begins with “Our Heavenly Father.” The American Humanist Association ran a full-page newspaper advertisement in Cranston during the recent holiday season that stated, “Bias Against Atheists is Naughty, Not Nice,” because of the harassment Ahlquist experienced from some fellow students and community members during the lawsuit.

Judge Lagueux stated in the ruling that the “guiding principle” of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is “government neutrality” and that “no amount of debate can make the School Prayer anything other than a prayer, and a Christian one at that.” The judge also noted that the open meeting conducted to get public input about Ahlquist’s request to remove the banner “at times resembled a religious revival.” In addition, Lagueux didn’t give weight to the claim that the mural should stay for traditional reasons—having been erected in 1959—stating that “no amount of history and tradition can cure a constitutional infraction.”

“Today’s ruling by the District Court again confirms something that by now should be crystal clear to government officials: school-sponsored prayer has no place on the walls of a public school,” said Bill Burgess, attorney and legal coordinator of the American Humanist Association’s legal arm, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “The court clearly noted that the prayer mural’s long-standing nature, considered a school tradition by some, did not overcome its unconstitutional nature and justify its continued presence.”

The AHA is proud to play a role in Ahlquist’s future by working with Hemant Mehta, blogger for the popular website The Friendly Atheist, to manage an education trust fund to help pay the cost of her future education. The Scholarship for Jessica Ahlquist account has already raised over $3,000 from more than 100 contributors.

—American Humanist Association