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Four men Flogged in Nigeria for Homosexuality

An Islamic Court in Nigeria Found Four Nigerians Guilty of "Homosexuality" and ordered flogged with horsewhips after conviction in a trial held in secret at the Upper Sharia Court in the Unguwar Jaki district of the city of Baluchi.

The four men, aged 22 to 28 years, each was and fined 20,000 naira ($125) and received 15 lashes - also in secret - immediately after the trial.

The four were among seven defendants formally charged by the Bauchi State Sharia Commission on January 6 with belonging to a gay club and receiving $150,000 in donations from the United States for an apparent membership drive. After angry mobs swarmed the opening of the trial, demanding their immediate execution and forcing earlier proceedings to be suspended, the court decided to reconvene and hold the trial and carry out the sentence in secret.

The arrests and trial came only days after Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan had signed a bill banning gay marriage and same-sex unions and criminalising other actions deemed to be 'promoting' homosexuality. The law provides a maximum 14-year prison term for anyone entering same-sex unions and up to 10 years in jail for anyone supporting gay groups and clubs. Many believed the arrests were spurred by the new legislation, providing the Sharia authorities with federal cover to target homosexual behavior.

Sharia law actually makes homosexual behavior a capital offense by stoning if the act is observed by four male witnesses or voluntarily confessed. However, the judge noted that since the alleged behavior was not actually observed by any witnesses to the court, there was no legal basis for passing the death sentence, despite confessions made by two of the defendants.

The Pell Tolls for Sex Abuse Compensation

The Pell tolls for church sex abuse compensation

The Atheist Foundation of Australia welcomes the news that George Pell has been promoted within the Catholic Church to the position of Prefect for the Economy of the Holy See. A main function of this role is management and reform of the Vatican's finances.

The news continues to flow from the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse of the systemic cover ups and stand-over tactics used by churches to prevent justice for the victims. It’s reasonable to anticipate that examples of abuse of this type are going to continue to become public and that the public outrage and compensation claims will continue to grow.


Israel & Palestinian Territories Hit 6-Year High in Religious Hostilities

Religious hostilities are very high and rising within both Israel and the Palestinian territories. According to a 2014 Pew Research study, social hostilities involving religion (including mob or sectarian violence, religion-related terrorism or conflict, organized attempts to dominate public life with a particular perspective on religion, harassment over attire for religious reasons, and other religion-related intimidation or abuse) have reached 6-year highs in both areas.

Pew uses a tool called the Social Hostilities Index (SHI) to measure social hostilities by country.  The tool measures the presence and intensity of various measures of social hostility on a scale from 0 (no social hostilities) to 10 (all-out civil anarchy).  According to the report, Israel reached a high of 9.4 out of 10 on the Pew Social Hostilities Index in regards to religious violence in 2012.  The Palestinian Territories reached a high of 9.0 out of 10.  This is in comparison to the Middle East & North Africa, which rated at 5.7 out of 10 in 2012; and in comparison to the world, which rated at 2.9 on the Index.


Ben Baz Released from Prison

Abdel Aziz Mohamed Albaz, also known as "Ben Baz," has been released from prison in Kuwait where he was held (but never tried) on charges of blasphemy for over a year.

Albaz, a 27-year-old Egyptian atheist blogger, was arrested in early January 2013 by Kuwaiti authorities. While Albaz had been known for posting on his blog stories of the relationship between religion, the State and secularism.  The Constitution of Kuwait makes Islam the state religion, and considers Sharia a primary source of legislation. The Kuwaiti parliament passed a law in 2012 introducing the death penalty for Muslims who blaspheme against Islam, while non-Muslims who blaspheme faced ten years or more in prison. The law provides that any Muslim(!) citizen may file a complaint against an author if the citizen believes that the author has defamed Islam, the ruling family, or public morals.

A hearing on Albaz' case had been scheduled for last February 28, but it's unclear what was decided at the hearing or even whether the hearing actually occurred. After a year, Kuwaiti authorities have apparently let him out on his own recognizance - of course, long after he would have lost his job and probably his residence, and without any due process

Primate Pride Day


With great pleasure we celebrated the Primate Pride Day, as a latinoamerican initiative proposed by the web Sindioses since 2010. 24th of November was chosen as the date in which we remember the 154th anniversary of the official release of “On the Origin of the Species” and the 39th anniversary of the discovery of Lucy, the Australopithecus: two landmarks that not only changed our view of the world but gave way to a thought revolution that continues to our days, both admired and criticized.

The Asociación de Ateos y Agnósticos del Atlántico (and the Fundación Bacanería Planetaria) decided to organize an event this Saturday 23th with a divulgation conference showing the pride we feel about our evolutive origins, looking to share the facts with the general public and state our disagreement with the creacionist explanations that wish to belittle the scientific view, trying to put themselves at the same level.

Our celebration was a pleasant afternoon in which we reflected about our nature and place in society through the talks of Juan Torres Castellar (The evidence of evolution), Luis Felipe Zapata (Homosexuality: A evolutionist and psychobiologic view) and Jorge Senior (Science, Religion and Democracy), to whom we are grateful for sharing their knowledge with us. We also gave away some prizes and ate some bananas at coffee break!

See you again next year!


Irish Atheists Urge Repeal of Blasphemy Law

Originally published November 4, 2013 by , The Friendly Atheist

Over the weekend, the Convention on the Constitution held meetings in Ireland to discuss changes to the nation’s Constitution and then make recommendations to the government.

Relevant to us is the need to repeal the blasphemy law, which currently states:

The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.

Atheist Ireland has been fighting for the law’s repeal for a while now and the group’s Chairperson Michael Nugent spoke at this weekend’s convention alongside fellow advocates for the law’s repeal, Professor David Nash of Oxford Brookes University and Human Rights Officer of Atheist Ireland Jane Donnelly.


Australians Protesting State Visit from African Pastor


Pastor Enoch Adeboye is an evangelical pastor from Nigeria who promotes the existence of witches and wizards, resulting in the torture and death of young children and others in Nigeria, the wider African continent, and has also spread into Europe.

Adeboye is the leader of one of the fastest-growing Pentecostal churches in Africa, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, with over 6,000 affiliates and chapters around the world, including the US, Europe, and Asia.  He is planning a 'tour through Australia and other southeast Pacific countries to raise money and plant new churches.

Rev. Adeboye is a controversial pastor who uses the Bible to promote the violent persecution of 'witches' and homosexuals, and who has been linked to a number of riots and assaults where people were attacked by his churchmembers.  With the president of Nigeria as one of his congregants, he has been a powerful force to lobby the Nigerian government to ban same-sex marriage and criminalize homosexuality. He is one of the wealthiest pastors in Nigeria due to his ministry, holding a number of homes as well as private jets among his possessions, despite the vast majority of his parishioners living below the poverty level.

Progressive Atheists, an AAI Australian affiliate, is attempting to publicize the controversy of this pastor and petitioning the Australian government to refuse to grant him a visa to travel through Australia.  AAI is encouraging all Australians to sign the petition and contact your federal representatives to support the ban.  You can also join the Facebook group to publicize this campaign.


Quebeqois Support Proposed Secular Charter

47% of Quebecers "Completely Support" proposed Charter of Values, 21% Generally Supportive But Would Like Even Stronger Church-State Separation

Among other things, the proposed charter of values emphasizes the separation between religion and government in Quebec. For instance, public sector workers would not be permitted to wear overt religious symbols while at work under the proposed charter.

According to a report compiled by the government and released today by Bernard Drainville, the architect of the charter, 68 percent of Quebecers are mostly in favour of it (with 47 percent in complete support), while only 18 per cent were mostly against it.

Drainville explained that 47 per cent of Quebecers who participated in the consultation said they completely supported the charter, while 21 per cent said they were in favour of the charter, with modifications.

The most popular modification requested by 21 percent of those who "mostly" supported the proposed charter was to remove the crucifix from the national assembly. The second most popular modification was to revoke the rule of exemption.  These modifications would strengthen the value of church-state separation already enunciated in the charter.

Over 25,000 comments were received by the Parti Québécois on the charter via email and telephone.

Witchcraft Accusation Rages in Northern Ghana

The atmosphere may appear calm and serene, and the people friendly and hospitable. Life in the regional capital, Tamale may not be much of the hustle and bustle one finds at the state capital, Accra or in other capital cities across the region. There is low traffic and the streets are hardly overcrowded except when a new chief is being installed, a political campaign is going on or a top politician is visiting the area.

Still all is not well in the northern region of Ghana because beneath this veneer of calmness and tranquility lurks a vicious, virulent and violent trend- witchcraft accusation.

Northern Ghana is a region charged and enchanted with allegations of witchery, spiritual possession and attack. Witchcraft is at the root of a silent battle,an ongoing  war that has torn apart families and communities, internally displaced many  people, turning them into refugees in their own land. In the past 3 weeks there have been 3 cases of accusation within the regional capital, Tamale, alone. I guess there could be other or more cases. But these are the ones that've come to my notice. Most cases of accusation take place in the rural parts of the region with no accessible roads, power or telephone service. In these remote communities, traditional beliefs and institutions are very strong. Cases of accusation are not reported in the news. They are rarely taken to the police stations, where such stations exist. Except on the highways or border posts, there are virtually no police presence in the rural communities. Most cases of witchcraft accusation are resolved locally and traditionally. By that I mean the matter is taken to the local chief and elders who often refer the issue to a local shrine for confirmation. In some cases they are pressured to banish the accused without a confirmation by a local priest. Sometimes accused persons are forced to flee on their own. Accused persons who are banished are relocated to other communities. But in most cases they are taken to one of the seven ‘safe spaces’ otherwise known as ‘witch’ camps in the region.

This report is based on the three cases of accusation I am currently studying in Tamale metropolis.

In the first case, a middle aged woman, Mateda, was accused of being responsible for the death of a 20 year old seamstress. The seamstress sew some wedding clothes for Mateda’s daughter. But shortly after Mateda paid the seamstres, she took ill and died.The parents of the seamstress said their daughter took ill after drinking some porridge she bought with Mateda's money. They claim she gave their daughter spiritual poison through the money. So they accused Mateda of being behind the death of their daughter.

They reported the matter to the chief and asked him to banish the woman immediately from the community. But the chief declined and instead suggested that the matter be taken to a local shrine for confirmation. But the family of the deceased and a local mob refused and insisted that Mateda be banished right away. In protest they marched to the palace of the paramount chief of Tamale and reported the matter. But he sent them back to the village chief, who insisted that the case be taken to a shrine.

But the angry ‘youths’ started throwing stones at the palace of the village chief and threatened to burn down the building. They broke a window of the palace and a ‘sacred’ pot used in keeping some water for the ancestors to drink when they come visiting at night! The chief invited the police, but before the police convoy arrived, the mob had dispersed. The Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit and the Criminal Investigation Department are currently questioning the suspects. As I was trying to meet and interview the accusers, I was told of another case of accusation that could erupt very soon. An elderly man has been sick for several months and a woman in the neighbourhood is being suspected of being responsible. I was told that if the man died, the ‘youths’ in the area might attack this woman or get her banished from the community. I am trying to nip this accusation in the bud.


For Indonesian Atheists, a Community of Support Amid Constant Fear

Indonesian Atheists, an AAI Affiliate, began on Facebook in 2008 and has grown to provide a community for non-believers in Indonesia.  The group was profiled in the New York Times on 26 April:

JAKARTA — Karina is an atheist, but her friends jokingly call her “the prophet.” That is because she is helping nurture a community for unbelievers in predominantly Muslim Indonesia, where trumpeting one’s disbelief in God can lead to abuse, ostracism and even prison. 

“It’s very normal for atheists to be paranoid because the environment does not support them,” said Ms. Karina, 26, who uses only one name. But, she said, “in this group people don’t need to be afraid.”

For the full article click here.

You Ask, An Atheist Answers

Karl from Indonesian Atheists, an AAI Affiliate, talks to the Jakarta Globe about "You Ask, An Atheist Answers":

Discussions between atheists and theists, or those who believe in the existence of God, are fragile events that rarely, though not impossibly, manage to do anything more than reinforce just how disparate the two factions’ stances are. This profound divergence is evidently true in Indonesia, where the concept of atheism is still seen as remarkably foreign, to put it mildly. 

Stigmas and assumptions about Indonesian atheists often paint them as smart-aleck contrarians with a penchant for hedonistic nihilism who leave the burden of proof to believers. 

To disprove this widespread view, two Indonesian atheists have taken up the call, Karl Karnadi and Virgi Albiant, the latter of which is a pseudonym used by the founder of “Anda Bertanya, Ateis Menjawab” (“You Ask, an Atheist Answers”), an Internet-based forum and community that aims to build a friendly bridge between believers and non-believers. 

Read the full article here.