Women in secularism: Got a problem with that?

 By Kimberly Winston

 That’s the question that launched the first “Women in Secularism” conference three years ago and one that will be closely re-examined at the third annual iteration of the event, being held this weekend (May 16-18) in Alexandria, Va.

“I don’t think much has changed,” said Melody Hensley, executive director of the Washington branch of the Center For Inquiry, a humanist organization that organizes the event. “I think things are very divided.”

Hensley, a longtime feminist and secular activist, speaks from experience. About 18 months ago, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after a vicious flood of online and social media attacks that included threats of rape, murder and photographs of dismembered women.

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Boycott launched against openly gay St Louis Rams player Michael Sam, by Christian lobbyist Jack Burkman

A powerful Christian lobbyist in the US has delivered on his threat to launch a nationwide boycott against any team or company which hires Michael Sam, after the NFL’s first openly gay player was drafted by the St Louis Rams on Sunday.

In a move which he said will teach companies a lesson for “trampling on Christian values”, Jack Burkman has also aimed his protest against financial giant Visa, who gave Mr Sam his first advertising contract. 

A coalition of evangelical Christian leaders from across the US, as well as influential grassroots organisations in 27 of the 50 states, have now been mobilised against the firms, according to Mr Burkman.

As part of the protest, Rams fans will be told to stop buying the team’s merchandise and not to attend games, while members of the public will be asked stop using their Visa cards, and to sell any of the company's stocks they may own.

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Major Victory for Christian Marijuana Smokers in Canada

Ottawa| A 12 year old legal battle between the Alberta Human Rights Commission and the Christian Church of Marijuana has finally ended today as the Supreme Court of Canada came to the conclusion that the church and its followers were legally practicing their religious beliefs after a police raid seized no less than 200 pounds of marijuana in the little town of Cochrane, Alberta, in 2002.

The Supreme Court deemed the Rocky View County police force would have to reimburse the loss of the 200 pounds of confiscated and destroyed marijuana, which is estimated to value between 200,000$ and 1,000,000$. This is a major win for the religious organization, opening the doors for other religious groups who have been claiming the same rights for years now, such as the Rastafarians of Canada.

Church of Marijuana lawyer, Adam Whitehorn, convinced the jury that the Bible cited multiple times the use of marijuana as food, medicine and for religious practices, and that the religious group based their faith on these beliefs.

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Florida Mom Fights Court Order to Circumcise Her 3-Year-Old Son

A Florida mother is hoping the Fourth District Court of Appeals will intervene and stop a court order that her 3-year-old son be circumcised.

Photo by Deirdra Funcheon

Heather Hironimus of Boynton Beach and Dennis Nebus of Boca Raton had a child together in 2010 and entered into a parenting agreement more than a year later. The agreement clearly stated that the father would be responsible for scheduling and paying for the boy's circumcision.

But now that the boy is 3 and has not yet been circumcised, the mother objects, because, as court documents explain it, the procedure is "not medically necessary and she did not want to have the parties' son undergo requisite general anesthesia for fear of death."

However, Judge Jeffrey Gillen last week ordered that there's no reason the parties shouldn't abide by the parenting agreement and that the father can go ahead and schedule the procedure.

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Not the ‘Illuminati’: How Fundamentalist Christians Are Infiltrating State and Federal Government

by Sofia Resnick, Investigative Reporting Fellow, RH Reality Check and Sharona Coutts, Director of Investigations and Research, RH Reality Check

Imagine that a little-known but increasingly powerful group of ideologues had hatched a plan to transform the United States into a Christian theocracy harkening back to the Dark Ages of Europe, a time when society was governed by the laws and officials of the Catholic Church.

Suppose further that this plan had a scary simple strategy: Recruit bright, young law students; put them through an intensive indoctrination program; place them in plum internships across the country; and watch as they swim upstream until they reach the top of the legal system, where they can create, enforce, and interpret laws according to a legal philosophy infused withfundamentalist Christian theology.

Welcome to the world of the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, an annual program established in 2000 by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based nonprofit that is swiftly emerging as a major behind-the-scenes player in many of the nation’s most controversial legal cases involving reproductive rights, sexual justice, and a vast range of other moral and social disputes.

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Abu Hamza was 'mouthpiece' for 1998 Yemen kidnappings group

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri has denied being involved in the 1998 abduction of 16 Western tourists in Yemen, telling a jury he acted as "a mouthpiece" for the kidnap group.

Giving evidence for a third day in New York, Abu Hamza said he had provided the kidnappers with a satellite phone but said he had not known of the plot.

Abu Hamza, 56, likened himself to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

He denies 11 kidnapping and terror counts, including the 1998 abductions.

The Egyptian-born preacher was asked about his alleged involvement in the December 1998 abduction of 12 Britons, two Americans and two Australians in southern Yemen.

Four of the tourists were killed by the captors.

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FFAF is on the warpath against ‘hateful’ atheists

ESTABLISHED in 2012, is the Freedom From Atheism Foundation (FFAF) has announced its intention to step up its battle against godless Americans after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) posted another “offensive, and historically inaccurate, sign touting Jesus as a myth.

Writing for the Christian Post, one Mike Dobbins drew readers attention to the FFAFF:

Did you know an organisation exists to counter the FFRF and other intolerant atheists? If you or someone you know has been the victim of militant, confrontational atheism then the place to turn is the Freedom From Atheism Foundation (FFAF).

He added:

Created in 2012 as a response to intolerant atheists seeking the removal of a Veterans Memorial that displayed religious symbols, the FFAF has grown leaps and bounds and boasts over 120,000 followers on their Facebook page as of this writing.

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Stop making excuses for Islamist extremist monsters

When it comes to fanatical Islam, we’re entranced by the symptoms but refuse to name the disease.

The extremes to which Western elites will go to avoid blaming radical Islam for terrorism cripples our efforts to protect innocent Muslims. Terrified of offending butchers, we insist that we’re the bigots, not them. We make excuses for monsters.

Boko Haram, whose name means “Western learning is forbidden,” kidnaps 200 schoolgirls, and the world rightly takes notice.

But what about the thousands of peaceful civilians, both Christian and Muslim, Boko Haram has killed, purportedly to install an Islamist state? What about the medical workers, pious volunteers, who are murdered in a faith’s name?

Hollywood suddenly woke up to Islamic fundamentalism last week in the strangest possible way, boycotting the Beverly Hills Hotel because it’s owned by the Sultan of Brunei, who plans to impose the cruelest provisions of Sharia law on his fiefdom’s women.

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Appeals court rules Texas cheerleaders allowed to display Bible verse banners at football games

An appeals court ruled Thursday that a Texas school district had already corrected itself, and a lawsuit regarding Bible verses on football banners was moot.

Kountze Independent School District allowed the cheerleaders' Christian banners last year, but retained the right to censor the banners for vulgar or offensive speech.

The district has been embroiled in a legal battle since 2012, when an atheist group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), complained about the Christian messages at Kountze High School football games.

The cheerleaders created banners that read, "If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31," and other scriptures for the football players to run through as they entered the field.

After FFRF complained, the district banned religious messages from the banners.

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Major New Survey Explores the Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States

Washington, May 7, 2014 — Although most Hispanics in the United States continue to belong to the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic share of the Hispanic population is declining, while rising numbers of Hispanics say they are Protestant or unaffiliated with any religion. Indeed, nearly one-in-four Hispanic adults (24%) are now former Catholics, according to a major, nationwide survey of more than 5,000 Hispanics by the Pew Research Center.

Together, these trends suggest that some religious polarization is taking place among U.S. Latinos – the nation’s largest minority group – with the shrinking majority of Hispanic Catholics holding the middle ground between two growing groups, evangelical Protestants and the unaffiliated, that are at opposite ends of the U.S. religious spectrum.

The Pew Research Center’s 2013 National Survey of Latinos and Religion finds that a majority (55%) of the nation’s estimated 35.4 million Latino adults – or about 19.6 million Latinos – identify as Catholic today.  About 22% are Protestant (including 16% who describe themselves as born-again or evangelical) and 18% are religiously unaffiliated.

The share of Hispanics who are Catholic likely has been in decline for at least the last few decades. But as recently as 2010, Pew Research polling found that fully two-thirds of Hispanics (67%) were Catholic. That means the Catholic share has dropped by 12 percentage points in just the last four years.

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Abu Hamza trial: Injured hostage gives evidence

The trial of radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza has heard evidence from a woman who was among 16 westerners taken hostage in Yemen in 1998.

Margaret Thompson told the court in New York that she was used as a human shield during an attempt by the Yemeni army to rescue those kidnapped.

Ms Thompson was shot and three British tourists and an Australian died in the December 1998 attack.

Abu Hamza is accused of assisting the kidnappers, but he denies all charges.

US prosecutors allege that the Muslim cleric provided a satellite phone and £500 worth of call time to help the kidnappers.

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