It’s Time to Pull the Plug ~ Part I

In the struggle to gain equal footing across the spectrum, a number of people are working for the right to put an end to the suffering of terminal patients. As with any topic deemed “controversial”, the discussions regarding euthanasia (also known as assisted suicide) are all over spectrum. Euthanasia has been getting some attention recently in several countries as laws regarding it’s legality are being brought to vote. Why? Well, there is a lot of momentum growing in cases involving personal choice and personal freedom. People are seeking the right to govern what they can or can’t do with their own bodies. The result is an emotional debate. Let’s back up a bit though and see what exactly all the fuss is about.

To better understand, a defined explanation is needed to put everyone on the same ground. Euthanasia is the termination of a life either by lethal injection, overdose, or withdrawal of life support or medications. There are four types of euthanasia:

  • Physician-Assisted: a doctor provides a prescription to bring on a patient’s death. Generally the patient carries out the act him/herself.
  • Non-Voluntary: approved by the patient but performed by someone else
  • Voluntary: patient refuses life-support, medication, or simply overdoses.
  • Involuntary: patient is unaware or cannot give consent, and is usually by way of terminal sedation. Patient is usually just given a much higher dose of pain medication (often through IV) so that s/he may pass while sleeping.

Currently, some form of euthanasia is legal in four countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, Nederlands, and Switzerland), and four states in the U.S. (Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont). There are differences here in how that legality works though. For example, in the U.S., in order to be legally protected in the states that have legalised it, you must be residents of those states. However, in Switzerland there is no residency requirements. They have what they refer to as “suicide tourists,” or people who visit the country simply to end their lives with the aid of a doctor.

For those who seek out an attempted suicide, most are suffering from a serious, painful or debilitating illness or disease. Often it’s Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Cerebral Palsy, Cancer and even extreme cases of Dementia are all given for reasons to choose what many consider to be a more peaceful and pain-free exit. Because statistics vary, to understand just how many are in support of this decision, we look to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an American bio ethicist of The Hastings Center (a research institute in the U.S.).
“The best way to understand public opinion might be the ‘Rule of Thirds.’ “The Rule of Thirds” is as follows:

  • Roughly 1/3 of Americans seem to support voluntary active euthanasia no matter what.
  • Approximately 1/3 support for euthanasia in extreme cases.
  • This leaves 1/3 who strictly oppose no matter what the situation or the patient.

Now, we have to keep in mind that Dr. Emanuel is an American. However, it stands to reason that the same could be said every where. The only difference is in how the decision for lawmaking happens. In the States, for example often in these types of decisions the laws are made in protest by people using faith as a driving force. In other, more secular-driven countries (the aforementioned Switzerland, for one) religion doesn’t even come into the picture.

Those in support of assisted suicide have several reasons for it, however the four most common are as follows:

  • Choice: choice is a fundamental principle, and every person should have the right to decide what happens with their own body, while still of sound mind to do so
  • Quality of Life: The pain and suffering a person feels during a disease, even with pain relievers, can be incomprehensible to a person who has not gone through it. Even without considering the physical pain, it is often difficult for patients to overcome the emotional pain of losing their independence.
  • Opinion of Witnesses: Those who witness others die are generally “particularly convinced” that the law should be changed to allow assisted death.
  • Economic costs and human resources: Today in many countries there is a shortage of hospital space. Medical personnel and hospital beds could be used for people whose lives could be saved instead of continuing the lives of those who want to die. It is a burden to keep people alive past the point they can contribute to society, especially if the resources used could be spent on a curable ailment.

On the side Stephen Hawkingof pro-assisted suicide are such allies like Stephen Hawking, well-known physicist and cosmologist who suffers from Motor Neuron Disease. Reports show, however that when he was put into a coma he had stated that he did not want to be taken off life support. He simply feels that everyone should have the option to choose for themselves.
Okay, that’s practically a given though, right? Although not true of every atheist, it’s certainly common enough within the atheist community that people should have full autonomy with their bodies. So how about a supporter from the other end of the “faith” spectrum. Hans Kueng
Hans Kung, a Swiss Catholic priest (you read that correctly, Catholic). A theologian who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease (the illness brought more into mainstream spotlight by Michael J. Fox). Due to his more liberal views on several topics including euthanasia, he isn’t even allowed to minister any more and has actually been stripped of his “robes” within the church. He holds the position Patrick Stewart 1of President for the Global Ethic Foundation.

Okay, just for fun we’ll fill out the trifecta with someone everyone knows. Patrick Stewart, actor and activist who, although personally fit and healthy himself also agrees that everyone should have the right to end their own life if unable to live without some form of life support.
Those who oppose euthanasia feel pretty strongly about their reasons why as well, although those on the opposing side tend to feel like they aren’t valid enough to warrant laws against such practices. The most popular reasons include:

  • Professional role: Critics argue that voluntary euthanasia could unduly compromise the professional roles of health care employees, especially doctors. Often citing the Hippocratic Oath, which in its ancient form excluded euthanasia: “To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death..”
  • Moral/Theological: Some who oppose (often Christians) claim morality as a reason to create laws against the practice. Considering it to be a type of murder and/or suicide, both of which are considered mortal sins.
  • Necessity: Hoping for the possibility of a cure or solution in the near future.What happens if a person’s life is ended and sometime within what would have been part of that patient’s remaining time alive, something is discovered that could have saved him/her?
  • Feasibility of implementation: Euthanasia can only be considered “voluntary” if a patient is mentally competent to make the decision. Does the patient actually understand what is at stake and the finality of “pulling the plug.”
  • Consent under pressure: Was the patient talked into the decision, or was guilt used to talk him/her into it, with impending concerns of hospital bills or long-term care?

There is also the argument of the slippery slope. Where does the line get drawn? There are some who feel that allowing assisted death will lead to allowances for any excuse to “pull the plug”, whether on a loved on or oneself. For example, is clinical depression enough? Not for the opposition it’s not. Their view is that a depressed person, no matter just how bad it is will one day feel better (whether by medication or counseling).

As I bring this to the end, I want the reader to consider a couple of questions. As laws are made and boundaries are set across the globe, there are decisions that need to be made. Generally speaking, the number of people who have some sort of living will (or a “do not resuscitate” order) is very low (thought to be about 15%). I make sure to have at least one on file in whatever state I happen to live in, with my orders clearly stated, but it took me going into my first and only surgery to actually think about it. They are generally free to file and can be kept at whatever hospital is closest (or really any at all), but make sure you give copies to closest family members. So, I am going to leave these questions. Feel free to comment with your thoughts, feelings, or views on this topic.

  • Have you thought about having anything like a DNR order set in place?
  • Would you ever consider euthanasia for yourself?
  • Would you ask someone you loved or do it yourself?
  • If asked, could you assist in the euthanasia of someone you loved?
  • What if your own freedom was at risk?
  • Do you think it should be legal?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Organisations for Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide:

Compassion and Choices – United States
Death With Dignity – United States
Dignitas – Switzerland
Compassion in Dying – United Kingdom
EXIT – Scotland
Final Exit – United States

Organisations against Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide:

Care NOT Killing – United Kingdom
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – Canada
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – United States

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Hereditary Religion, and the Protest Against

End Hereditary Religion

[Also published at A-News Reports, Trolling with Logic, and EndHereditaryReligion.org]

A couple of weekends ago, I got to participate in the Third Annual International Day of Protest Against Hereditary Religion. What is it? Well, for 24 hours, people from across the globe got a chance to talk to, tune in, and listen to speakers from all over. The basic premise of this event was to inform and possibly persuade everyone watching that children have a right to freedom of conscience, and that “respecting that right and giving children that gift” makes for a better community, on a global scale. The intent wasn’t attempting to sway anyone away from religion, quite the contrary. A majority of the presenters agreed that if one religion was to be taught that all should be given equal time. After all, the best way to understand and interact with those of different beliefs is to learn about them. However, the message throughout the event was “a religious right ends where harm to others begins.”

So what exactly is “Hereditary Religion” anyway? David McAfee, author of “Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist“, says it is “a phenomenon that…to me, implies the thought of religion as something similar to heritage; it is passed on from generation to generation via the parents.” Richard Collins explains why it’s both easy to accomplish and dangerous, saying “First and foremost the practice is unethical and is accomplished using mind control techniques. Young children will believe anything adults tell them and the superstitious concepts that are embedded in their immature minds are nearly impossible to dislodge later on. Childhood indoctrination is meant to create a lifelong adherent and it succeeds remarkably.” So he decided to do something about it.

Going back two years, the first event was planned in a Yahoo group (remember those?) with a small staff of volunteers building an idea borne to Mr. Collins. Since the first year, it has grown upward and outward to what occurred over a 24-hour period just a few days ago. With a slew of volunteers offering their free time to either speak on camera about their own personal experiences or offer support in the way of technical prowess. With Eric Shulke getting the word out, between ads and self-promotion over 140,000 people were reached. This was quadrupled from the year before. Also behind the scenes, making sure that everyone was queued up ready for their time slot (as well as making the occasional appearance on-screen) was Jeffrey Witthauer, who did an awesome job of keeping everyone in line…like a virtual stage manager.

Ryan Burkhart during protestHosted by Ryan Burkhart, founder of Hammer the Gods on Facebook and Lance Sievert, owner of the group Atheism United Headquarters. Following an introduction to the protest, the first guest was announced. Dave Hall, [broadcasting from Canada] also of Hammer the Gods, helped to introduce the event, explain just exactly what it was about and what the viewers could expect to see as the day unfolded. The three also discussed where religious freedom for parents ends and the rights of the child begins.
Joining the conversation next was Sheila Blackadder (Ep. 1 @ 41 min), co-host of both A-News and Trolling with Logic  followed by Alex “Big Lundy” Lundberg (Ep. 1 @ 1:14:00) who segued the conversation into the harrowing topic of genital mutilation on infants and young girls. [Just for reference, the PDF that was referenced that’s put out by UNICEF can be found here. I highly recommend that everyone at the very least peruse through it.]
Next, EllenBeth Wachs of Atheists and Humanists of Florida and John Kieffer (Ep. 1 @ 1:46:00) segued the topic of Pope Francis into whether or not the Catholic Church will make any significant changes to policy under his leadership, as well as John’s experience with the Catholic church and how he helped his toddler-aged daughter understand the concept of religion. Adam and Amanda Brown of Atheism Resource and We Are Atheism (Ep. 1 @ 2:46:00) discussed how they grew up and their time with their respective churches, and how they affect people now reaching out and offering resources for others coming out of religion.
The first taste of international indoctrination came in the addition of Faisal Saeed Al Mutar (Ep.1 @ 3:00:00), founder of Global Secular Humanist Movement who recently earned citizenship in the United States. Faisal was born in Iraq and immigrated to the US when those close to him were being killed having been mistaken for him, shortly after he “came out” as a non-believer. Faisal brings part of the dangers of religion into the discussion, for certain. In the States, certainly we see things like our newborn infant boys being circumcised and have somewhat of a moderate concern (as a country, not individually). However, we don’t really get much of a taste of our lives being at risk. It’s one thing to hear that if we travel to a country like Iraq we would have to keep our non-belief to ourselves. It’s another altogether to live with the knowledge that you could be killed on the street simply because you denounced your faith. Faisal can never return to the place of his birth, nor bring attention to his family for fear of repercussion for simply being related to an “out” atheist.
Joining next, of Leaving Your Religion, James Mulholland (Ep. 1 @ 3:51:00) discussed his part working with recruiting children to religion, and the institution’s push to recruit as many young people as they can. Jim’s book, Leaving your Religion is available on Amazon. There was also mention of a couple outside resources for people coming out of religion including a book by David McAfee called Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist.

Protest collage

Opening the second episode, everyone finally got a chance to see and hear Jeffrey Witthauer of the Atheist Agenda (Ep. 2 @ 13:00) as he came out from behind the scenes to talk about what it was like to grow up in a pretty evangelically religious upbringing in the southern part of the US. We also hear about how removing religion forced him to rethink his path in life. Joining the board next was Reace Niles (Ep. 2 @ 1:00:00) of “Know God, No Peace. No God, Know Peace” and the Mind of an Atheist podcast. Discussion included Reace’s upbringing with religion, as well as the harms of faith healing, circumcision, and even the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Former president of the National Atheist Party (SPoA) and comic book artist, Troy Boyle entered the panel (Ep. 2 @ 1:55:00) and discussed his upbringing in a Southern Baptist exposure, child labour, and the plausibility of a lawsuit against religion. Sheila Blackadder was brought back in to discuss what is known as “abstinence-only education” and the issues tied in with it and the potential decline of religion’s hold.
Linda Falkner (Ep. 2 @ 3:22:55) owner of Cheer Counseling and author of Dangerous Wishcraft. Linda offered her experience in mental health counseling and her upbringing in a Jewish home. Although herself more culturally Jewish than practicing, she was informative about some of the myths, history and facts about Judaism. As a mental health professional she also deals with the emotional trauma that often happens with children as they learn about religion and specifically the dark side of believing in a deity.
The next speaker was possibly the most impacting. Rebecca Kimbel (Ep. 2 @ 5:16:30) was very candid as she described being handed off to her first husband by her parents at a very young age to essentially just give birth every year while living in a very strict cult-like chapter of the Mormon faith. She explains her time living in a polygamist family, sharing a husband with other women and then her struggle to escape safely with her children. She also describes her new life, with a husband she dearly loved and what she’s been doing since she gained her freedom.
Elizabeth Williams, briefly the VP of Administration for the NAP was our next guest and briefly explained that although she was raised atheist there were several things about religion that she would like to see changed.
The next on the panel was Travis Jones (Ep. 2 @ 7:05:00), also of “Know God, No Peace. No God, Know Peace.” Travis grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness and describes what it was like as a child. Joining Travis was our second international guest, Alvin Cloyd Dakis (Ep. 3 @ 7:29:00) of the Philippines who was raised Roman Catholic. Alvin is also the President of the Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI) as well as President and CEO of the Philippine Society of Sexual & Reproductive Health Nurses, Inc. Alvin has a really prolific resume and has been extremely active, not just online, but in his home country over the last ten (10) years. During his time on the protest he discusses not just being an atheist but being an out bisexual as well.

Pink Atheist Podcast

The third episode opens with Rachel Johnson joining the panel. Rachel has the Pink Atheist podcast, she blogs as The Godless Vagina, and also writes for The Celestial Teapot. [Note: Although these are links to the actual sites, you can also find them all on Facebook and Twitter.] Rachel explains that, having being introduced to religion later than some she attributes her atheism now to the fact that she questioned everything as it was introduced to her. Lee Lemon (Ep. 3 @ 18:30) was the next to join the panel. Lee has a YouTube channel where she posts videos on a variety of topics, including atheism, the Pentecostal faith and Korean culture (she eats a lot of interesting things, like dog stew and pig uterus). She also co-admins on Religion Poisons Everything. For the panel, Lee discusses what it was like for her in Guam and her journey to South Korea, where she’s lived for the last couple of years.
The next panel consisted of Secular Woman president Kim Rippere, and fellow contributors M.A. Melby, and Vyckie Garrison. The ladies were discussing homschooling and how religion can interact and effect how children learn, as well as where to draw the line between allowing religious freedom and restricting the freedom of parents to teach their own children. Miranda Celeste Hale, freelance writer and co-admin of A Manual for Creating Atheists (Ep. 3 @ 1:57:30) joined and discussed her experiences within the Catholic Church. Whether or not a religious upbringing (or indoctrination) could be considered child abuse was also discussed.
Shayrah Akers, owner and creator of Secular View, campaign manager for Daniel Moran for State Representative and board member for We are Atheism (Ep. 3 @ 2:46:30) was the next guest. She discussed her deeply religious upbringing and her involvement with the Billy Graham crusades, going from one extreme of religion to helping atheists as they leave their faith. Robert Robinson (Ep. 3 @ 3:45:38) of World Cult Watch was added to the panel next. Robert talked about his time as a Scientologist and, previously as a Lutheran. Of all of the speakers throughout the protest, Robert was one of the only that still holds on to some of his belief. Calling himself a “spiritual humanist”, he firmly beliefs in equality for everyone, and protection against oppression of women and children.
Lhebade Bela GbadoLhebade Fela Gbado (Ep. 3 @ 5:06:00), who also has a YouTube channel, was the next international guest, broadcasting from Nigeria. Fela was of the Christian faith until about 9 years ago when he became an atheist. He discussed the history of religion in his country, as well as what it was like to live within that faith. Things like shelter, food, clothing and medicines were brought in and traded for a dedication to the Christian faith. He also talked about the presence and influence of Muslims within the country, presently and in recent history.
Next, representing A-News and Godless Revival, and the VP of We are Atheism, Lee Moore (Ep. 3 5:52:30) joined the conversation. He discussed his growing up in the south, standing just outside of the faith watching it from the sidelines. Lee also gave his views on the question of indoctrination of children into religion and whether it’s child abuse. “Forcing children at an early age to adopt a religious belief that has a rule book that lets you get away with being shitty to one another is criminal. Your rights stop when you inflict your beliefs, inflict your ways on someone else. Teaching a child to be a human being is easy, you don’t need religion to do it.”
Entering the panel from Wales, an advocate using the name Crispy Sea (of the YouTube channel of the same name) to discuss his anonymity (Ep. 3 6:56:00), what it was like for him growing up in religion and how it’s been for him and his family without the faith. He also talked about the school system in Wales and differences in comparison to the rest of the UK with respect to the use of “religious observance”. The necessity of children believing in the fantasy sort of magic that comes with “birthday wish” or even Santa Clause was compared to the supernatural associated with an all-knowing deity. Ending the third installment of this protest, enter Mike “A-Team” Autry (Ep. 3 @ 7:21:00) who actually took the protest into the final episode for this years protest. Mike offered another look into a southern Baptist upbringing and why he considers himself an anti-theist rather than just an atheist.

Mike Autry

Episode 4 opens with the panel joined by Christopher Loren, author of Unspirituality: Permission to be Human. Chris talked about his upbringing in a strict religious home and why he feels that children should be allowed to learn information based on facts, rather than spirituality or faith. The symbolism, breaching of religion of politics and effects on children who are indoctrinated were all discussed as well.
Joey Kirkman, co-author of Bedtime Bible Stories – Explicit and co-founder of Bully the Bullies (Ep. 4 @ 43:44) was next, and explained his current projects and his experiences growing up. He also shared his views on the Drawing Muhammad campaign, an explicit label on the bible, the Reason Rally, and why you should be angry at indoctrination.
Finishing the protest on the final panel (Ep. 4 @ 1:41:35) we heard from the protest founder, Richard Collins and Jeffrey Witthauer, who took a break from his position in the “green room” to finish out the broadcast. Richard offered a great “Thanks” to everyone who worked in the background, some of whom were working for the entire 24 hour broadcast (including Ryan Burkhart and Jeffrey Witthauer), others offered what time they had. Richard also discussed his future plans for the protest and “taking it to the streets” to make a bigger impact. To round out the discussion, he also discussed what “Hereditary Religion” means to him, and why he wants to see it abolished, as well as what people can do now that the protest is over (you can also find more about that on the website).

Even if the reader missed the protest at the time of broadcast, these episodes will remain on the YouTube channel. Currently, the episodes are being edited (for time only, not content) into shorter 1-2 hour episodes for easier ingestion. As soon as they are ready, this article will be edited to link to them individually.

” ‘Culture’ is used as an excuse of all sorts of things (in South Africa, often as a simple vote-getter). But it’s only when you get to choose what your “culture” is – and not have it forced upon you – that it becomes remotely respectable. And even then, it should never be an explanation or justification for doing or believing something. As I tell students, appeals to culture, tradition and the like get the causality entirely backwards: things could become cultural norms because they are good norms; but the fact that something is a cultural norm has no bearing on whether it’s a good or respectable one or not.” ~ Jacques Rousseau

Philanthropy and Secularism

Kansas City Atheist Coalition’s mission to advance atheism

through activism, philanthropy and education.

Sarah Hargreaves2 NAPTwo years ago, Sarah Hargreaves started an organization to help bring light to the positive side of what being an atheist means that gets vastly ignored and forgotten. But Sarah wasn’t always an atheist. After teaching at Sunday school, during vacation bible school and even helping to organize a church summer camp, Sarah ended up moving away from her hometown. The church that had been like a second home became hard to get to and unable to choose one that felt right, she became a “Christian without a church.” Right around the same time the “marriage equality” fight was really coming into the spotlight.

Sarah’s morals got the better of her and she really began to question her own faith.  “There were several steps along the way that opened me up to realizing that the answers I was given as a child really weren’t doing the trick any more.  There were better explanations and answers for how the world works, even how morality works and all these things. I became much more satisfied morally and ethically as an atheist. Certainly more scientifically satisfied as a person as an atheist than I ever was as a Christian.”

So after searching around, testing out several other organizations and outreach attempts she started becoming acquainted with other like-minded people. Using connections made at www.Meetup.com, attending  conferences like Skepticon and ReasonFest she finally started to feel like she was a part of something real, she was “plugged in” to a comfortable community.

There were lots of opportunities for her and other atheists to get together for various “Skeptics in the Pub” type hangouts or educational speakers to listen to but she missed being able to help people, really reach out into the community at large and be able to really help people but without the umbrella of a church. So taking what she learned and adding it to what she was missing from her  days within the church, the idea for the Kansas City Atheist Coalition was born.

The mission for the KCAC is to “advance atheism through activism, philanthropy, education and the cultivation of a positive secular community.” Sarah breaks it down like this; as activists they stand and fight for not just their own rights but the rights of those who could be considered allies. A good example of this is marriage equality, fighting churches and groups that don’t just display homophobic behavior but are outright gay-bashing in nature.

As for the philanthropy, Sarah feels that it “meets the needs for atheists to provide charitably because I think atheists are a humanistic people that care and have love for their fellow human being. There aren’t a lot of outlets for atheists to do that as an ‘out’ atheist. It’s also to let the larger community know that atheists are good without God.” This organization allows them to do just that.

Sarah Hargreaves3 NAPShe goes on to say “We do one charitable thing a month like we will volunteer with Harvesters Food Network or we’ll do a blood drive with the Community Blood Center of Kansas City but the AIDS Walk is a great opportunity because we are out in the community mixed in with a bunch of other groups in Kansas City and we are all working towards the shared purpose to raise money to help raise money to fight the disease of AIDS and we get to participate in this march where we can wear our KCAC t-shirt and it’s a great opportunity to be this very ‘out’ atheist doing good for goodness sake. That kind of captures the spirit that we are wanting to get at with the whole part of us doing good works n Kansas City. Letting atheists do good things out of the goodness of their hearts and also showing our community that we are good people.”

Lastly, it’s education. “It is educating ourselves; we are interested in learning more about science, biology, and cosmology; psychology, sociology, society and people in general, the world around us; understanding our own minds and how they work and how we function as a society; other religions and cultures. A lot of freethinkers find the study of religion totally fascinating, I myself find the study of religions interesting. Of course, educating others. Educating the community at large about what it means to be an atheist.”

So far KCAC has been fairly well accepted by the members of the community. People recognize that, even with the title, atheists are generally good people. With the exception of the incident last month with the Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parade they haven’t really had issue with being accepted either. Once in a while they come across a group that isn’t thrilled about them being so up front about their lack of belief but outside of a preference that they don’t display their shirts or banner they haven’t been turned away from helping.

When asked about the ultimate goal for her organization, like most secular activists she hopes to one day be put out of a job. “At the end of the day if people aren’t feeling ostracized, made to feel like the “other” or different…then they don’t need a support system because their friends, family and neighbors all accept them for who they are then I’ll be happy.”

For more informaSarah Hargreaves NAPtion about Sarah and her organization you can visit their website, check out their Facebook page or stop anytime you see a group of people holding signs like these shown at the right. They host “Ask an Atheist” possibilities at events all over the city and have no problem taking up a healthy discourse about who they are and what exactly they are up to.

College LGBT Centers Lead to High-Risk Behaviours

Bill Zedler Texas RepTexas Legislature is about to pass their General Appropriations Bill (SB1).  For most of Texas this isn’t really newsworthy, and for the rest of the country it means even less. What has caught the attention of some Texas residents is what State Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) did next. An amendment, being called the Zedler Amendment (or Zedler-1) was filed regarding the funding of gender and sexuality related student centers. According to the document, colleges and universities will no longer be able to use any higher education facility, property or funding obtained under this act to “support, promote or encourage any behavior that would lead to high risk behavior for AIDS, HIV, Hepatitis B, or any sexually transmitted disease.”

Yes, you read that correctly. When this bill goes through all centers dedicated to supporting students within the LGBT community through housing or funding will no longer be able to use appropriated money to do so. Rep. Zedler seems to think that giving aid to those students will promote risky lifestyle and spread disease. It seems he’s not alone in that thinking either.

Two weeks ago, Texas A&M’s student Senate introduced a bill on campus that would allow students to decide not to fund the LGBT Resource Center should they have religious objections. It seems its not the first time they have set their sights on the Center either. Two years prior they passed a similar bill that was to require allocated funding for the Center to be split equally with a center for “traditional and family values” but it was vetoed by the student body president.

Camden Breeding, an LGBT activist at A&M said he expects the student senate to pass the bill when it’s voted on but  he also says the bill is illegal. He says it would violate a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said public universities can assist university groups without being in violation of the First Amendment. Texas, it seems has a long way to go before accepting the LGBT students that make up part of the population of their schools.

It’s not too late to stop Zedler-1 from becoming enacted. If enough people step in and object it could be dropped. These outdated and offensive views aren’t acceptable, by any standards. The idea that homosexuals, bisexuals or transsexuals are responsible for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases is a disgusting and bigoted view held on to by anti-gay members of the community. Zedler’s reasoning for filing this amendment on is ridiculous and baseless. Members and supporters of the LGBT community can still contact their representatives to prevent the amendment from coming to fruition.

Also posted at: http://nationalatheistparty.tumblr.com/post/47102258078/college-lgbt-centers-lead-to-high-risk-behavior

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/04/04/1199094/-College-LGBT-Centers-Lead-to-High-Risk-Behavior

Kansas’ New Law Offers Potential Discrimination and Harassment, but Quarantine?

Kansas politicians have been busy trying to push through a bill aimed at “public health”. In 2011, the Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources first introduced House Bill 2183. This bill was to prohibit a representative of the government from depriving any citizen of the participating states’ rights and freedoms legally granted as well as providing a guarantee that residents of those states were to be protected from government penalization for living according to their legal freedoms. This would also essentially link these states together to fight against any breach of this Act, providing “mutual assistance”.

Liberal, KansasSounds like a great thing, right? Unfortunately, Kansas’ government officials didn’t think so, and it was denied in this original context. It seems that they didn’t want to risk being prosecuted for interfering with their residents’ freedoms. After all, that’s what the most conservative “powers that be” seem to have at the top of their agendas these days. (It makes me wonder if a town like Liberal, Kansas was meant ironically, like calling big guys “Tiny” or heavier guys “Slim”, but I digress…)

For the 2013 session this bill was once again brought out for discussion, however this time it was a totally different animal. The original document was meant to protect health care providers and their patients (see proposed 2013 language) as a lioness would protect her cubs. However in the two years since its first appearance, it would seem that our lioness contracted rabies and has turned on her young (see revised 2013 language).

The new bill is seemingly aimed at AIDS- and HIV-infected residents of Kansas. Although the term “communicable disease” is added deeper into the now seven-page document, including other diseases like pneumonic plague, cutaneous anthrax, and various childhood diseases from which typical immunizations protect us (measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc.). This bill would amend and replace the current statutes (65-6004) and (65-6001) already in place that protected not just the physician and the patient, but the patient’s privacy. The only difference between the statutes as currently written and the proposed new bill is there is no mention of quarantine in either statute whereas our newest beast is causing panic about exactly that.

As of 1901, there was a provision in place in Kansas for quarantine in the case of infectious disease, authorizing a segregation of residents who were thought to be of high health risk to the rest of the population. In 1988 this was amended to include the following language: “…the infectious or contagious disease acquired immune deficiency syndrome or any causative agent thereof shall not constitute an infectious or contagious disease for the purposes of K.S.A. 65-118, 65-119, 65-122, 65-123, 65-126 and 65-129, and amendments thereto, because such disease is subject to the provisions of K.S.A. 65-6001 through 65-6007 and amendments thereto.” To ease discomfort about this bill however, an open letter regarding its intent was released stating there is no danger of quarantine due to the current law against such an event.

This revised bill had support of politicians in Kansas, with the exception of Senator Marci Francisco (D, Lawrence). Senator Francisco stated that, since HIV/AIDS is not communicable with “casual contact” this bill only stands to offer potential harassment or discrimination to its sufferers. It seems that she may not be alone in that thinking now. Actually, the majority consensus is not that those afflicted with HIV/AIDS will be quarantined (despite the strong provision and obvious direction of the revised bill) but that those who are infected will be harassed and discriminated against. Regardless, the bill passed in the Kansas Senate.

So this is where the residents of Kansas come in to play. This bill has not yet become official. There is still time to stop it. From the Kansas Equality Coalition, “We are hearing from some members of the House of Representatives that they feel they were mislead by KDHE on this version of the bill, and are prepared to vote against it.” All they need is to know that residents want it stopped. For a complete list of state representatives, this link offers names and contact information for every single representative with the ability to vote “NO” on this bill.

I urge you to take action against such a discriminatory bill that would roll back rights for HIV/AIDS patients by 25 years. Please take the time to contact these representatives today.

Also posted at http://nationalatheistparty.tumblr.com/post/47291173164/kansas-new-law-discrimination-harassment-and

The summer of 2010 brought the start of an interesting chapter in the life of a young resident of Salem, Missouri. Anaka Hunter was attempting to research information about Native American tribes and their associated spirituality. She went to her local public library and began searching online using one of the public computers. According to the complaint, many of the sites she attempted to access were blocked by the system employed by the library to filter out potentially dangerous topics from children. Those labeled as “occult” or “criminal skills” despite the fact that they were neither.

Ms. Hunter approached the library’s director and one of the defendant’s, Glenda Wofford. She requested that the websites she needed to be made accessible. Initially, Director Wofford is supposed to have simply stated that she had no control over it, sites were regulated by the internet filtering program the library uses. Hunter asked if a website offering information about “prominent Native American women” could be unblocked. The response was for Hunter to be given limited access (specifically to just one page of that website). When she again took it up with Wofford it was found that she essentially had power to set the system to prevent the viewing of  topics she viewed as dangerous or inappropriate. She went on to say that she only lifts the block for job-relevant sites, topic of research paper or if she deemed their necessity legitimate.

CIPA requires that libraries maintain a policy and ICF systems to prevent children from accessing “visual depictions” that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors. This library, like all other public libraries in Missouri, is also obligated to comply with MO. REV. STAT § 182.827.3. which requires that libraries “limit minors’ ability to gain access to material that is pornographic for minors.” You will note that there is no mention of “criminal skill” or “the occult”. According to the complaint, neither of the sites she was trying to visit fell under the category of “pornographic.”

The ICF system chosen by this library was called Netsweeper. This program assigns websites to various categories, including adult image, criminal skills, extreme, general, IWF (those tagged by the Internet Watch Foundation potentially contain images of child abuse), occult, pornography, and religion. All settings are pre-programmed but are quick and easy to change with little effort. Follows is a list of some of the sites she was attempting to visit:

1 ~ http://paranormal.about.com/

2 ~ http://www.allaboutspirituality.org/

3 ~ http://www.wicca.org/

4 ~ http://www.cultfaq.org/

5 ~ http://www.deathreference.com/

6 ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicca

7 ~ http://www.witchvox.com/

So, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri sued on Hunter’s behalf, claiming this violated Hunter’s First Amendment rights, and a federal judge agreed. Daniel Mach (Director of the Freedom of Religion and Belief chapter of the ACLU) said in a statement that: “Public libraries should be maximizing the spread of information, not blocking access to viewpoints or religious ideas not shared by the majority.”

Everyday in little ways all across the country little incidences of censorship like this happen. Individually, they don’t really mean anything, unless you are the student attempting to research a topic that someone else has already deemed “scary” or “dangerous.”

~~~~~~~~~~

http://www.secularnewsdaily.com/2013/03/access-supplied-court-says-public-library-cant-block-pagan-websites/

http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/salem_complaint_final.pdf

Censorship Near the Ozarks Ceased

Indoctri-Nation (Part II)

Indoctri Nation

Part Two

As if the attack on our schools and the textbooks isn’t bad enough it seems that, behind the scenes, is an even more frightening prospect; easily the most dangerous method of filling their rapidly-depleting ranks of faithful followers. As more and more families are “coming out” as secular-minded and the reach of the church diminishes, they have been busy sneaking in through a side door and they are using a legal precedence to get in.

An Evangelical group, calling themselves “The Good News Club” is using public school classrooms in an after school program to teach children the “Word of God”. Why is this a problem? It undermines our Constitutional separation of church and state. It’s using fear to indoctrinate children at an impressionable age (usually between 4 and 13) into complete obedience.

The Good News Club (GNC) is perfect for what they are intending. The creators have developed a very effective program using a reward system and absolute fear. Because they are holding these “classes” after school hours at schools across the country (over 3,000 schools, reaching some 900,000 children in 2012, according to Child Evangelism Fellowship) the children are under the impression that it’s real information. After all, children go to school to learn. If it’s taught at school, it must therefor be true. They are unable to distinguish between school-sanctioned programs and a program that’s simply held at the school.

So what is it? The club uses songs, games and snacks to cover up the fact that they are using dark biblical teachings about sin and Hell. Telling children that things like refusing to clean their room is not just a sin but a ticket straight to the fiery pit for an eternity of suffering. Children are told that they are born “full of sin” and “deserve to go to Hell” if they show any signs of independence. Sound extreme? It gets worse.

Eric Cernyar, an attorney who attended GNC as a child, remarked, “The Good News Club likes to market itself as an organization that teaches morals. Well let me tell you what the supreme moral of the Good News Club is: Obedience. Complete obedience, under any circumstance. Even commands to commit genocide, if that’s what God commands.”

Taking this belief one step further they use the ordered genocide of the Amalekites by God as an example. They explain that because Saul failed in his completion of the genocide he is ultimately rejected from heaven by God. They use this example to show that not following God’s orders to the exact letter, no matter what the order will result in refusal in to heaven later. Bryan Halloway, House of Representatives for North Carolina (and former high school teacher) supports this sort of belief by saying “We may or may not know what His purpose for asking him to do these kinds of things were and I think, for me I take the bible for what it says…if God ordered it, then it was good.”

Earlier I mentioned a legal precedence. There was a case seen in the Supreme Court (no. 99-2036) Good News Club et al. v. Milford Central School in which a Conservative judge ruled in favor of Good News Club, stating that among other things Milford violated the Club’s free speech rights when it excluded the Club from meeting after hours at the school. This win not only allowed for their club to hold “classes” in Milford, but the precedence opened the flood gates throughout the entire country. This also raises the GNC above the rest of the after-school programs because now it cannot be prevented, whereas

programs like art or even gender and special interest-based programs can. This club has become untouchable.

Not everyone who follows the Christian faith agrees with what GNC is up to. Reverend J Brent Walker, Executive Director – Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty stated, “It’s not government’s job to do what Jesus commissioned his church to do. It’s not biblical. I must not ask my government to promote my religion if I don’t want government to promote someone else’s religion and I must not permit government to commit harm to someone else’s religion if I don’t want government to harm my religion.”

Reverend Barry Lynn ~ Executive Director – Americans United for Separation of Church and State has a theory as to why Christians are going through all this trouble. “I’ve been at this a long time and for decades I’ve been hearing people say ‘Well it is a Christian country but we don’t want to have a theocracy,’ meaning they don’t want a country run strictly along Christian religious lines, but I think they are fibbing about that. I think people on the so-called religious right want to create a Christian-based, bible-based legal system in the United States and if you are a non-Christian you are a second class citizen.”

So, are right-wing Christians working toward a theocracy? I do not believe that the majority of the people involved with the “Good News Club” are bad. I am sure that they feel they are just educating children of “God’s Word.” If this is true though, why does it feel like an attempt to create a generation of Christians prepared to carry out whatever order “God” decides to issue? Is it perhaps to create a self-fulfilling prophesy? If so, what is to become of those of us who are “second class citizens?” I have no way of knowing any of these answers, I just know I fear for the future of our nation.

Reference Links

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=000&invol=99-2036

http://goodnewsclubs.info/index.htm

http://www.cefonline.com/

Also posted at: http://nationalatheistparty.tumblr.com/post/45415156323/indoctri-nation-part-2 http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/03/15/1194224/-Indoctri-Nation-Part-2  ~