On April 19, the featured speaker at our public meeting was Jerry Dincin of Chicago, the new president of the Final Exit Network. FEN is a four year old organization that supports the right of individuals to choose the time of their death. Minnesota Atheists has supported this issue since 1999, when we presented an award in absentia to Dr. Jack Kevorkian after a Michigan court convicted him of second degree murder for assisting in the death of a man with terminal ALS.
Dincin told a story of legal persecution even more extreme than the Kevorkian case. While Kevorkian directly participated in the suicide by administering a fatal injection, the Final Exit Network meticulously avoids any active role in suicides. Although FEN provided the information needed to end one's life painlessly, the client alone was entirely responsible for every step in the process. They took care to avoid ever recommending suicide to a client. The only support the FEN provided was hand-holding, to provide psychological comfort. Kevorkian was a provocateur, who tried to win the battle over assisted suicide by daring the state to prosecute him. The Final Exit Network, to the contrary, meticulously avoided violating any laws.
But the state of Georgia saw things differently. In February they arrested four officers of the Final Exit Network for assisting in a suicide by a member who suffered from cancer of the throat and mouth. Most astonishingly, Georgia decided to shut the FEN down by prosecuting it under Georgia's Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) law. State and federal RICO laws were written to combat the mafia. In a coordinated operation, Georgia conducted raids in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado, and Montana, and seized $550,000 in FEN bank accounts. The seizures forced them to raise $50,000 for legal expenses so far, and have effectively put the FEN out of operation.
Dincin expects the Final Exit Network and the arrested officers to be cleared of all charges, but that is not likely to happen any time soon. Unlike nearly every other state, Dincin explained, the laws of Georgia do not give defendants the right to a speedy trial. FEN may be kept in legal limbo, with their assets frozen, indefinitely.
An impromptu appeal from Steve Petersen collected over $200 for the FEN's legal defense fund. Members who wish to donate to their legal defense should call 866-230-2471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions.
Dincin stated that the Final Exit Network supports clients "who are suffering intolerably from an irreversible condition which has become more than they can bear." The program of Final Exit Network accepts members with cancer, ALS, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer's disease, congestive heart failure, emphysema, and other incurable illnesses.
by Crystal Dervetski
In the course of writing publicly about atheism, I have come across some questions, and many times opposition, regarding belonging to a formal organization for freethinkers. As with most questions, they are repeated multiple times by a variety of people, and oddly enough, many times they come not from religious persons but from fellow atheists. I plan on sharing a few great statements and questions I have received over the last year, and my answers to them.
Put the energy from the Day of Reason to good use on May 17, as Chuck Samuelson, Executive Director of ALCU MN drops by the Ridgedale Library at 2 p.m. for a presentation on ACLU MN's current lawsuit against a charter school in Apple Valley known as TiZA. Those who are not familiar with the case will learn about how this charter school has violated the separation of church and state and what steps the ALCU MN takes leading up to a lawsuit to attempt to resolve issues without litigation.
TiZA is accused of violating the separation of church and state on several issues. The school has a prayer posted at the entrance, girls are prohibited from wearing short sleeves, and school buses don't leave until the hour after school ends, which is when religious studies classes are held, which most students are enrolled in.
This case is important for several reasons. There
are clear concerns at the school, with regard to the endorsement of a
particular religion. However, when the Minnesota Department of
Education investigated claims, they did not see any violations, but
urged the school to better separate religious expression from the
school day. What this means is that the rules for Charter Schools in
Minnesota need to be written more clearly to protect the separation
of church and state so litigation becomes unnecessary. Other
religious groups are also watching the outcome of this lawsuit to see
how the court will rule. If ACLU MN is not successful, this could
mean that your tax dollars could be used to fund other schools with
shared religious service facilities, daily worship, and after school
religious studies classes.
After the meeting, we will be gathering for an early dinner to discuss the meeting further.
For more information, visit meetup.com.
by George Kane
I have a new job with a financial services company that provides a lot of training that I have to attend. One recent training session dealt with theoretical mechanics of the market system. As you might expect in a business-training session, the presentation was freighted with assumptions, such as that the self-correcting mechanisms of the market will always return to the way they were before an episodic crisis. I consider this to be a superstitious view of the market economy.
But while listening to the lecture, I was thinking how market precepts apply to the marketplace of ideas. We are involved in a marketplace battle on several fronts, or products: atheism vs. god-belief, evolution vs. creationism, science vs. superstition, reason vs. belief, and ethics based on consequences in peoples' lives vs. divine declaration. We are confident that we have already won the intellectual arguments on merit, but the question is: why can we not drive our opponents out of the marketplace?