By George Kane
The first vote of the 111th Congress with significance to the separation of church and state was a success, but not everyone on the religious right realized that they had suffered a defeat. One of the provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was originally to be $10 billion for repairs and facility construction at eligible colleges. Funds were not to be available for theological seminaries, or at secular colleges for buildings used for religious instruction. Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina offered an amendment "to allow the free exercise of religion at institutions of higher education that receive (repair and reconstruction) funding." In other words, the amendment would have opened up the government funding to religious education.
Other issues addressed by the committee include: 1. Questionable practices of Charter Schools in relation to church-state separation. 2. Tax supported programs like Positive Alternatives (anti-choice counseling services for pregnant women). 3. Tax credits and deductions for Christian home schools. 4. Tuition write-offs for parochial school tuition. 5. Property tax exemptions for church property. 6. Creationism in public high school science classes (an estimated 25% of our students are being taught creation science in public school biology classes as an alternative to evolution). Due to our actions FFRF might be interested in Positive Alternatives.
The committee has decided to develop a network of watchdogs throughout the state. Any member of a Freethought group can volunteer. They would report violations observed in their area to the committee which would offer consultation on how the issue might be addressed. Other resources such as ACLU-MN, FFRF and American's United would be utilized. If legislative issues arise that the committee believes should be addressed, the watchdog advocates may be asked to contact their respective legislators. Our goal is to establish a watchdog advocate in each of the 67 Senate Districts. If there are more than one in a district we will connect you with each other. We have come to the realization that the Freethought community needs to organize to make their voice heard.
If you are interested in becoming a watchdog contact us at email@example.com (MN Atheists) or firstname.lastname@example.org (H of M). We will need your name, email address, phone number, Senate district #, State Senator or State Representative if known. If you do not know who represents you or what district you are in we can supply that information based on your address.
Bob Schmitz, Chair
First Amendment Watchdog Committee
By Crystal Dervetski
So you're swimming along and trying to meet new people, but sometimes it still feels like you've hit a snag or that you're in a rut. This is the time of year when everyone's New Year's Resolutions start to tank. Perhaps it's time to think about trying a personal reinvention. I know it can be a frightening consideration, but reinventing yourself can be a great way to get a fresh perspective, and can help people see you in a different light as well. Here are some tips for reinventing yourself that will not only make you feel better about your personal style, but may also benefit others. Since we know atheists are often (wrongly) criticized as not being charitable people, these are a few simple options for helping yourself and others at the same time.