secular coalition for america

After Edwina Rogers' Ouster, Secular Community Regroups

Self-described “nontheist” Edwina Rogers speaks at The Amaz!ng Meeting in 2013. Creative Commons image by Zooterkin.

As the Secular Coalition for America prepares for its biggest event of the year this week in Washington, D.C., atheist groups are recovering from the sudden departure of the coalition’s highest officer and confronting renewed charges that nonbelief groups have a shortage of women leaders and are suspicious of conservatives.

The SCA, which lobbies on behalf of more than a dozen secular groups, announced that its executive director, Edwina Rogers, was let go after employees embezzled $78,000 from the organization.

The story was first reported by The New York Times and referred to a leaked internal audit.

The SCA said Rogers, who was hired about two years ago, was in no way connected to the missing funds. She dismissed the two employees allegedly responsible and reported the matter to the police and the organization’s board.

Atheists Lose Fight Over 'Under God' at Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Andrew Hall, an atheist and father, demonstrates outside the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Photo by G. Jeffrey MacDonald.

The highest court in Massachusetts upheld the legality of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance on Friday, dealing a blow to atheist groups who challenged the pledge on anti-discrimination grounds.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said the daily, teacher-led recitation of the pledge in state public schools does not violate the state’s equal rights amendment and is not discriminatory against the children of atheists, humanists, and other nontheists.

“Participation is entirely voluntary,” the court wrote as a whole in the decision of Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, brought by an anonymous humanist family. “[A]ll students are presented with the same options; and one student’s choice not to participate because of a religiously held belief is, as both a practical and a legal matter, indistinguishable from another’s choice to abstain for a wholly different, more mundane, and constitutionally insignificant reason.”

The ruling marks the second legal loss for atheists this week. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sectarian prayers given before government meetings were not a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of separation of church and state.

Supreme Court Prayer Ruling May Spur New Alliances

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, at the Reason Rally on March 24, 2012. RNS photo by Tyrone Turner.

This week’s Supreme Court ruling allowing sectarian prayers at public meetings dealt a body blow to atheist organizations.

That was the assessment of David Silverman, president of American Atheists, speaking Tuesday to a group of nonbelievers at Stanford University. He then described a scenario that may raise eyebrows among some atheists: working with religious groups to fight against the ruling.

“That’s what we have to do, not only organize the atheists, but the Satanists, the Scientologists,” he said. In a conversation before his talk, he added Muslims, Jews, and Hindus. “We as atheists have the responsibility to urge them and push them and get them in there to get their prayers” said at public meetings.

That’s a change for a man who has famously described religion as a “poison.” And it is emblematic, observers say, of the change that may result from the majority opinion in Greece v. Galloway, which found that prayers citing “the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ” are permissible before government business.

Other secularists are likewise convinced that now is the time for atheists to join forces with members of minority faiths.

Secular Coalition Flunks Most Congress Members on Church-State Report Card

Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Reitano, via Wikimedia Commons

Capitol Dome, Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Reitano, via Wikimedia Commons

If some secular organizations had their way, much of the current class of lawmakers would flunk out of Congress.

The Secular Coalition for America, an umbrella organization of 13 nontheistic groups including American Atheists and The Freedom From Religion Foundation, issued a “report card” on members of the U.S.House of Representatives and Senate based on their votes on recent legislation involving church-state issues.

More than half of lawmakers received F’s, meaning, in the coalition’s eyes, they fail at upholding the separation of church and state.

Oprah Interview Stirs Debate: What is an Atheist?

Long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad. Photo courtesy Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com/ RNS

What was supposed to be a touchy-feely, one-on-one interview by Oprah Winfrey with long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad has morphed into a broader, sometimes angry exchange about what it means to be an atheist.

Earlier this month Winfrey, 59, hosted Nyad on “Super Soul Sunday,” her weekly talk program on cable’s Oprah Winfrey Network. Nyad, 64, recently completed a 53-hour solo swim from Cuba to Florida.

During the hourlong segment, Nyad declared herself an atheist. 

Atheists Postpone Protests After Bangladeshi Disaster

Embassy of Bangladesh in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy RNS.

Several atheist protests planned for Thursday outside Bangladeshi embassies and consulates were postponed in the wake of Wednesday’s building collapse that killed at least 244 people in that country’s capital, Dhaka.

A coalition of secularist advocacy groups originally planned to rally in London and several cities in the U.S. and Canada over the arrests of four atheist bloggers who were charged with blasphemy in the officially Muslim nation.

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