About the International Coalition Calls

Conference-Call1Every first Thursday of the month, the Secular Policy Institute holds an international coordinating call for its 300 members to discuss the future of the secular movement.

Call for February 4, 2016

Here’s the latest recording of the Secular Policy Institute’s international coordinating call.


SPI International Hot Spot of the Month – Saudi Arabia

January 27, 2016

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

President Obama and Secretary Kerry:

The Secular Policy Institute and the below signed coalition members call on your office to demand that the U.S. impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia and declare it ineligible to remain on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. On the Second of January the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia conducted the execution of 47 people convicted on a series of various counts. The most prominent of these victims of state-murder was the Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. These incidents of public execution occurring on the same day represent a chilling reminder of the brutality and the human rights crisis abuses by the government of Saudi Arabia.

The justice system in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is heavily based in the (highly conservative, orthodox Salafist version of) Shari’ah, a type of all-encompassing way of living with special emphasis on crime and punishment has varying degrees of flexibility and severity. In the Shari’ah there are crimes that have fixed punishments (haad) and those allowing the discretion of a judge (ta’zir). In Saudi Arabia, punishments can be dramatic and cruel (e.g., floggings, amputation, crucifixion, and beheading), and those of this manner are often dispensed as a matter of public spectacle. As politics and religion are inseparable in the Kingdom, several offenses, including blasphemy, are listed under the offense of “breaking allegiance with the ruler.”

The recent executions made the greatest number of people executed on the same day in the Kingdom since 1983. On that day, 47 were executed in 13 cities (43 upon ta’zir decisions). The majority of the condemned (43 Sunni) were accused of being al Qaeda affiliates of operatives, the remaining four were Shiites convicted of “breaking allegiance with the ruler.” Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority (15% of the 28 million Saudis) has long experienced repression and disparate conditions in terms of due process, educational and employment opportunity, and religious expression and practice. Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr had long called for peaceful protests against the Kingdom, including succession of the heavily Shiite Eastern Province if the King did not recognize the rights of the Shiite minority. These protests and legitimate calls for political rights resulted in his execution, and al-Nimr’s nephew (Ali al-Nimr) was also sentenced (in a separated incident) as a minor to face beheading as well. This has caused the beginning of international turmoil. Where Saudi Arabia is seen as the dominant Sunni regional powerhouse, Iran is seen as its Shia counterpart. After al-Nimr’s execution, protestors set fire to Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran. In response Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran, followed suit by the Bahrain, Djibouti, Qatar, Sudan, and the UAE. This comes at a heightened time of tension between the two countries in what is largely seen as a multi-front proxy war.

According to Human Rights Watch, in 2015 Saudi Arabia executed 158 people, of which 70 were foreign nationals and 63 were (mostly non-violent) drug offenses; 2016 started with 47 executions. The aspect of frequent public-display is neither employed by all Shari’ah-sourced states, nor can its human rights implications be reconciled by claims of deterrence. We call upon the Offices of the President of the United States and the U.S. Department of State to intervene on the behalf of marginalized and persecuted populations of Saudi Arabia.

Edwina Rogers
Secular Policy Institute
401 Ninth St., NW, Suite 640
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 430-1888

I – Project and Member Spotlight

■Hashem will speak on behalf of two endangered Bangladeshi bloggers in South Asia, looking for one or two organizations in Sweden who may be able to send two urgent letters of invitations to host them. Fortunately, a sponsor has been found for both. They are both looking for a single visa invitation, and the Swedish Embassy has assured that their visas would be approved. In addition, funds to help them in their extremely difficult situation can be sent here.

■Frye will speak about Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 550 civil society organizations committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfill their potential. He will provide information about applying for membership.

II – SPI Overview
(Edwina Rogers, CEO, edwina@secularpolicyinstitute.net, 202-674-7800)
●SPI Mission
The Secular Policy Institute (SPI) is a think tank organization of thought leaders, writers, scholars, and speakers with a shared mission to influence public opinion and promote a secular society. We believe governmental decisions and public policies should be based on available science and reason, and free of religion or religious preferences.
●Community Action Network (www.CommunityActionNetwork.org)
●Parent Teacher Community Action Network (www.PTCan.org)
Community Action Network (CAN) promotes the development and application of science and reason in an ongoing quest for secular solutions to local problems. As an inclusive, affirming, and action-oriented initiative, CAN seeks to promote rational relationships and effective community building in support of collective problem solving and the ongoing advancement and enjoyment of a more just and reasoned world.
PTCAN Mission Statement
PTCAN Bylaws
PTCAN Charter
PTCAN Gives to Get School Support

World Future Guide 2016
The World Future Guide collects the public policy recommendations and findings on demographic trends from the foremost fellows at the Secular Policy Institute. Leading thinkers give research and opinion on law, education, and healthcare, practical advice on defense and surveillance technology, the big picture trends on the interplay between secular government and religion, and more. And we give you the scoop: even a peek into the finances of the Islamic State!

Our ten articles are written by fellows from seven countries representing diverse points of view.  Yet each is committed to a rational, evidence-based analysis of a timely topic that can inform effective public policy.  The first in a series of Guides, the World Future Guide 2016 provides critical secular insights into timely topics of international import in the hopes of guiding more informed public opinion and policy-making in our increasingly secular world.

Secular Resource Guide
US Policy Guide
●Recruit National and Regional Leaders
●International Hotspots in Need

III – Fellows’ Corner
(Madeline Schussel, Director of Policy, madeline@secularpolicyinstitute.net)

  • Elliot D. Cohen is one of the principal founders of philosophical counseling in the United States. He is co-founder and Executive Director of the National Philosophical Counseling Association (NPCA), and President of the Institute of Critical Thinking. How does philosophy become an applied field? He answers in his recent essay, What Else Can You Do With Philosophy Besides Teach? published in the International Journal of Philosophical Practice that one thing is to give philosophical counseling, a form of mental health counseling.
  • Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a leading world expert on the Islamic State, a secular Arab from the UK and Iraq who advises government worldwide on the Middle East, Islam, and terrorism. He recently helped British newspaper The Guardian to verify and analyze Islamic State documents dealing with transportation and migration in Syria near the border with Turkey. He has also published an analysis of an Islamic State document that justifies slavery, especially concubines. He also discovered and leaked to the press an Islamic State “Master Plan”, which outlines how their operations are to be run.
  • Holger Mey is the Vice President of Advanced Concepts, Airbus Defence and Space in Germany, and has 12 years of experience as a self-employed security policy analyst and consultant. Recently he gave his thoughts on the weapons systems of the future, and you can see his video lecture to the Potsdam Conference of National Cyber Security in 2014 or his video lecture last summer to a German think tank (text from the speech, The Role of Technology in Future Warfare, available here in a conference report entitled The Future of Air Power)
  • Sarbagh Salih is the founder of Hataw, an NGO in Kurdistan that helps people who were forced to move to cities to return to their villages to work in the fields. She is a board member of Nature Iraq and the Sakran-Halgurd National Park, and a member of the committee of the Kurdistan National Herbarium. She is also President of the Kurdistan Botanical Foundation, which recently finished a botanical survey of the Azmer-Goizha mountain in Iraqi Kurdistan, a two-year effort that collected specimens of more than 1,000 species. The group also replants rare and endemic plant species in different areas of Kurdistan. Dr. Salih also recently contributed to the Kurdistan Tour Guide 2015-2016, the first comprehensive travel book for the region.
  • David Sloan Wilson, President of the Evolution Institute, which applies the science of evolution to social and political issues, and promotes acceptance of evolution and its applications to the public. They are proud to announce Evonomics, which builds on the old economic model in which people are assumed to gather all knowledge and make smart choices, to a new model based on evolution and the scientific study of human behavior and how social systems work. Wilson’s report, Doing Well By Doing good, An Evolution Institute Report on Socially Responsible Businesses, explains how socially responsible business practices can also be profitable.  (Earlier this month we mentioned that Wilson will speak in Washington, DC on Thursday, February 11. If you run a local group that would like to gather in support, contact Aaron Traywick at aaron@secularpolicyinstitute.net.)

Daily News Clips Now Available (Follow this link to register)

IV – Coalitions & Resources
(Johnny Monsarrat, Alliance Director, johnny@secularpolicyinstitute.net)

World SPI Calendar – Upcoming Major Conferences
●Volunteers & Interns – SPI Volunteers/Interns Recruitment
●Coalition Update
●Newsletter – weekly, please sign up. (Subscribe to newsletter)
●Secular Leaders League
You do a lot through the SPI coalition in 2015. See our report! (2015 report)
Now we’ve launched two Secular Leaders email chat lists: the US Secular Leaders League (secular-leaders-usa@googlegroups.com) and the Global Secular Leaders League (secular-leaders@googlegroups.com). The purpose of these groups is to:

  • Trade group emails on the secular movement’s future;
  • Plan a global “business plan competition” to coach secular leaders;
  • Host a donor conference where plans get presented judged, and funded, and;
  • Fund winners through a “Secular Donor Advice Fund” for investment firms like Fidelity

Coordinating makes us stronger. Please contribute your needs and ideas!  Please join via the Google group email invitation you received. You may leave at any time.

Thank you! With you, we’re going to change the world in 2016.

World Future Guide
Abuse in American Faith Based Initiative System
US Secular Policy Guide
Secular Resource Guide
Religiousness by Country
Religiousness by US State
●Back Office Support
●Help secure Volunteers and Interns
●Help Draft Press Releases
●Access to Press Database
●Website Design
●Secular Directory

V – Public Policy Update

  • Latin America Update – Hugo Estrella

○SPI is seeking  UN Special Consultative Status.  Edwina will be representative in NY and Hugo in Geneva.   We are looking to build coalitions and join networks.  SPI will seek UNESCO consultative NGO status.  Then we have the EU, there, they have an office which would be more than appropriate for us to lobby, which is the European Commission for Fundamental Rights.

Our fellows from the Italian Union of Atheists Rationalists, Agnostics and Freethinkers (UAAR.it)  to which Hugo belongs and who publish news from US matters and internationally as well (they are members of the European Humanist Federation) have office space in the city (Circolo UAAR di Pisa).  SPI will share the office thanks to Hugo.

  • The Association of Atheism (Republic of Turkey) – Morgan Elizabeth Romano

Uneasy Neighbors in Turkey: Atheism and Islam

  • Recent Letters

Read SPI’s recent Advocacy Campaigns and any updates to past letters.

Upcoming Events:
Freethought Cruise February 5-8, Port Canaveral to the Bahamas
Darwin on the Palouse February 7, Moscow, ID and Pullman, WA
Secular Summit February 10, Columbus, OH
International Darwin Day February 12
Atheist and Secular Oklahomans Lobby Day February 23, Oklahoma City, OK
HuJews Conclave March 4-6, Chicago, IL
SashaCon March 19-20, Columbia, MO
The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies Convention March 11-13, London, UK
Budapesti Szkeptikus Konferencia March 28, Budapest, Hungary
Days of Atheism March 27-29, Warsaw, Poland
LogiCon April 2-3, Fayetteville, AR
Freethought Festival April 8-9, Madison, WI
National Ask an Atheist Day April 16, All Over
Rationalist Conference April 23-24, Tallinn, Estonia
RavenCon Skeptic Track April 29-May 1, Williamsburg, VA
Foundation Beyond Belief: Week of Action April 30-May 6, All Over
SkepKon May 5-7, Hamburg, Germany
Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism May 12-15, New York, NY
A Conference Called Wonder May 19-22, Utrecht, Netherlands
European Humanist Federation’s General Assembly May 20, Valletta, Malta
2016 IHEU General Assembly May 22, Valletta, Malta
American Humanist Association Annual Conference May 26-29, Chicago, IL
Balticon 50 May 27-30, Baltimore, MD
Future of Ethical Societies Conference May 27-30, Brooklyn, NY

Monthly Conference Call Schedule:
First Thursday of Every Month at Noon Eastern Standard Time (GMT -4): March 3; April 7; May 5; June 2; July 7; September 1; October 6; November 3 (No conference call in August and December)

SPI Staff:
Edwina Rogers – edwina@secularpolicyinstitute.net
Madeline Schussel – madeline@secularpolicyinstitute.net
Johnny Monsarrat – johnny@secularpolicyinstitute.net