Conference-Call1

About the International Coalition Calls

Every 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 May 7, 2015

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

Agenda

PLEASE HELP NEPAL

As you may know, Nepal experienced a 7.8-magnitude earthquake on April 25. Over 14,000 people have been injured, and over 7,000 people have died as a result of this massive earthquake.

·       The Center for Inquiry will be donating 100% of the funds collected through their charitable program SHARE (Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort), directly to Doctors without Borders. Donations can be made at secure.centerforinquiry.net/share

·       The Society for Humanism (SOCH) Nepal has mobilized more than 1,000 volunteers throughout Nepal to assist victims. 100% of donations collected will go directly to victims without any administrative fees. Please contact Uttam Niraula at sochnepal@gmail.com

I – 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.

  • World Future Forum & International Secular Leaders Summit

The Secular Policy Institute convenes some of the world’s most prestigious scholars and scientists to develop and disseminate compelling resources to influence the world’s decision makers. Open to policymakers and the public alike, the inaugural World Future Forum provides an unparalleled opportunity for an informed discussion of authoritative perspectives on the critical issues facing contemporary societies across the globe.

  • Registration opens Friday, May 8, 2015 at www.secularpolicyinstitute.net
    • Cost will be $295 per person.
  • The World Future Forum will take place at the Phoenix Park Hotel, at 520 North Capitol St NW, Washington, DC 20001
    • Hotel Room Blocks available at the Phoenix Park Hotel:
    • Single/Double Occupancy, 1 Bed Rooms are $249 a night (tax add’l)
      • Additional $30 per person / per day for triple/quadruple occupancy.
    • Reservations can be made at phoenixparkhotel.com, using the Group Code 19849 in order to obtain the Group’s rate.
  • Sunday, October 25, 2015, @ Phoenix Park Hotel
    • 2 – 5 PM: International Secular Leaders Summit and Training
    • 6 – 7 PM: Cocktail Reception
    • 7 – 9 PM: VIP Dinner – Keynote Speaker on the Future of Nations and Humanity
  • Monday, October 26, 2015, @ Phoenix Park Hotel
    • World Future Forum – Emcee Lawrence Krauss
    • 9 – 10:30 AM: Future of Earth’s Climate
    • 10:45 – 12:15 PM: Future of Violence and Terrorism
    • 2 – 3:30 PM: Future of Space Exploration
    • 3:30 – 4 PM: Conclusion
    • 7 – 9 PM: World Future Forum Great Debate, @ GWU Lisner Auditorium
      • Separately ticketed event: $30 – $100; students $20.

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.

  • World Future Guide
  • Secular Demographic Guide
  • Monthly Conference Call Schedule:

First Thursday of Every Month at Noon Eastern Standard Time (GMT -4): June 4; July 2; August 6; September 3; October 1; November 5; and December 3, 2015.

  • Recruit National and Regional Leaders
  • International Hotspots in Need

II – Fellows’ Corner

(Madeline Schussel, Director of Policy, madeline@secularpolicyinstitute.net)

  • Fellows’ Update
    • 30 Fellows:
      • 11 International, 19 US
    • Daily News Clip Now Available- How to sign up

III – Coalitions & Resources

(Johnny Monsarrat, Alliance Director, johnny@secularpolicyinstitute.net)

  • World SPI Calendar – Upcoming Major Conferences
  • Volunteers & Interns – SPI Volunteers/Interns Recruited
  • Coalition Update – May 7, 2015 = 312 groups
  • Newsletter – weekly. Please sign up.
  • Resources:
  • Religiousness by Country
  • Religiousness by US State
  • Back Office Support
  • Help secure Volunteers and Interns
  • Help Draft Press Releases
  • Access to Press Database
  • Brochures
  • Website Design

IV – US Public Policy Update

  • Supreme Court Leaves Ban on Churches in School
    • New York City may continue to ban churches from renting public school facilities after the nation’s highest court refused to hear a challenge to the practice.
    • The Supreme Court’s refusal to act ends a 20-year legal battle over the ban. It is typically legal for churches to meet in public schools when class is not in session, but New York City enacted a policy banning worship and other activities, such as partisan political rallies and private parties.
  • Oklahoma House OKs Bill for Ministers to Refuse Gay Marriage

Last month, we reported to you that Oklahoma will no longer issue civil marriage certificates from clerks offices, in an attempt to stop gay weddings. As a side effect, it would also prevent atheists from getting married.

Now the Oklahoma House has approved legislation that grants immunity from civil liability to ministers who refuse to officiate a same-sex marriage.

House members voted 88-7 Thursday for the bill by Republican Rep. David Brumbaugh. The measure now goes to the state Senate.

  • Florida Bill Would Allow Discrimination Against Atheist Parents In Adoptions

Under the federal Faith Based Initiatives program, religious organizations can provide social services like adoption agencies with the understanding that they may not proselytize or discriminate. In other words, they must act secular. Churches of course do not want to act secular. They cheat on the rules. Now this cheating is set to become Florida state law.

According to AdoptFlorida.org on any given day there are about 750 children awaiting permanent placement and are without identified families. According to FosteringFlorida.com on any given day there are about 8,000 children in family foster care.

According to the proposed bill, CS/HB 7111: Conscience Protection for Actions of Private Child-Placing Agencies, it “Prohibits specified actions from being taken against private child-placing agency that refuses to place child or be involved in placement of child or facilitate licensure of foster home which would violate agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies; provides that such refusal does not provide basis for claim for injunctive relief or compensatory or punitive damages.”

If you live in Florida, contact Rep. Brodeur, who introduced the bill and is Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, and contact Rep. Porter, who is co-sponsor and is the Chair of Higher Education & Workforce Subcommittee.

  • Supreme Court Sends Birth Control Case Back to Appeals Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a federal appeals court to take a second look at the University of Notre Dame’s challenge to the birth control mandate in Obamacare, and the rules for opting out of the required coverage.

The law allows religious charities and educational institutions to opt out of providing employee and student birth control coverage by signing a one-page form.

But Notre Dame contends that the act of signing that opt-out form makes it complicit in providing coverage that the Catholic university objects to on religious grounds.

V – International Public Policy Update

  • United Nations – Access to the Public Gallery:
    • For the vast majority of human rights meetings taking place in the UN, there is no requirement for ECOSOC status to attend public meetings.
    • A limited number of seats in the Public Gallery, above the main conference room, Room XX, are available for persons wishing to observe proceedings without being accredited as participants. Access is granted depending on the availability of seating and other circumstances.
    • Requests to attend should be sent by email to hcraccreditation@ohchr.org 24 hours in advance with the following information:
      • Date and purpose of visit;
      • Full names of those wishing to attend (please use an Excel spreadsheet if more than 5 persons).
    • Information about getting accredited status at the UN available HERE.
    • A short guide to what you can do at the UN once accredited, including making an oral statement, available HERE.
  • United Nations 2015 Meetings and Events
o   Human Rights Council – Organizational meeting May 26, 2015
o   Meeting of special rapporteurs/representatives, independent experts and chairpersons of working groups of the special procedures of the Human Rights Council June 8 – 12, 2015
o   29th Session of the Human Rights Council June 15 – July 3, 2015
o   Human Rights Committee – Working Group on Communications June 22 – 26, 2015
o   Meeting of Chairpersons of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies June 22 – 26, 2015
o   114th Session of the Human Rights Committee June 29 – July 24, 2015
o   Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women June 7 – July 24, 2015
o   15th Session of the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council August 10 – 14, 2015
o   Human Rights Council – Organizational meeting August 24, 2015
  • The Campaign for Free Expression website has lots of important information about the appalling state of blasphemy rights around the world.
  • Saudi Arabia – In the news is the harsh punishment of Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger, for “insulting Islam” online, and the imprisonment of Badawi’s lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair, for standing up for human rights.
  • The IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union) are holding their General Assembly on Saturday, May 30, 2015, in Manila, the Philippine Islands. More information can be found on their website HERE.
  • Italians Debate Role of Prayer in Public School

A coalition of parents and teachers in Italy recently filed a lawsuit over a Bologna public school’s plan to host Roman Catholic prayers.

Giosuè Carducci Elementary School intended to hold a series of prayers to mark the Easter holiday last month. Although the prayers were voluntary and were to be held after school hours, some still object to what they characterize as an endorsement of Roman Catholicism.

In an interview with the New York Times, Adele Orioli of the Union of Atheists and Rationalistic Agnostics argued that the practice could alienate religious minorities. “Is it fair that everyone has to see this, even if some students are Muslims, Buddhists or atheists?” she asked.

Supporters of the prayers contend instead that Catholicism is simply part of Italy’s cultural legacy and that offering sectarian prayers doesn’t amount of proselytization.

“It is not a matter of faith. It is a matter of belonging to a tradition,” the Rev. Rafaelle Buono told The Times.

  • Canada’s Supreme Court Rules Against Allowing Prayer At City Council Meetings

Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that a small town in Quebec may not open its council meetings with prayer.

In a unanimous ruling Wednesday (April 15), Canada’s highest court ruled that the town of Saguenay can no longer publicly recite a Catholic prayer because it infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

The case dates back to 2007, when a resident of Saguenay complained about public prayer at City Hall.

VI – Project and Member Spotlight

  • International Freethought Film Festival 2015
    • When: Friday, May 8, at 5:30 PM to Sunday, May 10, at 10:00 PM
    • Where: Gallery at Avalon Island, 39 S. Magnolia Ave, Orlando, FL
    • Andrea Meyer, Founder and Executive Director of the IFFF will join us on the call to discuss the upcoming event.
    • The Association of Atheism (Republic of Turkey)
      • The first legally organized Atheist group in Turkey and the Middle East.
      • The organization’s goals are:
        • To give the Turkish public an unbiased, objective, and intelligent identity concerning who is and what it means to be an Atheist.
        • To stimulate and foster the thriving community that supports, promotes and protects the rights of individuals and groups identified as Atheists; and to combat negative attitudes toward such individuals and groups.
        • To stand up for the victims of the haranguers of Atheists and free-thinkers in the courts, either as active council or as a supporting party to the defendant.
      • Morgan Elizabeth Romano, VP of the Board of Directors & Director of International Relations, will join us on the call to speak about atheism in the Middle East.

SPI Staff:

Edwina Rogers – edwina@secularpolicyinstitute.net

Madeline Schussel – madeline@secularpolicyinstitute.net

Johnny Monsarrat – johnny@secularpolicyinstitute.net