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MARIEALENA, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
FINAL EXIT NETWORK'S COURT CASE: AT STAKE IS SELF-DETERMINATION VS. STATE-MANDATED HELL ON EARTH FOR THE HOPELESSLY ILL
As reported in previous issues of TMA, Atheists For Human Rights is supporting Final Exit Network in its appeal of its conviction for "assisting in a suicide." That "suicide" was the self-deliverance on March 30, 2007, of Doreen Dunn, a Minnesota woman who had sought information from FEN about ways to end her life with dignity after years of suffering from an incurable medical condition.
AFHR is supporting FEN's appeal with funds from our Moral High Ground project and an amicus curiae brief submitted to the State of Minnesota Court of Appeals. To our supporters who helped cover our costs, thank you!
The article beginning on page 4 highlights the main arguments from FEN, AFHR's amicus, and the amicus from Freedom From Religion Foundation. AFHR and FFRF were the only freethought groups to provide this assistance. The First Amendment Lawyers Association and Death With Dignity also submitted briefs. None came from opponents of assisted dying and, given the absurdity of the ruling that is being appealed, this is understandable. All documents have been or are being submitted to the court (Death With Dignity is running late). Oral arguments will be scheduled soon and a ruling is expected this summer.
The case is unsettling in that, as our cover article explains, it exposes how far some courts will go to justify a ruling the judges want to give rather than one that meets the demands for facts and justice. How many ways can words be twisted to turn simple informational speech into a criminal physical action? How can a court interpret a governmental "compelling interest in preserving human life" as a mandate to impose a duty to suffer on those with no meaningful life left? What purpose is served?
CIVIC ACTION IN AN ELECTION YEAR
We have had some success locally in removing inappropriate religious sentiments from civic affairs. The problem has been the Minnesota Democratic party's play-it-safe desire to fend off Republican charges of being "godless" by including the pledge of allegiance in the agenda for party conventions and events. Very likely, the Nones and outright atheists form the largest constituency group among the party activists, yet the sacred cow status of religion prevents an open rejection of religiosity.
Typically, when the pledge is called for, half of the attendees fall silent during the "under God" part. A while back one of our members openly objected to saying the pledge at a convention and got booed — not much, but enough that it intimidated those who would have voted against saying the pledge, so the objection was shot down.
Based on such experiences I have taken civic action behind the scenes, rounded up support against religious rituals and arranged to quietly leave that stuff off the agenda. The meetings go forward and no one ever notices the absence (or at least never says anything). Moving further along on this secularizing path, this year I succeeded in having a clause added to our district constitution (also passed as a resolution for the state constitution) that will make it hard to continue with the pledge and invocations that marginalize and insult the party's large nonreligious constituency.
It's a small and limited thing but as has been said, "Those who wait until they can do a whole lot of good all at one time never do any good at all."
Pay attention to the elections. Not just the presidential election but the local, state and federal elections from Congress to the town dogcatcher. Watch for statements that indicate a secular or religious worldview. Ask candidates how their religious views, whatever they are, will impact how they vote on issues. Don't focus on what they believe, only on how they intend to act on it. Be careful about forcing a secular politician to admit openly to having secular values. They have to get elected and don't need the sacred cow constituency crapping all over them. (They can talk about being secular after leaving office with a good reputation. That would help keep the sacred cow in the barn when the next secular candidate shows up.) Finally, vote!
AN OLD FAITH HEALING CASE GETS RESOLVED
For five years between 1989 and 1994 I helped CHILD (Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty) lobby to repeal the Minnesota statutes that led to the faith healing death of 11-year-old Ian Lundman from an overdose of prayer for his otherwise untreated diabetes. We got almost nowhere with repeal thanks to legislators who thought protecting religious beliefs was more important than protecting children from their lethal consequences.
The case extended into a long-running controversy over government funding the training programs of Christian Science care facilities. Finally, in November a federal court ruled against funding, noting that no real training was provided, there were no standards for evaluation and both the care facilities' staff members and the evaluating commission members were required to be Christian Scientists. It's gratifying to have a rational closure on at least this part of a tragic case, but why weren't these "training" shortcomings recognized and compensation denied years ago?
JUNE IS ATHEIST-CELEBRANT WEDDING MONTH
Since June is popular for weddings (no idea why) we remind you that, thanks to our lawsuit last year, atheists can have church-free weddings. No need for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, pleasantly subversive as that is.
So far we have authorized 13 atheists to officiate at marriages All are registered in the state and certified by Atheists For Human Rights. If you have a wedding coming up and want to be the celebrant, just email us. No charge for this service.
In the May-June issue of The Moral Atheist
Check out our list of donor premiums
and the new easy-to-use form!
No trinkets, mugs, or t-shirts —
just things to satisfy your mind.
our Moral High Ground Fund
It's the only one in the country to help poor women pay for abortions, and to support gays and other groups victimized by religion-based laws.
Atheists For Human Rights now certifies Atheist Wedding Celebrants
All-atheist authorization nationwide.*
We no longer need a contrived church affiliation to solemnize marriages.
Select one of our registered celebrants or choose a friend or family member to officiate at your wedding. We will provide that person with atheist certification at no charge.
We can help.Call 612-529-1200 or email Communications Director
To Our Fellow Freethought Organizations:
We offer document templates and information at no charge so you can authorize your own celebrants.Create memorable weddings that reflect secular values.
The Best Policy Guide for a Religiously Neutral
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-- MarieAlena Castle, March 1994
-- Martin Marty, Lutheran theologian, Minneapolis MN,
28 April 1998
-- Lavanam, Atheist Centre, India
Atheists For Human Rights is a national, ethics-driven organization upholding an atheism that is confidently held, morally active, and vigorously opposes religions that are politically and socially predatory or harm innocent people.
As usual, we offer 3 free issues of The Moral Atheist full 24-page magazine, by postal or email, so you get a good idea of what we are all about. Just send your postal or email contact info to: Communications Director
Moral High Ground Project
The Moral High Ground project has chosen the following funds to provide support and protection for these groups and to counter the efforts of religious zealots to impose their religious doctrines through law (other funding mechanisms may be added as resources increase):
Like the other Moral High Ground funding projects, it is unique in the freethought community. Each year since 2002 AFHR has donated $500 to be awarded to a GLBT openly atheist student at Pfund's major awards ceremony. This has created visibility and respect for AFHR within the GLBT community.
Grants to poor women to help pay for abortions
At least $200 each is given annually to funds such as the Women's Medical Fund, administered by Anne Nicol Gaylor from Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin, and through the North Dakota WIN (Women In Need) Abortion Access Fund, administered by the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo. These funds serve poor women in areas where religion-generated abortion laws are irrationally restrictive and punitive.
Support for physician aid in dying
As opportunities arise, we support efforts by physician-aid-in-dying organizations so the terminally ill who want to die with dignity on their own terms have the legal right to do so.
Protection for children harmed by faith healing
As opportunities arise, we support the efforts of CHILD (Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty) to protect children from harm where state laws define faith healing as healthcare and exempt parents from prosecution when they allow children to die by substituting prayer for medical care.
Atheists for Human Rights is focused primarily on reaching out to the public in morally active ways to advance the atheistic worldview.
We donate to secular charities that help young people and the homeless.
In 2005 we took on an Adopt-A-Highway cleanup project. The work is done three times a year in spring, summer and fall. Large highway signs identify AFHR as the cleanup crew for a 4-mile stretch of highway in Lakeville that passes many churches.
Minnesota Alliance Of Peacemakers
We joined MAP and have participated in several of their events urging peaceful solutions to world conflicts. MAP is a coalition of churches and secular organizations working together in the cause of peace.
AFHR is represented by invitation at regular interfaith gatherings hosted by Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, to find common ground in our common humanity to address the causes of social conflict and stress.
Since 2004, about three times a year, we have been invited to give presentations on atheism to educational and social service agencies for their diversity training programs. Videos of all speakers here.
These monthly discussions about atheist issues are occasions for socializing as well as developing ideas for further activism.
This major outreach project was begun in June 2006 and continues. The purpose is to show the public how atheists support our constitutional freedoms, seek rational solutions to issues of civic concern, and promote the common good. These events are heavily advertised in local newspapers and on Air America radio.
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If you are not a regular attendee,
3rd Fridays 6-9+ PM
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June, July, August:
Monday Happy Hour: 5:00 to 6:30 PM
1st Tuesdays: 11:30 AM Lunch Social
1st & 3rd Mondays 6:30 PM Toastmasters
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