Humanism on the Move


July 15, 2009

The American Humanist Association last week applauded a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Stormans, Inc. v. Selecky, in which the appellate court determined that a lower district court should not have prohibited Washington State from enforcing a regulation requiring pharmacies to sell "Plan B" pills. The AHA had signed on to a friend of the court brief, authored by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which asked the 9th Circuit Court to overturn the district court's decision. The injunction has been reversed and the case has been remanded back to the district court.

Although the appellate court did not rule on such issues, they suggested that the regulations were constitutional, that they did not impinge on the religious rights of pharmacists, and that they were in the best interests of the patients.

"This is a good day for reproductive rights in Washington state," said Karen Frantz, communications and policy manager of the American Humanist Association. "The 9th Circuit Court's ruling will help protect women's right to reproductive health care from attempts by the religious right to push their idea of morality onto others."

Atheist Nexus turned one year old this past Friday. The networking site, which provides a forum for nontheists to join in conversation in a welcoming environment, was launched July 10, 2008 by Richard Haynes. Members can discover and join various nontheist organizations and groups, upload photos, chat with other members and network with various humanist luminaries.

Haynes also founded NoGodTube, where nontheists can upload videos about atheism, agnosticism and skepticism without fear of a religious backlash.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a federal lawsuit on July 14 to keep the Architect of the Capitol from engraving "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance in prominent places in the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC). The lawsuit was filed after the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed a resolution and an amendment respectively that mandates the engraving project, which is expected to cost up to $150,000. Congressional representatives who supported the measures cited a lack of reference to "the role of Christianity in America" in the CVC as the justification.

The legal complaint from the FFRF seeks judgment declaring the directive unconstitutional, arguing that the Congressional appropriations "will give actual and apparent government endorsement and advancement of religion" and that the mandate "diminishes nonbelievers by making god-belief synonymous with citizenship."

Several nontheist groups and other advocacy groups for the separation of church and state called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Judge Sonia Sotomayor on her judicial philosophy on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Sotomayor's congressional hearings for her appointment to the Supreme Court began this week.

The American Humanist Association , Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Secular Coalition for America all noted in letters to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that Judge Sotomayor is replacing Justice David Souter on the bench, who has a strong record of ruling against government entanglement with religion. Judge Sotomayor's record, although raising no red flags, is as of yet not established when it comes to ruling on issues pertaining to the Establishment Clause.