Aug. 5, 2009
On July 31, 2009, the American Humanist Association filed a friend of the court brief today with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Salazar v. Buono in support of Respondent Frank Buono. The court will decide whether a Christian cross may remain atop Sunrise Rock in the Mojave National Preserve in California.
Bob Ritter, legal coordinator of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said, "This is a clear violation of the establishment clause. Under Court precedent, government may not prefer one religion over another, or religion over nonreligion. Here, government has done both. A reasonable observer would continue to believe that the cross in the middle of the Preserve–that is ninety-five percent owned by the government–still gives the appearance of government endorsement of Christianity."
The breif was signed on to by several other organizations and the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the case beginning October 7.
The American Humanist Association has also launched a petition urging the Texas State Board of Education not to downplay the secular nature of the US Constitution and government by revising the Texas public schools social studies curriculum to reflect the "biblical motivations" of the founding fathers. The petition has so far accumulated over 1,000 signatures and is growing fast.
In addition to the petition, the AHA sent a letter to the Board of Education, asking them to maintain a historically accurate account of the nation's tradition of separation of church and state and religious pluralism. State Board Member Don McLeroy, who has been a vocal proponent of teaching about the influence of Christianity in public school classrooms, responded by enumerating reasons he disagreed with the AHA letter.
Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said, "McLeroy is certainly entitled to his belief that Christian values are more beneficial to society than secular values. However, that is a subjective opinion that shouldn't be foisted upon public school children as fact."
American Atheists are urging New York Representative John M. McHugh, President Obama's nominee for Secretary of the Army, to clarify his position on the First Amendment and religion in the military. The group has pointed to McHugh's voting record as a strong indication of his opposition to the principles of separation of church and state, and caution against the potential of him allowing similar church-state separation violations within the military.
Kathleen Johnson, vice presicent and military director for American Atheists said, "Representative McHugh's nomination raises serious concerns that military leaders will see this as an opportunity to further infringe upon the beliefs of their unit members who do not share their faith during a time when religious discrimination and unrestrained proselytizing are already a problem. "
Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists are sponsoring a billboard in Fort Lauderdale, Florida that says "Being a Good Person Doesn't Require God. Don't believe in God? You're NOT alone!"
"Most people are under the impression that atheists lack morals and ethics. We are trying to dispel that myth,'' said Ken Loukinen, founder of the 400-member group.
The sign, which quickly drew angry reactions, is the first of its kind of Florida. The group plans to raise enough money to place the billboard in other locations in Broward County.
The Secular Coalition for America has moved to its new K Street address in downtown Washington, DC., and will be holding an open house to celebrate their new location on Wednesday, August 12th. The address has long been a symbol of lobbying and political sway, and the move indicates that secular Americans are a growing political force.