Why Washington County Is Status Quo for Atheist Marriage Officiants

On May 4, U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of Atheists for Human Rights for lack of standing. The suit was filed when a marriage officiant certified by AFHR had their filing of that certificate rejected by Washington County on the basis that atheists were not among the groups authorized as marriage officiants under Minnesota law. Ericksen dismissed the suit when Washington County reversed its decision and declared it should have accepted AFHR’s certificate at the start.

Washington County’s decision is being lauded as a victory and a step forward for atheist marriage officiants. However, while this is an unequivocal victory, it is a victory for the status quo. It isn’t progress. Understanding the difference takes some background, both on the current situation for atheist marriage officiants and on what AFHR hoped to accomplish with their lawsuit. It also helps to be familiar with the judge’s order.

If you’ve followed me as a writer or Minnesota Atheists as a group, you’ll know that we aim to change the law on marriage officiants. We’ve been working with state legislators to come up with acceptable language that would allow atheist and secular humanist nonprofits to certify their own trained marriage officiants and see the state recognize marriages performed by these officiants as legal.

While we’ve been going through this process, AFHR has taken a different tack. [Read more…]

Religion as an Introduction to Privilege

This is another of the sessions from FtBCon3. Lyz Liddell of the Secular Student Alliance gives a great primer here on privilege, and she does it in a context that movement atheists should generally be able to understand. The talk is titled, “Identifying and Addressing Christian Privilege in Intersectional Spaces”.

I think it’s not a coincidence that just a couple months later, the SSA announced it was working to address privilege more generally. If you’d like more information on where their focus will be and how they mean to get there, I interviewed August Brunsman on Atheists Talk on that topic a few weeks ago.

Saturday Storytime: Sun’s East, Moon’s West

“Strong” female protagonists are all well and good, but sometimes I prefer the relentlessly practical ones, as in this story from Merrie Haskell.

Time passed swiftly in the bear’s castle; winter turned to spring. I had time to practice my swordcraft, for there was an armory, and time to practice my riding, for there was a stable. As for my night duties, the bear was a gentler lover than my husband.

The bear took some interest in my daily activities, and often showed up to watch me exercise my borrowed swords against a variety of straw dummies.

“What are you training for?” he asked. His voice rumbled so deeply that it caused my ear bones to itch.

“For dragons,” I said.

“What does a miller’s daughter who can spin straw into gold care for dragons?” he asked.

“I kill them.”

“I see. And how do you go about it?”

I told him. I showed him the dragon claw and the dragon-scales I had carried in my pocket since my first and only battle. I explained about my grandfather the dragon-slayer and his philosophies of dragon combat. I explained also how my first and only dragon had eaten my husband’s donkey.

“After that, my husband wanted nothing more to do with me,” I said. “An unhappy marriage cannot bear the loss of a much-cherished donkey.” I stopped. The bear was looking at me strangely. “I’m boring you?”

“Not at all. I’m amused, I assure you. Go on.”

I went on, talking about the three days in the forest before he found me, all the while in the back of my mind trying to figure out how I amused him. When I wrapped up my story, he took me in his paws.

“Close your eyes, and keep them closed,” he growled to me, and scrumped with me right there, on the floor of the armory.

It seemed that day, as it always did during our matings, that his body was smaller than it appeared, and I felt more skin than fur beneath my fingers. I nearly cracked open an eye, but as if he sensed my curiosity, he growled, “Eyes closed!” and slobbered a beary kiss into my ear.

Later, as I pulled together the tattered remains of my shirt and watched him bear-waddle away, I wondered if I was just imagining him as more human when my eyes were closed.

I looked down my breasts poking through two of the four large rents in the fabric. “Alas, Lissa,” I told myself regretfully. “Human hands don’t do that to good linen. Not generally.”

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“A Pod of Podcasts,” Local Podcasters on Atheists Talk

Atheists Talk is not the only podcast in the Twin Cities for atheist and skeptics.  On this show, we’ll do a bit of cross-promotion.  Joining us live and in the studio are podcasters who have their own shows: Geeks Without God, Positively Godless, A Minnesota Trans Atheist, and Dimland Radio. We’ll find out what they say and do in their podcasts and give our listeners some new audio resources for fun, science, atheism, music, and skepticality.

After the show, join us and some of our guests for brunch at Q-Cumbers restaurant.

Our podcasting guests:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

They Can’t Conceive

There’s a post by Kevin Standlee that I saw linked today and rather liked. It compares fandom conventions to potluck dinners to make a point about the geek social fallacies that center around inclusion.

Everyone brings something. That means some of the food is stuff I personally like, and other stuff I hate. But that’s okay: I eat what I like, and leave the rest for those who like green bean casserole.

Somewhere along the way, we got the idea of voting among ourselves for what the best dishes were. (“Best Appetizer,” “Best Main Course,” “Best Dessert”) And we started holding this big pot-luck in different places so as to share the fun with our far-away friends who couldn’t necessarily make the trip to Our Fair City.

Well, now we’ve got people who started coming to the pot-luck, paying the share of the hall rental, and are angry that we’ve been choosing things they personally hate to eat, and have decided that they want to knock over all of the tables with food they dislike and insist that the rest of us eat that stuff that they personally like, because they say so.

[Read more…]

Make Your Code of Conduct Work for You

I haven’t featured most of my FtBCon3 sessions here, yet, and I should. There’s plenty of good content, but just looking at the list of sessions can be overwhelming for people.

Here’s the session I organized with Chelsea Du Fresne and Michael Thomas about making sure your code of conduct is something that adds to your event. We talked about creating a code that aligns with your mission and sets the tone for the event. We also talked about how codes of conduct cover more than the -isms that received the most press in the push to get these in place. [Read more…]

More Solutions for Twitter

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Women, Action, & the Media released their report today on what they learned from acting as mediators for reporting harassment on Twitter last year. You can find it in several formats. There’s the summary, the infographic, and the full report (pdf). I suggest reading the full report if you have any interest at all in online harassment. From the types of reporters to the emotional cost involved in processing the reports, it’s got a lot of good information.

If you’re going to take away just one thing, however, make it their recommendations to Twitter: [Read more…]

Atheists, Nonbelievers, and Nones, Oh, My

I’ve been digging into the statistics on atheists, nonbelievers, and “nones” lately, so the release of the latest Pew Research report on religious affiliation was inordinately exciting. (What can I say? I, geek.) The big news continues to be the growth of the religiously non-affiliated and the decline of Catholicism and Mainstream Protestantism. Bigger news in our community is the proportionally rapid growth of atheists, at 94% over the last seven years.

As usual, however, it’s worth remembering that Pew doesn’t necessarily use these words the way we would. So who are these groups? [Read more…]

In Praise of Yoga Pants

It’s the new “Leggings aren’t pants.*”

I’m not talking about the moral panic that sees girl wearing yoga pants sent home from school for “distracting boys” or lawmakers proposing to imprison women who wear them in public or people who insist you have to be a certain–small–size to wear them. Those are all appalling, of course, and activists are on those problems. Objectification and fat-shaming are things we understand pretty well.

I’m talking about this weird idea we seem to have collectively adopted that wearing stretch knits on our legs and asses somehow means that we’ve “lost control” of our wardrobes, and by proxy, our lives. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: Restore the Heart into Love

The editors of Uncanny Magazine are a particular source of frustration for the Sad and Rabid Puppies. Whether it’s stories they’ve bought or anthologies they’ve edited, they seem to be standing right there whenever people talk about the forces destroying science fiction. (You can help with that, by the way.)

However, I’m sure that this story by John Chu will be everything the Puppies of Varying Dispositions are looking for. Set on a spaceship, with a hero sacrificing to bring valued tradition into a high-tech future? What more could they ask for?

The ship needed him more often these past few decades. Readers failed and had to be replaced. Connectors shook themselves loose and cables cracked over time. He repaired his crew mates’ pods and woke to find they had repaired his. Too often, grinding noises came from vibrating pods warm to the touch. All he could do was keep those corpses frozen to bring home. The hibernation system had killed most of the Byzantium Library’s small crew by the time those still alive had successfully diagnosed and fixed it. He had to push that away and focus on the archive though to complete the mission.

The archive was holding up well. That one dye lot had been the only large scale failure so far and Max had copied all of the affected data to chalcogenide glass in time. He’d never been prouder of his team. Their legacy lived on in the Byzantium Library. The ship wasn’t perfect. The last few times he woke, it seemed barely functioning. The archive, however, had remained intact.

So when the chalcogenide glass began to fail, Max finally cried. The errors scrolling up the terminal display blurred in his gaze. He clamped his mouth shut and held his breath even though no one could hear him. Again, the ship had alerted him in time. It could still recreate the data using the error correction bits he had layered in. The chalcogenide glass, though, was already the back up.

The wall panel that protected the data modules vibrated before Max. Maybe cables had failed or solder joints had crumbled. Maybe the data hadn’t decayed; the ship just couldn’t access it. He wanted the problem to be something he could fix. They could no longer afford the energy to re–burn the data into the glass. Power from the ship’s photovoltaic arrays dropped every year at a rate consistent with space debris pitting the array’s outer surface.

He set the panel next to him. The modules embedded in the walls looked as they did the day they were installed. Rows of cards sat in racks screwed to the floor. Ties bundled floating cables together. He ran continuity tests. Signals sent down the cables had no problems reaching the rest of the ship. He tested the modules themselves. The electrical resistance of the chalcogenic glass’s amorphous states had increased enough to blur the distinction among its various possible states. Everyone on the team had expected that would happen over time, just not on the order of decades. The memory was slowly confusing everything Max had burned into it.

The runners on his overalls tugged against the walls. Max tapped furiously on the terminal’s keyboard. He had a data scrubber to write and he didn’t know how long he had before the chalcogenic glass would fail so badly that he wouldn’t be able to recreate the correct data from the error correction bits.

The ship had only one type of data storage he hadn’t tried, the volatile short–term memory that it operated on.

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