Alton Lemon, civil rights and church/state separation activist, passes away.

Alton LemonBy Frederick Sparks

Alton T. Lemon, a civil rights activist who lent his name to a landmark Supreme Court case, died on May 4, 2013 in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. He was 84

Mr Lemon, who held a degree in mathematics from Morehouse and was friendly with fellow Morehouse alum Martin Luther King, Jr., was the lead named plaintiff in Lemon v. Kurtzman, which found unconstitutional a 1968 Pennsylvania law authorizing public funds to be used for secular courses at religious school.  The decision later came to be a part of the “Lemon test” used to in cases alleging violations of the Establishment Clause through government support of religion.  The test requires that the Court  “consider whether the challenged government practice has a secular purpose, whether its primary effect is to advance or inhibit religion, and whether it fosters excessive government entanglement with religion..”   The test was used in the Dover intelligent design case, as well as cases dealing with school prayer.

I studied the Lemon test in law school but do not remember learning much background about the plaintiff involved, or the racial context related to resistance to public school desegregation which was behind the push to shift resources to private religious schools.

Mr Lemon had more recently lamented the erosion of church/state separation: “Separation of church and state is gradually losing ground, I regret to say.”

Abortion on Demand and Without Apology

For Every Woman In Every State
The Reversal of Abortion and Birth Control Rights Must Stop Now!
By Sikivu Hutchinson
The following statement from the Stop Patriarchy Coalition is in response to the crisis that confronts women’s human rights, women’s self-determination, economic justice and social justice in the United States.  Last week, Christian fascist Congressman Trent Starks introduced a nationwide bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks into the House of Representatives.  Comparing abortion to “the Holocaust and slavery”, Franks attempted to capitalize on the publicity around the trial of former abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell to elicit support for this extreme, dangerous legislation. Although the Ninth Circuit Court struck down a similar bill in Arizona last week, the recent explosion of anti-abortion and contraception legislation has fatally comprised reproductive justice and imperiled the future of women’s health care:
Abortion is an issue that divides this country. This is no accident. How one thinks and feels about abortion flows fundamentally from how one views women.
We recognize that women are full human beings who must have the right – through unrestricted and unstigmatized access to birth control and abortion – to decide for themselves when and whether they will have children. We reject the view that a woman’s highest purpose and fundamental “duty” is to bear children, even those she does not want or cannot care for.
For decades, a movement which calls itself “pro-life” has unleashed violence against abortion providers, shamed and humiliated women, and relentlessly restricted access to abortion, especially for poor women.
Over 80% of abortion clinics have experienced violence, threats, or harassment; eight doctors and staff have been murdered. Today, 97% of rural counties have no abortion provider. One in four poor women who seeks an abortion cannot afford it and is forced to have a child she does not want. Four states have only one abortion clinic left.
This assault has intensified, not slowed, under the Presidency of Obama. 2011 and 2012 saw record new legal restrictions on abortion. Already this year, 278 bills have been introduced to further restrict abortion, including laws set to go into effect that would shut down the last clinic in North Dakota on August 1. Added to this, the Obama administration has defied the FDA and challenged the courts in its determination to keep emergency contraception from many of the women and girls who most desperately need it.
Reproductive rights are in a state of emergency.
If this direction is not reversed, women face being returned to the situation that prevailed for millennia – until only very recently – being forced to subordinate their dreams to have children against their will, or to risk their lives to avoid this. We are headed towards a situation like that in El Salvador where women face long imprisonment for abortion and where nurses and doctors must either turn women in or risk being imprisoned themselves. [Read more…]

Youth Justice Coalition: Call CA Lawmakers on Education/Justice Bills




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Seven  bills are  moving through the legislature that will dramatically improve  educational and life chances for California’s youth.  Because of your  support… 
SB 458 – Senator Wright – which will require notification to youth and their families when they added to local or the statewide (CalGang) Database – is on its way to the Senate floor.
ACR 30 (Assembly Resolution) – Assemblyman V. M. Perez – which calls for the adoption by the state of a Youth and Student Bill of Rights, outlining human rights for all youth in education, justice, employment, health, housing and environmental protection – is on its way to the Assembly floor.
Please make calls today to move the other 5 bills out of Appropriations:
SB 260 – Senator Hancock – will enable youth who were transferred to adult court and sentenced to more than 10 years to petition to have their sentence reviewed for possible re-sentencing.
AB 549 – Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer – will require school districts to have a memorandum of understanding between school districts and police departments that operate in schools and requires school districts to define the role of law enforcement and other adults on campus. Encourages spending for counselors and intervention workers over additional school police and school resource officers.
SB 744 – Senator Lara – severely limits the use of involuntary transfers that force thousands of California youth every year onto the streets or into under-resourced community day and continuation schools.
SB 61 – Senator Yee – will severely limit the use of solitary confinement for youth in county and state custody. Solitary confinement has led to increases in suicide, PTSD, mental illness, violence and recidivism among youth.
AB 420 – Assemblyman Dickinson – eliminates the use of willful defiance as a reason for suspending students in elementary schools and minimizes the ability to suspend middle and high school students for that reason. In 2012, 56% of student suspensions in California were for willful defiance – a category that is vague, subjective and usually reflects minor disagreements between youth and staff.
For  AB 549 and AB 420, call members of the CA Assembly Appropriations  Committee and urge them to pass these bills through Appropriations and  on to the full Assembly for a vote:
Committee Members District Office & Contact Information
Mike Gatto (Chair) Dem – 43

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 2114, Sacramento, CA 94249-0043                                     (916) 319-2043
Diane L. Harkey (Vice Chair) Rep – 73

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 6027, Sacramento, CA 94249-0073                                     (916) 319-2073
Franklin E. Bigelow Rep – 05

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 4116, Sacramento, CA 94249-0005                                     (916) 319-2005
Raul Bocanegra Dem – 39

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 4167, Sacramento, CA 94249-0039                                     (916) 319-2039
Steven Bradford Dem – 62

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 5136, Sacramento, CA 94249-0062                                     (916) 319-2062
Ian C. Calderon Dem – 57

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 5150, Sacramento, CA 94249-0057                                     (916) 319-2057
Nora Campos Dem – 27

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 3013, Sacramento, CA 94249-0027                                     (916) 319-2027
Tim Donnelly Rep – 33

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 2002, Sacramento, CA 94249-0033                                     (916) 319-2033
Susan Talamantes Eggman Dem – 13

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 2003, Sacramento, CA 94249-0013                                     (916) 319-2013
Jimmy Gomez Dem – 51

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 2176, Sacramento, CA 94249-0051                                     (916) 319-2051
Isadore Hall, III Dem – 64

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 3123, Sacramento, CA 94249-0064                                     (916) 319-2064
Chris R. Holden Dem – 41

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 5119, Sacramento, CA 94249-0041                                     (916) 319-2041
Eric Linder Rep – 60

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 2016, Sacramento, CA 94249-0060                                     (916) 319-2060
Richard Pan Dem – 09

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 6005, Sacramento, CA 94249-0009                                     (916) 319-2009
Bill Quirk Dem – 20

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 2175, Sacramento, CA 94249-0020                                     (916) 319-2020
Donald P. Wagner Rep – 68

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 2158, Sacramento, CA 94249-0068                                     (916) 319-2068
Shirley N. Weber Dem – 79

Capitol Office

P.O. Box 942849, Room 5158, Sacramento, CA 94249-0079                                     (916) 319-2079
For  SB 744, SB 260 and SB 61, call members of the CA Senate Appropriations  Committee and urge them to pass these bills through Appropriations and  on to the full Senate for a vote:
Capitol Office:                         State Capitol, Room 5108                         Sacramento, CA 95814                         Tel: (916) 651-4022 Senator Mimi Walters (Vice Chair)
Capitol Office:

State Capitol, Room 3086                         Sacramento, CA 95814                         Phone: (916) 651-4037
Capitol Office: State Capitol, Room 3070                         Sacramento, CA 95814                         Phone: (916) 651-4001
Capitol Office:                         State Capitol, Room 5064                         Sacramento, CA 95814 Phone: (916) 651-4013
Capitol Office:                         State Capitol, Room 5050                         Sacramento, CA 95814 Phone: (916) 651-4033
Capitol Office:                         State Capitol, Room 4038                         Sacramento,  CA  95814 Phone:  (916) 651-4020

Capitol Office: State Capitol, Room 205                         Sacramento,  CA  95814                         Phone:  (916) 651-4006



Call for Papers: Women of Color Beyond Faith Anthology

in search of mothers gardens

Call For Papers


Women of Color Beyond Faith: Freethought, Feminism and Social Justice

Editors: Sikivu Hutchinson and Kimberly Veal

Historically, women of color have been more religious than white women.  According to the Pew Research Survey, at 87% and 85% respectively, African American and Latino women represent the largest and most committed group of believers in the United States.  Women of color have long used the church as a vehicle for political organizing, coalition-building, social uplift, and personal growth.  For many women of color, faith plays a huge role in therapeutic healing and emotional restoration.  Bucking male dominated patriarchal institutions such as the Black Church, the Catholic Church, and Latino Pentecostal denominations, women of color have assumed leadership roles in faith-based movements.  Progressive religious traditions have informed women’s resistance to and complicity with the dominant culture; often providing a means of redressing the effects of racism, white supremacy, segregation, and economic injustice.  The absence of alternative secular spaces and sites of political agency in communities of color is directly related to race, class, income, wealth, and geographic inequities.  Because of these factors, secular community organizing has not been an avenue that women of color could pursue in any significant numbers.  Consequently, there is very little documentation of early women of color freethinkers, atheists or humanists in the U.S.  What little scholarship has been done focuses narrowly on the Harlem Renaissance and, to a far lesser extent, the civil rights and Black Power movement eras.  While the work of Nella Larsen, Zora Neale Hurston, Lorraine Hansberry, and Alice Walker offer rich insight into the world view of African American humanist women writers, Larsen and Hurston have virtually no contemporaries in either academia or the literary world.  Nonetheless, women of color have emerged as some of the strongest voices in American atheism.  This anthology will offer an important corrective to this lacuna.  Going beyond basic questions of the challenges women of color non-believers face, it will articulate a vision of humanist social and gender justice that is firmly situated in the politics of anti-racism, anti-heterosexism, and anti-imperialism.  The essays in this collection will address some of the following questions:

1. How do feminist and humanist social thought converge?

2. What is the historical scope of women of color secularism?

3. What are  the historical tensions between white/European American feminism and women of color feminism, especially as they pertain to humanism and secularism?

4. How do  women of color secularists coalition-build across lines of race, gender,  sexual orientation and religion?

5.  What tensions exist between women of color feminism, the Black Church, the Catholic Church and other religious institutions?

6. How can humanism be made culturally relevant and what does humanist education look like in K-12?

7. How can secular and humanist pedagogies redress institutional heterosexism and hetero-normativity?

8. What role do freethought, humanism and/or atheism play in articulating lesbian/same gender loving and queer women of color subjectivities?

9. What role do humanism and secularism play in reproductive justice in communities of color?

10. How can a humanist stance inform struggles against economic injustice and racial segregation?




For more information contact:




Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels NOW AVAILABLE

Godless_cover (2) 

Over the past several years, the Right has spun the fantasy of colorblind, post-racial, post-feminist American exceptionalism. This Orwellian narrative anchors the most blistering conservative assault on secularism, civil rights, and public education in the post-Vietnam War era. It is no accident that this assault has occurred in an era in which whites have over twenty times the wealth of African Americans. For many communities of color, victimized by a rabidly Religious Right, neo-liberal agenda, the American dream has never been more of a nightmare than it is now. Godless Americana is a radical humanist analysis of this climate. It provides a vision of secular social justice that challenges Eurocentric traditions of race, gender, and class-neutral secularism. For a small but growing number of non-believers of color, humanism and secularism are inextricably linked to the broader struggle against white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, capitalism, economic injustice, and global imperialism. Godless Americana critiques these titanic rifts and the role white Christian nationalism plays in the demonization of urban communities of color.

Godless Americana is a MUST READ!” Kimberly Veal, Black Non-Believers of Chicago (GOODREADS REVIEW)


 “Hutchinson notes that being an atheist is not enough to affect any real change. One can be an atheist in isolation simply by not believing in God. Becoming a humanist, by contrast, entails working for social justice. For blacks to make atheism relevant to the larger African American community they cannot simply emphasize science and critical thinking but must instead help feed people, train them for jobs, and offer assistance to prisoners trying to reenter society, among other issues.” Chris Cameron, University of North Carolina


Mad Science or School-to-Prison? Criminalizing Black Girls

kiera wilmot

By Sikivu Hutchinson

High stakes test question: A female science student conducts an experiment with chemicals that explodes in a classroom, causes no damage and no injuries.  Who gets to be the adventurous teenage genius mad scientist and who gets to be the criminal led away in handcuffs facing two felonies to juvenile hall? If you’re a white girl check Box A, if you’re an intellectually curious black girl with good grades check Box B.  When 16 year-old Kiera Wilmot was arrested and expelled from Bartow high school in Florida for a science experiment gone awry it exemplified a long American-as-apple pie tradition of criminalizing black girls.  In many American classrooms black children are treated like ticking time bomb savages, shoved into special education classes, disproportionately suspended and expelled then warehoused in opportunity schools, juvenile jails and adult prisons.  Yet, while national discourse on the connection between school discipline and mass incarceration typically focuses on black males, black girls are suspended more than boys of every other ethnicity (except black males).  At a Georgia elementary school in 2012 a six year-old African American girl was handcuffed by the police after throwing a tantrum in the principal’s office.[i]  Handcuffing disruptive black elementary school students is not uncommon.  It is perhaps the most extreme example of black children’s initiation into what has been characterized as the school-to-prison pipeline, or, more accurately, the cradle to grave pipeline.  Stereotypes about dysfunctional violent black children ensure that the myth of white children’s relative innocence is preserved.

Nationwide, black children spend more time in the dean’s office, more time being opportunity transferred to other campuses and more time cycling in and out of juvenile detention facilities than children of other ethnicities.  Conservatives love to attribute this to poverty, broken homes, and the kind of Bell Curve dysfunction that demonizes “welfare queens” who pop out too many babies.  Yet there is no compelling evidence that socioeconomic differences play a decisive role in these disparities.[ii]  The fact remains that black children are criminalized by racist discipline policies regardless of whether they’re privileged “Cosby kids” or are in foster care or homeless shelters.  According to Daniel Losen and Russell Skiba, authors of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Suspended Education” report, “ethnic and racial disproportionately in discipline persists even when poverty and other demographic factors are controlled.[iii]

National research such as the Southern Poverty Law Center’s study and the Indiana Education Policy Center’s 2000 “The Color of Discipline” report has consistently shown that black students do not, in fact, “offend” at higher rates than their white and Latino counterparts.[iv] Middle class African American students in higher income schools are also disproportionately suspended.  This implies that black students are perceived by adults as more viscerally threatening.  “The Color of Discipline” report found that black students were more likely to be referred out of class for lower level offenses such as excessive noise, disrespect, loitering and “threat.”[v]  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “race and gender disparities in suspension were due not to differences in administrative disposition but to differences in the rate of initial referral of black and white students.”

When it comes to black girls, the widespread perception that they are dangerous, hostile and ineducable is promoted and reinforced by mainstream media portrayals.  Historically, black women have never been regarded as anybody’s “fairer sex” because white women have always been the universal standard for femininity, humanity, and moral worth.  On contemporary TV and in film, heroic white women abound as “new” models of bold, adventurous, breakthrough femininity.  Writing on “women’s” TV portrayals recently in the L.A. Times, Mary McNamara gushed about how the current crop of small screen female protagonists were complexly layered, [Read more…]