KENTUCKY ATHEISTS NEWS & NOTES Date: March 08, 2008
Kentucky Atheists, P.O. Box 48, Union, KY 41091; Email: [email protected]
Phone: (859) 384-7000; Fax: (859) 384-7324; Web: http://www.atheists.org/ky/
Editor’s personal web site: www.edwinkagin.com
Editor’s personal blog: http://edwinkagin.blogspot.com
Edwin Kagin, Kentucky State Director, American Atheists, Inc.
I WAS BORN AN ATHEIST JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE
To Unidentified Recipients:
Here is a link to two video versions of the Edwinian appearance at the University of Kentucky on March 3rd: The panel also featured stellar performance by Adam of UKSHIFT and Stephen of the Atheists Meetup group in Lexington, Ky. Many thanks to Dr. Robin and Ann for making these videos available available.
ELLEN JOHNSON, FRANK ZINDLER LIVE
ON ATHEISTS TALK RADIO SUNDAY MARCH 9, 2008
Tune in or catch the Internet stream…
ELLEN JOHNSON, President of American Atheists and FRANK ZINDLER, Editor of American Atheists Press will be the guests on the live Minnesota Atheists talk radio program, Sunday, March 9, 2008.
From 9:00 to 9:30 AM, Central Daylight Time. Frank Zindler will discuss the American Atheist Press publishing projects. From 9:30 – 10:00 AM, CDT Ellen Johnson will talk about the upcoming American Atheists Conference in Minneapolis (http://www.atheists.org/conference).
You can listen by tuning in to AM 950 KTNF Radio, or catch the live Internet feed at http://AirAmericaMinnesota.com/listen. Enter a Minnesota zip code such as 55401 when prompted. During the program you can also call in with questions at 952-946-6205, or e-mail to [email protected].
The show will be available for download or streaming at the
Minnesota Atheists web site at http://minnesotatheists.org .
WHO & WHAT: Ellen Johnson and Frank Zindler on “Atheists Talk” radio show
WHEN: Sunday, March 8, 2008 ~
From 9:00 to 9:30 AM, Central Daylight Time Frank Zindler will discuss the American Atheist Press publishing projects. From 9:30 – 10:00 AM, CNT Ellen Johnson will talk about the upcoming American Atheists Conference in Minneapolis (http://www.atheists.org/conference).
WHERE & HOW: Tune in live to AM 950 KTNF or Internet at http://AirAmericaMinnesota.com/livstream.
MORE INFO: http://MinnesotaAtheists.org
(AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for Atheists, Freethinkers and other nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.)
Judge: No funds for religious school
STATE MONEY FOR CUMBERLANDS PROJECT UNCONSTITUTIONAL
By Jack Brammer And Linda Blackford
The General Assembly violated the state Constitution when it appropriated $10 million to the University of the Cumberlands for a pharmacy building and $1 million for scholarships in 2006, a judge ruled Thursday.
In an 11-page order that can be appealed, retired Franklin County Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden ruled in a summary judgment that “there is no question that the appropriation of $10 million (of) tax dollars to the university to construct a pharmacy building is a direct payment to a non-public religious school for educational purpose.”
“This type of direct expenditure is not permitted by the Constitution of Kentucky,” he wrote.
Concerning money for the pharmacy scholarship program, Crittenden said the legislature violated a section of the Constitution when it used the budget bill to enact a permanent program.
Crittenden’s order did not address allegations in the lawsuit that the Southern Baptist school in Williamsburg unconstitutionally discriminated against a student who identified himself as gay.
The state Senate approved money for the school shortly before the university kicked out Jason Johnson, a junior from Lexington, who had discussed his homosexuality on his MySpace page.
“This court does not need to decide this issue to reach a decision in this case, but this is exactly the ‘entanglement’ between government interests and religious institutions that the Kentucky Constitution prohibits,” Crittenden said.
Near the end of the 2006 General Assembly, Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, earmarked the money to the university from coal severance tax receipts. He said the appropriation was justified because his part of the state needs a pharmacy school to address a shortage of pharmacists.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit included the Rev. Albert M. Pennybacker of Lexington, representing the Interfaith Alliance; the Jefferson County Teachers Association; the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; and the Rev. Paul D. Simmons, a Baptist minister and retired professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
The plaintiffs filed suit in April 2006, arguing that the state appropriation was illegal under Kentucky’s constitution. Later, 13 Republican state legislators joined the university as defendants in the case.
In an agreement between former Gov. Ernie Fletcher and the plaintiffs, the money was not distributed pending the outcome of the case, said David Tachau, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
A news release from the university called the decision disappointing and said it would take several days to consider an appeal and the future of the pharmacy school.
“I am grateful to the state legislature for its confidence in the university and for its attempt to enhance opportunities for those who live in our area,” said President James Taylor. “I have no doubt that the funds appropriated for the pharmacy school would have served the public interest well.”
Williams called Crittenden’s decision “wrong.”
The University of the Cumberlands, he said, “is not a religious sect, society or denomination. I don’t see how anybody can say that running a pharmacy school has any kind of religious significance.”
But Pennybacker called the ruling “a repudiation of doctrinal ideology intruding on state funds.”
“I think our plea was on constitutional restraints and provisions, both nationally and in Kentucky, advocating the separation of church of state,” Pennybacker said. “This judgment is a major validation of that.”
Gov. Steve Beshear, who replaced Fletcher as a defendant when he took office, said he agreed with the ruling.
“We will not be appealing it,” he said with a smile.
Christina Gilgor, director of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, called the decision “a victory against state-subsidized discrimination.”
“Kentucky’s budget crisis is forcing public schools around the state to tighten their belts. In that climate, a windfall for the University of the Cumberlands is beyond inappropriate.”
However, Crittenden’s ruling did not address discrimination against gays and lesbians, a move applauded by Jason Johnson, the expelled student.
“I think that hits the nail on the head — my stance all along has been that while religious institutions have the right to hold any beliefs they wish, when it comes to taking public money, we have to have a much broader mind, and that’s the way the judge ruled,” Johnson said.
Brent McKim of the teachers association said his group joined the suit because of the precedent of public money going to parochial education — particularly to a school that discriminates.
“I think it’s the right decision and the just decision,” McKim said.
Currently, students can use public money from the state’s Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship program at private and religious colleges and universities.
Gary Cox, director of the Association of Independent Kentucky College and Universities, said KEES money goes directly to students, rather than to institutions, so it has not been challenged as a constitutional violation.
But Tachau said that might be open to a challenge.
“It’s simply inaccurate to say the money goes to the students and not the institutions,” he said. “State money is going to private religious institutions under those programs.”
Sen. Jack Westwood, R- Crescent Springs, was one of the 13 Republicans who joined the university in the suit.
“That’s what we have the judicial system for,” he said of the decision. But Westwood also questioned what effect, if any, the ruling would have on state appropriations to private groups.
Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, D-Lexington, the only openly gay member of the legislature, said in a statement: “Our forefathers, using astute wisdom, mandated the separation of church and state. … Public dollars should go to public institutions. To do otherwise is to shortchange the taxpayers.”
In an interview, Scorsone added that the judgment might provide some practical help, too.
“It looks like we just found another $10 million for our budget in these difficult financial times,” he said.
American Atheists Affiliate
MICHIGAN ATHEISTS CELEBRATE
THE SPRING EQUINOX
WITH A PRIVATE SCREENING OF
“THE SEPARATION ON STATE STREET”
DATE: SUNDAY, March 16, 2008
TIME: 3:00 TO 7:00 PM
WHERE: CHINA STAR PALACE,270 S. Wayne Road, Westland, MI. 734-326-1310
(Between Palmer and Cherry Hill and across the street from K-Mart)
BUFFET DINNER served at 4:00: Tea, Coffee and Tomato Juice (cash bar available)
Sweet & Sour Chicken, Almond Chicken, Pepper Steak, Stir Fried Vegetables and Rice $Thirteen Bucks$
MANAGEMENT REQUESTS THAT YOU PARK IN BANK LOT!
PROGRAM: It started back at the turn of the new millennium, in January 2000 Anonka and her daughter, Tammra, opened “Anonka’s Witch Museum” on State Street in Caro, Michigan.
“Anonka’s” stood out because it sold those knickknacks with a message — delivered to those with enough courage to “Brave the Dungeon” — a memorial and commentary on the witch hunts of the Middle Ages and how to make sense of, and learn from them in the 21st Century.
Added to that, Anonka found herself in serious trouble when she went to City Hall to ask a question — “Why is there a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn?”
When she started a demonstration for the displays removal many of her business neighbors decided to demonstrate for her removal.
“The Separation on State Street” www.knowsaint.com follows Anonka and her family down a long, rough legal road in their fight for Constitutional rights against the larger community that did not share her voice of reason.
Shooting on this feature length documentary started in the fall of 2002. Since then the producer/director followed the case through the courts, the media and the community.
We are honored to have this private screening and host one of the producers of this film who will be present for comments and questions.
Photos, protesters and more on www.michiganatheists.org Clink on Photo Journal.
ARLENE-MARIE, Michigan Atheists Affiliate Director
[email protected] (313) 938-5960 michiganatheists.org
PO Box 0025 Allen Park, MI 48101
Michigan Atheists is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, social and educational organization defending civil rights for non believers and dedicated to the complete and absolute separation of state and church.
Action without discussion is dangerous. Discussion without action is futile
From reader JerryK:
Would you rather live with unanswered questions or
— Carter Hamilton in Kansas City
“He that cannot reason is a fool;
He that will not is a bigot;
He that dare not is a slave.”
— Sir William Drummond (1770-1828)
“The people that we see as our enemies are not necessarily
the people who disagree with us, but rather the people who
would make it illegal for us to disagree with them.”
— The Watch
Clashing Over Church Ritual and Flag Protocol at the Naval Academy Chapel
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — On Sundays at the Naval Academy Chapel, at a few minutes past 11 a.m., the choir stops singing and a color guard carrying the academy flag and the American flag strides up the aisle.
Below a cobalt blue stained-glass window of Jesus, one midshipman dips the academy flag before the altar cross, and the other dips the American flag.
The dipping of the flag has begun this nondenominational Protestant service at the Naval Academy for 40 years. But in civilian life, the American flag is never to be dipped, and the Navy says, it is not dipped at any other worship service at the academy or at any other installation.
In October, after the academy’s superintendent, Vice Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler, raised questions about the ritual with the academy chaplains, they suspended the flag-dipping because “there was a concern over teaching midshipmen something not practiced anywhere in the fleet,” the academy’s spokesman, Cmdr. Ed Austin, said in an e-mail message.
But the pause lasted only a few months. Now the flags are being dipped again, and the superintendent, who has held his post since June, has stopped attending the 11 a.m. service. Evangelical Christians and their critics alike assert that the academy had to reconsider after an outcry by congregants and alumni.
“I think the ceremony is fully representative of the highest traditions of our country,” said Bob Morrison, who has attended the 11 a.m. service for 12 years and who heads an internship program at the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. “It basically says that our country is one nation under God and the nation-state is not the highest authority in the world.”
A spokesman for the Navy chief of chaplains, Capt. Gregory G. Caiazzo, said in an e-mail message that different bases developed their own traditions at religious services, and that “such traditions are conducted at the discretion of the command.”
Mikey Weinstein, a graduate of the Air Force Academy and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group, criticized Admiral Fowler’s decision to allow the practice to resume. “It was an incredible act of cowardice,” he said. “The oath he and others have taken is to protect and defend the Constitution, not the New Testament.”
Admiral Fowler declined to comment. In an e-mail message, Commander Austin said: “Discussions with the chaplains resulted in suspension of the tradition in the fall of 2007. Following continued evaluation, parading and dipping the flags was incorporated back into the 11:00 Sunday Protestant services.”
Each branch of the armed forces has its own flag code, said Clark Rogers, director of educational programs at the National Flag Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes respect for the flag. But the United States Flag Code says the flag “should not be dipped for any person or thing,” Mr. Rogers said.
“If the academy called me, I would tell them not to dip the flag,” Mr. Rogers said. “And I’m a very religious person.”
Concern about the influence of conservative Christians in the military has grown since an investigation in 2005 by the Air Force found that Christian staff and faculty members at the Air Force Academy used their positions to evangelize cadets. Conservative Christian chaplains have battled the military to break with tradition and pray in Jesus’ name at military functions.
Now, Specialist Jeremy Hall of the Army, an Iraq veteran and an atheist, is suing the Defense Department, with the help of Mr. Weinstein’s group, because he says his superior officer tried to intimidate him into accepting fundamentalist Christianity.
About 1,000 people usually attend the 11 a.m. service. After the dipping was suspended, “dozens of congregants” wrote the academy backing the practice, Mr. Morrison said. Commander Austin confirmed that most of those who contacted the academy said they supported the practice.
“I like that part of the ritual; it never bothered me,” said Lowell Hodgson, a retired Army lieutenant colonel after a recent service, “and I believe in the separation of church and state.”