I’m off to defeat religion!

And by that, I mean I’m heading to the Secular Student Alliance‘s in-person board meeting. It’s kind of like the meeting of the Justice League. We both defend the world against evil-doers, right? Except that our strategizing involves poring over budgets and organizational goals, we require much more coffee, and our secret lair is in Columbus, Ohio.

Close enough.

I call Batman.

No florist in Rhode Island would send Jessica Ahlquist flowers

From the Freedom from Religion Foundation:

Working through a Wisconsin flower shop Tuesday, Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, placed what she believed to be a routine order: A dozen red roses to be delivered on Wednesday with the message to Jessica: “Congratulations, and hang in there, with admiration from FFRF.”

Late yesterday, the local florist called FFRF’s office to report she had struck out at three Cranston florist’s shops, including at Twins Florist, which responded to the order in writing with this statement: “I will not deliver to this person.” The other two shops mysteriously produced unusual excuses for refusing the order. Gaylor said when she heard this news, “My jaw literally dropped. Everyone is stunned by the bigotry.”

FFRF was told a Warwick floral shop as of Wednesday had agreed to make the delivery today with no additional long distance charge. This morning, FFRF discovered it too was refusing the order, citing the excuse of unwanted media attention.

Thanks to an FFRF member’s referral, FFRF has placed an order out of state with a friendly shop, Glimpse of Gaia, in Putnam, Ct., which has agreed to deliver a dozen roses.

How fucking petty.

There is no hope for humanity

My new favorite thing is @herpderpedia on twitter, who is retweeting all of the completely moronic things people are saying because of the Wikipedia blackout. It’s simultaneously hilarious and soul crushing. There seem to be some common themes, like:

  • Why is Wikipedia down?! (If you could read, you would know…)
  • How am I supposed to do my homework without plagiarizing Wikipedia?!
  • Wikipedia is never coming back!
  • Why did Obama shut down Wikipedia?!
  • Wikipedia is gay!
  • Why did soap/a sofa shut down Wikipedia?!

Except with way more caps lock, swearing, and race/gender based insults.

Oddly, this fills the reddit shaped hole in my day.


Blackout and whiteout

This is an odd combination. While much of my usual internet distractions are shut down in protest of SOPA and PIPA, Seattle is also shut down because of the snow. School was canceled, bus routes are mostly down, and the streets are totally impenetrable. At first I was worried – how am I going to spend a snow day without reddit and Wikipedia?!

But then I remembered I have a kitten, and books, and video games. Right.

I’ve also been entertaining myself by watching all the people who are building snowmen or sledding down my street. So has Pixel:

And here’s a gratuitous beauty shot:

UK student threatened with expulsion over Mohammed cartoon

You may already be familiar with 17-year-old Rhys Morgan. In 2010 he received the James Randi Award for Grassroots Skepticism for outing the scam drug “Miracle Mineral Supplement.” More recently, he received numerous legal threats from the odious Burzynski clinic for shedding light on their unscientific and unethical practices.

Did I mention this badass is 17? If I were a university, I’d be trying to snatch him up. Not every teenager is so involved with skepticism and activism, and he has a bright future ahead of him.

But apparently his school doesn’t think so. You see, not all of Rhys’s activism is about exposing medical scams. Why, he had the audacity to put up this horrible image as his Facebook profile photo:

He chose that photo to stand in solidarity with the University College London’s Atheist, Secular, and Humanist Society. The group was caught in a firestorm after someone complained about the image being used to promote their pub social and school officials ordered them to take it down.

But now Rhys is stuck in a firestorm of his own. Because that image from the comic Jesus and Mo was his Facebook photo for a week, he has been harassed and threatened at school by his classmates. He was then summoned by his head of year and told to remove the cartoon. When he said no, he was threatened with expulsion.

I’m no expert on laws related to freedom of speech in the UK, so I can’t predict what will happen to Rhys. But what I can say is that this sort of treatment is wrong. Religious people should not be allowed to force their beliefs onto others, and that’s exactly what’s happening in this situation. Muslims can abstain from posting photos of Mohammed all they want, but they can’t force non-Muslims to do the same. Just like they can abstain from eating pork without totally banning pork from the school cafeteria. Disagreeing with religious ideas is not equivalent to a “hate crime,” and equating the two is a dangerous mindset indeed.

I’m not sure what we can do, but at the very least you can let Rhys know that you support him at his blog or over twitter.

UPDATE: Maryam Namazie asked Rhys for an update, and got the following reply:

“Unfortunately, given the extreme situation, I’ve removed the image in question. They thanked me for being “co-operative”, even though the reason I did it was purely selfish – not being expelled. They didn’t actually state whether I was going to be, but based on their wording, it’s obvious that is what they were threatening.”

The religious bullies win again, though I totally sympathize with Rhys’s personal decision.

Welcome to the United States

Here a state representative thinks it’s perfectly fine to refer to his 16-year-old constituent as “an evil little thing” who is “being coerced by evil people” because she understands the concept of separation of church and state. Maybe Rhode Island House Representative Peter G. Palumbo (D) needs a few emails (rep-palumbo@rilin.state.ri.us) or phone calls ((401) 785-2882) reminding him about the first amendment of the constitution.

And don’t forget, you can donate to Jessica Ahlquist’s scholarship fund here. Random kindness from strangers has already raised almost $20,000!

That Christian compassion

Jessica Ahlquist may have won her legal battle to remove an unconstitutional prayer banner from her public school, but that doesn’t mean she can finally resume her everyday life. No, now she’s receiving horrible comments from fellow classmates, community members, and other angry Christians who are very, very offended that their religion no longer has the special status to be forced upon others. There’s the general anti-atheist remarks:

“May that little, evil athiest teenage girl and that judge BURN IN HELL!”

“yeah, well i want the immediate removal of all atheists from the school, how about that?”

“Jessica Ahlquist may have won her case, but she’s going straight to hell. #Godovereverything”

“I hope there’s lots of banners in hell when your rotting in there you atheist fuck #TeamJesus”

And worse, the threats:

“If this banner comes down, hell i hope the school burns down with it!”

“U little brainless idiot, hope u will be punished, you have not win sh..t! Stupid little brainless skunk!”

“Fuck Jessica alquist I’ll drop anchor on her face”

“definetly laying it down on this athiest tommorow anyone else?”

“Nothing bad better happen tomorrow #justsaying #fridaythe13th”

“Let’s all jump that girl who did the banner #fuckthatho”

“literally that bitch is insane. and the best part is she already transferred schools because shes knows someone will jump her #ahaha”

“”But for real somebody should jump this girl” lmao let’s do it!”

“Hmm jess is in my bio class, she’s gonna get some shit thrown at her”

“I want to punch the girl in the face that made west take down the school prayer… #Honestly”

“hail Mary full of grace @jessicaahlquist is gonna get punched in the face”

“When I take over the world I’m going to do a holocaust to all the atheists”

“gods going to fuck your ass with that banner you scumbag”

“I found it, what a little bitch lol I wanna snuff her”

“if I wasn’t 18 and wouldn’t go to jail I’d beat the shit out of her idk how she got away with not getting beat up yet”

“lol I wanna stick that bitch lol”

“nail her to a cross”

“We can make so many jokes about this dumb bitch, but who cares #thatbitchisgointohell and Satan is gonna rape her.”

The full list can be found here. It doesn’t include the comment where someone posted her home address with a wink and a nudge.

I feel ill after typing these up. These threats are made toward a 16 year old girl because she dared to stand up for her constitutional right to not have the government endorsing a religion. What’s worse, much of the bile is coming from her very own classmates. Not only does this make the threats toward Jessica very real, but it just depresses me. How are teenagers so full of violence and hatred?

Oh right. Religious brainwashing by their families and communities. Yeah, about that idea that spirituality develops character…

Jessica, if you’re reading this – you have our support. We are here for you. You’ve been so brave through this whole ordeal, and you don’t deserve the treatment you’re getting. But know that you have won the battle as well as the war. Because while you’ve gained the respect of thousands and shown yourself to be a smart, humble, brave, and genuine individual, your classmates sit stagnant in their small mindedness. While you will rise to the top, their hatred and ignorance will keep them at the bottom. If they’re not jealous, they should be.

Thank you for making these sacrifices so future students won’t have to.

Feel free to leave a message of support for Jessica here, and please consider contributing to her college scholarship fund.

And if anyone ever tries to claim that atheists face no discrimination in the US, please show them these threats.

Update on Canada’s gay marriage issue

The government is taking action:

The Harper government is working quickly to change the law so that the marriages of the thousands of gay couples who travel to Canada to wed are legally recognized in this country. “We want to make it very clear that in our government’s view, these marriages should be valid,” a senior government official told Postmedia News on Friday. “That’s why we will change the Civil Marriage Act so that any marriages performed in Canada that aren’t recognized in the couple’s home jurisdiction will be recognized in Canada.” The legislative change will apply to all marriages performed in Canada regardless of the laws of the jurisdiction in which the couple live, the official said. The statement came in the wake of a political firestorm that broke out Thursday after international headlines suggested the Canadian government doesn’t legally recognize the marriages of foreign same-sex couples who were married in Canada because they could not legally do so in their home state or country.

This is the difference between Canadian conservatives and American conservatives. Canadian conservatives can at least recognize the great economic benefit of having foreign gay couples come to their country to get married. American conservatives pander to the religious right, damn the economic or ethical consequences.

EDIT: Apparently I know nothing about Canadian politics…though I still want to insist that your conservatives aren’t as big as whack jobs as ours. If our Republicans found a loop hole like this, they’d be jumping all over it to take away rights from gays.