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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Oh, My Dog! Non-theism in the news

I suppose it's been a big week for the people of my (non)faith. After suffering through a long stretch of fights over just how Christian a candidate for president has to be to get elected, it's nice to get some more uplifting news.

For example, I hear the mint is finally making coins just for us:
An unknown number of new George Washington dollar coins were mistakenly struck without their edge inscriptions, including "In God We Trust," and are fetching around $50 apiece online. [. . .]

Bailey said it was unknown how many coins lacked the inscriptions. Ron Guth, president of Professional Coin Grading Service, one of the world's largest coin authentication companies, said he believes that at least 50,000 error coins were put in circulation.

"The first one sold for $600 before everyone knew how common they actually were," he said. "They're going for around $40 to $60 on eBay now, and they'll probably settle in the $50 range."
Although once again we're being discriminated against: We have to pay fifty bucks for a coin worth one that we can't even put in a vending machine. But at least they're trying, eh?

Then there's also the big Supreme Court case this week, brought by Wisconsin's own Freedom from Religion Foundation:
This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case brought by a group of atheists who claim the Bush administration's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives violates the separation of church and state.

It's just one example of how atheists are becoming increasingly assertive — arguing not only that religion is false, but also a threat to civilization.

Outside the court, atheists and people of faith squared off. Inside, the Freedom From Religion Foundation made its case against the president's pet program.

The foundation's co-president, Dan Barker, was a fundamentalist preacher for 19 years. Now, he's preaching from a different text — specifically, "separation of church and state, and reason and kindness in place of superstition and ideologies."

But Barker and his wife, Annie Laurie Gaylor, who is also the foundation's co-president, said the problem is bigger than the Bush administration and its faith-based initiatives. They see a world being torn apart by religious fundamentalists of all stripes.

"[Religion is] the source of the greatest violence in the world," Gaylor said. "More people have been killed in the world for religion over any other reason."
This is why the FfRF is not our best spokesgroup (I prefer Americans United for the Separation of Church and State). But I do commend them for taking on the faith-based initiatives office. It's not that I oppose tax dollars being spent by rligious groups--as long as the work they do with that money is secular in nature, i.e., feeding the hungry and housing the homeless--but rather I feel those groups should be treated no differently than non-religious organizations that do the same things. Establishing an office explicitly to solicit proposals from and grant money to faith groups crosses a line.

But the most interesting news of the week may well be this:
On Monday, March 12, the Secular Coalition for America, a national lobbying group representing Americans who do not hold a god-belief, will make history by announcing the name of the first open nontheist member of Congress.
We make a big show of not requiring a religious test for office (what with that being in the Constitution and all), but in practice you just can't get elected in this country without outward demonstrations of faith, particularly Christian. I mean, good for Keith Ellison and everything, but how many thousands of members of Congress have served in the last two centuries before we elected a single Muslim?

The comment thread at that post is also interesting with plenty of speculation about which member of Congress will "come out" as non-theist, including a couple of Wisconsin's Congresscritters. Barney Frank is the favorite, though. I guess we'll find out Monday.

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