Back in the 1980s, Religious Right groups frequently spread conspiracy theories about “secular humanism.” Members of this secretive, worldwide cabal, we were told, had seized control of educational institutions, the media and the government in the United States.
Secular couples in Indiana can now choose a humanist celebrant to officiate a non-religious wedding ceremony. In July, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state’s requirement that marriages be performed by members of the clergy or government officials.
As the debate over same-sex marriage moves through the courts, a quieter legal challenge is also under way: Who should have the legal right to perform marriage ceremonies?
In some states, it can be difficult to legally get a wholly secular official to perform your marriage ceremony. Judges are often available, but they may be able to officiate at marriages only during limited hours. For people who want to celebrate with their family and friends on a weekend, a judge may not be an option.
Last night, an atheist offered a secular invocation before a meeting of the Greece, N.Y., Town Board.
The ground did not open up and send the town of Greece hurling into the bowels of hell. No one was struck by lightning. In fact, all that happened is that the members of the town board and those attending the event heard a thoughtful invocation delivered by local resident Dan Courtney.
I spent the weekend in Indianapolis, where I took part in “Civic Day,” an annual event co-sponsored by Americans United’s Indiana Chapter and the Center for Inquiry-Indiana.
One of the topics discussed was vouchers. I gave an overview of the sectarian and secular groups that promote taxpayer aid for religious education and discussed what motivates them.
A new report asserts that the U.S. military remains unduly influenced by fundamentalist Christian groups.
The report, “For God and Country: Religious Fundamentalism in the U.S. Military” was authored on behalf of the Center for Inquiry by James Parco, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel whose career includes stints as an instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy and time on the National Security Council of the White House during the Clinton administration.
Parco’s report lists a series of problems, among them:
In New York, virtually anyone can perform a wedding ceremony – provided that he or she is first willing to receive online ordination from an entity like the Universal Life Church, a mail-order church that ordains anyone for a fee. At a recent wedding in New York City, Preston Bailey and Theo Bleckmann were married by Joan Rivers, a well-known comedian who received online ordination for the occasion.
When U.S. military leaders announced that openly gay men and women would be permitted to service in the armed forces, Religious Right leaders went ballistic.
They asserted that the move would destroy military cohesion and leave our fighting force less able to do the job. Of course, that didn’t actually happen. One year after the change, military leaders reported that the new policy was working out fine.
I just got back from a trip to Indiana and Illinois where I was once again reminded of the importance of local activism.
In Indianapolis, I spoke at an event jointly sponsored by the Indiana Chapter of Americans United and the Center for Inquiry-Indiana. Called “Civic Day,” the annual event at the state capitol building is designed to inform residents of challenges facing their state and spur them to action.