What separation?

Earlier today I issued a rallying cry to our Saskatoon Freethinkers group to make some noise about the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast taking place this weekend. Here’s what I wrote — join us in our effort to hold elected officials accountable to the actual people they represent (and not their version of an invisible friend).

This Saturday “his worship” Don Atchinson will be hosting the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, an annual event he has sponsored since taking office in 2006. If you check out the list of special guests/speakers for this breakfast, you’ll find a very evangelical Christian line-up.

This weekend, the Saskatoon Freethinkers Council decided that we, as a group, would like to take a vocal stand against this obvious breach of church/state separation. One member has already written a letter to the Star Phoenix, and another is readying a press release to circulate to media outlets, informing them of our objection to such a blatant religiously-endorsed civic event.

If you would like to voice your individual concerns to the Mayor and City Council over the annual prayer breakfast, here is a website where you can electronically submit a letter.

The following is a sample letter you may use to express your concerns over the prayer breakfast — feel free to edit or personalize it as you wish:

As a resident of Saskatoon, I would like to express my objection to the “Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast” that will take place on Saturday, March 13, 2010. I find it troubling that Mayor Atchison, an elected official, is willing to use his civic title and position to promote a particular religious ideology while also appearing to turn a profit in ticket sales. The invited speakers and performers for the prayer breakfast appear to represent a very specific evangelical Christian ideology, which undermines the mayor’s credibility and impartiality as a public official who has a duty to represent all citizens of Saskatoon. Perhaps the Mayor’s efforts would be better directed in finding ways to benefit all Saskatoon residents, rather than only those who believe in his particular religious point of view. I hope that the Mayor and council will refrain from holding the prayer breakfast in the future.

If you would just like to email your concerns to the Mayor, his website is here.

Mailing and telephone information:

His Worship Donald J. Atchison
Office of the Mayor
222 Third Avenue North
Saskatoon, SK S7K 0J5

Phone: (306) 975-3202

ACT NOW!! The prayer breakfast will be held this weekend.

Misinformation in the name of the Lord

Last week the Obama administration welcomed the Secular Coalition for America to come to the White House to meet with officials in the administration. Keeping in mind that presidential administrations meet with special-interest groups and lobbyists all the time, you would think that this particular meeting wouldn’t have been as big of a deal — but this was the first time a US presidential administration has initiated contact with an atheist/agnostic/humanist organization.

First of all, it’s first notable that my current president acknowledges such groups (as compared to his predecessor) — but what’s even more interesting for me is to note some of the religious right’s response to this meeting. Case in point, CBN (Pat Robertson’s domain of the Christian Broadcasting Network) presented this news report:

A few things to point out in this “news” segment:

First of all, don’t you love that last-minute quote thrown out at the end of the report that “99.9% of Americans believe in a higher power”? Did you notice how the statistic is made EXTRA accurate because it’s verified by the speaker asserting “and that’s about accurate”? I suppose I should just take his word for it. So much for the accuracy of the 2008 Pew Forum’s report on the US’s religious landscape (which found that 92% of people believe in a supernatural force, but only 6-in-10 people view God as a personal, relational being).

In the report/article the CBN reporter outlined the three objectives the Secular Coalition wanted to discuss with the Obama administration — here they are, in all of their godless glory:

First, to protect children from what they call “neglect and abuse” for parents who cite religious reasons to deny their children medical treatment.

Second, to end coercion of military men and women from being proselytized or forced into participating in religious events.

Third, to make sure that faith-based organizations that receive federal funds cannot hire on the basis of religion or proselytize to those receiving their services.

Aren’t these demands utterly OUTRAGEOUS?! <-- sarcasm Seriously, what is wrong with this list? Why would the religious right want to call foul over these issues? Are they saying that children should NOT be protected from neglectful parents who choose prayer over insulin? Should it be US military policy that all soldiers be forced to participate in religious rituals whose beliefs they do not subscribe to? Would evangelicals be so protective of Faith-Based initiatives if most of faith agencies receiving governmental funds were of the Muslim, Hindu or Mormon faith systems that discriminated and proselytized? But the kicker for me is the fight over preserving the “under God” portion of the pledge of allegiance. Did you notice how protective the news report was over that phrase? Whenever someone gets red-in-the-face arguing for preserving the pledge, their ignorance is revealed. The “under God” portion of the pledge wasn’t added until 1954, when it was inserted during the McCarthy era as a way of distinguishing us good Americans from the red-commie atheist Russians. I’m sure Jefferson is still rolling in his grave over that insertion. Would these defenders of the phrase be so adamant if we said “under Allah” or “under Zeus” instead of “under God?”

Ah well. Nothing like a little CBN watching to brighten my day. Earlier this afternoon I was subjected to watching a graphic propaganda film on abortion. I’m continually amazed at how easy it is to mask unethical approaches under the guise of religious belief.