By George Kane
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts stumbled over the words of the presidential oath, momentarily confusing Barack Obama, but he predictably tagged "so help me god" onto the end. Reverend Rick Warren provided for an invocation a prayer in Jesus' name. Reverend Joe Lowery implored the audience to shout "Amen!" to close his benediction. It all made the inauguration of our 44th president a tediously religious affair, like every other presidential inauguration that I can remember. But, had a District Court judge exercised a little judicial courage the week before, it need not have been so.
Michael Newdow, the Sacramento emergency room doctor who has gained fame for his suits to ban group recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, brought an Establishment Clause challenge to the Obama administration before it even took office. Along with 30 other plaintiffs, he filed suit to prohibit appending the words "so help me god" to the presidential oath, and to prevent sectarian prayers at the inauguration ceremony.
Joining Newdow in the suit are many of the nation's leading atheist organizations and church/state separation watchdog groups, including Minnesota Atheists, the American Humanist Association, the Atheist Alliance International, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Notable individually named plaintiffs are the top officers of the plaintiff organizations, including Minnesota Atheists president August Berkshire. Another is Ellery Schempp, the named plaintiff in the 1963 case Abbington County School District v. Schempp, in which the Supreme Court outlawed classroom prayer in public schools. The list of plaintiffs also included "unnamed children," as their parents have a right to take them to view their government in action without being forced to confront the official endorsement of religious dogma with which they disagree.Add a comment Add a comment
Dan Barker had a busy day on January 18. He began the day at the KTNF studio for an interview on Atheists Talk Radio, filled the afternoon with an appearance at the Roseville Library as the speaker at our monthly public meeting, and after dinner with some meeting attendees, presented a reading of excerpts from his new book at the Midway Borders Book Store.
The public meeting was by far our largest ever, with attendance estimated at 140. Barker began by informing us of some recent activities of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the nation's largest church/state separation watchdog organization. Barker and his wife, Annie Laurie Gaylor, are co-presidents. They ran a quarter-page ad in the Washington Post on Inauguration Day, headlined "Mr. President, Rebuild that Wall!"Add a comment Add a comment
The members of Minnesota Atheists should be excited about the incoming board of directors. This marks an historic moment in the organization's history. For the first time, no founding member will serve on the board. Minnesota Atheists was incorporated on September 21, 1991, and I filed the papers myself. The gauge that some of us founders set was that the organization will be successful when the founders are succeeded by other volunteers. It has taken eighteen years of planning and working by so many, but the goal of passing the torch to the next generation of atheist leaders will happen. This is not a change based on agreement of how things should be done, but agreement in the principle of keeping us moving forward in our founding purpose of creating an atmosphere of respectability for atheists. Our objective has a long way to go before it will be met, but today each member can feel proud because we stand a better chance of reaching our goal of society's knowledge of atheists today than yesterday.
The members nominated this January and to be elected this February are a good mix of long-time members and newer members who each bring a set of experiences to the board that will enable Minnesota Atheists to be on the cutting edge of tomorrow's communication needs. This is a board I look forward to supporting and assisting in their efforts to move us into years of future growth and thus enhancing our outlook for years to come.
By Vic Tanner
Irrational beliefs are much more common than many people think and they can be a major handicap. They can lead to dysfunctional behavior and keep us from living satisfying and fulfilling lives. But, of course, they can also be fun. I'm a big fan of them. Not of believing in them, of course, but I love hearing about them. Bigfoot sightings and UFOs were both a huge part of my childhood. I really thought that "In Search Of" was the greatest show ever on television. For the life of me, I could not figure out how such a fantastic show ever got canceled. Of course, it did take me well into adulthood to figure out that people were actually taking this stuff seriously, but that was my own naivety, I guess.Add a comment Add a comment