Frist Amendment Watchdog Committee March Report
The Minnesota Atheists and the Humanists of Minnesota have established the First Amendment Watchdog committee which has been meeting monthly since 5/27/08. The committee purpose is to focus on church-state separation violations in the State of Minnesota. Early in its existence our committee addressed the matter of a large Christian banner hanging from the ceiling in the high school cafeteria at Kimball, Minnesota. It was observed by one of our members while attending a basketball game there in the evening. This matter was referred to ACLU-MN by the committee. Chuck Samuelson, Executive Director of ACLU-MN, immediately sent a letter to the Superintendent of that school district, pointing out the potential violation of the law and recommended remedial action. This incident is an example of the role our committee can play in addressing such violations.
Other issues addressed by the committee include: 1. Questionable practices of Charter Schools in relation to church-state separation. 2. Tax supported programs like Positive Alternatives (anti-choice counseling services for pregnant women). 3. Tax credits and deductions for Christian home schools. 4. Tuition write-offs for parochial school tuition. 5. Property tax exemptions for church property. 6. Creationism in public high school science classes (an estimated 25% of our students are being taught creation science in public school biology classes as an alternative to evolution). Due to our actions FFRF might be interested in Positive Alternatives.
The committee has decided to develop a network of watchdogs throughout the state. Any member of a Freethought group can volunteer. They would report violations observed in their area to the committee which would offer consultation on how the issue might be addressed. Other resources such as ACLU-MN, FFRF and American’s United would be utilized. If legislative issues arise that the committee believes should be addressed, the watchdog advocates may be asked to contact their respective legislators. Our goal is to establish a watchdog advocate in each of the 67 Senate Districts. If there are more than one in a district we will connect you with each other. We have come to the realization that the Freethought community needs to organize to make their voice heard.
If you are interested in becoming a watchdog contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org (MN Atheists) or email@example.com (H of M). We will need your name, email address, phone number, Senate district #, State Senator or State Representative if known. If you do not know who represents you or what district you are in we can supply that information based on your address.
Bob Schmitz, Chair
First Amendment Watchdog Committee