The Church of Anti-Vaccination

There is, however, a loophole in the new law. If parents can prove that vaccination could cause a dangerous medical reaction to their child, or if their objection is for religious reasons, they are entitled to avoid the ban. 

The New South Wales State Government recently legislated that childcare centres are permitted to ban children whose parents refuse to vaccinate them. The decision came after a campaign by NSW newspaper The Telegraph to prevent children whose parents objected to vaccinations, thereby spreading contagious diseases among the other children.

The Church of Conscious Living was created in 2008 and owes its creation to the anti-vaccination movement, with co-founder Jane Leonforte formerly serving as vice-president of the South Australian anti-vaccination group, Vaccination Information Serving Australia. In an email sent in 2007, she raised the concern that moves in the US towards compulsory vaccination may happen in Australia, and that concerned parents should do what they could to prevent it. She proposed a solution: ‘To this end, we have decided to create a ‘religion’, so, amongst other things, we can claim ‘religious exemption’, if the need ever arises, for ourselves and our children.’

Soon after the announcement of the law, the founder of the Australian Vaccination Network Meryl Dorey, who has been involved in aggressive campaigns in regards to the anti-vaccine movement in Australia, has since been encouraging supporters to join the Church of Conscious Living.

As yet, there have not been any moves to amend the law, though Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek stated that any objector would have to consult with an immunisation provider first, and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott claimed that there would be a crackdown on exemptions if his party wins the next election. As it stands, the loophole is allowing parents to use a sham religion as an excuse for avoiding potentially life-saving healthcare options, which is neither good for religious groups nor the secular community.

Despite openly admitting in an email that the Church of Conscious Living was created to claim religious exemptions, the law still allows parents trying to get around it to join this sham religion. The NSW Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, has admitted that there is nothing she can do to prevent parents claiming the religious exemption, as “the NSW government is not legally able to prevent people practising a religion or following religious beliefs.”

Syrian rebels execute an atheist boy

But are Assad's soldiers the only ones committing war crimes? Of course not. Just recently Amnesty warned over increasing war crimes perpetrated by Syrian rebels. Sen. John McCain in a recent interview said that he's willing to excuse war crimes committed by Syrian rebels because apparently he doesn't want an extremist takeover of Syria. He probably didn't hear about al-Qaeda advising Syrian rebels to create an anti-Western state.

Because of the situation in Syria, some might call Syria the playground of the devil. But the devil, in most cases, is religious fanatics often claiming to fight for Syria. In a country torn apart by sectarian violence, there is no difference between a rebel and a terrorist. In fact, many fighters among Syrian rebels ARE terrorists affiliated with terror groups. The cloak of ‘rebels’ only worked for these groups for some time because of their anti-government stance, holding Bashar al-Assad and his regime responsible for war crimes against the people.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the boy had been in an argument with someone about the existence of God, and was heard to say: “Even if the Prophet Mohammad returns, I will not become a believer.” But other sources say that the boy's executioners, who spoke Arabic and not the Syrian dialect, misinterpreted the boy’s comment. The Islamists who executed Qataa are said to belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a militant group that started off known as the Nusra Front. One of the Islamists was heard to say: “Generous citizens of Aleppo, disbelieving in God is polytheism and cursing the prophet is a polytheism. Whoever curses even once will be punished like this”. Qataa's parents say he had taken part in pro-democracy demonstrations in Aleppo.

A latest news story [warning: link contains graphic image] coming out of Syria has shocked everyone and is just another addition to the long list of atrocities committed by Syrian ‘rebels’. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – an anti-Assad Britain-based group monitoring the actions of some Islamist fighters – has reported the death of a 15-year-old atheist boy named Mohammad Qataa, allegedly shot in the face in an execution by Syrian rebels in front of his family.

If Iran and Hezbollah are financing Assad, then Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also financing terrorism by funding al-Qaeda affiliated Syrian rebels. It is very difficult to decide who is committing more war crimes – rebels or Assad’s forces – but one thing is sure: it’s almost never wise to support a bunch of Islamist terrorists against another bunch of Islamist terrorists.

More than 94,000 people have been killed and some 1.6 million Syrians have fled the country since the civil war began in March 2011. While the US, UK and France mull over arming Syrian rebels, leaders should put all the options on the table AND take a look at past mistakes before making a decision. Here is a good article on The Moral Minimum in Arming Rebels highlighting similar past human rights abuses and ethnic cleansing in Libya.

Malala Yousafzai: One Girl, One Idea

Malala Yousafzai: one girl with one idea who refused to be silent. An education activist, she was working on educational rights and women’s rights in the Swat valley. Her weapons were knowledge and education in resistance to the violence perpetrated by the Taliban of Pakistan who are against female education.

In Swat valley the Taliban have at times banned females from going to school and getting an education. Malala – a strong and brave soul who stood up against all odds to provide a voice to the voiceless – was made a target by the Taliban gunmen. They wanted to silence her, but they failed.

Malala was shot in the head and neck but survived and is back on her feet with even more hope, strength and courage to carry on. She is still advocating peace and rights for everyone, with education and without the use of violence.  

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Indian Governor Seeks to Suppress Religious Freedom

Bhopal: The Governor of Madhya Pradesh in India agreed on 31 July to forward a controversial bill, already approved by the Madhya state Assembly, to the President of India for constitutional review and approval before signing it into law.

The bill is titled the "M.P. Freedom of Religion Amendment Bill 2013". But despite its name, its purpose is to require individuals who wished to change or disaffiliate from any religion in the state to notify the District Magistrate prior to the change. It also requires religious leaders to get permission from the District Magistrate before administering or taking part in any religious ceremony. The bill provided penalties of significant fines and even a jail term of up to four years for anyone who failed to adhere to the law.

Having the Governor send the bill to the President of India prior to signing was a victory for regional civil rights groups and minority religious groups who had been organizing state-wide protests for several weeks to lobby the Governor to take this action.  These groups saw the bill as limiting and restricting the ability of individuals to join their communities and reinforcing the power and control of the majority Hindu community over individuals' exercise of religious freedom. The bill was supported by local Hindu leaders and representatives in the state Assembly.

Freedom of religion is enshrined in India's 1947 constitution and is considered a foundational principle of the State. Yet India is one of the most diverse religious countries in the world, having been the birthplace of four world religions: Hinduism; Jainism; Buddhism; and Sikhism.  The country also has large MuslimSikhChristian and Zoroastrian populations, with Islam being the largest minority religion in India.  Despite the Constitutional guarantee, many regions and localities in the country promote and privilege their local majority religion and have passed anti-conversion laws.  Madhya Pradesh passed a similar law in 2006 requiring one month's notice to the government before one could convert to another religion. But that law was struck down by the Solicitor General of India as unconstitutional.

The groups pressuring Governor Ram Naresh Yadav to forward the bill to the President of India expect a similar ruling for this bill.




 

Religion Becoming Obsolete? It Could Happen!

 Religious people could be the minority by the year 2041 according to Biopsychologist Nigel Barber, who says this is the case in well-developed countries as personal wealth increases. In a recent article in Psychology Today," Barber said: "Research has shown that religion declines not just with rising national wealth but also with all plausible measures of the quality of life, including length of life, decline of infectious diseases, education, the rise of the welfare state, and more equal distribution of income.
 
Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-siebold/religion-becoming-obsolet_b_3755870.html

IHEU launches Freedom of Thought Report website

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has launched a new website Freethoughtreport.com, a website that enables organisations and individuals around the world to share information on the persecution of the non-religious in their own countries.
 
The website provides resources for individuals who are being persecuted because of their religion or belief (such as how to complain to the United Nations).  The site also has a facility for submitting new informationon the persecution of the non-religious.
 
The website is intended to collect as well as report on cases of discrimination against the non-religious. The first edition of the report, Freedom of Thought 2012 – A Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Nonreligious, was published in December last year to mark Human Rights Day. The 2012 report highlighted limitations on the freedom of thought of the non-religious in over 60 countries, focusing on laws which discriminate against people because of their Humanist, atheist or other non-religious beliefs, and which hinder their freedom of expression.  The report also describes the effect of these laws on specific individuals.
IHEU intends to publish new editions of the report annually.  The new website, and the contributions it will encourage, will enable the 2013 report to be even more comprehensive.
The Freedom of Thought Report website: http://freethoughtreport.com/
 
The International Humanist and Ethical Union: http://iheu.org/
 
Related news article – New report shows global discrimination against humanists, atheists and the non-religious
 
 

The Sad Tale of Pakistani Minorities

 WRITTEN BY FARAN J, AAI NEWS TEAM

 

       Pakistan is a country that celebrated Minorities Day in Canada - because it was too unsafe in Pakistan. That alone is enough for anyone to get a decent idea of how bad the situation is for Pakistan's minorities. Pakistan's minorities have a long history of persecution, sometimes at the hands of Muslim hardliners and sometimes at the hands of the very State they pay taxes to protect their life and property. Today it seems there is little to no place for Pakistani minorities in the country that they helped create 66 years ago.

 The trouble for Pakistani minorities started way back when Ahmaddiya Muslims were declared heretics and a huge persecution campaign was launched against them in Pakistan, the most memorable being the anti-Ahmaddiya riots of 1953. Jamaat-e-Islami was one of the notable parties that participated in the persecution campaign against Ahmaddiya Muslims and is still aggressively anti-Ahmaddiya today.

 

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Irish Atheists Urge Repeal of Blasphemy Law

Originally published November 4, 2013 by , The Friendly Atheist

Over the weekend, the Convention on the Constitution held meetings in Ireland to discuss changes to the nation’s Constitution and then make recommendations to the government.

Relevant to us is the need to repeal the blasphemy law, which currently states:

The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.

Atheist Ireland has been fighting for the law’s repeal for a while now and the group’s Chairperson Michael Nugent spoke at this weekend’s convention alongside fellow advocates for the law’s repeal, Professor David Nash of Oxford Brookes University and Human Rights Officer of Atheist Ireland Jane Donnelly.

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Eid ul Adha: Sacrifice for a Psychotic God

It's that time of the year again when the streets are bloody and meat is eaten like there's no tomorrow. It's Eid ul Adha - the Islamic festival of animal sacrifice.

The ritual has its origin in the Koran when Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his most beloved son, Ismael. When Ismael was about 13, God tried to test Abraham's faith. He showed up in Abraham's dream and commanded him to sacrifice Ismael, who was born after many years of prayers.  

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After Pussy Riot: Russia strengthens anti-blasphemy laws

The relationship between politics and religion is interesting. Russia is an example of a country where attitudes toward religion have gone from one extreme to another. For much of the 20th century the country under Soviet rule actively sought to eliminate religion. Religion was a threat to the power structure of the country at the time. Things changed in the 1990s, and modern Russia now has laws guaranteeing religious freedom. The politics in the country changed and now the church, and in particular the Russian Orthodox Church, enjoys significant influence on Russian politics. 

An example of this is the Pussy Riot case, as reported by Atheist Alliance International in August 2012. This brought to international attention how powerful the Russian Orthodox Church really is and how strongly dissent is still dealt with in Russia. That case relates to the actions of five women of the Pussy Riot collective, who performed a protest piece in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Three of the women were arrested, charged and convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, and sentenced to two years imprisonment. As reported by RAPSI News one of the convicted three, Samutsevich, has since had her sentence reduced to probation

There was much criticism at the time from the international community regarding the harshness of the sentences handed out to the convicted women. However, the reaction from Russian MPs since then has not favoured the support of free-speech, but rather to seek harsher anti-blasphemy laws. Laws were then proposed setting fines and long jail sentences for those who insult religious feelings. Critics at the time warned that under the proposed laws the teaching of evolution or the Big Bang theory could be considered as insulting to believers and punishable under the proposed laws.

There have since been three readings of the proposed laws, and the state of Duma, part of the Russian Confederation, has passed an anti-blasphemy bill, which introduces fines of up to 500,000 roubles ($15,430) and the possibility of prison sentences of up to three years for “offending the feelings of religious believers.”   

The new laws have been heavily criticized by human rights advocates. Veteran activist Lev Ponomaryov stated that “It's a step back from the secular nature of Russia recognized by the Constitution”, commenting also that the bill introduces terms, such as ‘feelings’, which are illegal. Ponomaryov and others also fear that the new law may be used for political purposes and will put pressure on free speech.

Indeed, and that is the crux of the matter. For while the country has changed from being officially atheist (under communism) to its modern stance of supporting religious belief, one thing that has not changed is intolerance of dissent. The new anti-blasphemy laws show that free speech is not guaranteed in Russia, as much now as it was last century.

Censorship!

To uphold Islamic beliefs, people are limited to what they are exposed to so that they cannot think of anything in contrary with Islam. To reach this goal, censorship is used to prevent people from understanding, acting and even thinking of facts that Islam rejects. There are many different ways of censoring in Islam to keep people in the Muslim scholars’ ideal condition of ignorance. One of the most ridiculous methods that truly bothers me is censorship in books, especially in educational books just like my book.

To improve my English, I have taken a Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) course. Learners of English around the world who are taking the CAE course may not have any idea about books published for the same course in Iran. The versions here are not the original. Actually some changes are made before publishing. However, original ones can be found rarely. One of my classmates owns one.

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Atheism Strong Among Irish College Students

A survey of Irish college students has uncovered some very interesting statistics regarding those  students and their changing attitudes towards religion.

The survey revealed that the views of 78.7% students have been negatively affected with regard to how they perceive the Catholic Church after the recent scandals were uncovered.

Shockingly, only 37% respondents admitted to be practicing Catholics. The second group to top the scale were atheists at 20%.

When asked “Do you attend communal religious ceremonies and functions?” the highest response was ‘no’ at 61%, and those who responded ‘yes’ mainly attend only 1-3 times a year.

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Anti-Sharia Law in US Struck Down

WASHINGTON -- A proposed amendment to the state of Oklahoma's state constitution in the US that would have prevented state courts from considering Sharia and international law was struck down by a US federal judge on Thursday, August 15.
 
Chief District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of the Western District of Oklahoma, whoissued a temporary restraining order preventing the law from taking effect after it passed in 2010, ruled Thursday that the amendment’s references to Sharia, or Islamic law, violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. While Oklahoma officials argued the amendment could be enacted if the reference to Sharia was removed, Miles-LaGrange ruled that wasn't possible.
 
"Having reviewed the numerous statements by the legislators who authored the amendment, it is abundantly clear that the primary purpose of the amendment was to specifically target and outlaw Sharia law and to act as a preemptive strike against Sharia law to protect Oklahoma from a perceived 'threat' of Sharia law being utilized in Oklahoma courts," she ruled.
 
Read More: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/15/oklahoma-sharia-constitution_n_3764313.html?utm_hp_ref=religion&ir=Religion

The Issue of Marriage Equality: Christianity’s POV


 

WRITTEN BY RICHARD CIUCIU, NEWS TEAM

On June 26th the United States Supreme Court declared a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, thus taking a large step toward full marriage equality in America. Of the nine Supreme Court Judges, five of them found this form of marriage regulation to be an abuse of governmental authority under the Fifth Amendment in the United States Constitution. The close voting margin is directly correlated to the topic at hand: defining and regulating who can be married has been a hotly debated topic in the United States for some time. Various arguments for maintaining marriage as a sacred act between a man and a woman tend to either focus on religious aspects or the repercussions of a child being raised in a same-sex household. However, as more studies suggest that heterosexual households do not produce ‘better’ children than children raised by homosexual couples, the debate has seemingly come down to religious practice and belief. Whether or not religion should be the basis for legal rulings aside, Christians make up around three quarters of the American population. Accordingly, through understanding the ‘Christian viewpoint’ on homosexual marriage, the overall American attitude might become clearer.

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Australians Protesting State Visit from African Pastor

PROGRESSIVE ATHEISTS (Australia) PROTESTING STATE VISIT FROM EVANGELICAL AFRICAN PASTOR

Pastor Enoch Adeboye is an evangelical pastor from Nigeria who promotes the existence of witches and wizards, resulting in the torture and death of young children and others in Nigeria, the wider African continent, and has also spread into Europe.

Adeboye is the leader of one of the fastest-growing Pentecostal churches in Africa, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, with over 6,000 affiliates and chapters around the world, including the US, Europe, and Asia.  He is planning a 'tour through Australia and other southeast Pacific countries to raise money and plant new churches.

Rev. Adeboye is a controversial pastor who uses the Bible to promote the violent persecution of 'witches' and homosexuals, and who has been linked to a number of riots and assaults where people were attacked by his churchmembers.  With the president of Nigeria as one of his congregants, he has been a powerful force to lobby the Nigerian government to ban same-sex marriage and criminalize homosexuality. He is one of the wealthiest pastors in Nigeria due to his ministry, holding a number of homes as well as private jets among his possessions, despite the vast majority of his parishioners living below the poverty level.

Progressive Atheists, an AAI Australian affiliate, is attempting to publicize the controversy of this pastor and petitioning the Australian government to refuse to grant him a visa to travel through Australia.  AAI is encouraging all Australians to sign the petition and contact your federal representatives to support the ban.  You can also join the Facebook group to publicize this campaign.

 

Turmoil within the Catholic Church

 Turmoil within the Catholic Church

By M.J., AAI NEWS TEAM

 

Recent activities in and by the Catholic Church indicate significant challenges for and struggles within its leadership, as the Church attempts to define a way forward in the modern world, which is often at odds with many of the traditional messages of the Church. Sexual and financial scandals have eroded confidence in the Church and contributed to the tide of people leaving the faith. These and other issues of concern to the Church will be discussed here in light of recent events.

The Church knows something needs to be done. Recent meetings held by the Catholic Church in Europe highlight issues of high concern to the Church in the region, issues which greatly affect the influence and the future of the Church: Secularization, Youth and Islam.

Europe is largely secular, and as the Church seeks to maintain a strong influence on politics and society it knows that is has to learn to deal with that fact. A meeting was held by the Council of European Bishops (CCEE) in Bratislava, Slovakia to discuss the issue of secularization, the separation of Church and State, how these threaten the church, and how the church should move ahead.

Youth are of course of immense importance to society, for they will be the future leaders, voters, consumers, and in the case of the Church, they will either be followers, or they won’t. The Church knows full well that if the young do not accept religious teachings then the church will fail. The meeting in Bratislava highlighted that evangelizing and winning the youth into the religion is both a high priority and a significant challenge.

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Circumcision and the rights of the child

 Circumcision and the rights of the child


Circumcision has long been a cultural and health related practice, possibly dating back 15,000 years. Theories as to its origin include identifying slaves, hygiene, a rite of passage to adulthood and a sign of membership within a group. In recent times it has been suggested as an aid to preventing the spread of HIV in adult men, and in Victorian times as a cure for almost any illness, including epilepsy and insanity. The most widespread reason for circumcision now is a child or infant’s rite of passage into a religion.

One person who opposes circumcision for children and infants is Fredrik Malmberg, Sweden’s Ombudsman for Children. According to Malmberg, circumcision violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, and there is no sound basis for it to be carried out on children. His argument is based on the lack of medical justification, the suffering of the child and their inability to consent.

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