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.




 

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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Christian Zealots within the Republican Party

 Christian Zealots within the Republican Party

 

WRITTEN BY R. CLEVENGER, AAI NEWS TEAM

 

The Christian zealots, who gained control of many government seats with the Tea Party push back in 2010, are taking stands and actively impeding progress toward acceptance and tolerance across the U.S. and replacing it with biblical-based intolerance.

 

In my home state of Pennsylvania, there is a bill that has been brought forth by Rep. Rick Saccone, a republican from Allegheny County, that would force every public school in the state to display “In God We Trust” upon a plaque or through the display of student artwork on school property. This is an obvious attempt to propagate their religious beliefs onto young, developing minds before they reach the age of reason. Just as churches target youth and those who are vulnerable and in need, the Republicans are misusing their offices to further their religious views.

 

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Saudi Blogger & Activist To be Tried for Apostasy

On 25 December 2013, a Saudi judge recommended that a liberal activist and blogger Raef Badawi be tried again in a higher court for apostasy - a charge that could carry the death penalty, rights campaigners say.

Raef Badawi was already convicted and sentenced in the ultra-conservative kingdom in July to seven years in jail and 600 lashes for setting up a "liberal" network and for allegedly insulting Islam.

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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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AAI & PATAS Coordinate Typhoon Relief Efforts


In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, the largest typhoon on record, barrelling through the Philippines, Atheist Alliance International and our Philippines affiliate, Philippines Atheists and Agnostics Society, have teamed up to provide disaster relief to the typhoon-stricken communities on the islands of Leyta and Cebu.

For more information on the program as well as donating, visit this page.

Primate Pride Day

 PRIMATE PRIDE DAY –

With great pleasure we celebrated the Primate Pride Day, as a latinoamerican initiative proposed by the web Sindioses since 2010. 24th of November was chosen as the date in which we remember the 154th anniversary of the official release of “On the Origin of the Species” and the 39th anniversary of the discovery of Lucy, the Australopithecus: two landmarks that not only changed our view of the world but gave way to a thought revolution that continues to our days, both admired and criticized.

The Asociación de Ateos y Agnósticos del Atlántico (and the Fundación Bacanería Planetaria) decided to organize an event this Saturday 23th with a divulgation conference showing the pride we feel about our evolutive origins, looking to share the facts with the general public and state our disagreement with the creacionist explanations that wish to belittle the scientific view, trying to put themselves at the same level.

Our celebration was a pleasant afternoon in which we reflected about our nature and place in society through the talks of Juan Torres Castellar (The evidence of evolution), Luis Felipe Zapata (Homosexuality: A evolutionist and psychobiologic view) and Jorge Senior (Science, Religion and Democracy), to whom we are grateful for sharing their knowledge with us. We also gave away some prizes and ate some bananas at coffee break!

See you again next year!

 

Top Religious Influence Stores of 2013

Religion continued to wield undue influence in world culture and politics, with a number of seismic shifts felt throughout 2013. Here are the top stories of 2013 noted by Atheist Alliance International:

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