child’s school years are some of the most important in their development and
their experiences during this time can shape the rest of their lives. Many public
schools suffer from a lack of resources and funding and as a result some
children can fall between the cracks. One supposed solution has been the
National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP), which ‘provides funding to schools to
access the services of a school chaplain or secular support worker.’  In practice, a majority of the positions are reserved for
chaplains, and are recruited from Christian chaplaincy organisations such as
ACCESS Ministries, GenR8 Ministries, Schools Ministry Group and Scripture
Union. Since the inception of the NSCP, there have been questions raised
as to the remit of the chaplains, and whether the services they provide are
appropriate for public schools.
Ron Williams, jazz singer and
father of six, has been questioning the NSCP since he found out what his
children were being taught at their local public school in Queensland. The
chaplain at his children’s school, employed by the government-funded NSCP, had
been distributing a magazine that included statements claiming condoms promoted
promiscuity and declaring the sinfulness of same-sex relationships. When Mr
Williams and his wife requested that their children be withdrawn from the
religious classes, the children were bullied by other students and told they
would go to hell.
Valdemiro Santiago Sillas Malafaia Edir Macedo
(Investigated for (Politically active (Suspicion of larceny,
improper use of minister) embezzlement and
donated money) money laundering)
"Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money!
As funny (or not) as the quote above may be, the point about “needing money” is certainly pertinent in Brazil where many religious institutions enjoy a friendly tax environment and operate profitably. Recently, a scandal involving a large religious institution (Igreja Mundial), suspiciously broadcasted (that is an inference by the writer) by an open TV channel owned by a rival church (Igreja Universal), showed that minister Valdemiro Santiago bought properties in the state of Mato Grosso with a total value of 50 million Reais (c. US$25 million). These properties were registered in the name of the church (and therefore tax exempt). Santiago is now being investigated by the public prosecutor for the improper use of donated money, and because many of his temples have eviction orders for non-payment.
On 20 June the High Court of Australia decided the federal
government’s funding of religious chaplains in public schools was
unconstitutional. Shortly after, a bill was rushed through the House and the
Senate allowing the federal government to fund programs without legislative
The action that prompted these actions was the Williams v
Commonwealth case, which challenged the federal government’s right to fund
religious chaplains in public schools, through The National School Chaplaincy
The NSCP, as described in a previous article ‘Chaplaincy in
Australian Public Schools' has been criticised by the Australian
Psychological Society, the Australian Guidance and Counsellors Association and
parents such as Ron Williams, who brought the case to the High Court. A
majority of the criticisms relate to the inadequate qualifications of the
chaplains and the legality of religious teaching in public schools.
The High Court’s decision was 6-1 in favour of Ron Williams,
based on technical grounds: that the government could not spend money on
programs without supporting legislation. As such, the government’s funding of
the NSCP was found unconstitutional.
While the decision was welcomed by secular activists, the
reasoning behind it disappoints – Williams had also challenged the chaplains
program on the basis that s116 of the Australian constitution prohibits a
“religious test” for public office, a key clause in the fight for separation of
church and state. The High Court
dismissed the claim on that basis and effectively maintained Australia’s non-separation
of church and state, a poor position that has endured since the Defence of
Government Schools case in 1981.
Activist groups such as the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies are calling for the release of a 23-year-old Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery July 10.
While in the Sudan, no government-sanctioned stonings have been carried out, the sentence is a fact of life for people in countries that practice Sharia, or Islamic, law. Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, some parts of Nigeria and other a handful of others all have laws allowing stoning for adultery on the books. In the past, human rights groups have used political pressure to get all sentences of stoning in Sudan and some other countries with Sharia law to commute the sentence. However, some cases of stoning without legal backing have been reported in Sudan.
Atheist Alliance International thanks everyone who has supported Alex Aan, the Indonesian atheist assaulted and arrested after posting 'God does not exist' and cartoons and articles about Islam on Facebook. In June 2012 Alex was jailed for 2 1/2 years and fined Rp 100 million (c. US$10,600).
A friend of Alex in Indonesia was able to visit Alex in jail in early July and provide him with all the messages of support AAI has received from around the world - including from Russia, Mauritius, Australia, Colombia, the United States of America, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Denmark, Scotland, Sweden, Canada, India and the Philippines. Alex greatly appreciates the support he continues to receive, saying in his note "Thanks for support and love, without this I feel alone."
Please support Alex
- sending a message of support to Alex - email info [at] atheistalliance [dot] org with "Message for Alex" in the subject line. (Please remember that Alex is not a native English speaker and note that prison authorities will review any materials provided to Alex.)
- sharing this page and posting "God Does Not Exist" on your
- tweeting a message of support with hashtag #goddoesnotexist
- signing this petition to urge US President Obama to call on the Indonesian government to release Alex [update: petition now closed]
- writing to the Indonesian authorities to condemn Alex's jail sentence and calling for a repeal of
blasphemy laws so this does not happen to anyone else
On July 12, word spread that Safiyeh "Maryam" Gafuri had been hanged in a prison in Shiraz, Iran.
Prior to her death, prominent human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaie publicly called her innocent, but he and international human rights groups could not halt her execution. Maryam was sentenced to death under tribal law issued by judiciary authorities in Iran based on the Iranian Islamic Law. Below is Mostafaie's July 14 article about the incident, first posted by the Universal Tolerance Institute here.
Accused of a kind of psychological vandalism, three members of the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot face up to seven years in prison after a protest at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. On Monday, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich all pleaded not guilty to charges of hooliganism stemming from the February protest.
Pussy Riot's song at the event described an institutionalized corruption in the Russian Orthodox Church, and savaged President Vladimir Putin. Lyrics included, "Virgin Mary, mother of god, drive Putin out.” A video of the event shows nothing expressly violent in their actions. Mostly, they just danced the can-can. Nothing they did damaged the facade of the cathedral. They didn't even play loud music; they mimed a concert and later dubbed in the music. The cathedral, completed in 2000 as a glitzy recreation of the pre-revolutionary cathedral razed by the Soviets, represents, to many, the increased influence of the church
in the nation's political hierarchy. Patriarch Kirill I, head of the church, once described Putin as "a miracle from God."
Pussy Riot has previously been critical of Putin's links to the church and its influence on his political decisions. Their history of very public criticism could make the situation all the more difficult for the three imprisoned women, who claim not to have been involved in the February protest. Putin himself may have a direct impact in the course of the trial, according to the BBC News.
“In each people, a GENUINELY INDIGENOUS church” - image of the Conplei website - missionaries have no limits for cynicism.
Despite efforts from the Brazilian National Amerindian Foundation (known by its Portuguese acronym, FUNAI) prohibiting the presence of missionaries in areas populated by natives, the creeping influence of missionary groups has found new ways to infiltrate indigenous territory.
According to the 2010 Brazilian national census, the number of evangelical Amerindians grew 42% during the last 10 years, equivalent to 25% of the Amerindian population. This follows the overall growth of the evangelical church in Brazil: between 2000 and 2010, the number of evangelical believers grew 61%, to 22% of the Brazilian population.  The prohibition on the creation of new Missionary fronts in 1994 and the expulsion of all Missions from indigenous areas in 1991 stated by FUNAI did not convince evangelical churches to give up, instead they found a new way to accomplish their “holy” duty.