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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

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

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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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.




 

Iran is one of seven nations...

Iran is one of seven nations (Afghanistan, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan being the other six) where apostasy is legally punishable by death.  A stronger incentive not to be counted as infidel is probably harder to come by. And yet, to date, 3,468 atheists in Iran have gone to atheistcensus.com to do just that.

To be part of society in Iran, religious affiliation – Muslim or otherwise - is required: for official forms, for social inclusion, for just appearing “normal”.  Despite the religious appearance, Iran is one of the top 10 contributors to the Atheist Census, suggesting that atheists do indeed exist there.  It’s just that they are hidden.

In this context, it was heartening and harrowing to receive an unsolicited email from an Iranian woman who warmly thanked the creators of Atheist Census for giving her a forum to be counted.  It was notable that she identified herself as atheist, an Iranian and a global citizen.  She was appreciative, but was not satisfied with counting herself anonymously.  She mentioned that she was going to tell her “numerous” non-religious friends about the site.

According to the latest statistics on Atheist Census, 88% of Iranians who took the short, six question survey, were raised Muslim.  They have now rejected their (former) faith.  They are apostates.  The entomology of apostasy comes from the Greek “apostasia” which means “revolt”.  When apostasy is possibly a life and death situation, it is not hyperbole to say that being counted as an atheist is a revolutionary act.  Perhaps it is even more so when a woman professes herself as infidel, given the oppression of women in particular in Islamic countries.  This atheist, this Iranian, indeed this global citizen who was counted in Atheist Census and then took the time to send me an email, was one woman among the (only) 20% of Iranians who have been counted in Atheist Census that identify as female.

Often surveys are important to those who have created them.  This short story shows that some surveys can also be important to those who participate in them.

Secular World Episode 11 - Bills, Boston and Bangladesh

In their “welcome back” episode, Jake and Han discuss the sneaky politics of the Christian right, the exclusion of humanists and atheists from the post-bombing events in Boston, and the free speech protests this week.  Enjoy it all here!

Defend Dissent - Support the Bangladeshi atheist bloggers

On 25 April Atheist Alliance International stands in solidarity with the Bangladesh atheist bloggers who have been arrested and persecuted simply for expressing their views.   If you support freedom of expression, then support the bloggers today by:

joining a protest in New York, Washington DC, Columbia (MO), Ottowa, Calgary, Toronto, London or Dhaka
- writing a letter of protest to a Bangladesh embassy
- contacting your members of parliament to highlight the situation
supporting a petition to the Bangladeshi government
- posting about the bloggers on Facebook and/or tweeting with the hastags #Bangladesh #Bloggers and #DefendDissent
 

Tree Planting at Kasese Humanist Primary School

Pupils at Kasese Humanist Primary School numbering close to sixty participated in an event that involved planting of trees along their recently acquired permanent site on the river banks of River Nyamwamba, which borders the property in the west.

The students left  from school in the evening hours of Thursday 18 April 2013 led by the School Director accompanied by the School Headteacher plus some 3 teachers.  Movement to this site was by foot from the current site, along the Kasese - Fortportal highway, and they purchased a number of trees seedlings from a nearby nursery bed.  We passed along the Majengo-Rukoki Trading center and headed to the School Project.

The children were so excited to learn of the news that this is going to be a future permanent home of the school. They posed for a photograph at the recently plastered building within the property. There are some plantains, bumpkins, pepper and mangoes and the kids tried their luck and took what was available.

Each child planted a tree in a hole and the trees will be looked after such that they grow and as it's rainy season now, there is a good chance they will grow. This exercise took close to two hours.

The purpose of the trees along the river bunks includes to curb soil erosion, provide shade and fresh air and to add on the beauty of the scenery. This exercise is going to continue in more weeks to come.

A fundraising campaign is in progress as the school management tries to mobilise resources to put up classroom blocks on the site and all well wishers and friends of Kasese Humanist Primary School are encouraged to support us materially, financially or morally such that we succeed in commencing bigger construction works in March 2014.  If you would like to support Kasese Humanist Primary School please donate through AAI.