Madison law bans religious discrimination ... against atheists

According to The Guardian, Wisconsin city's statute, enacted last month, is believed to be the first of its kind in the US: 'Religion was protected, so non-religion should be, too'
While conservatives in Indiana and Arkansas were explaining last month why their new religious objections laws weren't invitations to discriminate against gays, the leaders of Wisconsin's capital city were busy protecting the rights of another group: atheists.
In what is believed to be the first statute of its kind in the United States, Madison banned discrimination against the non-religious on 1 April , giving them the same protections afforded to people based on their race, sexual orientation and religion, among other reasons.
It's hardly surprising that such a statute would originate in Madison, an island of liberalism in a conservative-leaning state and the home of the Freedom fromReligion Foundation. But the ordinance's author, Anita Weier, said it didn't arise from an actual complaint about alleged discrimination based on a lack of religious faith.

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Americans’ confidence in religion hits a new low

By Cathy Lynn Grossman – Washington Post
Americans have less confidence in organized religion today than ever measured before — a sign that the church could be "losing its footing as a pillar of moral leadership in the nation's culture," a new Gallup survey finds.
"In the '80s the church and organized religion were the No. 1&?8243; in Gallup's annual look at confidence in institutions, said Lydia Saad, author of the report released Wednesday (June 17).
Confidence, she said, "is a value judgment on how the institution is perceived, a mark of the amount of respect it is due." A slight upsurge for Catholic confidence, for example, parallels the 2013 election and immense popularity of Pope Francis.
Overall, church/organized religion is now ranked in fourth place in the Gallup survey — behind the military, small business and the police — while still ahead of the medical system, Congress and the media, among 15 institutions measured.
"Almost all organizations are down but the picture for religion is particularly bleak," said Saad.

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Say It Loud: I’m an Atheist, and I’m Proud

New research finds perceived discrimination may lead people to intensify their identity as atheists.
By TOM JACOBS – Pacific Standard
When people feel ostracized, they often respond by identifying even more strongly with the aspect of their lives that has provoked their rejection. Think of the black power crusade of the 1960s, or the gay pride movement of recent decades.
Newly published research finds this dynamic this also applies to another much-maligned minority: atheists.
"Like people who belong to other marginalized groups, perceptions of discrimination predict poor psychological and physical well-being among atheists," write psychologist Michael Doane and sociologist Marta Elliott of the University of Nevada-Reno. "One way that atheists may cope with such discrimination is by further believing that being an atheist is important and central to their identity."
Belief can certainly give one strength to persevere; so, it seems, can unbelief.
Writing in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, they describe a study featuring 960 self-identified atheists. They responded to a long list of statements designed to measure their experience with personal discrimination, group discrimination, and their personal identification with atheism, along with their self-esteem, physical health, and satisfaction with life.

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Canadian Freedom of Religion Case

JURIST - In Loyola High School and John Zucci v. Attorney General of Quebec the Supreme Court of Canada addressed the issue of religious freedom in the context of teaching religion and ethics in a private Catholic school.
In 2008 Quebec introduced an Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) program, which it made mandatory in public schools. The program is taught from a secular perspective and is intended to "develop three competencies among students: the ability to understand 'religious culture'...[t]he ability to reflect on ethical questions; and the ability to engage in dialogue."
The Minister of Education has the discretionary power to authorize equivalent courses in lieu of mandatory ones in private schools. Loyola High School applied for permission to replace the ERC curriculum with a course taught primarily from a Catholic perspective.

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The Non Conference 2015

NonConFacebook 2
Are you an atheist or care about ideas, policies and institutions that affect non-believers? Then The Non-Conference is for you! 
The Non-Conference is Ontario's largest annual conference that is specifically geared for non-believers, non-theists, the "nones", atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, materialists, rationalists, secularists, pantheists, skeptics, empiricists, naturalists, friendly theists...well, you get the idea.
AAI's own Christine M. Shellska will be speaking at this conference on blasphemy laws (in the context of AAI's involvement in the Anti-Blasphemy Coalition), and AAI will have a table at this conference. 

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A mockery of human rights in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan

Washington Post - RECENT EVENTS in Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia show why authoritarian regimes believe they can get away with the grossest abuses of human rights: because they can and they do.

In Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation held a meeting last week to discuss “full and effective implementation” of a resolution, approved by the U.N. Human Rights Council six years ago, backing religious freedom and tolerance. 

The resolution deplored “all acts of violence against persons on the basis of their religious beliefs,” among many other noble sentiments. In a statement at the opening session, the acting U.S. envoy to the OIC, Arsalan Suleman, declared it a “critical time” for fighting intolerance and called on participants to “focus our attention on implementation” of the lofty goals of the resolution. The head of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Joachim Rücker, said that tolerance must include “all religions and beliefs everywhere.”

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Global Catholicism study: 'Very serious' forecast

By Terry Mattingly – Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

The European numbers in the report are serious business. While Vatican statistics claim Europe's Catholic population rose 6 percent between 1980 and 2012, infant baptisms fell by 1.5 million and marriages between two Catholics collapsed from roughly 1.4 million to 585,000. The number of priests fell 32 percent and weekly Mass attendance kept declining, from 37 percent in the 1980s to 20 percent since 2010.

But the past lingers in brick and mortar. Even though European bishops closed 12 percent of their parishes during this study's time frame, Europe -- with only 23 percent of the global Catholic population -- still has more parishes than the rest of the world combined.

"These are the Vatican numbers and nothing in here will surprise the bishops," said Mark Gray, director of the center's Catholic Polls and co-author of the report. "They are aware of their sacramental numbers and their Mass attendance numbers. ... They know that they face issues right now, and in the future, that are very serious."

When it comes to church statistics, experts study life's symbolic events -- births, marriages and deaths. It also helps to note how often believers go to Mass and whether there are enough priests to perform these rites.

Is the United States the next Europe? It's hard to compare numbers in the study, since it placed North America and South America in one region -- with trends in other nations obscuring those here.

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A closer look at America’s rapidly growing religious ‘nones’



Religiously unaffiliated people have been growing as a share of all Americans for some time. Pew Research Center’s massive 2014 Religious Landscape Study makes clear just how quickly this is happening, and also shows that the trend is occurring within a variety of demographic groups – across genders, generations and racial and ethnic groups, to name a few.


Religious “nones” – a shorthand we use to refer to people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular” – now make up roughly 23% of the U.S. adult population. This is a stark increase from 2007, the last time a similar Pew Research study was conducted, when 16% of Americans were “nones.” (During this same time period, Christians have fallen from 78% to 71%.)


Overall, religiously unaffiliated people are more concentrated among young adults than other age groups – 35% of Millennials (those born 1981-1996) are “nones.” In addition, the unaffiliated as a whole are getting even younger. The median age of unaffiliated adults is now 36, down from 38 in 2007 and significantly younger than the overall median age of U.S. adults in 2014 (46).

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