Thursday, July 24, 2014

The US Constitution Guarantees Freedom from Religion




A post from the Multiversalist blog, "Freedom from Religion is Real Religious Freedom" was just published in Ulmann, Carol and Lynn M. Zott (Eds.) Opposing Viewpoints: Religious Liberty, 71-76. Greenhaven Press. New York. It's published under the title “The US Constitution Guarantees Freedom from Religion.” The article links the West Cranston prayer banner, the "War on Christmas" and the Woonsocket memorial cross to the Rhode Island Catholic establishment's persecution narrative.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

HOBBY LOBBY PROTEST PRESS RELEASE



Contact:

Steve Ahlquist
401-474-9266
atomicsteve@gmail.com

Over 100 people representing dozens of local and national groups dedicated to defending the rights of women to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions will be gathering on the sidewalk at 945 Bald Hill Rd in Warwick, Rhode Island to both protest the recent decision by the Supreme Court favoring Hobby Lobby’s right to religious discrimination and to announce a permanent boycott of all Hobby Lobby stores nationwide. The Facebook event can be accessed here.

“For too long legislatures and courts in this country have been targeting the right of women to access adequate healthcare, which must include reproductive health care, including birth control and abortion,” said protest organizer Steve Ahlquist, President of the Humanists of Rhode Island, “Hobby Lobby’s decision to not cover certain kinds of birth control and their decision to go to the Supreme Court in an effort to protect the imagined religious rights of corporations is an affront to humanity that cannot be tolerated.”

“This is a deeply disappointing and troubling ruling that will prevent some women, especially those working hourly wage jobs and struggling to make ends meet, from getting birth control,” said Susan Yolen, representing the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Justice, with over twenty member organizations.

Carolyn Mark, of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women, said, “The Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case shows a shocking disregard for the religious liberty of working women who should have the right to make their own heath care decisions in concert with their doctor and their faith and not to have those decisions made for them by their employer. This decision will most certainly embolden those forces in our society that wish to withhold a full range of health care options for women. But make no mistake. It has also enraged many women and men across this country who will not stand idly by while the Supreme Court upholds the religious rights of corporations over those of the individual.”

“This ruling is based not on the Constitution, but on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a statute. This statute was adopted by Congress and must be repealed by Congress,” said Debbie Flitman, a local mother and member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, “The FFRF's amicus brief was the only brief before the Supreme Court that argued that RFRA is unconstitutional. Our important brief points out that RFRA ‘accords religious believers extreme religious liberty rights that yield a political and fiscal windfall in violation of the clearest commands of the Establishment Clause.’ The RFRA is a bad law that must be repealed."

“This was not a ‘narrow’ win for Hobby Lobby,” said Lauren Niedel, speaking for the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, “this was a huge loss for privacy, a huge loss for a woman's guaranteed access to affordable prescribed contraception options and a loss to an individual’s right to religious freedom.”

Christine Eldridge, speaking as the Director of the Rhode Island chapter of the Secular Coalition for America, said, “This unfortunate decision places the religious opinions of for-profit business owners above the rights of female employees to make their own personal health care choices. It is absurd that the Supreme Court would rule that these corporations have religious rights and that they can use these rights to deny women contraceptive coverage that was mandated under the Affordable Care Act.”

A recent Poll commissioned by Planned Parenthood of Southern New England showed that in Rhode Island those who believe abortion should be generally available outnumber opponents by a staggering 8 to 1, higher than most places in the country. Even among Catholics the numbers are completely lopsided in favor of abortion. There is a clear consensus on this issue in Rhode Island. We do not want corporations interfering in our private medical decisions.

Similar protests will be taking place across the country, like this one in Mobile, Alabama, or these in Texas or this one in New Jersey.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Humanists of Rhode Island is dedicated to good works and service projects that will best demonstrate our ideals.

Hobby Lobby Protest, Saturday, July 5th in Warwick

Hobby Lobby Protest
945 Bald Hill Rd, Warwick, Rhode Island 02886 
Saturday, July 5
10am-2pm

The recent decision from the Supreme Court that grants corporations the right to freedom of religion over the rights of human beings, especially women to exercise their own, is egregious.

Hobby Lobby may have won in court but that doesn't mean this is over. No one who thinks women are more important than the fictional rights of corporations should ever shop at Hobby Lobby ever again.

Let this corporation and the world know, we are not going to let this go.

Bring signs, bring sunblock and wear hats. We want this to be a positive event, filled with freedom and the hope for a better future. There will be a chance for some short speeches if anyone is interested, and we will be inviting the media to this event.

We will be meeting on the sidewalk, for Bald Hill Rd visibility.

Please share this event far and wide.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Testimony before the House Judiciary Committee March 11, 2014

Today the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee will be hearing public testimony on 12 bills concerned with expanding or contracting the reproductive rights of women. Some of the bills, like the fetal personhood and mandatory ultrasound bill, are heard every year, introduced like clockwork by legislators eager to curry religious favor.

Every year, representatives of the Humanists of Rhode Island go to the State House and testify on these bills. This year the Humanists of Rhode Island are part of the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Justice, made up of over a dozen groups dedicated to preserving women's reproductive rights. 

Some of the bills introduced this year are quite good. One in particular seeks to do away with the archaic law requiring that a woman seek permission from her spouse before accessing accessing an abortion.

In general, speakers are given two minutes to address the legislators, a very short amount of time to address twelve separate and very different bills. Below is the testimony I've prepared and hope to deliver.
My name is Steve Ahlquist and I am the president of The Humanists of Rhode Island. Since its inception the Humanists of Rhode Island have taken a strong stand for women’s rights and reproductive justice. I am proud to speak here today not only for the members of my group but for the thousands of non-religious Rhode Islanders who feel they lack a voice when bills are introduced that treat women as second class citizens unable to make their own decisions surrounding health care and reproduction.

The fetal personhood and mandatory ultrasound bill are childish exercises in religious pandering and are frankly embarrassing in the state that invented church/state separation.

More insidious are those bills that use the power of the legislature to craft policies that make access to abortion economically difficult for women by altering their health care plans. Singling out reproductive health care services from all other medical procedures for special legislation is nonsensical from the point of view of a secular state. Further, placing economic hurdles in the paths of women seeking to access legal medical procedures smacks of class warfare.

If these bills were to pass, reproductive rights would be reserved only for those special enough to afford it.

Finally, the idea that a woman must notify her spouse before getting an abortion seems a sad holdover from the days when women were considered little more than property, to be bargained with like farm animals. Not treating women as fully autonomous beings with a full set of human rights should fill the hearts of free people with revulsion.

For these reasons, the Humanists of Rhode Island fully support bills H7222, H7223, H7779, H7837, H7853, H7472 and H7890.

For these reasons, the Humanists of Rhode Island oppose bills H7303, H7330, H7383, H7403 and H7854.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Proposed bylaw changes to be voted on February 10, 2014

Below please find the proposed changes to our present bylaws, to be voted on by dues paying members at our next meeting, February 10th. 

There are 4 proposed amendments which would:
 
1. create term limits (no more than 3 consecutive)
2. change board terms to 4 years rather than 2 years
3. clarify roles for VP & Secretary (note that what the clarification is not intended as job descriptions. Those should be listed in a more detailed & separate document.)
4. Change the timeline for elections so they happen in April instead of December.
 


Proposals to Amend Bylaws

1.
Article and Title
: Article IV. GOVERNMENT

Currently Reads As: N/A

Proposed Amendment: Add a new section to Article IV, “The Board of Directors shall serve no more than three consecutive terms.”

Rationale: Require term limits for elected Board members.

2.
Article and Title
: Article IV. GOVERNMENT

Currently Reads As: “The Vice President will be responsible for providing communication within the group and for planning programs for the general meetings.
The Secretary will be responsible for taking minutes during Board Meetings and maintaining the written record for the Humanists of Rhode Island.”

Proposed Amendment: Change text to “The Vice President will be responsible for assuming the duties of the President in his or her absence, facilitating election of officers, recruiting new members, and serving as Parliamentarian.
The Secretary will be responsible for taking minutes during Board Meetings, providing communication within the group and maintaining the written record for the Humanists of Rhode Island.
Rationale: Clarify roles and responsibilities of elected Board members.

3.
Article and Title: Article VI. ELECTIONS
Currently Reads As: “Board member positions will be elected for two (2) year terms. Officers will serve in their positions for one (1) year. The other year of their two (2) year term may be served as a member-at-large, another officer position, or the same officer position.

Proposed Amendment: “Board member positions will be elected for four (4) year terms. Officers will serve in their positions for two (2) years. The remaining two (2) years of their four (4) year term may be served as a member-at-large, another officer position, or the same officer position.”
Rationale: To extend Board terms to four (4) years.

4.
Article and Title: Article VI. ELECTIONS
Currently Reads As: “A nominating committee consisting of three voting members, at least one of whom will be a prior or current officer, will be appointed by the President in October and approved by the Board. The committee will nominate voting members for open Board vacancies. The committee will nominate at least as many voting members as there are open Board positions, but may nominate as many candidates as they choose. The nominations will be posted on the Humanists of Rhode Island website or emailed to all voting members no later than November 30th. Elections will be held during the regular business meeting in December, with additional nominations from any voting member present being allowed. Voting members not able to attend the December meeting may vote for candidates for the Board or make additional nominations via email or mail to the Humanists of Rhode Island Secretary, such correspondence to be received no later than midnight on the Friday prior to the December meeting. All nominated members must agree to serve on the Board prior to elections taking place. The top candidates, in order of most votes won, will fill open positions until all Board vacancies are filled. The new Board (newly elected Board members plus any Board members starting the second year of their term) will meet at this same December meeting and will conduct a second vote amongst themselves to determine who will assume officer positions. The remaining Board members will be considered Members-at-large. The new Board members will assume full duties of those positions beginning January 1st of the year following the elections.

Proposed Amendment: Change text to “ A nominating committee consisting of three voting members, at least one of whom will be a prior or current officer, will be appointed by the President in February and approved by the Board. The committee will nominate voting members for open Board vacancies. The committee will nominate at least as many voting members as there are open Board positions, but may nominate as many candidates as they choose. The nominations will be posted on the Humanists of Rhode Island website or emailed to all voting members no later than March 31st. Elections will be held during the regular business meeting in April, with additional nominations from any voting member present being allowed. Voting members not able to attend the April meeting may vote for candidates for the Board or make additional nominations via email or mail to the Humanists of Rhode Island Secretary, such correspondence to be received no later than midnight on the Friday prior to the April meeting. All nominated members must agree to serve on the Board prior to elections taking place. The top candidates, in order of most votes won, will fill open positions until all Board vacancies are filled. The new Board (newly elected Board members plus any Board members starting the second year of their term) will meet at this same April meeting and will conduct a second vote amongst themselves to determine who will assume officer positions. The remaining Board members will be considered Members-at-large. The new Board members will assume full duties of those positions beginning May 1st.

Rationale: To make the timeframe for nominations and elections consistent with the initial establishment of the Humanists of Rhode Island, with elections taking place in April.