Monday, July 1, 2013

Press Release | SB 298 and HB 5053


Humanists of Rhode Island                                              
Contact: Debbie Flitman 401-300-4674
Secular Coalition for Rhode Island
Contact: Christine Eldridge 401-484-0147

July 1, 2013

Humanists of Rhode Island and 
The Secular Coalition for Rhode Island 
Unite to Oppose Excessive State Entanglement with Religion

It is a wonderful facet of our society, and a testament to our freedom, that Americans every day engage in vigorous debate over a myriad of social, political, and religious questions. Additionally, Americans are free to donate their money to further the causes that inspire them to act. For the most part, this is through privately run organizations that sell products such as bumper stickers, magnets, and yard signs that bear no imprimatur of the State. However, the State has, within constitutional boundaries, chosen certain entities to benefit from the sale of state-issued license plates. Up until now, these have been restricted to non-political and non-religious organizations such as the Red Sox and the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation. The State certainly has the authority to select certain organizations to benefit from its assistance, for "a government entity has the right to 'speak for itself.'" However the "government speech must comport with the Establishment Clause" (Pleasant Grove City v. Summum). And therein lies the problem.

Half of the proceeds derived from the sale of these license plates will go to Care-Net, an organization which describes itself as having the primary focus of "engag[ing] evangelicals in responding to the abortion crisis. For the State to allow a religious organization to hitch itself to the motor of a government agency to drive its fundraising would be to show the "excessive entanglement" with religion that the Constitution prohibits (Lemon v. Kurtzman).

Unless the State is prepared to enact similar fundraising schemes for all religious organizations, this bill would show overt favoritism by Rhode Island for Christianity, and more specifically, one interpretation of the faith.

In the interest of defending the Constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state provided by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and extended to the States by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Humanists of Rhode Island and the Secular Coalition for Rhode Island formally oppose SB 298 and HB 5053.

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 are dedicated to good works and service projects that will best demonstrate our ideals.

The Secular Coalition for Rhode Island and the Secular Coalition for America share the common mission to increase the visibility of and respect for non-theistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. 

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