A Forum on Church/State Separation:Listening, Asking, Networking, and Noshing!

An Evening to Remember

On July 10th the NorthEast Ohio Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) held a Forum – in the moot court room at CWRU School of law – titled: “Why the Failure to keep Religion out of Politics Hurts us all.”

We began and ended this classy event with a nice catered spread in the rotunda.

In the Rotundra : Prof Singham,Matt Marshall, Elise Helgesen, and Mallory Ullman.
In the Rotundra : Prof Singham,Matt Marshall, Elise Helgesen, and Mallory Ullman.

The premise of our Forum was that protecting the Establishment Clause means more than merely keeping sectarian prayer out of City Council meetings and nativity scenes off of city property: religion has been and is currently used against science, gay rights, contraception, and to impose religion in public schools.

Speakers included:

Prof. Mano Singham — Dept of Physics, CWRU – why actual science is important in legislation.
Piet van Lier — Policy Matters Ohio – impact of charter schools on educational funding.
Elise Helgesen Aguilar — Americans United DC Office – who we are, what we do, and why we are important.
Mallory McMaster Ullman — NARAL Pro Choice Ohio – the egregious anti-women legislation in Ohio.

Ms Ullman, Ms. Helgesen. Mr. van Lier, and Prof Singham
Ms Ullman, Ms. Helgesen. Mr. van Lier, and Prof Singham


Ms. Helgesen spoke first, presenting on who AU is, what we do, what we have done, and what we aren’t – an anti-religious organization.

Mr. van Lier covered the aspects of education vouchers in Cleveland and in Ohio.  He noted that test results do not show charter schools out performing public schools (in similar demographics).

Prof. Singham – demonstrated the egregious intrusion of dogma on legislation –  played several clips from US House hearings in which several of our election officials asserted that the Bible was superior to science.  E.G.:  “No need to be concerned with Climate Change – the world will end when god decides so”.

Ms. Ullman detailed some of the recent  legislation signed into law by Gov. Kasich impacts the availability of contraception and abortion availability, and legislates how physicians practice ob/gyn procedures.

Ms Helgesen then summarized the presentations, and a fruitful and informative question and answer session followed.


We then talked and finished the food: networking and noshing.

To demonstrate that we are not all dullards, some of us continued at NightTown.




A big thank you to all who attended, to all our speakers, to CWRU for making the room available, and to the AU National Office for making Elise available (we provided a lot of hospitality)  – and to all of our speakers. Perhaps the weather kept attendance  down, but for those who came, it was indeed ,an Evening to Remember.

(N.B.: Several of the photos are courtesy of the Cleveland Free Thinkers.)

GOP Ignores Children Once They’re Outside The Womb

Source: National Memo

Author: Cynthia Tucker

A recent road trip took me into the precincts of rural Georgia and Florida, far away from the traffic jams, boutique coffeehouses and National Public Radio signals that frame my familiar landscape. Along the way, billboards reminded me that I was outside my natural habitat: anti-abortion declarations appeared every 40 or 50 miles.

Pregnant? Your baby’s heart is already beating!” “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. — God.” And, with a photo of an adorable smiling baby, “My heart beat 18 days from conception.”

The slogans suggest a stirring compassion for women struggling with an unplanned pregnancy and a deep-seated moral aversion to pregnancy termination. But the morality and compassion have remarkably short attention spans, losing interest in those children once they are outside the womb.

These same stretches of Georgia and Florida, like conservative landscapes all over the country that want to roll back reproductive freedoms, are thick with voters who fight the social safety net that would assist children from less-affluent homes. Head Start, Medicaid and even food stamps are unpopular with those voters.

Through more than 25 years of writing about Roe vs. Wade and the politics that it spawned, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around the huge gap between anti-abortionists’ supposed devotion to fetuses and their animosity toward poor children once they are born. (Catholic theology at least embraces a “whole-life” ethic that works against both abortion and poverty, but Catholic bishops have seemed more upset lately about contraceptives than about the poor.) While many conservative voters explain their anti-abortion views as Bible-based, their Bibles seem to have edited out Jesus’ charity toward the less fortunate.

That brain-busting cognitive dissonance is also on full display in Washington, where just last week the GOP-dominated House of Representatives passed a bill that would outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. After the bill was amended to make exceptions for a woman’s health or rape — if the victim reports the assault within 48 hours — U.S. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) withdrew his support. The exceptions made the bill too liberal for his politics.

Meanwhile, this same Republican Congress has insisted on cutting one of the nation’s premier food-assistance programs: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. GOP hardliners amended the farm bill wending its way through the legislative process to cut $2 billion from food stamps because, they believe, it now feeds too many people. Subsidies to big-farming operations, meanwhile, remained largely intact.

The proposed food stamp cuts are only one assault on the programs that assist less-fortunate children once they are born. Republicans have also trained their sights on Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s relentless budget-cutter, wants to turn Medicaid into a block grant to the states, which almost certainly means that fewer people would be served. About half of Medicaid’s beneficiaries are children.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Protection Act, whose name implies more medical knowledge than its proponents actually have, has no chance of becoming law since it won’t pass the Senate. Its ban on abortion after 20 weeks, passed by the House along partisan lines, was merely another gratuitous provocation designed to satisfy a conservative base that never tires of attacks on women’s reproductive freedom.

Outside Washington, however, attempts to limit access to abortion are gaining ground. From Alaska to Alabama, GOP-dominated legislatures are doing everything they can think of to curtail a woman’s right to choose. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, 14 states have enacted new restrictions on abortion this year.

That re-energized activism around reproductive rights slams the door on recent advice from Republican strategists who want their party to highlight issues that might draw a broader array of voters. Among other things, they have gently — or stridently, depending on the setting — advised Republican elected officials to downplay contentious social issues and focus on job creation, broad economic revival and income inequality. Clearly, those Republican lawmakers haven’t gotten the message.

Still, GOP bigwigs get furious when they are accused of conducting a war on women. But what else is it? It’s clearly not a great moral crusade to save children.

(Cynthia Tucker, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a visiting professor at the University of Georgia. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.)

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.nationalmemo.com/gop-ignores-children-once-theyre-outside-the-womb/

Obama Didn’t Cave on Birth Control

The right has freaked out over an Obama administration rule requiring employers to offer birth control to their employees. Most companies already had to do that.

From: Mother Jones

By: Nick Baumann

So did Barack Obama fold?

On Friday, after taking heavy criticism from Catholic groups and the political right over a regulation that would have required religiously-affiliated hospitals and universities (not churches) to offer their employees health insurance that covers birth control (with no copays), President Barack Obama went on live television to announce a shift. Now, insurance companies will have to offer employees of religious organizations the birth control coverage directly, without charging extra for it. (The details of the new birth control coverage plan are here.)

Some media outlets will no doubt call this a surrender by the president. But it’s not. Here’s why:

Emphasis Mine