November 16, 2007 Volume 3, Issue 47
Published by the Center For Atheism (CFA)

Editor: Kenneth Bronstein

The Focus provides links to articles collected from major newspapers and magazines, and is emailed weekly.

This Week in Atheism is a cable show that discusses the articles featured below, every Wednesday at 6:30 PM (EST), Manhattan Cable station 57.
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       Featured Articles
    Would Jesus wear a Rolex? And should government care? - Anniston Star
      Long ago, in order to maintain the "wall of separation" between church and state, the
      two entities struck a deal. In effect it said government would not use ...


  News Articles
  (Some publications may require that you sign up for membership to view their article.)


Six Myths of Atheism - National Catholic Register
It could lead to a wider discussion of atheism. It is easy to be a quiet atheist โ€” but much harder to remain an atheist when you actually have to explain ...


Battlefield Report From the Evolution War - New York Times
"Nova" had already run an eight-part series on evolution, in 2001. And in the making of it, she recalled, she and her colleagues had felt "really assaulted" ...


Scientists have discovered a fossil that represents a new genus of great ape.
Discoverer of Lucy Fossil Weighs in on Human Evolution - Voice of America
Evolution has become a controversial topic in some communities where conservative Christians claim that the theory contradicts the Bible. ...
Weird dinosaur was cow of the Mesozoic | Science & Health | Reuters
A strange-looking dinosaur with rows of tiny teeth crammed into the very front of its jaws and fragile air-filled bones may have been ...

Energetic Cosmic Rays May Start From Black Holes - New York Times
Scientists say they now have evidence that ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays come from supermassive black holes that rumble at the hearts of many galaxies.
ยป Secular Group to Protest Prayer for Rain - WIA-TV
... prayer service intended to ask for relief from the Southeastern drought, saying the rally violates the principle of separation of church and state. ...
                                                                                                                                              The sanctuary movement - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Equal application of the law is one of America's founding principles -- as is separation of church and state. When churches choose to actively engage in ...
Is prosperity a blessing from god, or a crime? - Los Angeles Times
In a move that some contend could violate the separation of church and state, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Finance ...
Church role in youth therapy is challenged - Bismarck Tribune
... that nearly deifies an extra-constitutional concept, separation of church and state, can coexist respectfully with a right to freedom of religion. ...
Judge considers fate of UHP highway crosses - Salt Lake Tribune
Brian Barnard, the attorney for American Atheists Inc., contended it is not. The group has asked the Utah Highway Patrol Association to remove the 12-foot ...
Judge stops enforcement of silence law - USA Today
... that there is no motive for a moment of silence except a religious one," says Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. ...
... to the use of bonds to fund a church project and said he hopes the council votes against them "to respect the separation between church and state. ...


  In land of the Monkey god, a primate menaces | International News ...
  The monkey reportedly tried to snatch several infants before being beaten back by 
  residents armed with sticks and metal bars. ...
  Judgment Day in the news - National Center for Science Education
  Following a clip from the program, Jones discussed his background knowledge of
  "intelligent design" and evolution, the Establishment Clause and its ...
  Flying Spaghetti Monster deserves class time too - UNM Daily Lobo
  I believe that creationism, evolution and the factual evidence of the Flying Spaghetti
  Monster should be taught in schools nationwide. ...
  The kids aren't all Christian-right - Sacramento News & Review
  Moore, a 20-year-old atheist, is part of a growing number of young secular Americans,
  and his sentiments are not out of the ordinary. ... - In the Spirit: The march toward god
  West Point For all the ways that West Point resembles any other college โ€” big on
  football and pranks and late-night pizza โ€” it strays sharply on the topic ...



        CFA Program

The Center for Atheism (CFA) was established by the New York City Atheists as a separate and independent national organization to propose, develop, and be a catalyst for new national activities supporting the objectives of atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, skeptics, secularists and separation-of-church-and-state advocates.

CFA will accept and review suggestions from individuals and other secular organizations that will foster our goals.



          Special Notices

          There are no special notices this week.



          Legislation Alerts

The Institute for Humanist Studies (IHS) needs your voice to prevent the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) from becoming New York State law.

We need you to send letters to your New York representatives urging them to reject this proposed law, which threatens our rights as New Yorkers. RFRA legislation has been introduced in both the Assembly (A9098) and the Senate (S6464) and has the support of Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Click here for a sample letter to send your representatives:

What is RFRA?

RFRA claims to protect religious freedoms by allowing people to practice their faith without undue government interference. RFRA was passed in congress in 1993 and was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997. The Court ruled that RFRA cannot be a federal law. Since that ruling, almost a dozen states have passed their own RFRA. New York may be the next state to pass RFRA.
The Danger of RFRA

RFRA is problematic in that it not only pits the religious against the nonreligious, but religion against religion. Those organized religions that have wide appeal or have already been embraced by the mainstream are likely to be seen as having a more justified claim to protecting their religious practices than those religions that are seen as taboo, misunderstood and less popular.  As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stevens pointed out, in the 1997 ruling, RFRA is a "law respecting an establishment of religion" that violates the First Amendment to the Constitution -- not protects it.

New York Doesn't Need RFRA

RFRA is unnecessary because it is redundant on both the federal level and state level. Our right to religious freedom is already protected in the Bill of Rights and the New York State Constitution. So why is RFRA allegedly important? Advocates will want you to believe that your right to religious freedom is insecure. But on what grounds do they make this claim? To date, cases in New York State have been dealt with fairly and efficiently. So what is the real motivation behind RFRA?

The Motivation Behind RFRA

Perhaps one possible motivation is ensuring that certain organized religions gain access to goods, resources and services that are not available to the average citizen and definitely not available to those who do not endorse any particular religion. RFRA essentially establishes special rights for religious believers that are not available to other Americans. In this way, it is discriminatory and unfair.  RFRA is unjust because it is the government's duty not to interfere with religious practices or to give preference to any specific religion over the lack of religion.

In spite of its language that advocates tolerance and freedom, RFRA actually encourages discrimination against those who do not believe in organized religion. 

In these ways, RFRA is flawed.  Sure, protecting religious freedom sounds good, but at what cost?  Opposition to this legislation is crucial in order to truly protect every single person's rights, fairly and equally.  Speak out now!

What Can You Do?

*If you live in New York State, please support our issues by getting involved in the legislative process. Please call and send the letter below to your local representatives and to both:

Senate Majority Leader BrunoEmail:

Mail: Senator Joe Bruno, Senate Majority Leader
Albany Office, Room 909 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-3191

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

Mail:  Assembly Speaker Silver 
Albany Office, Room 932, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (212) 312 -1420

To look up your representatives:

Below is a sample letter you can send to your representative:

Subject: Oppose A9098/S6464 for Discrimination

Dear [Your Representative's Name],

I urge you not to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (A9098/S6464) in New York State.

This legislation, if signed into law, could establish special rights for certain religious believers that are not available to other New Yorkers. Although this legislation theoretically claims to protect religious freedom, it actually encourages discrimination against minority religions and the roughly 2 million New Yorkers who do not endorse organized religion at all. It will put neutral laws under scrutiny and could permit goods, services, resources and privileges to be allocated unjustly to those who endorse religion.

In addition, RFRA is unnecessary.  At both the federal and state level our religious freedom is already securely protected. Existing law already prevents legislation from placing an undue burden on religion or overly interfering with religious practices. I believe RFRA's scope is too far-reaching and may actually violate the First Amendment to the Constitution. 

Because it is redundant, unjust and discriminatory, especially in the practical application versus the theoretical language used, we ask you to make sure RFRA does not become state law.

For additional information about why RFRA (A9098/S6464) is dangerous to New Yorkers, please contact the Institute for Humanist Studies in Albany, N.Y. at 518-432-7820,

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


The Institute for Humanist Studies is dedicated to educating the public about humanist beliefs, organizations, and resources.

 Specific questions about Public Policy or New York legislation can be addressed to Jennifer Lange, IHS Legislative Liason. []




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