Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

In the News (May 2018)

Vol. 35 No. 4 May 2018

Nonbelievers on the rise in Europe

A recent survey shows that a majority of young adults in 12 European countries have no faith, with Czechs coming in as the least religious of those countries.

The survey of 16-to-29-year-olds found that 91 percent of that age group in the Czech Republic report they have no religious affiliation. Between 70 percent and 80 percent of young adults in Estonia, Sweden and the Netherlands also say they are nonreligious.

The most religious country in Europe is Poland, where 17 percent of young adults define themselves as nonreligious, followed by Lithuania at 25 percent.

The figures are published in a report, Europe’s Young Adults and Religion, by Stephen Bullivant, a professor of theology and the sociology of religion at St Mary’s University in London.

Religion is “moribund,” he said. “With some notable exceptions, young adults increasingly are not identifying with or practicing religion.”

No ‘atheist’ chaplains, lawmakers tell Navy

A Navy board determined that Jason Heap, a secular humanist, was qualified for the chaplain corps until Congress stepped in.

Once lawmakers got wind that Heap’s application had advanced, they acted to get it rejected. Forty-five Republican representatives signed a March 9 letter to the chief of naval personnel stating, “We are concerned that the Navy is taking steps to expand the chaplain corps beyond its focused purpose . . . the chaplaincy was designed to facilitate the exercise of religious belief, not philosophical belief.”

GQ lists bible as a book ‘you don’t have to read’

The editors of GQ recently put together a listing of “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read” after they “realized that not all the Great Books have aged well.”

Here is what it said about the bible: “The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”

Other books on the list include The Catcher in the Rye, The Old Man and the Sea, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Catch-22.

Va. GOP leader dumped

after Christianity claim

Virginia’s Republican Party has booted a member of its leadership whose controversial remarks underscored divisions in the era of President Trump. Fredy Burgos was voted off the State Central Committee.

Burgos faced a backlash from party leaders when he posted a Facebook comment saying that only Christians are fit to run for office. The comment was viewed as anti-Semitic because Burgos had been campaigning for Tim Hannigan in his successful bid over Mike Ginsberg, who is Jewish, to become the party’s committee chair in Fairfax County.

‘In God We Trust’ in all Louisiana schools?

A bill unanimously advanced through the state Senate Education Committee March 22 would require each public school in Louisiana to display the motto “In God We Trust.”

The bill, introduced by Sen. Regina Barrow, would require each school district to display the national motto in each school by the 2019-20 school year.

“We have an obligation to ensure students have that introduction because we cannot always assume that it’s necessarily happening at home,” Barrow said.

The Tennessee Legislature recently passed a similar bill that is heading to the governor’s desk for signature. Similar legislation also has popped up in Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming.

Judge: Humanism a faith group in N.C. prisons

The North Carolina prison system must recognize humanism as a faith group and allow its adherents behind bars to meet and study their beliefs, a federal judge ruled.

The American Humanist Association and a North Carolina inmate serving a life sentence for murder sued state Department of Public Safety officials in 2015.

They accused prison leaders of violating the religious establishment and equal protection clauses of the Constitution by repeatedly denying recognition of the requests of the inmate, Kwame Jamal Teague.

In the order, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle wrote that prison officials failed to justify treating humanism differently from those religions that are recognized behind bars.

Federal prisons began recognizing humanism as a faith group in 2015 after similar litigation was filed.

N.Y. Jewish schools get special considerations

New York lawmakers accused state Sen. Simcha Felder of basically holding the state’s $168 billion budget hostage until the state agreed not to interfere with the curriculum at the private Jewish schools, known as yeshivas. Critics have accused the schools, which focus on the study of traditional Jewish texts, of leaving students without a basic command of English, math, history or science.

When the final budget passed, the legislation included special standards for schools with especially long school days, bilingual programs and nonprofit status — in other words, yeshivas.

While the bill broadened the criteria for evaluating the so-called “substantial equivalency” of the schools’ curriculum to the public school version, it also for the first time granted the state education commissioner explicit authority to evaluate that equivalency — a power previously reserved for individual school districts. Critics have suggested that school officials in New York City have ignored the subpar education at yeshivas because of the Jewish community’s political clout.

Commandments display reinstalled in Arkansas

A Ten Commandments monument has been replaced and reinstalled at the Arkansas Capitol on April 26 after the first version was destroyed when a driver plowed into it.

State Sen. Jason Rapert, who sponsored the original monument, founded the American History and Heritage Foundation, which raised over $85,000 for a new monument, and which will include concrete barriers for protection.

The original monument, which was also put up at private expense, was destroyed in June when a Christian driver hit it with a car less than 24 hours after it debuted.

Michael Tate Reed II was accused of the crash but was declared unfit to stand trial in November, according to Arkansas Online. FFRF and others plan to sue over the action.

White evangelical men strongly support Trump

A record number of white evangelical Christians say they support President Trump.

According to a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute released April 19, 75 percent of white evangelicals said they had a favorable view of the president and just 22 percent saying they had an unfavorable view.

And white evangelical men are the most likely of that group to back the president, with 81 percent holding a favorable view of Trump, compared with 71 percent of white evangelical women.

This is a dramatic jump in support for Trump when compared to the rest of the population, with a recent poll from ABC News/Washington Post putting the president’s approval rating at just 40 percent.