Other issues addressed by the committee include: 1. Questionable practices of Charter Schools in relation to church-state separation. 2. Tax supported programs like Positive Alternatives (anti-choice counseling services for pregnant women). 3. Tax credits and deductions for Christian home schools. 4. Tuition write-offs for parochial school tuition. 5. Property tax exemptions for church property. 6. Creationism in public high school science classes (an estimated 25% of our students are being taught creation science in public school biology classes as an alternative to evolution). Due to our actions FFRF might be interested in Positive Alternatives.
The committee has decided to develop a network of watchdogs throughout the state. Any member of a Freethought group can volunteer. They would report violations observed in their area to the committee which would offer consultation on how the issue might be addressed. Other resources such as ACLU-MN, FFRF and American's United would be utilized. If legislative issues arise that the committee believes should be addressed, the watchdog advocates may be asked to contact their respective legislators. Our goal is to establish a watchdog advocate in each of the 67 Senate Districts. If there are more than one in a district we will connect you with each other. We have come to the realization that the Freethought community needs to organize to make their voice heard.
If you are interested in becoming a watchdog contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org (MN Atheists) or email@example.com (H of M). We will need your name, email address, phone number, Senate district #, State Senator or State Representative if known. If you do not know who represents you or what district you are in we can supply that information based on your address.
Bob Schmitz, Chair
First Amendment Watchdog Committee
By Crystal Dervetski
So you're swimming along and trying to meet new people, but sometimes it still feels like you've hit a snag or that you're in a rut. This is the time of year when everyone's New Year's Resolutions start to tank. Perhaps it's time to think about trying a personal reinvention. I know it can be a frightening consideration, but reinventing yourself can be a great way to get a fresh perspective, and can help people see you in a different light as well. Here are some tips for reinventing yourself that will not only make you feel better about your personal style, but may also benefit others. Since we know atheists are often (wrongly) criticized as not being charitable people, these are a few simple options for helping yourself and others at the same time.
By Vic Tanner
In his excellent book, Breaking the Spell, philosopher Daniel C. Dennett made the modest proposal that classes on world religion should be a requirement in all public and private schools as well as home schooling. One community is doing just that. The Modesto, California school district has made a world religion course a requirement for high school graduation in the hopes that it might be a model of how to teach about religion in schools for the rest of the country.
By James Zimmerman
One of the most effective tools a religion has at its disposal is shunning. Fear of being shunned is what keeps many members loyal to a religion they no longer fully believe. And for those few who are vocal about the hypocrisy they've discovered in their former religion, shunning is a form of damage control, a preemptive maneuver that prevents the faithful - the ‘sheep' - from associating with those who may cause their faith to waver.
In religions, and other groups propped up by unverifiable claims, the need for shunning is apparent. Should a member come across damning information about the group, it is imperative to ex-communicate that individual hastily, lest they divulge their findings to others. Of course, merely erasing a former member from a religion's roster does not shut them up, but it does squelch the curiosity of members in good standing. Simply inform the faithful members of a cult, sect, or religion, that their best friend, brother, sister, father or mother has been disfellowshipped and - violá! - suddenly, and without dissent, all in the congregation are now under theological mandate to ignore, demonize and otherwise demean their former companion.