Women’s Rights and Religious Liberty: What California and Illinois’s Laws against Crisis Pregnancy Centers Can Teach Humanists

Last week, two crisis pregnancy centers and a pro-life physician, represented by the conservative legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), sued the state of Illinois after Governor Bruce Rauner (R) signed off on new requirements for health care facilities.

Passed this year, Senate Bill 1564 amends the state’s Health Care Rights of Conscience Act (HRC) to require physicians and health care facilities, including crisis pregnancy centers, to inform patients when they are “unable to provide a health care service contrary to [their] conscience” and refer patients to places “they reasonably believe may offer the health care service.”

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Democrats Should Know that Religion Is Not a Litmus Test for Public Office

Just days before the Democratic National Convention began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, WikiLeaks released over 20,000 confidential documents from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), including internal emails among key DNC staff members. The emails, dated between January 2015 to May 2016, allegedly show the DNC working to support Hillary Clinton’s campaign over her opponent Bernie Sanders, despite the DNC’s bylaws requiring neutrality in presidential campaigns.

Among the leaked documents was an email sent by Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall that appears to seek help gaining favor for Clinton over Sanders among religious voters in Kentucky and West Virginia. “It might may [sic] no difference, but for KY and WVA, can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God.” Marshall asked in the email.

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So-Called “First Amendment Defense Act” Would Actually Weaken Civil Liberties

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a U.S. House committee hearing on the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), heard from a panel of expert witnesses on the scope and effect of FADA.

Introduced by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), FADA would prohibit the government from taking “discriminatory actions” against a person who holds or acts on a “religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman,” or the belief that “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” If the government took such an action against a person, he or she would then be entitled to sue the government and seek damages.

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Humanists Celebrate Major Victory for Reproductive Rights

Today I attended the rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in anticipation of the decision on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the most significant abortion case to be decided by the Court since Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.

Casey reaffirmed the Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, holding that the Constitution guarantees the right to abortion and that states must not impose undue burdens on those seeking abortion. At issue in Whole Woman’s Health was whether Texas’s law requiring abortion doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges and abortion clinics to meet the same standards as outpatient surgery centers constituted an undue burden under Casey. The Texas law has caused the closure of seventy-five percent of abortion clinics in Texas, rendering abortion practically inaccessible, particularly for poor and rural women.

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Reason Rally’s Advocacy Days

Yesterday I participated in the Reason Rally’s Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the Secular Coalition for America, the national lobby representing the interests of atheists, humanists, agnostics, freethinkers and other nontheistic Americans. I met with the staff of Alabama senators Sen. Richard Shelby (R) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) to advocate for the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (REHYA) sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). This act would repeal abstinence-only policies and replace them with LGBT-inclusive and comprehensive sex education in public schools.

Sen. Sessions has a strong record of supporting abstinence-only policies and his staff told me that he is unlikely to support REHYA. Shelby’s staff told me that he has not taken an official position on abstinence-only v. comprehensive sex education, but he was unlikely to support REHYA as well.

The Humanist: Meet the Intern, Amanda Scott

Center for Freethought Equality Logo
Center for Freethought Equality Logo
This summer I am interning in Washington, D.C. with the Center for Freethought Equality and the Freethought Equality Fund PAC, the political arm of the American Humanist Association. The Humanist, the organization’s magazine publication, did a Q&A with me for their latest issue.

Please welcome the Center for Freethought Equality’s intern for summer 2016, Amanda Scott! The Center for Freethought Equality is a sister organization of the American Humanist Association dedicated to lobbying and political advocacy.

TheHumanist.com: What is your educational and work background?

Amanda Scott: I recently graduated from Faulkner State Community College with an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, and this fall I will be transferring to Georgetown University to major in government. My ultimate goal is to become a public interest lawyer specializing in constitutional and civil rights law. I currently serve as a Youth Advisor for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Previously I served on the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Alabama, interned with Legal Services Alabama and the South Alabama Center for Fair Housing, and volunteered as a clinic escort at Planned Parenthood Southeast.

TheHumanist.com: How did you first learn about humanism?

Scott: As a teenager I was interested in learning about religious traditions and customs because I wasn’t religious and I wanted to understand my peers who were. I started by reading the sacred books of the Abrahamic religions, then the Eastern religions, and finally made my way to reading the Humanist Manifesto.

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