Atheists in San Diego, Calif. are trying a new approach to recruiting non-believers by offering food, such as pretzels and cheezits, and putting up large banners that read "Relax: hell does not exist, or heaven either, enjoy your life."
The atheists are members of the San Diego-based group the San Diego Coalition of Reason, and every Saturday they set up a booth in the city's Balboa Park alongside other religious groups, such as Hare Krishnas and evangelical Christians, to educate passerby on their lack of beliefs. Along with the quirky banner that hangs over their booth, members of the group also lure people into a conversation using pretzels and Cheezits; the pretzels are used to symbolized the "twisted logic" of theism, while the cheezits represent the "power" of non-belief.
"We like to have a gathering place for our members, people that want to chat, get to know each other, they can come do that on any Saturday," Debbie Allen, one of the organizers for the atheist group, told local KPBS-TV. "But also we like to let the community know that there are groups that they may want to participate in." more >>
A second public school has ended ties with Franklin Graham's Operation Christmas Child after an atheist group threatened a lawsuit. However, angered by the developments, parents at the Colorado-area school have stated their commitment to continue raising funds for Operation Christmas Child independently of the school, and they also held a "Religious Rights Rally" outside of school on the public sidewalk on Wednesday afternoon.
SkyView Academy, a charter elementary school located in Douglas County, Colorado, announced last week that it will be ending its participation with Operation Christmas Child, a program of Franklin Graham's evangelical relief organization Samaritan's Purse that provides needy children around the world with Christmas presents during the holidays. Students at SkyView had been participating in the program for the past two years as part of their community service project, and their efforts included raising donations for the program and assembling shoe boxes to hold the gifts for each needy child.
Both Skyview Academy and East Point Academy in West Columbia, South Carolina recently received letters from the American Humanist Association threatening lawsuits if the schools continued to participate in the program. more >>
A small town in upstate New York has rallied together to continue funding its local community's Christmas celebration, even though an atheist's complaint forced the local government to stop supporting the event.
The town of Spencerport, N.Y., a small village located just outside of Rochester, has been celebrating its annual "Christmas on the Canal" event for 17 years until this year, when Elaine Spaziano, the event's founder and organizer, announced that the tradition had to be canceled after an atheist complained about First Amendment rights and the separation of church and state to the local government.
The event features an array of holiday-themed activities, such as a tree lighting ceremony, carols, a nativity, a blessing by a local clergy member, and other festive events. The celebration was funded partially by Spencerport and the neighboring village of Ogden, and both villages were forced to pull their funds and support for the celebration this year after an atheist activist complained that the event used taxpayer dollars to support Christianity. The activist reportedly had a petition and threatened to take the cities to court if they continued donating to "Christmas on the Canal." more >>
A humanist organization is threatening lawsuits against two public schools for their participation in Operation Christmas Child, a project of evangelist Franklin Graham's international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse that seeks to deliver Christmas toys to needy children throughout the world.
The American Humanist Association recently sent letters to two public elementary schools, one in South Carolina and one in Colorado, threatening legal action if they continue participating in Operation Christmas Child, which delivers thousands of shoe boxes stuffed with gifts to needy children throughout the world every year during the holidays. Along with containing small gifts, the shoe boxes also include a small note inviting recipients to join in Christianity. The American Humanist Organization argues that Operation Christmas Child's commitment to "[sharing] the life-changing Good News of Jesus Christ" means that public schools in the U.S. should not participate in the program.
In its letter sent to East Point Academy in West Columbia, S.C., the humanist association accuses the school of "promoting student participation" in the Operation Christmas Child program by encouraging students to assemble shoeboxes and donate money. According to the humanist organization, East Point Academy has been involved with Operation Christmas Child since 2011. more >>
The American Atheists group is appealing against a federal district court's decision to keep a cross fashioned by two steep beams recovered from the Twin Towers' collapse at the 9/11 memorial museum, while the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has filed an amicus brief in support of the decision, criticizing the attempt to "literally rewrite history."
"As the district court correctly held, it is entirely appropriate and lawful for the curators of a museum to acknowledge the Cross's actual, historic role by placing it in the September 11 Memorial Museum," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.
"A museum has the freedom to display religiously-themed artifacts of historical or artistic significance without running afoul of the Constitution. We urge the appeals court to affirm the decision of the district court which rejected this bizarre legal challenge." more >>
The Sunday Assembly, the atheist "megachurch" started in the U.K., sold out its inaugural event in Los Angeles with more than 400 attendees, and launched a "40 Dates, 40 Nights" tour around the U.S. and Australia seeking to raise donations for its cause.
"There was so much about it that I loved, but it's a shame because at the heart of it, it's something I don't believe in," British comedian Sanderson Jones, one of the founders of the atheist church, said about attending Christian church, according to The Associated Press. "If you think about church, there's very little that's bad. It's singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people – and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. What part of that is not to like?"
The atheist Sunday Assembly, with its roots in London, has spread to major cities like San Diego, Nashville and New York, proving popular among the 20 percent or so Americans who according to a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life poll do not identify with a religious affiliation. more >>