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This Week: Circuit Circus

Category Archives: Opinion

Articulation, exultation, excoriation, and other opinionated writings of Ask an Atheist cast and crew.

Open Letter to Derek Kilmer, WA-6

derek_kilmerToday is Veterans Day here in the U.S., which means (among other things) that I’ll usually get a lot of email from local polticians about supporting veterans.   That poses no problem for me, but one from Derek Kilmer, who represents Congressional District 6 gnawed at me a bit.  The text of his letter his hardly suprising given that he is a Democrat, and very far away from controversial.

What does bother me is something that happened almost a year ago, when he voted down the creation of non-theistic chaplains in the armed forces.   So I decided to say something about it.  Given that this is local politics, a little of my personal politics outside of atheism may shine through here, but I think this is important enough to the show that it’s worth a minor infraction of our usual editorial policy.  Anyway, here’s the letter:

Representative Kilmer,

First and foremost, congratulations on your reelection.

I recently received an email from your election offices regarding Veterans Day, and the way Americans can more fully support them.   While I agree that more could be done, I find your own support of the men and women who choose to serve our nation is somewhat lacking.

I would like to bring your attention back to an Armed Services Committee vote in July of last year.   Specifically, an amendment to the 2014 National Defence Authorization Act which would have provided for non-theistic chaplains.  The debate was– to put it mildly– incredibly insulting to atheists and secular humanists who serve in the armed forces.  It came as no shock to me or to many others who think as I do when all of the Republicans on the committee voted the amendment down.

On the other hand, to find my representative– who I had previously supported– voting it down came as a blow.  To me, and to millions of others, this is a cut-and-dried issue of rights.  Specifically, the rights recognized in the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution.

Perhaps you don’t see the purpose of a non-theistic Chaplain, but frankly, that should be irrelevant.   Even a cursory glance at organizations like the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers would show that atheists and freethinkers themselves see the need, and that need is repeatedly ignored.

It leaves me with the distinct impression that you believe that only some servicemembers are worthy of our support.   I can’t imagine that this is an impression you would feel comfortable with– I certainly am not, which is why you have since lost my support as a voter.

I ask you to reconsider, and take positive steps to show you understand your previous error, and stand for the rights of all people who have chosen to be part of the military.  Consider starting a dialog with the MAAF about the best way to proceed.

Thank you for your time.

Sam Mulvey
Tacoma, WA

I asked for a response, and if/when I get one from his office, I’ll be sure to share it with you. For completeness, here’s a copy of the email I received:

Friends,

Today we celebrate the men and women who have served and are currently serving our nation.  Our nation is stronger, our freedoms more secure, and our futures brighter because of the sacrifices made by the men and women who serve and their families.

On this day, we do more than celebrate and recognize that service – we say thank you.

But our words of thanks are not enough. Today is important, but it is our actions the rest of the year that will truly give meaning to our words of thanks.

Great challenges exist.

No veteran who has fought for this country should have to fight for a job when he or she returns.

No service member should have to worry about having someplace to sleep and a roof overhead.

All veterans must receive the benefits that they have earned. Backlogs at the Veterans Administration are inexcusable.

We live in a great nation, made greater by the men and women who serve our country. Let’s all take a moment to say thank you to all those who have served and to their families. And let’s all commit to rising to the challenges we face, together.

Sincerely,

Derek Kilmer

 

 

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We’ve Got a New Phone Number!

dropnickelSo, our short break away from the airwaves in Seattle/Tacoma is coming to an end, and a lot of the work we’ve been doing behind the scenes is starting to show!   For example, the new name of the show is starting to show up in places.   For another, thanks to our successful 2014 Streamathon, our studio is in better shape than it’s been since we moved into it in March.    And today I’m announcing the newest, but far from the last change.

Regular listeners of the show might be familiar with my usual patter between segments– “This is Ask an Atheist!  Give us a call at…” with a phone number that was first at the KLAY studio, and then a Seattle-local number for a good chunk of 2014.   Well, this week, our first week back in Seattle, that changes.  And before anyone says anything, yes, we’re a lot less call focused than we once were.   The show has evolved in a lot of ways since the first days on the radio, and even more since the days we were on the television.   But, as our show starts showing up on more and more stations, we’re expecting that to change somewhat.    To help facilitate that change, we’ve decided to invest in a new toll free number so anyone around the country can give us a call and not worry entirely too much about the fact that you’re calling Tacoma.

And hey, why not take the opporunity to get an interesting number that spells something?   Sure, we tried for EAT-BABY like I used to joke, but that’s probably not where we want to go.   Also, it was already taken.   So, instead, we got something we think is a little cooler.   Next time you want to call Ask an Atheist, just pick up your phone and dial:

 

(844) SKEPTIC

Or for those of you, like me, who are bad at spelling, it’s (844) 753-7842. If you want to talk to us, whether we’re on the air or not, give us a call. Voice mails are always fun.

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McCune 2: Probable Plaque Plagues Pierce

This is about 10% of what we felt when he started telling us about communist infiltrators and the Muslim Obama.

Communist infiltrator discussion commenced roughly half an hour later.

Sam, Becky, and Robert give an update on Robert’s upcoming invocations as a secular celebrant–and then get into the meaty parts of the Pierce County Council’s resolution to prominently display “In God We Trust.”  (Links below the fold).

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Uganda Humanist Group Burglarized

Last week it came to my attention that a youth-focused Humanist organization in Uganda (yes, the Uganda of the “Kill The Gays” legislation) had been burglarized.  I’d first heard of the fantastic work that HALEA engages in during after our conversation with Bill Cooke, director of transnational programs at the Center for Inquiry.  I quickly inquired and connected with HALEA director Kato Mukasa and learned that HALEA is accepting donations via The International Humanist and Ethical Union.What follows is his plea for the youth centre of the Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity, and Accountability–a place that combats superstition and cultural dogmas to empower youth facing desperate circumstances.

Background

The Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity and Accountability ( HALEA ) started in 2008 with 24 professionals. We were motivated to start up an organization that would gradually positively change attitudes, beliefs and behaviors which negatively impact on our people. HALEA has 132 paid-up members today and hundreds of teens regarded as unpaid-up members.

teens at table

(http://haleauganda.org/)

In 2009, we carried out an assessment survey/situation analysis, and the findings among others revealed that over 60% of teenagers did not complete school due to unwanted pregnancies, drug abuse and addiction, arranged and forced marriages as well as teens’ engagement in petty crimes that would [leave lots] of them killed.

It was our resolve to empower the young people to reason out issues that affect them, to be able to shun retrogressive and oppressive religious and cultural dogmas and practices that ruined their future. Over the years, the number of [teenage] drop outs has gradually fallen to about 20% in the Kampala Central Division, the geographical area of our operation. We have trained over 100 young mothers and empowered them with skills to survive on their own and we have enabled hundred[s] of young people to go to school, stay in school and complete secondary education with the help of partners such as HAMU, IHEU, and CFI and from HALEA’s individual membership contributions and donations. We have over 10 full time staff and 30 volunteers who are dedicated to serve our target group on a daily basis without hesitation but with a great zeal, courage and dedication.

HALEA teen engages in interscholastic debate

HALEA teen engages in interscholastic debate (http://haleauganda.org/)

For over 6 years, HALEA has empowered the youth through the establishment of a Youth Support Centre through which we have empowered young people, especially teens and young mothers, with communication skills, essay writing skills, computer application skills and music, dance and drama skills. We also organize teens and public debates through which young people and adults are enabled to discuss issues that affect them and hitherto had no platform to raise such issues. Our Open Talk Magazine has gradually become a darling of thousands of young people who are given a chance to have their opinions published and publicized.

HALEA teens perform (http://haleauganda.org/)

HALEA teens perform (http://haleauganda.org/)

We formed a teens’ edutainment club which has 116 members. The team is called ONE LIFE ENTERTAINMENT a name picked from the fact that as humanists (some of us with an atheist inclination) we believe that it is the one life we have that we must seriously take care of and do good to benefit the world. Our Edutainment club performs secular plays, music and dance that not only entertains but is educative especially because it challenges the retrogressive cultural and religious practices that promote the discrimination of women, girls, young mothers, LGBTI and the urban poor.

Through written materials and organized public dialogues and radio talk shows, HALEA has aggressively campaigned against discrimination of LGBTI and we have worked closely with the gay community through giving them empowerment trainings and advocating for their rights as a minority group among others. Our advocacy work has not always gone well with the large and conservative part of the community that is still tied by hatred perpetuated by cultural and religious dogmas that we have consistently challenged. It is therefore vital to note that whereas we have championed the rights of the marginalized and oppressed urban poor and minorities, we have also meet stiff resistance from those who are opposed to our approach to social issues affecting our people.

HATE ATTACK AND BURGLARY

In the night of the 26th  of June this year, a group of about 4 men, driving a large Regiuos car, according to our security guard, [came] to HALEA offices at about midnight and attempted to force their way through the gate. They told the security officer that they were part of HALEA and when he stopped them from accessing HALEA offices, they resorted to defacing our sign post, [uprooting] it from the firm ground in which it had been strongly cemented, [dragging] it across the road and [dumping] it inside the fence of our opposite neighbors, the Law Development Centre. We reported this barbaric attack to police and we continued to try and establish the people behind the attack. A few days later, on the night of 7th July 2014, the attackers managed to find their way inside our premises and took away everything valuable that was found in HALEA’s office.

The first people to reach the office found our security officer unconscious lying at the upper/ behind part of the building. Our offices were wide open. Our checking has so far revealed that HALEA lost the following property: 6 computers, 2 laptops, 1 adapter/power regulator, 1 projector, 3 cameras, 3 guitars, 1 desk phone and 1 laser jet printer, teens costumes, internet modems, microphones, power extensions, a DVD player and a box of new CDs.

They also took cash worth  3,788,000 [Ugandan shillings, around $1,450] . I reported the case to police and the Reference number is SD 07/8/07/2014 the case being Burglary and Theft. We have no clear suspects and at the moment the Police team of investigators continues to do their work.

HALEA staff and members are devastated with this development, we have lost the important tools that enable us to operate and surely this is a great set back in the history of the organization. This has happened at a time when we had so many vital activities going on and many pending. Whereas our assets were labeled with HALEA marks, they were not insured because we could not afford the insurance costs.

EMERGENCY STEPS TAKEN

On that very day, the police did a search around Makerere Kivulu slum were we operate and some suspicious items were got but unfortunately they did not belong to HALEA.I called for a board members’ meeting that was also attended by a few other members and several staff and two old computers were donated to HALEA. Members resolved to continue working and to keep the offices open regardless of the challenges at hand. Indeed, we have continued to do our activities amidst so many challenges especially because we now lack the tools to effectively execute our duties.

OUR APPEAL

We appeal to individuals and organizations who may come to assist us with donations to enable us resume work, we are calling for at least $7,000 to enable us obtain a few computers, a camera, guitars, and a printer.  Your advice and assistance is welcome. Thanks for your contribution.

Regards: Kato Mukasa
Executive Director, HALEA Youth Support Centre

http://humanistuganda.wordpress.com/

http://teenswithoutboarders.wordpress.com/

http://forgottenmothersuganda.wordpress.com/

http://haleaentertainment.wordpress.com/

Stay tuned–we’ll be hearing from Kato in an upcoming episode of Ask An Atheist.  In the meantime, boost the signal a little to help these hard-working, committed folks continue to be the feet of Humanism on the ground.

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