Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Americans United / Greater Los Angeles Chapter Chair Stuart Bechman on the Jesse Lee Peterson Radio Show Wednesday, Dec. 19, 6am

AU-GLA Committee Chair Stuart Bechman
Stuart Bechman, chair of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of Americans United, will be speaking about the recent decision by the Santa Monica City Council to suspend their annual Winter Forum program (a program which had traditionally included 14 full-size Christian nativity scenes that covered 1/4 mile on city park property along Ocean Blvd. in Santa Monica every December), and the backlash that recent decision created among the Santa Monica Christian community.  Stuart recently had a letter published about the decision in the Los Angeles Times.

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson is the Founder and President of BOND Action, Inc., a nonprofit, 501 (c) (4) organization, (BOND's activist and political arm) which exists to educate, motivate and rally Americans to greater involvement in the moral, cultural and political issues that threaten our great country. Jesse Lee is also the Founder and President for the past 19 years of BOND, the Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny, a non-profit, 501 (c) 3 organization, whose purpose is "Rebuilding the Family By Rebuilding the Man". He is the author of the bold and highly popular books, "SCAM: How the Black Leadership Exploits Black America" and "From Rage to Responsibility" and "The Seven Guaranteed Steps To Spiritual, Family, and Financial Success" guide. He is also the host of the nationwide Jesse Lee Peterson Radio Show, a TV host and a highly sought-after speaker.

The Jesse Lee Peterson Radio Show can be heard on-line at http://www.bondaction.org/content/radioshowhome and is live Monday through Friday from 6 - 9 am with podcast downloads available from the website.  Stuart's portion of the show will begin at approximately 7am this Wednesday, December 19.  The show will be available as a downloadable podcast after 9am on Wednesday, Dec. 19.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Riverside City Approves Funding for Religious War Memorial

Proposed Lake Elsinore Veterans' MemorialA proposed taxpayer-built veterans memorial that has caused controversy since its design was unveiled will be built at Diamond Stadium with a depiction of a Christian cross, the Lake Elsinore City Council decided unanimously, 5-0, on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012.

The memorial is to consist of a large tablet with an image of a soldier kneeling before a Christian cross beneath a depiction of a bald eagle. News reports indicate that the city may add a Star of David emblem as well.

The city council approved the memorial despite letters of opposition from the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, explaining how the monuments ignores soldiers who are not Christians (or Jews), and the legal action arm of the American Humanist Association, explaining that the memorial would be unconstitutional.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Join Us in Visiting Our Congressional Representatives This Election Season!

Americans United - Greater Los Angeles is organizing constituent visits to Congressional representatives from our area, and we want YOU to come.

Over the next 8 weeks, Americans United / GLA will be organizing office visits with several of the Congressional House members from the 25th to the 40th California Congressional District that represent the Greater Los Angeles area. If you are interested in joining a delegation to meet with YOUR Congressman about the importance of church-state separation, please drop us a note at AU-LosAngeles@gmail.com with your Congressional district, and we will be in touch with you about visit details.

Several of the congressional district numbers and boundaries have shifted for this election, so if you are not sure which Congressional district you are in, you can look it up by your address or ZIP code here. Be sure to click on the '2012 Districts' box to check the districts for THIS election.

Our representatives need to be reminded that we CARE about the First Amendment, and they should, too. Let's let them know this election season!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

David Niose: Nonbeliever Nation, Aug. 9 & 10


David Niose, attorney, author of the popular Psychology Today blog, "Our Humanity, Naturally." and president of the American Humanist Association, will be speaking in Pasadena on Thursday, August 9 and in Santa Monica on Friday, August 10 on his new book, Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans.
The number of Americans which identify as secular, atheist, agnostic, or simply non-religious has steadily risen over the past two decades from less than 5% in 1990 to 19% in 2012, representing the fastest-growing religious demographic in the US and the second-largest religious demographic after Catholics.  David argues that much of that growth has been fueled as a response to the rising power of the religious Christian right in this country.

In his presentation, David will discuss the various secular groups now forming across America in opposition to that force, including their political goals, lobbying efforts, legal strategies, and outreach through advertising and education, and what they are intending to do to make the secular voice a gamechanger in American politics.

David will be speaking Thursday, August 9 at the Neighborhood Unitarian-Universalist Church, 301 N. Orange Grove Ave., in Pasadena; and Friday, August 10 at 7pm at the Yahoo Center Community Room (Colorado Center), 2500 Broadway, in Santa Monica.

The events are co-sponsored with the Humanist Association of Los Angeles.  Both events are free.

David has appeared widely in national international media advocating for secularism and humanism, including Fox News, BBC, NPR, and many others. Niose also serves as vice president of the Secular Coalition for America, a Washington-based lobbying group.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

An invitation to learn about
Disturbing Trends in the Separation of Church & State
- How They Affect You and Your Children -
A Presentation by John Suarez, MD,
Followed by an an interactive discussion with Rabbi Jeffery Marx
Thursday, July 26, 2012, 7:30 pm
The Santa Monica Synagogue
1448 18th Street @ Broadway
Despite the resounding success and replication of the separation of church and state in modern democracies around the world since the concept was first adopted in the American Constitution over 200 years ago, we have seen unprecedented and escalating assaults to the concept here at home over the past two decades:
  • Governmental institutions are increasingly ignoring, even denouncing, the principle of Church-State Separation;
  • Favored religious groups are regularly granted special privileges and shielded by law from accountability;
  • Powerful and well-funded organizations are actively seeking to use the power of government to promote their ideologies – even in our public schools!
Many of the assaults are happening behind-the-scenes in private legislative conferences and in back-room 'deals' that the public never knows or hears about.
Dr. John Suarez, chair of Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s Education Committee, will review current hot-button issues and explore possible explanations behind these current threats. The presentation will be an interactive discussion with the audience, moderated by Rabbi Jeffery Marx. Come hear about and discuss the latest campaigns directed at perforating and bringing down the vaunted Wall of Church-State Separation from a variety of anti-democratic forces in this country to create a very different world for our children than that which we inherited from our forefathers.
Thursday, July 26, 7:30pm at the Santa Monica Synagogue, 1448 18th Street @ Broadway.
Co-sponsored by Americans United and The Santa Monica Synagogue, www.TheSMS.org

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Santa Monica Ends Discriminatory Winter Display

Tuesday, June 12, the Santa Monica city council voted to bring their longstanding program of providing premium public space along their majestic Ocean Avenue in Palisades Park every winter for Christian groups to put up life-size nativity creches of the story of Jesus' birth to an end.

The practice by the council has been long criticized by non-Christians and by church-state separation groups, including Americans United.  With over 500 Christian churches in the city limits of Santa Monica, they argued that there was no practical reason why the city needed to provide space for displaying the creches (in addition to the First Amendment problems the practice raised). In 2010, partly due to such criticism, the city council initiated a lottery system for 14 spaces to accommodate any and all local groups who were interested in sponsoring displays.  The system resulted in the Santa Monica Nativity Committee, the group of religious organizations who regularly sponsored the nativity scenes, getting only 3 spaces while the remaining spots were won by atheist groups.

The outcome raised an outcry from the SMNC, who brought in the Christian ACLJ to demand that something akin to the original system be restored.  It also garnered a recommendation letter from the Santa Monica city attorney that the program be abolished altogether because she could not see a solution that would satisfy everybody, exposing the city to a series of lawsuits from unhappy interest groups.

After bearing two council meetings of listening to constituent comments and opinions on the matter, the city council voted unanimously last night to accept the city attorney's recommendation and end the program.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Stand Up For Religious Freedom: Fri, Jun 8

Americans United - Greater Los Angeles chapter is organizing a "Stand Up for Religious Freedom" rally at the Ventura County Government Center from 11:30am to 1:30pm on Friday, June 8.

This rally is to support the US First Amendment and the restrictions placed on our government from using religious dogma as a basis for any US law, including religious exemptions to the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

An anti-First Amendment group called the National Coalition to Stop the HHS Mandate will be there as well to demand that our government ignore the First Amendment and provide a special exemption for religious groups to opt out of the contraceptive coverage requirements of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.  Strangely, they are claiming that their demands are meant to "protect religious freedom", despite the results of their calls being to actually deny such exercise and force religious dogma on millions of working women in the United States.

The contraceptive coverage required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act supports the right of all women to make their own reproductive decisions. The complaint by religious groups over this requirement is based solely on religious dogma and has no secular or empirical basis. It is also rejected by the majority of Americans, including the98% of sexually active women of all faiths who regularly use birth control. We need to keep religious privilege out of our government and our laws, and expect the same respect for human rights and decency by religious groups that we expect from all other US institutions. Come out this Friday and show your support for this fundamental American value!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Will the Wall Come Tumbling Down? An Updated Look at Church and State in America

Dr. John Suarez, National Trustee & Education Chair, Americans United for Separation of Church & State 

The novel experiment of separating church and state in the United States - now well into its second century - has been a resounding success by most measures. The political model has been emulated since that time in most all modern democracies and adopted by most UN member nations as a universal human right. And yet, the challenges seem only to have grown exponentially in the US in recent years. With presidential candidates and US Supreme Court judges denouncing the principle, religious groups regularly granted special privileges and shielded by law from accountability, and an array of powerful and well-funded organizations actively seeking to use the power of government to promote their religious ideologies, we may now be facing the strongest challenges to church/state separation in the US today in all of that history.

Dr. Suarez, a national trustee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and chair of its Education Committee, will explore possible explanations behind this apparent inconsistency as well as review current hot-button issues in the US church/state arena.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Good News Club Discussed on KPCC's Air Talk

The Good News Club's activities in elementary schools in the Pasadena School District will be discussed on Monday, March 19 on KPCC's Air Talk program with Larry Mantle at 11AM.  Guests will include Rob Goff, Pasadena parent who will talk about what he saw and heard when his kindergartener son first brought home a flyer for the GNC in his local elementary school.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

AU-GLA on Ventura County Progressives United podcast March 10

AU-GLA chair Stuart Bechman to appear on the Ventura County Progressives United podcast on Saturday, March 10 at 4pm. Stuart will be talking about the "In God We Trust" city council proposal in Camarillo as well as about the "Good News Club" program rolling out across California and the United States.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Santa Monica Reconsiders Holiday Display Policy

The Santa Monica city council introduced a motion at its Feb. 28 meeting to discontinue its longstanding policy of providing free public space to local neighborhood groups for winter holiday displays.

For years, the city of Santa Monica has provided space in a local city park along Ocean Ave. for local Christian communities to put up life-size nativity scenes. Requests in recent years from other local groups, including Jewish and atheist communities, for equal consideration resulted in the city adopting a system to allocate the free space by lottery.

In 2011, the lottery system resulted in most of the available slots being awarded to non-Christian groups, keeping most of the nativity scenes from being mounted that year.  Because of the number of complaints that the city received over the lottery results, the city attorney has now recommended that the city abolish its winter holiday ordinance altogether.

A final decision will likely be made by the Council at its March 27 meeting.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"IGWT" Movement Spreads in Ventura County

Camarillo City Council Considers posting "In God We Trust" slogan in City Hall

The Ventura County Star reported today (Feb. 23) that a motion was placed before the Camarillo City Council at last night's council meeting to consider posting the religious phrase "In God We Trust" in the city hall above the pictures of past and current councilmembers.  The request was made by a constituent who supports the campaign of Bakersfield councilwomen Jacquie Sullivan and her organization, In God We Trust-America Inc., to have the slogan posted in schools and government buildings across the nation.

This action follows the adoption last month of the City of Port Hueneme to display the slogan in its city council chambers, paid for with private funds.

The Camarillo City Council will be considering the issue over the next two weeks before making a decision at its next council meeting on Wednesday, March 14 in order to provide opportunity for the public to weigh in on the measure. NOTE: As of March 28, this issue has been indefinitely postponed for consideration by the Camarillo City Council. Further updates to this website will be noted if and when it is scheduled again.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Katherine Stewart in Los Angeles, March 6 & 7

Katherine Stewart To Speak in Los Angeles!

The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children

Katherine Stewart

TWO Dates!

Tuesday, March 6, at 8:30pm
Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica

Wednesday, March 7, at 7:30pm
Heretic House, Angelino Heights, Los Angeles

We're pleased to be able to host two more nights to Katherine's schedule in Southern California, these in Santa Monica and Los Angeles!

See the event announcement for Katherine Stewart in Ventura County, below, for a description of her work and presentation.

Katherine will be speaking Tuesday night, March 6 at the Unitarian-Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica, 18th & Arizona Streets, at 8:30pm.

The next evening, Katherine will be speaking in a private setting at Heretic House, a turn-of-the-20th-century mansion in the historical Angelino Heights district overlooking downtown Los Angeles. Both events are free, but seating is limited at the Heretic House, so please let us know if you're coming to that event. Please email us or call 805-405-3929 for reservations and directions.

Event attendees are encouraged to purchase and read the book prior to this presentation to participate in the dialogue. (Kindle edition is also available!) Copies will also be available for purchase and signing at the event. Come find out more about Katherine's research and book and what this means to the wall of church-state separation in this country!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Author Katherine Stewart - The Good News Club

March Event in Ventura County!

The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children

Katherine Stewart

Thursday, March 8, at 6:30pm
Oxnard Public Library Community Room
251 S. A Street, Oxnard

In January, 2009, Katherine Stewart learned that the Santa Barbara public elementary school her children attended had added a Bible study class called the “Good News Club” to its afterschool program. Stewart’s curiosity turned to concern as she discovered that the specific yet unstated purpose of the club, which is sponsored by the Child Evangelism Fellowship, is to convey the impression to its young members and their schoolmates that their school favors their particular form of the Christian religion. (From the CEF Website: "the purpose of Good News Club is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.")

She soon learned that the Good News Club—a seemingly spontaneous and voluntary after-school program—was in fact part of a larger, calculated initiative by national advocacy groups whose declared aim is to “take back” America’s public schools and repurpose them with a Fundamentalist Christian agenda.

What happened in Stewart’s community is happening nationwide. At the end of 2010, there were more than 3,500 Good News Clubs operating in public schools across the country, and the number is rapidly increasing.

Come find out more about Katherine's research and book and what this means to the wall of church-state separation in this country! Event attendees are encouraged to purchase and read the book prior to this presentation to participate in the dialogue. (Kindle edition is also available!) Copies will also be available for purchase and signing at the event.

Monday, January 23, 2012

February AU Event in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties!

Jason Torpy: Collaboration vs. Litigation: Reforming America's Military

Jason Torpy

Wednesday, February 1st at 7:00 pm in VENTURA COUNTY: Conejo Valley Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship Church, 3327 Old Conejo Road, Newbury Park


Thursday, February 2nd at 7:00 pm in LOS ANGELES: The Mayflower Club, 11110 Victory Blvd. (at Vineland), North Hollywood

Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) will be speaking at TWO special presentations for the Greater Los Angeles chapter of Americans United on the struggles of atheists and humanists for equal treatment in the face of religious bias in the US military.

Jason will be speaking in Ventura County on Wednesday, February 1 at the Conejo Valley Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship church, and in Los Angeles on Thursday, February 2 at the Mayflower Club, located at 11110 Victory Blvd. at Vineland in North Hollywood. Both events will start at 7pm. Both events are FREE to the public.

Jason represents thousands of service members through MAAF. The organization helps atheists and humanists in the military build community while teaching leaders on how to avoid the appearance of special privileges for religion. MAAF has help to set up over 20 local communities on military installations and ships all over the world and in all branches of service.  In coalition with groups such as MRFF, AU, and the ACLU, MAAF serves a key role in building community and rolling back the tide of proselytism of our military.

Jason Torpy enlisted in the Army in 1994 as an Intelligence Interceptor. After earning top graduate honors from two intelligence training programs, he was offered direct admission to the United States Military Academy. Upon graduation, Mr. Torpy was commissioned as an officer and served for five years in Germany, Kuwait, and Iraq with the Army's 1st Armored Division. He left the service in 2005 at the rank of Captain to pursue an MBA. He now serves as the President of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF), a civil rights and community organization supporting atheists and humanists in the military

MAAF has been working directly with AF Academy officials, and long-term abuses are now being replaced by training on Free Exercise as well as Establishment Clause protections. Over 100 military chaplain endorsers have heard our needs and understand they have a responsibility to all service members, including nontheists. More importantly, they know how. The failures of the military's Spiritual Fitness have been exposed, but they continue to expand.

Learn at these events how a growing secular community is rising in opposition to an entrenched evangelical community in the US military.