Category Archives: News

Everybody is on welfare in this country.

“Whenever the government provides opportunities and privileges for white people and rich people they call it ‘subsidies.’ When they do it for Negro and poor people they call it ‘welfare.’ The fact is that everybody in this country lives on welfare. Suburbia was built with federally subsidized credit. And highways that take our white brothers out to the suburbs were built with federally subsidized money to the tune of ninety percent. Everybody is on welfare in this country. The problem is that we all too often have socialism for the rich and rugged free enterprise capitalism for the poor. That’s the problem.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Next chapter meeting Sat. May 20, Portland

Hi Foundation / Chapter members and supporters,

Your local chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (the Foundation), FFRF Maine, will be meeting at the First Parish Unitarian Church in Monument Square, 425 Congress St., Portland on Saturday, May 20 from 10 AM to noon. All Foundation members and supporters are invited to attend. We are an informal group with a short 30 min business meeting followed by your suggestions for chapter activities.

This month the chapter will be finalizing plans to march in the Portland Pride Parade on Sat. June 17. All are invited to march with us. Depending on interest we could have a table in Deering Oaks Park where the parade ends to distribute literature, buttons and bumper stickers that support non-belief and the separation of church and state.

We also have the opportunity to help people in need in the community this summer. Nonbelief Relief, an agency the Foundation created for non-believers to help the needy, is encouraging local chapters to get out and do just that. The idea is the chapter takes direct action to help others and, through a visible and public presence in the community, promote non-theism and the separation of church and state. We could work with Preble St and personally distribute items we supply that will help make the lives of people with limited resources a little easier. Some suggestions are to distribute food, backpacks, school supplies, personal items, or host a lunch / dinner. Another idea could be doing the same at a local LGBT center for low income LGBT people. Come and let us know how you think the chapter can best help the disadvantaged in Portland.

We generally go out for lunch after the meeting. Last month we went to the Saeng Thai House Restaurant at 291 Congress St. a short walk from the church. Parking in Monument Square can be problematic. Carpooling and / or parking at a supermarket / school with a large parking lot (with permission) away from Monument Square and taking one or two cars into the city is encouraged. Details TBD.

We currently have a volunteer opening on our board for a Membership Chair. Duties would include but not be limited to keeping in touch with current members and attracting new members. If you have 2 hours a week / 6 hours a month to work with a chapter of a national organization that supports what you value, come to the Sat, May 20 meeting, learn what we need and let us know how you can contribute. Everyone is welcome and we would prefer an LGBT woman of color.

Please RSVP to the chapter at ffrfmaine@gmail.com.

Anyone’s gender is as you identify, not chromosomes or body parts.

These people were all born in the wrong bodies and NC wants them to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex listed on their birth certificates! Good luck with that. From left to right – Chaz Bono, Christine Jorgensen, Dr. Christine McGill, Shawn Stinson and Tula Cossey.

Chaz Bono Shoot
Chaz Bono at his home in West Hollywood on August 23, 2011..Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Christine JorgensenChristine McGillShawn StinsonTula Cossey

FFRF denounces San Antonio mayor for inappropriate remarks April 25, 2017

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#inbox/15ba6b0a5ff79a9d

San Antonio mayor

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is strongly criticizing the San Antonio mayor for her highly insensitive remarks about belief.

At a recent forum, Mayor Ivy Taylor was asked what she thought were the deepest, systemic causes of generational poverty in San Antonio.

“I’ll go ahead and put it out there that to me, it’s broken people, you know?” she replied, in part. “People not being inrelationship with their Creator, and therefore not being in a good relationship with their families and their communities and, you know, not being productive members of society.”

Taylor’s shocking response is indefensible, FFRF asserts. (Her after-the-fact clarification through a Facebook statement doesn’t help her case.)

To start with, Taylor’s answer is untrue. In fact, when any given factor of societal health or well-being is measured, it is invariably the less religious countries that score better. The least religious countries of this world:

  • Have the lowest rates of violent crime, homicide and corruption.
  • Are the best places to raise children and be a mother.
  • Have the lowest levels of intolerance against racial and ethnic minorities.
  • Score highest when it comes to women’s rights and gender equality.
  • Have the greatest protection and enjoyment of political and civil liberties.
  • Are better at educating their youth in reading, math and science.
  • Are the most peaceful, the most prosperous and have the highest quality of life.

The correlation between lower religiosity and higher societal well-being is not limited to an international analysis. This trend also exists within United States. Those states that are the most religious also have a high occurrence of societal ills. The most religious states in the nation tend to have the highest rates of poverty, obesity, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, murder and violent crime.

Then, Taylor acts as if declaring herself a member of the Christian majority and denigrating an unpopular minority somehow requires a measure of courage: “I’ll go ahead and put it out there.” It would require far more courage to stand up for that unpopular minority. Parading membership in the religious majority is popular — that’s why it’s called pandering.

Scapegoating an unpopular minority,as Taylor did, is inappropriate. As mayor, she represents a diverse population that consists of not only Christians. Overall, 23 percent Americans identify as nonreligious. That eight-point increase since 2007 and 15-point jump since 1990 makes the “Nones” the fastest-growing religious identification in America. And about 35 percent of Millennials are nonreligious.

Imagine for a moment a mayoral candidate making such undeserved and broad accusations against Jews or Muslims instead of nonbelievers. The outcry would properly be swift and severe. It should be no different for nonbelievers.

“Nonbelievers are police officers, firefighters, nurses, doctors, librarians, teachers, scientists, volunteers, parents and students,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to Taylor. “We are part of your community and to call us ‘unproductive members of society’ because we don’t believe as you do is the height of religious arrogance.”

FFRF looks forward to Taylor’s apology to its San Antonio membership and other San Antonio freethinkers.

The Freedom From ReligionFoundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 28,000 nonreligious members across the country and more than 1,200 in Texas, including in the San Antonio area.

“Support each other in these turbulent times”.

FFRF Maine get together

“Support each other in these turbulent times”.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

10:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Portland Public Library

5 Monument Way, Portland, ME

Come join FFRF Maine at our monthly meeting / community discussion and luncheon. We have a half hour of chapter updates / Q&A and then an informal social conservation about our joys and sorrows. Mine range from the joy of kayaking season being just around the corner to the multiple sorrows of the Trump administration. Come share your thoughts, your hobbies, the latest book you read or movie you saw. We will go out to a local restaurant in Monument Square after the meeting.

For those who might be interested in engaging those who oppose our secular society, the new administration is providing many opportunities to make a difference in our lives, and the lives of those around us. Depending on interest we can work to keep religion out of public schools, support Planned Parenthood or support Sen. Katz’s bill on Death with Dignity. There is nothing more calming, more centering than to know you are not alone in these turbulent times. It is really surprising, and rewarding, to see how little effort it takes from each person to have an impact when people work together. To quote anthropologist Margaret mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” To paraphrase John Lennon, Relationships are all that we have. Without those, life would be pretty bleak.

“Can We Really Coexist?” panel answers questions and poses more

APRIL 6, 2017

The Maine Campus

POSTED ON APRIL 3, 2017 BY SARAH O’MALLEY

“Can We Really Coexist?” panel answers questions and poses more

If you were to Google “coexist” today the search engine would typically finish your query with “bumper sticker.” But for those whose minds long for deeper answers, unique perspectives and respectful dialogue, last Wednesday’s “Can We Really Coexist?” panel, a multi-faith discussion, was the place to go to find answers.

Over 200 students, community members and faculty packed into Nutting 100 to listen and learn about different perspective on coexisting. The Wilson Center for Spiritual Exploration and Multi-faith Dialogue coordinated the event as part of the University of Maine’s Diversity Week line-up—and invited a variety of co-sponsors to contribute, including the Spiritual Coexistence Student Group, U.Maine Office of Multicultural Student Life, U.Maine Navigators, U.Maine Intervarsity, Cru U.Maine, Life, Muslim Student Association, U.Maine Hillel, Black Bear Catholic at the Newman Center, The Wabanaki Center, The Islamic Center of Maine and The Freedom From Religion Foundation. Many groups had tables set up in the atrium outside the hall to offer more information to interested parties.

The panel began at 7 p.m. and seats filled up fast, with many viewers lining the aisles and back walls to hear what the panelists had to say. The panelists were chosen to represent seven different religion or spirituality background—including Omar Conteh for Islam, Hugh Curran for Buddhism, Tracy Guerrette for Catholicism, Rabbi Darah Lerner for Judaism, John Bear Mitchell for Wabanaki spirituality, Tom Waddell for atheism/humanism, Aaron Watt for evangelical Christianity and Linda Silka as a moderator. Pamphlets were offered at the door to provide biographies for each panelists and moderator.

Silka, a social and community psychologist, began with an introduction to the event and thanked the audience for showing up and proving the desire to coexist does exist. The first question she posed was difficult in its simplicity; “do you feel like the world is doing a good job of coexisting?”

Waddell was the first to respond and began by describing an atheist perspective on life as one that “exemplifies coexistence.” Waddell is the President of the Maine Chapter of the national organization Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF Maine), which “supports the Constitutional principle of the separation of church and state,” something he noted in his response as being a fundamental part of coexisting and is in more danger than ever because of the policies of the current “so-called” President.

Watt and Guerrette, representing Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism respectively, gave the general responses that our world was successfully coexisting. Guerrette harped on the Catholic principle to love thy neighbor, saying “we are made by love for love, to give and receive love” and she feels like the healthy dialogue that was evidently being created at the moment proved that love was there.

Others were not as convinced, as Rabbi Darah pointed out, “If it was all sunshine and roses then we wouldn’t be here.” She continued by saying that, “The Jewish population has experienced the best and the worst of coexisting,” citing the Holocaust as evidence of the latter.

The next speaker echoed the feeling of experiencing the worst of coexisting. John Bear Mitchell, a citizen of the Penobscot Nation from Indian Island, responded to the question posed with a resounding: no.”

“When you come here, you are walking on the bones and the dust of my ancestors who have been here for thousands of years,” he began — and “our government dictates certain religions and promotes certain religions.” Mitchell explained that Native Americans do not consider themselves religious, but instead spiritual with a lot of ancestor worship. This has historically garnered negative reactions from the American government as they steal and desecrate Native American’s land, which is especially hard to tolerate by John Bear because of their “great connection to the land.” Regardless, he remains optimistic about Native American’s futures, saying, “we’re still here, we’re still smiling.”

Conteh responded next for the Islamic faith, mentioning how Islam is a religion that in today’s sociopolitical environment is “constantly under a microscope.” Conteh explained that Islam believes free will to be sacred—and something that should be respected in every individual, saying, “free will is sacred as the soul of that person is sacred.” While those practicing the Islamic faith may feel negative responses to their beliefs from their communities, Conteh stressed the importance of striving for coexistence rooted in understanding. “It takes intention, it takes trust, it takes deliberate effort for human beings to try and understand each other.”

Curran discussed the fundamentals of coexisting in his response, saying coexistence is the idea of “blending spiritual traditions and finding the common features.” He discussed his travels around the world to places like Ireland, Nova Scotia, India and Japan that helped him understand what it’s like to live amongst people so different than oneself.

Following the first round of questions came two more from Silka — “To what extent does ideal coexistence require compromise in beliefs?” and “What do we do when people have such passion[ate] disagreement?” The responses ranged and touched upon current hot button issues like abortion, immigration and transgender bathroom policies. For those interested, the Wilson Center will be providing a full-length recording of the two-hour long panel.

As the panel progressed viewers were encouraged to write down any questions that arose on pen and paper, which were then sorted by Wilson Center faculty and three were eventually posed to the panel.

The first viewer question had to do with how each religion perceived and interacted with nature, to which John Bear Mitchell responded that protecting Mother Nature is paramount. Rabbi Darah mentioned that putting stock into scientific facts, including accepting concepts like evolution, will lead to better understanding.

The next viewer question posed how does one move from intentions to action, or how does one “operationalize ‘love thy neighbor’?” Rabbi Darah explained her intentions to “celebrate with pride,” Curran said to “engage in the world with love and kindness” and Waddell responded, “elect representative that are statesmen, not politicians.” He also listed actions such as supporting rank-choice voting and abolishing the Electoral College (“and it can be done,” he says).

Finally, the panelists were asked to respond in a few words about “what it means to be a decent human being.” Curran said, “being aware of yourself, focusing on deeper truths,” Conteh replied, “care and put that care into practice and not just words,” Waddell responded “when you meet people, think the best of them,” and Guerrette reminded the audience to “selflessly love others.”

The panel was created to pose important, provocative and complex questions. Does coexisting require compromising our own beliefs? Can there be tolerance of a belief system without endorsement? Does coexistence allow one to claim that their beliefs are exclusively true? While the audience might not have left with a clear-cut yes or no, they definitely exposed themselves to different perspectives on multi-faith coexistence and that in itself is a step forward. To quote John Bear Mitchell, “when you peel away the skin we’re all just as gross.”

Sarah O’Malley