Atheists to Hold Massive ‘Woodstock for Non-Belief’ in Washington D.C.
A bit odd to have a rally about what you are not. How would it go if whites held a rally to celebrate not being black? This seems just as hate-motivated
Traditionally, atheists have taken on the faith community through limited legal battles and individual complaints. But as the power of social media and communicative technologies has developed, non-believers have become increasingly organized. As they collaborate through various projects, they’re realizing the power they have as a collective. In fact, on March 24, 2012, they’re planning the “Reason Rally” — a massive event that American Atheists President David Silverman has dubbed a “Woodstock for non-belief.”
The event, which will symbolically be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is being called ”the largest secular event ever,” as non-believers from across America are being encouraged to come and take part in the “historical” gathering. On the event’s web site, its purpose is explained in detail:
The Reason Rally is a movement-wide event sponsored by the country’s major secular organizations. The intent is to unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society… and having a damn good time doing it! It will be the largest secular event in world history. There will be music, comedy, great speakers, and lots of fun… and it’s free! [...]
Across America, in every city, every town, and every school, secularism is on the rise. Whether people call themselves atheists, agnostics, secular Humanists, or any of the other terms used to describe their god-free lifestyle, secularism is coming out of the closet. According to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey…the percentage of people with no religious affiliation grew in all fifty states. The purpose of this particular rally will be to advance secularism (in the broadest sense of the word) in society.
So, it seems America’s atheist population is on a mission: To grow its numbers, while changing the perceptions the majority of the public public often holds against it. With numbers that appear to be growing, non-believers are looking to form the same cohesiveness they see among America’s faithful.
Musicians and speakers will present and perform at the “Reason Rally.” Among those listed on the event’s web site are evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers (whom the Blaze has interacted with in the past), Freedom From Religion Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor and Jessica Ahlquist (the 16-year-old girl behind the prayer mural ban in Rhode Island).
Arrested for being WHITE? Grandfather who was repeatedly stopped and cuffed for walking with his black granddaughter
Scott Henson is a self-described Texas redneck, white and middle-aged. His granddaughter Ty -- the five-year-old daughter of his goddaughter -- is black and Mr Henson often finds himself babysitting her.
And that pairing has apparently drawn the suspicion of police in Mr Henson's hometown of Austin, Texas. Twice in three years, he has been swarmed by officers and questioned aggressively -- for no other reason than being a white man walking down the sidewalk with a little black girl, he says.
On his blog Grits for Breakfast, Mr Henson says he is the victim of 'babysitting while white' -- over-zealous racial profiling by police who are suspicious of anything out of the ordinary.
On Friday, the most recent run-in with cops, he was handcuffed and detained and separated from his terrified granddaughter by officers who claimed they had received an anonymous report of a white man kidnapping a black girl.
In November 2008, while police cordoned off parts of Austin searching for two suspected killers, Mr Henson said he received similar treatment while walking home from the park.
In each encounter, Mr Henson said he was terse with officers and reluctant to give information because he was insulted that he was being stopped and questioned for being with a little girl of a different race. He maintains he had no obligation to cooperate.
But he says the subsequent police response was rude, incompetent and terrifying to his young granddaughter.
As Mr Henson, a political consultant and retired journalist who runs a popular blog about the criminal justice system in Texas, was walking home from a roller rink Friday night with his granddaughter, he was swarmed by several police squad cars.
Scott Henson and Ty
Adopted family: Ty is the daughter of Scott Henson's goddaughter -- a woman who came to live with Mr Henson and his wife when she was a child
He had been approached by a deputy constable earlier who questioned what he was doing with the little girl. The officer claimed she had received a report of a white man kidnapping a black child.
When more police arrived, they grabbed Mr Henson, he says, and jerked his armed behind him and handcuffed him.
'Ty edged up the hill away from the officers, crying. One of them called out in a comforting tone that they weren't there to hurt her, but another officer blew up any good will that might have garnered by brusquely snatching her up and scuttling her off to the back seat of one of the police cars,' he writes.
Meanwhile, he says, the officers stalled and refused to call his wife and the other people whose phone numbers he gave to verify his relationship with the little girl.
Before he was released by the officers, without apologies, Mr Henson said 10 squad cars encircled the bicycle path he was walking, a few blocks from his house.
Ultimately, neither encounter with police has left a lasting impact on his life, he says. But he fears officers' ham-fisted approach has had a bigger impact on little Ty.
'I'd like her to view police as people she can trust instead of threats to her and her family, but it's possible I live in the wrong neighborhood for that.,' he wrote.
Britain's Stasi and a sinister assault on a free Press
By Richard Littlejohn
Squads of up to 20 police officers raid suburban houses at six o’clock in the morning. In related operations, dozens more detectives rip out car doors, tear up floorboards and search through underwear drawers and beneath mattresses, terrifying innocent women and children.
Men are arrested just as they are about to take their families to the countryside on half-term holidays. Suspects are carted off to police stations where they are interrogated for hours. Bottles of water and bananas are confiscated before they are thrown in the cells. The officers involved say they are only obeying orders.
If you think this sounds like Nazi Germany or Communist East Berlin under the Stasi, you’d be dead right. But this is Britain 2012 and the Gestapo tactics are being used by police investigating alleged illegal practices by journalists working for News International.
Scotland Yard is conducting a heavy-handed campaign of intimidation, sanctioned by senior officers and cheered on by vindictive politicians.
There are 169 officers seconded to three separate inquiries into the Press. That’s reported to be more than were involved in investigating the Lockerbie bombing. Mr Plod has lost the plot, on an inter- galactic level.
No one is condoning criminality. Those guilty of hacking mobile phones on an industrial scale or bribing police officers should be punished. But as my old friend and colleague Trevor Kavanagh, one of the most respected political journalists of his generation, complained yesterday, staff at The Sun are being treated ‘like members of an organised crime gang’.
No one arrested over the past few weeks has been charged with any offence. Yet they are being treated worse than terrorist suspects, subjected to draconian bail conditions and have had their lives and distinguished careers put on hold.
Scotland Yard yesterday justified mounting a round-the-clock guard on released hate preacher Abu Qatada on the grounds that it had a ‘duty of care’ to protect him. The Yard clearly feels, however, that it has no equivalent duty of care towards middle-ranking journalists who are being dragged from their beds at weekends.
Why is it that senior executives at News International, such as former chief executive Rebekah Brooks, are allowed to attend police stations by appointment to be questioned, yet lowly foot soldiers are rounded up from their homes like violent armed robbers or drug dealers?
The new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, has so far refused to give any public explanation for the bully-boy behaviour of his officers. He was last seen posing theatrically for the cameras while riding a horse outside White Hart Lane football ground, just in case any of the half-dozen Wigan fans who made the long journey to Tottenham on a freezing Tuesday night decided to start a riot.
My colleagues on the crime beat say that since Hyphen-Howe was installed as Commissioner, ahead of the outstanding candidate Sir Hugh Orde, normal relations between the police and the Press have ground to a halt.
The suspicion is that the former Merseyside chief constable was given the nod by Home Secretary Theresa May because he was considered more likely to toe the political line than the outspoken Orde, who is a staunch defender of the flow of mutually beneficial information between journalists and police officers.
Two of the senior Scotland Yard officers who have been involved in running these investigations, Sue Akers and Cressida Dick, have been on the receiving end of Press attention in the past: Akers in relation to the death of Victoria Climbie under the noses of police and social services; and Dick over the fatal shooting of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes.
Theresa May has yet to explain if she believes this police operation is proportionate. Officers have been taken off other investigations to sift through mobile phone records. There are currently 24 unsolved murders on the books at the Yard.
Given the unprecedented scale of the operation and the money being spent, one might have expected questions in the House. But there hasn’t been a peep. The political class is involved in a deranged witch-hunt against the Press, partly to divert attention from the Prime Minister’s own close relations with News International and partly in revenge for the exposé of the parliamentary expenses scandal.
Alongside the police investigations, there are two other bodies inquiring into the Press — one under Lord Justice Leveson and the other a Commons select committee.
Yet there have never been any corresponding public inquiries into the wholesale theft of public money by MPs and peers, or the collapse of the banking system, which has crippled the economy. If illegal immigrants or suspected Islamist murderers were being dragged out of their beds at dawn, the ‘human rights’ industry would be bouncing up and down like Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout.
But the self-styled champions of civil liberties have stayed strangely silent over the treatment being meted out to Sun journalists.
One of the most disturbing aspects of this whole affair is the role being played by News International’s Management Standards Committee. It is, of course, entirely correct that NI should co-operate with the authorities. But the zeal with which loyal, long-serving employees are being offered up to the police has rightly given rise to outrage that journalists are being thrown to the wolves to protect the parent company’s wider interests.
Although the committee is overseen by an eminent QC, the donkey work is being done by two former newspapermen, Will Lewis and Simon Greenberg, who appear to be trawling through expenses sheets and correspondence to detect any whiff of possible impropriety that can then be fed to the police.
The ferociously ambitious Lewis, when he was editor of the Daily Telegraph, paid £150,000 for a stolen computer disc containing details of MPs’ expenses. He was absolutely right to do so, in the public interest.
But who is to say that some of the other journalists being investigated over alleged payments to public officials were not also acting in the public interest? They are not being afforded the opportunity to give any explanation before they are handed over to the police, arrested and hauled off to the nick.
One Sun reporter is said to have been questioned over a £50 bill for lunch with police contacts. If every hack who has ever bought a sandwich and a beer for a copper — or vice versa, for that matter — is guilty of bribery, they’ll have to build more prisons.
And where do you draw the line? MPs are notoriously fond of troughing at the expense of newspapers. Does that constitute bribery and corruption, too?
Greenberg famously gave up his job as a sports editor to become the official PR spiv for Chelsea’s billionaire Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, at a salary reported to be in the region of £275,000 a year. So the role of poacher-turned-gamekeeper comes naturally to him.
His modus operandi at Stamford Bridge was to threaten to cut out of the loop any reporter who wrote anything that presented his wealthy boss and Chelsea football club in a negative light.
In the interest of disclosure, I should reveal that I know Greenberg slightly. He sits near me at Spurs. But don’t expect me to defend him. I’d rather sell the Big Issue than take a job grassing up fellow journalists.
I wonder what a trawl through Greenberg and Lewis’s past expenses and emails might reveal.
Some people might accuse me of special pleading. After all, I used to write for The Sun and some of those arrested are friends of mine.
But I have maintained all along, ever since the phone hacking scandal broke last summer, that the guilty should be brought to justice. This is much more serious than the fate of one newspaper or a handful of journalists. The Establishment has declared war on the Press and by extension our very democracy. They want to stifle criticism and suppress stories about wrongdoing in public office. If the politicians can shackle popular newspapers they are far less likely to be called to account for their actions.
This also smacks of a monstrous abuse of power by the police, embarrassed at some of their own past dealings with News International.
Britain was once a beacon of Press freedom. We now lag way behind former Soviet bloc states such as Poland, Estonia and Slovakia. Trevor Kavanagh pointed out yesterday that we have slipped to 28th in the International Freedom of Speech league table.
It used to be said that Britain may not be the best country to live in, but it was the best country to go to sleep in. Not when you’re being dragged out of bed by the Scotland Yard Stasi, it isn’t.
Stand up for your faith! Muslim minister gives a rallying cry to Christians
Christianity is in grave danger of being marginalised, Britain's only Muslim cabinet minister will tell the Vatican today.
Baroness Warsi will call for Europeans to take more pride in their religious roots and for Christianity to play a greater role in public life. She will attack the 'basic misconception' that Christianity needs to be 'erased' for minorities to feel welcome in society.
Social cohesion will improve if individuals feel more confident in their religious beliefs, she will tell the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome, a college which trains priests for diplomatic and secretariat duties.
Baroness Warsi is leading a UK delegation to be received by the Pope at the Vatican today. With seven ministers, it is the largest ever UK mission to the Holy See.
The peer, who is co-chairman of the Conservative Party, said she feared that religion was being increasingly downgraded or dismissed as an eccentricity.
Baroness Warsi will call for faith to be given proper space in public life. 'People need to feel stronger in their religious identities, more confident in their beliefs,' she will say.
'In practice this means individuals not diluting their faiths ... and nations not denying their religious heritages. If you take this thought to its conclusion then the idea you're left with is this: Europe needs to become more confident in its Christianity.
'Too often there is a suspicion of faith in our continent. It all hinges on a basic misconception: That to create equality and space for minorities we need to erase our religious heritage.'
Her comments come just days after a landmark legal ruling banning the saying of prayers at council meetings.
Christians and politicians reacted with dismay after a judge overturned centuries of custom by stopping a town hall in Devon putting prayers on the formal agenda.
It prompted concern that it would pave the way for Parliament to abandon prayers before Commons and Lords business, mark the end of hospital and military chaplains, and even lead to the abolition of the coronation oath.
The ruling came on the same day that two Christian guesthouse owners failed in their attempt to overturn a £3,600 fine imposed on them for refusing to allow a gay couple to occupy a double room.
Before Christmas, David Cameron declared Britain to be a Christian country and urged people to 'stand up and defend' the values of the Bible.
Lady Warsi will say that centuries of Christianity have shaped British culture and civilisation and will praise faith for 'inspiring, driving and motivating' good works.
'You cannot and should not extract these Christian foundations from the evolution of our nations any more than you can or should erase the spires from our landscapes,' she will say.
However, the Cabinet minister will warn: 'I see a great danger to this confident affirmation of religion today. It is what the Holy Father called the increasing marginalisation of religion during his speech in Westminster Hall. 'I see it in the UK and I see it in Europe. Spirituality, suppressed. Divinity, downgraded.
'Where, in the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, faith is looked down on as the hobby of oddities, foreigners and minorities. Where religion is dismissed as an eccentricity because it's infused with tradition.'
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.