News Archive

The ACA will be chartering a cruise boat on Town Lake on Saturday, September 23rd, 2006, 6-8pm. We'll have the boat to ourselves to chat, picnic, and watch the bats emerge from the Congress Avenue bridge. The event is organized by Joe Zamecki and Marla Repka. 

The boat we'll be taking is the Capital Cruise's Silent Star. It's 60 feet long and covered. It has a bathroom and tables for our use. We can bring food and drinks, but not in any glass containers. Plan on bringing some food and drink. The event should be a relaxing cruise on the lake.

In order to get the boat, we're going to need to collect money in advance for the event. The price is $17.85 per person. Please pay with exact change (preferably in an envelope) or with a check made out to "ACA". Mark the check or envelope with the name(s) of the participant(s). Give your payment to an ACA board member at any meeting or ACA event. If the event is canceled, we'll return your money. 

On the day of the event, meet at 5:30pm at Capital Cruises' dock, on the river, behind the Hyatt Regency Hotel, on the South side of the river. That's between the Congress Ave. bridge and the 1st St. bridge, on the South shore. The number for Capital Cruises is (512)480-9264 if you need last minute help, or see thier web site

We recommend parking at the Austin American-Statesman parking lot, just East of Congress Ave. on the South side of the river. Parking there is free for bat watchers. Alternatively, you can find a metered parking spot on Congress Ave. either South or North of the bridge. Coins shouldn't be necessary at that time of day, but it's a further walk. 

For more information about the bats, see Bat Conservation International and their web page about the Congress Avenue bat colony.

The "Pledge Protection Act" (HR2389) states:

"...no court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, the Pledge of Allegiance ... or its recitation."

While the bill passed the House (260-167) it's unclear whether or not it is likely to pass in the Senate. Opponents claim that this bill, if it becomes law, would be a critical blow to judicial independence. Congress has the authority to limit the jurisdiction of federal courts, but that power must be exercised cautiously or the judicial system can become crippled. 

Stripping the federal courts of jurisdiction on specific issues can result in contradictory and inconsistent rulings as individual state court rulings will have ultimate authority. Stripping the Supreme Court's jurisdiction over questions of Constitutional validity undermines the very purpose of that court and prevents them from revisiting previous rulings. In addition to impacting the jurisdiction of federal courts, this bill ensures that religious and nonreligious minorities have no legal means of defending their rights.

Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn) spoke in support of the bill, stating "We should not and cannot rewrite history to ignore our spiritual heritage." As one ACA member pointed out, "Apparently only the re-write of '54 is acceptable." One wonders if Rep. Wamp is familiar with the history of the pledge...

In 1892, President Harrison proclaimed that a pledge written by Francis Bellamy (and published in the magazine "The Youth's Companion") be included in school ceremonial observances of Columbus Day. In 1924, the pledge was edited, changing the words "my flag" to "the flag of the United States of America." In 1940, the Supreme Court upheld a school district's requirement that students salute the flag and pledge allegiance to it. That decision was challenged and reversed in 1943, with the court ruling that obligatory recitation of the pledge was a violation of the free speech protections afforded by the First Amendment. Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance in 1945 and passed a law stating that no one could change its words without congressional approval.

If the story of the pledge had stopped here, Rep. Wamp's comment might almost be valid. However, in 1954, President Eisenhower requested that Congress add the phrase "under God" to the pledge. Congress approved that change, providing us with the current version. It is particularly ironic that they chose to insert an incredibly divisive phrase directly before the word "indivisible".

The existence of the phrase "under God" isn't problematic for all atheists. For some it's beneath concern or even an unfortunate but acceptable tradition. For others it represents a much bigger problem. Regardless of your personal position on the significance or constitutionality of the phrase, this bill is a serious threat. It isn't simply an attempt to protect the cherished "pet phrase" of the majority, it is an attack on the very structure of our judicial system - it's an attempt to avoid, by majority edict, a question of Constitutional validity.

Our Constitution exists to protect the rights of the minority from the whim of the majority. Judicial independence is critical to that end and this bill attempts to undermine that authority.

I urge all concerned members to contact their Senators and insist that they oppose this bill. If this bill had been made law in 1941, we'd all be forced to recite the pledge despite our free speech protections.

It's time that our elected officials stand up to support the idea that the freedoms and rights provided by our Constitution exist for everyone and not simply to protect the opinions of those in the majority.

No law should be shielded from Constitutional scrutiny and no just law should need such protection.

-Matt Dillahunty

President, Atheist Community of Austin

SHARE! YOUR HEART AND HOME

Atheist/Agnostic Host Families Needed For International Atheist/Agnostic Teens 

Atheist and/or Agnostic HOST FAMILIES– with or without children- are needed to host international teens from Western Europe. The students are 15 to 18 years old and will attend the high school closest to their host family’s home. The host family will provide a bed, meals, as well as friendship, understanding, and a genuine desire to share the American way of life with these youngsters. The students speak English, are covered by medical and dental insurance, have spending money for their personal expenses, and will arrive in AUGUST for enrollment in their new high schools. 

Interested families are able to review the student’s applications and can call Yvette Coffman at the SHARE! Southwest Office at 1-800-941-3738 for more information. 

The SHARE! High School Exchange Program is sponsored by ERDT, a non-profit educational foundation.

Every eight weeks the ACA has a blood drive at The Blood & Tissue Center of Central Texas on 4300 North Lamar Boulevard. Each drive is on Saturday at 10 am. The schedule throughout 2007 is:

  • November 25, 2006
  • January 20, 2007
  • March 17, 2007
  • May 12, 2007
  • July 7, 2007
  • September 1, 2007
  • October 27, 2007
  • December 29, 2007

Dates for 2008 are:

  • February 23, 2008
  • April 19, 2008
  • June 14, 2008
  • August 9, 2008
  • October 4, 2008
  • November 29, 2008

If you are interesting in participating see their FAQ and make sure you are eligible to donate. Feel free to drop by for moral support even if you aren't eligible.

Atheist Community of Austin

The Atheist Community of Austin is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting positive atheism and the separation of church and state. The ACA serves the local Austin community through outreach programs, providing informational resources and various volunteer activities. In addition, the ACA serves the community-at-large through free online portals including informational wikis, regular audio/video podcasts and interactive blogs.

We define atheism as the lack of belief in gods. This definition also encompasses what most people call agnosticism.

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