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Well the National Day of Prayer picket we just had went very well. We didn't get quite the turnout that we got last year, but those who did show up had a great time.

We had nine people, which is down from last year's roughly 18. Now the up side of that is that, apparently we outnumbered the Christians! A couple of passers by said that there was a small group inside the Capitol building praying and making some music, but when we sent our own Chuck Clark in to recon the situation, he emerged saying that he couldn't find any NDOP anything! He asked around inside, and someone pointed at the third floor, but when Chuck went up there, once again he couldn't find any NDOP event. It seems that they either wrapped up their prayer event early, or had it away from the Capitol. Either way, it actually felt good to picket a non-event, this time.

We passed out all of our fliers, and several pamphlets, and got several thumbs-up and positive honking of horns in support of our cause. One notable passer-by was a jogger who voiced her support loudly. We realized right away that she did the same thing at last year's NDOP picket. Talk about having a good memory, and talk about a popular location for free speech.

We only had a few negative reactions, as is usual. One lady walked by with her family and had several negative things to say to us, but had laryngitis, and couldn't really be heard, even just a few feet away. We just figured that her god was on his lunch break too, otherwise he would've helped her get her message across.

One jogger was quite annoyed with us. He first asked if we were aware that the rest of America was unconcerned about the event, implying that we were stupid to be there. We said the Constitution was on our side, so we weren't concerned about that. The conversation slowly got a little more testy and he ended up giving us some threats of hell and all that. He asked if we had faith. We said "no". Before he ran off, he was trying to make the point that Easter exists, therefore it's important to pray or something like that. (He was trying to make a point about Jesus dying for our sins and all that crap, but he was trying to be subtle about it.)

Later, a woman talked to me as she entered the gate of the Captiol. She said several times "You're wrong". I asked if the Constitution was wrong. She replied that the Constitution doesn't mention any separation between church and state. I replied that the NDP event was an establishment of religion. She repeated "you're wrong" and walked off.

We had a young couple come by who I think were visiting the Capitol for other reasons. They came out asking why nobody was suing the government for such obvious violation of the constituion. Exactly!!! They hung around and chatted for a while and toyed with joining our protest.

Near the end of the hour, Thomas Van Orden wandered by and chatted with Chuck. He thanked us for our help with his 10C case. I didn't realize who it was until he left. I was bummed. I wanted to shake his hand. He's a definite hero to the cause of church state separation.

We got some good video and still photos, see the scrapbook entry for the event and watch for an article in the June 2006 Atheist Community News.

We're debating on how or even whether to do this again next year. It's entirely possible that the NDOP event next year may also be so hard to find, that it won't warrant a picket. We'll have to see.

Many thanks to Joe Zamecki and Chuck Clark for organizing the event.

Press Release
For Immediate Release
May 1, 2006

Atheist Community of Austin
Concerning the National Day of Prayer event at the Texas State Capitol to occur May 4th


The National Day of Prayer is a blatant violation of the establishment clause of the first amendment to the US Constitution. Official promotion and recognition of a religious activity (prayer) is an establishment of religion. This illegal activity is especially odious when it is done so publicly and with apparent endorsement by the state of Texas and its elected leadership, as will be happening on May 4th at the Texas State Capitol building. The National Day of Prayer event is clearly about religious favoritism and political pandering—both are at odds with democracy, diversity, and religious freedom. 

To draw attention to this mockery of our Constitution and American ideals, the Atheist Community of Austin will be protesting the National Day of Prayer event at the Texas State Capitol. The protest will be on the South side of the capitol on May 4, 2006 at noon to 1:00 pm. Our protest will be a peaceful exercise of our first amendment rights without religious favoritism. The media is invited to compare the legal event we are hosting to the illegal one we are protesting. 

We encourage others, who are concerned about their religious freedoms, including freedom from religion, to join us in making people aware of the importance of church-state separation. We especially encourage those of minority religions to join us. 

The Atheist Community of Austin is organized as a nonprofit educational corporation to develop and support the atheist community, to provide opportunities for socializing and friendship, to promote secular viewpoints, to encourage positive atheist culture, to defend the first amendment principle of state-church separation, to oppose discrimination against atheists and to work with other organizations in pursuit of common goals. For more information about the Atheist Community of Austin, or to read our position on the National Day of Prayer, see our web site at http://www.atheist-community.org or call 512-371-2911 (voice mail). 

On September 30, 2005 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran an editorial featuring twelve editorial cartoons, many of which featured the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The editorial ("The face of Muhammad") covered the topics of self-censorship and freedom of speech and the difficulties faced by those who attempt to exercise free speech when commenting on religions, particular Islam.

Reactions from the Muslim community were strong and negative. Despite a decision by the Regional Public Prosecutor that the newspaper had not violated the Danish criminal code and open apologies from the newspaper in Danish, Arabic and English, the protests continued - in part due to the fact that other papers had decided to run the cartoons along with commentary on the reaction.

This created a sort of feed-back loop, encouraging more news coverage and escalating the reaction from the Muslim community. What began as outrage and calls to boycott has turned into death threats and the burning of embassies.

The Atheist Community of Austin strongly supports the concept of free speech. The idea that religious beliefs and the actions taken on behalf of those beliefs are beyond comment, mockery or ridicule is a violation of the principles of free speech.

While many may feel that Muslims were unfairly characterized by these cartoons, the cartoons represent the individual opinions of the artists and the reaction to these cartoons may simply be serving to reinforce such perceptions.

No one enjoys being criticized and criticism rooted in prejudice or misperception definitely deserves a response. This situation was an opportunity for reasonable Muslims, world-wide, to overcome stereotypes and change the public perception of their religious culture. A perception which has been virtually destroyed by extremists.

We can only hope that cooler heads will prevail and, in the end, these cartoons - despite the initial shock - will serve as an impetus for change. Free speech, even in the form of a cartoon some find offensive, can serve as social commentary which is essential to the progress of civilization. Opinions, even when we disagree, should never be stifled by dogmatic decree. This situation, distasteful as it may be, does qualify as News...and deserves public attention.

On December 20, 2005, Judge John E. Jones III issued a 139 page ruling on the case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, stating that a rule requiring teachers to present Intelligent Design (ID) as a scientific alternative to evolution is unconstitutional. In Judge Jones' own words:

After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and (3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.

We in the Atheist Community of Austin applaud this ruling. We have been saying for many years that Intelligent Design is not science, but merely biblical creationism dressed up with the trappings of science.

Since the introduction of the Wedge Strategy in 1990's, it has been embarrassingly clear that Intelligent Design is a front for a group of individuals whose ultimate goal is to undermine scientific knowledge and shoehorn religion into public schools. They have done no original research, produced no scientific results, and accomplished little more than a massive and relentless public relations campaign for their ideas. Their strategy has been to repeatedly infiltrate school districts in individual towns across the country, instituting changes in local education standards, in the hopes that ID might eventually receive a facade of credibility if they win enough political battles. 

Our home city of Austin received a taste of this campaign in 2003, when the neo-creationist road show came to Texas to demand that misleading statements about evolution be added to the state's textbooks. In that instance, as in this one, they were resoundingly defeated. 

Unless Judge Jones' ruling is appealed, it will only directly affect Pennsylvania school districts. However, because the ruling is so thorough, it will likely serve as a legal template for any future decisions on the topic of ID in schools. Judge Jones minced no words regarding the scientific uselessness of Intelligent Design, also stating: 

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

The issue of creationism affects education throughout the country. It is not a matter of atheists against Christians. It is a matter of good science, backed by decades of evidence, against a nonscientific political crusade. It is about religion masquerading as science, trying to sidestep the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state that exists in this country. This week, a major blow was struck against this agenda.

Press Release
Concerning the Harris County Appeal over its Courthouse Bible Display
For Immediate Release
December 5, 2005

In 1956 the Star Hope Mission erected a stone monument near the main entrance to the Harris County Courthouse. The prominent feature of this monument was a King James Bible in a glass display case. Attorney and Harris County resident Kay Staley brought action against the county, seeking the permanent removal of the Bible display on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment. On August 10, 2004, District Court Judge Sim Lake delivered his final judgment on the matter, agreeing that this display was a violation of the First Amendment and ordering its removal.

The Atheist Community of Austin adds its voice to the many reasonable voices speaking out in favor of the original verdict and against its appeal. Harris County officials are wielding their power and squandering public funds in an ugly and foolish attempt to garner political support and overturn a just verdict. The “Bible monument” was erected, in part, to convey the erroneous message that ours is a Christian government. After lying empty for 7 years, the Bible was restored to the display on behalf of a political campaign to “bring Christianity back to the law.” Even without such obvious motives, this display was a clear violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The Atheist Community of Austin applauds the courage of Kay Staley who, despite hate mail and death threats, stood up for the rights of all Americans. We are encouraged by Judge Lake's integrity in upholding the Constitution and we remain optimistic that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will continue to uphold the Constitution and deny this appeal. Government neutrality toward religion is essential to ensure religious freedom in our diverse culture. The First Amendment protects the rights of people of all faiths and no faith by ensuring that favoritism toward a particular religion or type of religion is prohibited. The removal of this display doesn’t prevent anyone from holding or practicing religious beliefs – it simply prevents divisiveness and favoritism. The removal of this display reaffirms the very foundations of American culture:

  • That justice is blind to prejudice.
  • That freedom is available to all.
  • And that equality is truly universal.

The Atheist Community of Austin is organized as a nonprofit educational corporation to develop and support the atheist community, to provide opportunities for socializing and friendship, to promote secular viewpoints, to encourage positive atheist culture, to defend the first amendment principle of state-church separation, to oppose discrimination against atheists and to work with other organizations in pursuit of common goals.

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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