News Archive

The ACA is making ripples! We're having an impact on the world through our various efforts. The Internet is certainly helping to make that possible. Let's take a look at some of the things we've done in recent years:

Looking back to 2004, one of the ACA's more notable accomplishments was our participation in a "friend of the court" brief for the Supreme Court in the Michael Newdow pledge case. While his case was thrown out on a frustrating technicality, he will likely be back before the Supreme Court on the pledge issue in the next few years. Perhaps we can re-file the brief for that case when it happens. ACA member Jeff Dee was a major contributor to the brief on the ACA's behalf.

A number of our members have also testified before the Texas State Board of Education to try to improve the textbooks used in schools throughout Texas. We like to think our testimony in 2003 helped keep Intelligent Design out of the biology textbooks under review that year. Unfortunately, in 2005 the health textbooks were already censored of much of the contraceptive information before the state reviewed them. They've gone to press as "damaged goods", as far as we're concerned.

One of the cool things on the Internet is an audio syndication mechanism called "podcasting". Our Atheist Experience TV show and Non-ProphetsInternet Radio show have been podcast for a number of months now. Both shows are easily found in well-known audio syndication hubs and both now have an international audience. The Atheist Experience has had kudos from as far away as England and Canada. A recent note from American Samoa have us a little taste of atheist life there. Letters to the Non-Prophets have come from Canada, Scotland, and Australia. A universal theme to these letters seems to be a sense of amazement at just how crazy those religious nuts are in the US. We agree with them! And that might be why they like our shows so much. Another common theme is that they love what we're doing and they wish they could join us for dinner! Both of these shows are high caliber efforts that rival much of the other atheist media out there. We're lucky to be host to these excellent programs.

Atheist Eve is a monthly cartoon by ACA member Tracie Harris that is carried on the ACA web site. ACA member Don Baker lends an idea here and there to the strip. Atheist Eve was picked up in November 2005 by the Icelandic site Vantru. Her strip appears here, though you'll have to know some Iclandic to read the page. Vantru, which means disbelief in Icelandic, is an Iceland-based group promoting the separation of church and state in their country. Sadly, in Iceland there is no notion of separation of church and state. And, according to Vantru member Hjalti Runar Omarsson, the Icelandic constitution states that the state must "support and defend" the Evangelical-Lutheran National Church--the state church. This is despite the fact that over a quarter of the population doesn't believe in Gods. We certainly hope that Tracie's humor translates to Icelandic to help bolster the esprit de corps among atheists there. 

More recently, by Freethunk.net, a freethinker humor web site run by Jeff Swenson has picked up Atheist Eve. Jeff is a cartoonist himself who saw the need to bring together other cartoonists under the same umbrella. He came up with the nonsense word Freethunk to refer to all freethinking entertainment that could be considered part of the new, emerging pop culture--from net radio to comics to fiction. There's certainly enough of us freethinkers to warrant a good humor site. Check out Atheist Eve and a host of other cartoonists featured there. Freethunk is gathering momentum and we wish them well.

Other ACA members have had an impact with their writing efforts. Many of our members have web logs, or blogs. Russell Glasser's Kazim's Kornerhas excellent postings concerning atheist issues. Lately, Russell has been busy with his graduate school classes, so he's not writing quite as frequently. Don Baker has his Christianity Meme web site, where he looks at Christianity from the perspective of memetics.

ACA member David Kent had an article published in the November 2005 issue of Freethought Today, the publication of the Freedom From Religion Foundation titled "The Lethal Mix of Religion and Torture" concerning the long association between religion and torture. Don Baker wrote the February 2006 feature article for Internet Infidels, titled "ID, Gaps, and Vats", a tongue-in-cheek look at the intelligent design movement and the logical consequences of intelligent design theory. While these are widely viewed publications, we have a handful of ACA members who have had publications, such as letters to the editor, which are read by hundreds to thousands of people.

If you know of anyone's efforts we've missed, send us an e-mail and we'll give them credit.

We had our yearly ACA Board elections at Brick Oven Pizza on May 7th. This year, we elected offices of President and Vice President, instead of two co-chairs. The offices of Treasurer and Secretary were filled from the at large board seats at the May 14, 2006 board meeting. The electees were:

  • President: Matt Dillahunty
  • Vice President: Don Baker
  • Secretary: Steven Elliott
  • Treasurer: Joe Rhodes
  • At large board seats:
    • Keith Berka
    • Chuck Clark
    • Mark Loewe
    • Don Rhoades
    • Joe Zamecki

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.

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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