Contribute to YHC’s Green Light Project

The Yale Humanist Community is one of my favorite groups for various reasons: (1) it is very active in the state that I called home for more than a decade, (2) it is led by the amazing Chris Stedman, and (3) I’m part of their advisory board. They find new ways of promoting humanism and making people skeptical of our philosophy realize you can be good without believing in a god. One of their current projects is the Green Light Project. I’ll let Chris explain it, from his recent piece in TheHumanist.com:

After more than a year of planning and meeting with community partners, YHC has launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund an interactive, nonreligious sculpture that will go up alongside the religious symbols and serve as a reminder that, even during the coldest and darkest months of the year, human beings can come together to create light and warmth.

By doing this, we have a chance to model that nonreligious communities can stand alongside our religious neighbors in peace. But we also have a chance to model humanist values—to exemplify a universal, inclusive humanism that can speak not only to the growing number of nonreligious Americans but also to the shared values of our religious neighbors.

Chris D. Stedman, TheHumanist.com

Go and support this project and if you contribute today you’ll be able to double your donation!

When Religious Privilege Kills

One of the saddest articles I’ve read in a long time is this piece at Reveal News about the regulation exemptions for religious non-profits allowing them to run daycares with little to no supervision. This has led to maany horror stories of accidents and deaths of children that could have been prevented. This part of the article is quite revealing:

Religious advocates suggest parents need not worry about the lack of oversight because day cares are guided by a moral authority that eclipses any regulatory agency.

In other words, because they respond to a “higher authority” these institutions don’t need to be accountable to the state. We seriously need to end religious privilege in this country and treat religious institutions not as special snowflakes but as any other organization that is bounded by the earthly rules of government.

Happy Belated Birthday, Benito Juarez

This post was originally published on March 21, 2011 in the now-defunct Being Latino Online Magazine. Due to my preparations to get back to work I forgot to schedule this post for Monday. Better late than never, Benito.

Juarez, Mexico. Today, the name evokes images of rampant violence, but in the 19th century, it stood for one of the greatest Mexican men in the history of that great country. Benito Juárez rose from humble origins to become one of the great statesmen of all time. Born a full-blooded Indian in Oaxaca (Mexico) on March 21, 1806 and orphaned by the age of 3, he was still illiterate at age 13. But by the time he reached his 30s, he was an accomplished lawyer, jurist, and politician. He was interested in government, law, and especially indigenous rights, and was the architect of the liberal constitution of 1857. A liberal to his core, Juárez led a Mexican government in exile from New Orleans when forced to leave after conservative uprisings. He was a mix of Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison: a strong statesman, with a brilliant legal mind and a secular sensibility.

One of Juarez’s many achievements was the establishment of a constitutional separation of Church and State in Mexico by not naming Catholicism the official state Church. Considering the pull and influence that the Catholic Church had back in the day (and still has today) in Mexican society, this was no small feat. Today, Mexico, along with France, India, Turkey, and the United States, is one of the largest countries in the world with a constitutional separation of Religion and State. Almost 140 years after his death, this idea is as salient as ever as Mexico is becoming a religiously diverse country.

Juarez’s name is celebrated in Mexico and around the world as a beacon of liberalism and one of the great liberal statesmen of the 19th century, a politically contentious era that witnessed liberal revolutions in many parts of the world, especially in Latin America. His legacy is much more than the places named after him. Let’s remember his achievements today and wish a happy 205th birthday to Benito Juarez!

This Year Race Trumps Religion

My good friend and old colleague Dr. Mark Silk calls the end of religious identity politics a couple of weeks after declaring the Religious Right dead. Personally, I think race is trumping (no pun intended) religion this year, but as the natural progression (regression?) of an ideology rooted in white Christian supremacy. He writes:

In a crazy political year, perhaps we have one thing to applaud: the evident end of religious identity politics. Evangelicals have been decidedly lukewarm toward preacher’s kid Ted Cruz and fellow-traveler Rubio, and they showed no interest whatsoever in Mike Huckabee this time around. Jews, so far as we can tell, are not particularly feeling the Bern. And Catholics barely gave Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum the time of day.

I’m not so sure this end is a reason to applaud. The Republican Party is a Christian Party -or a party for certain types of Christians. All the candidates openly praised god, the Christian version of it. While it is true that some candidates were more a part of the Christian/Religious Right than others, at this point in history every potential GOP candidate knows what religious buttons to push.

Since all of them love Jesus, they have to differentiate each other by expressing who they hate the most. The foreign policy proposals of all the GOP candidates are about blowing up anything that is outside of our borders. Only Trump stands out by viciously (and explicitly) attacking and threatening violence against their domestic others: religious minorities, black, brown, red, and yellow, independent women. That’s why Trump is so appealing. And that’s no reason to applaud.

Photo credit: Donald Trump at 2015 CPAC. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Replace Scalia with an Immigrant Child

I sometimes think that in the minds of conservatives, the best constitutional scholars in this country are not in the Supreme Court, in the halls of our top universities, or in the offices of major legal institutions. The rhetoric about people coming to the United States and immediately gaming the system suggests that in the minds of anti-immigrant conservatives (a Venn diagram that becomes smaller each passing day) our most brilliant legal minds are those who risk life and family to come to undocumented into this country.

Now, a judge thinks that the brilliant legal minds coming to the country includes the thousands of children detained trying to cross the border. According to Judge Jack Weil based in Virginia, children as young as age 3 can be explained our immigration laws and can forgo legal representation.

I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience … They get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done.

Judge Jack Weil

I think that his logic opens wide open the pool of candidates to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. But in all seriousness, this is appalling. This is the same logic that condones charging children as adults. Children of color in this country are not allowed to be kids, they are dangerous minds from birth and not worthy of civil or human rights. And yet we ask why Donald Trump is so popular.

3 Reasons a Majority of Latinos Support Reproductive Rights

A new survey finds, once again, that a majority of Latinos favor abortion rights for women. Unfortunately, the images the media have on Latinos mostly fall into two camps. There are those who think we are all Catholic and who pray for the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe in an hourly basis. Or, thinking that the fastest-growing religion among Latinos is Pentecostalism. Most people are wrong on both assumptions and it matters when it comes to understanding Latinos and abortion rights. A majority of Latinos are in favor of legalized abortion, access to healthcare for women, and other reproductive rights for three reasons: partisanship, religious practice, and growing secularism.

Legal access to abortion is a mainstream position in the Democratic Party and a majority of Latinos identity as Democrats. While there may be pockets of socially conservative Latinos who identify as Democrats, most Latinos agree with their co-partisans as I pointed out a few years ago. Thus, it should be not surprising that a group in which a majority identify with a party where most members approve of legal access to abortion are in favor of a woman’s right to choose.

Of course, abortion and contraception are still banned by the Catholic Church. But PRRI’s Hispanic Values Survey found that Latino Catholics are split on the matter of abortion. It is fair to assume that a majority of Latino Catholics who identify as Democrats are in favor of legal abortion. The same survey find that many Catholics disagree with the Church’s teachings on many issues. This makes sense because, as I pointed out in my interview in The Ra-Men Podcast earlier this week, there are variations of belief and practice among Latinos, especially Catholics. Many Latinos are Catholic due to tradition or cultural inertia and do not think much of it. They may celebrate Catholic holidays and practice sacraments once in a while, particularly those that are part of life-cycle events such as baptisms and marriages, but not think about the religion and its rules as a matter of everyday decision making. In other words, many Catholic Latinos live very secular lives.

Although Pentecostalism among Latinos makes headlines, the truth is that the fastest-growing “religious” group among Latinos is the nones. Most of the nones are former Catholics who are admitting what has been obvious for a long time. Many Catholics are so by tradition and now feel free to admit what they have felt for a long time. The Latino nones are more liberal on social issues, as nones in general tend to be in American politics. This is confirmed by many polls, including the PRRI and Pew polls linked here.

We try to rationalize why Latinos’ historically conservative attitudes on social issues keep shifting to the left as if the population is predominantly Christian. It is still is, but not to the extent it was a generation ago. The growth of Latino secularism has implications for American politics as candidates and strategists, and the community’s leaders attempt to understand how to harness the power of Latinos’ numbers. As progressives we need to realize that a secular left is slowly forming, that it has the potential of being a multi-racial and multicultural coalition. Most importantly, progressives need to stop pandering with token religious language to a constituency that with each passing day becomes more secular. It is shortsighted, shows a disregard for facts and trends in favor of stereotypes, and it is insulting to those that are a key player in the future of the movement.

Photo Credit: USC University Church Sign by Jason Eppink (Flickr)