April 29, 2016 - 4:05 pm

Presented this month by the American Humanist Association.

Supplemental Reply Briefs filed with Supreme Court in religious employers’ challenge to the ACA contractive coverage mandate

On April 20, 2016, petitioners and respondents each filed Supplemental Reply Briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell, the case challenging the government's accommodation for religious non-profits that object to providing contraceptive coverage in their employee health insurance plans. There is no agreement between the parties regarding the alternative compromise proposed by the Court

The petitioner's brief says in part:

If petitioners were truly exempt from the mandate, and those companies were to offer their employees the kind of truly separate coverage that petitioners have described—i.e., “a separate policy, with a separate enrollment process, a separate insurance card, and a separate payment source, and offered to individuals through a separate communication”—then petitioners would no longer have a RFRA objection.

The government's brief counters:

[P]etitioners assert that it is not enough that insurers provide that coverage entirely outside petitioners’ health plans and without their involvement, as the accommodation already requires. Petitioners also insist that the coverage must consist of contraceptive-only insurance policies, not direct payments for contraceptives. And they add that women must take affirmative steps to enroll, and cannot be covered automatically. RFRA does not give petitioners the right to insist upon those new conditions. The statute simply does not entitle them to dictate the terms of insurers’ separate dealings with women.

SCA has previously reported on the case and similar challenges to the mandate, which you can find:

Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) renews IRS challenge of clergy housing allowances

On April 6, 2016, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) renewed its challenge against a housing allowance in the tax code that uniquely privileges clergy.

Gaylor et al v. U.S. Treasury (3:16-cv-00215) was filed in the Western District of Wisconsin, and names Jacob Lew, U.S. secretary of the treasury, and John Koskinen, IRS commissioner, as defendants. 

The clergy allowance is an exemption that allows housing allowances paid as part of clergy salary to be subtracted from taxable income. The plaintiffs are FFRF itself, as well as FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, who've been allocated a housing allowance by FFRF as part of their salary. In 2013, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled in FFRF's favor.

In November 2014, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that victory—not on the merits but on the question of standing—arguing that Barker and Gaylor hadn't yet sought a refund of their housing allowance from the IRS.

Accordingly, Barker and Gaylor sought refunds last year, as did FFRF's president emerita, Anne Gaylor, whose retirement payout included a housing allowance. The IRS refunded the housing allowance to the married couple for the year 2013, but denied the refund request for 2012. Similarly, the IRS held up the refund request for the senior Gaylor, who subsequently died in June. Ian Gaylor, her son, is additionally named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit on behalf of the Anne Nicol Gaylor estate.

The benefit of the tax exemption to the clergy is huge. The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has reported that the exemption amounts to $700 million a year in lost revenue. Religious News Service calculated the allowance reduces the take-home pay of some pastors by up to 10 percent. This is because churches benefit, since tax-free salaries lower their overhead. Christianity Today found that 84 percent of senior pastors receive a housing allowance of $20,000 to $38,000 in added (but not reported) compensation to their base salary.

"The manner in which our housing allowance has been used borders on clergy malpractice," William Thornton, a Georgia pastor and blogger, told Forbes magazine in 2013. "A growing subset of ministers who are very highly paid and who live in multimillion dollar mansions are able to exclude hundreds of thousands of dollars from income taxation."

Clergy are permitted to use the housing allowance not just for rent or mortgage, but for home improvements, including maintenance, home improvements and repairs, dishwashers, cable TV and phone fees, paint, towels, bedding, home décor, even personal computers and bank fees. They may be exempt from taxable income up to the fair market rental value of their home, particularly helping well-heeled pastors. The subsidy extends to churches, which can pay clergy less, as tax-free salaries go further.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to rule IRS 26 U.S.C. §107 unconstitutional as administered by the IRS and the Treasury Department because it provides preferential and discriminatory tax benefits to ministers of the gospel. The complaint alleges that the section "directly benefits ministers and churches, most significantly by lowering a minister's tax burden, while discriminating against the individual plaintiffs, who as the leaders of a nonreligious organization opposed to governmental endorsements of religion are denied the same benefit."

FFRF sues California school district over censorship

On April 12, 2016, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), with the Antelope Valley Freethinkers, sued a California school district for censoring information about the groups' scholarship opportunities.

Antelope Valley Union High School District distributes lists of scholarship opportunities to district students, but for the past two years the district has refused to publish scholarship opportunities offered by FFRF and the Antelope Valley Freethinkers. The groups’ scholarships asked college-bound seniors to write essays on secular topics, such as "Being a young freethinker in Antelope Valley.”

The District said it was rejecting the scholarships because the essay announcements would upset parents, claiming that they appeared to "promote anti-religious expression" and had "aggressive" and "argumentative undertones towards religion." 

Plaintiffs note, however, that the School District’s policy is inconsistent because its scholarship lists include scholarships that solicit religious expression or contain religious elements, including one scholarship offer that requires the applicant to write "at least one paragraph . . . describing how and when you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and what your present relationship with Him means to you."

The plaintiffs allege that the District’s censorship of the groups is government suppression of free speech in violation of the First Amendment. The district censored the secular groups’ speech because their message is nonreligious, critical of religion and controversial. Furthermore, this unequal treatment amounts to viewpoint discrimination because a public school that publishes scholarship opportunities for students offered by religious groups many not refuse to publish scholarships offered by two atheist organizations.

The plaintiffs seek a permanent injunction enjoining the School District from engaging in continued viewpoint discrimination in publishing scholarship opportunities.

American Humanist Association’s (AHA) Appignani Humanist Legal Center (AHLC) files reply in Bladensburg Cross challenge

The American Humanist Association’s (AHA) Appignani Humanist Legal Center (AHLC) continued its appeal to defend the rights of non-Christians by asserting that the Bladensburg cross monument favors Christianity.

In a reply brief filed April 18, 2016 with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in response to the American Legion and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the AHLC stated that the Bladensburg Cross unconstitutionally promotes Christianity to the exclusion of Humanists and other non-Christian veterans and citizens. Contrary to the government’s claims, the AHLC argued that the government’s display and maintenance of an enormous Christian symbol on public property has the effect of endorsing religion and violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

AHLC requests that the Fourth Circuit reverse the lower court’s decision concerning the Bladensburg Cross and to enter a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, AHA and three local residents.

FFRF sues to remove Latin cross in California public park

On April 20, 2016, Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), along with local member Andrew DeFaria, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, against the city of Santa Clara, Calif., to remove a gigantic cross from a local public park.

The 14-foot granite Latin cross at Memorial Cross Park officially commemorates a 1777 Spanish Catholic mission and was donated by the Santa Clara Lions Club in 1953, with the city maintaining the cross and the park ever since. FFRF contends that the city's decision to accept the cross and its subsequent display and maintenance "amounts to the advancement of religion," specifically Christianity.

FFRF first complained about the cross in April 2012. The city initially indicated that it looked forward "to resolving this matter in an expeditious and responsible manner." Though FFRF has followed up on the status of the cross’s removal for the past three years (on at least 12 occasions), the cross has never been removed.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the city cross in violation of Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the No Preference Clause of Article I, § 4 of the California Constitution.

 

February 8, 2016 - 7:13 pm

A look at the week ahead:

This week in the House, they look to work on a series of bills on the floor before breaking for recess. Last week, the House voted to override a presidential veto on the budget reconciliation bill that would have repealed key components of the Affordable Care Act, as well as defunded Planned Parenthood. Bills being discussed and voted on this week include cost of living adjustments for veterans with service related disabilities and a bill related to procedures when the government debt starts to near the debt ceiling.

Over on the Senate side, they’ll start the week by voting on whether or not to confirm a district judge. Last week, the Senate failed to pass a bipartisan energy bill after an amendment relating to the Flint water crisis proved to be a major stumbling block. There is a possibility, if the bill’s lead sponsors can work out an agreement, it could return to the floor at a future date.

On Tuesday, President Obama will unveil the final budget of his presidency. In addition to that, he will travel to Illinois to address its General Assembly on Wednesday before traveling to California. There, he will attend several fundraising events.

On our radar:

Darwin Day Resolution: There’s less than a week until Darwin Day! The Secular Coalition and the American Humanist Association have been working to get co-sponsors on our Darwin Day Resolutions, and we need your help to get a record number before Friday. These resolutions stress the importance of science education, something increasingly coming under attack. With less than two weeks until Darwin Day, there is still time to ask both your Representative and your Senators to sign-on to their respective resolutions and state their support for science.

Education Freedom Accounts Act: Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) have introduced the Education Freedom Accounts Act into their respective chambers (S 2455 and  HR 4426). These bills would drastically expand the DC Voucher Program by forcing the District to use their own funds to subsidize students at private schools, instead of using the pot of money the federal government sets aside. This bill also has provisions to prevent private religious schools from being held to the same curriculum and accountability standards that public schools are. We and our allies will monitor these bills and keep you updated on what happens next.

Scientific Research in the National Interest Act: This week, the House will begin debate on the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (HR 3293). This bill would change the way the National Science Foundation (NSF) would award grants, politicizing a process that should be based on scientific merits.

 

February 1, 2016 - 6:20 pm

A look at the week ahead:

After postponing business last week due to the snowstorm that slammed D.C., the House is back in session this week. Tomorrow evening, they are expected to vote on overturning President Obama’s veto on last year’s budget reconciliation bill. This bill would have eliminated portions of the Affordable Care Act, as well as defunding Planned Parenthood. This vote will mark the 8th attempt to defund the organization this Congressional session.

Over in the Senate, debate continues on an energy bill. Budget talks have already begun, and the Senate majority will most likely attempt to use an expedited budget reconciliation process. Unlike other votes in the Senate, a budget reconciliation only requires a simple majority to pass.

At the White House, President Obama will be meeting with Republican leadership this week to discuss the upcoming legislative year, as well as work to find areas of common ground.

On our radar:

Darwin Day Resolution: Not only did we get Darwin Day (S. Res. 337) reintroduced for 2016, but we also secured our first co-sponsor! Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) joined his colleagues from Connecticut in commemorating the birthday of Charles Darwin and celebrating his contributions to science. This resolution also stresses the importance of science education, something increasingly coming under attack. With less than two weeks until Darwin Day, there is still time to ask both your Representative and your Senators to sign-on to their respective resolutions and state their support for science.

School Choice Week: Thank you to our advocates who sent emails to their legislators urging them to take a stand against private school vouchers that funnel public money to religious schools. Over 3000 emails were sent to the Hill last week, making your voices heard to your elected officials. Religious schools aren’t held to the same civil rights standards as public schools, denying children access to equal educational opportunities. We will remain vigilant for any federal efforts to extend or implement voucher programs that subsidize these schools.

2016 Elections

With the campaign season in full swing, the Secular Coalition is staying on top of what the candidates are saying about our issues. Keep your eyes peeled on our website and social media for a special announcement regarding our 2016 plans coming soon!

 

January 4, 2016 - 9:00 pm

A look at the week ahead:

The House will resume on Tuesday, kicking off the second session of the 114th Congress by taking on the Senate budget reconciliation bill. This bill, passed with a narrow majority before the break, would defund Planned Parenthood, as well as dismantle large portions of the Affordable Care Act. Also on the agenda for the House this week are bills regarding class action lawsuits and regulartions.

In the Senate will reconvene next Monday, January 11. Before the recess, both chambers passed an omnibus spending bill. This bill contained funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, which had been threatened with drastic cuts in both House and Senate appropriations bill. The bill also didn’t include anti-abortion measures that some conservatives were agitating for. Despite an increase in abstinence-only funding, the omnibus spending bill was better on our issues than we were expecting.

Gun control is on the top of President Obama’s agenda this week. Today, he met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch to discuss what strategies he can take. Then, on Thursday, he will host a town hall on the subject hosted by Anderson Cooper.

On our radar:

Darwin Day Resolution: Before the Senate broke for its winter recess, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) reintroduced the Darwin Day Resolution in the Senate (S. Res. 337). This resolution would commemorate the birthday of Charles Darwin and celebrate his contributions to science. This resolution also stresses the importance of science education, something increasingly coming under attack. Please take a moment to send a letter to your Senators urging them to sign-on as co-sponsors.

State of the Union Address: Next week, President Obama will give his last State of the Union address. The Secular Coalition, along with other organizations, gave input to the White House on what we would like to see included in the speech. We’ll be live-tweeting the speech, so keep an eye on our Twitter account for more information.

 

December 7, 2015 - 7:08 pm

A look at the week ahead:

The continuing resolution passed earlier this year ends on December 11, and Congress has until Friday to put forth a plan to continue funding the government. The House may vote on the Senate version of the budget reconciliation bill passed week, which defunds Planned Parenthood and strips core components out of the Affordable Care Act. Even if this bill passes the House, President Obama has promised to veto it. Other possibilities, including an omnibus budget bill, are currently being discussed. Also on the House’s plate this week is a bill regarding visa waivers and a bill that would extend expiring tax credits.

Over on the Senate side, they are planning on voting on the conferenced version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The House overwhelmly passed the bill last week, and if it passes the Senate it would mean the first major overhaul to No Child Left Behind.

President Obama delivered an address to the country from the Oval Office on Sunday night regarding the recent shooting in San Bernardino. On Wednesday, the President will hold an event with members of the Congressional Black Caucus celebrating the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment. Later this week, President Obama will meet with Isreali President Reuven Rivlin and host him at the annual Hanukkah reception.

On our radar:

Darwin Day Resolution: On Wednesday, Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), along with 11 co-sponsors, introduced the 2016 Darwin Resolution (H.Res. 548). Rep. Himes, the recipient of the Secular Coalition’s 2015 Respect Award, worked with the American Humanist Association to continue the legacy Charles Darwin by marking his birthday through celebrating science and its impact on America. If you haven’t done so yet, please take a moment to sign our action alert urging your Representative to co-sponsor this important resolution.

DC Vouchers: On Wednesday, December 9, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a markup on the Scholarships for Opportunities and Results (SOAR) Reauthorization Act (S. 2171). This bill would extend the DC voucher program and prevent the DC government from implementing restrictions on the number of scholarships offered. The DC voucher program is the only federally funded voucher program, with a vast majority of its participants attending private religious schools. The Secular Coalition will be re-sending our letter signed by member organizations voicing our opposition to this bill and will be attending the markup.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP): The TPPP Week of Action may be over, but the program remains under threat. With Congress currently debating various spending measures, making yourself heard is more important than ever. Please let them know now how important this evidence-based program is and that they should continue funding it in 2016.


December 4, 2015 - 12:41 pm

Presented this week by the American Humanist Association.

Harris County, Georgia Sheriff erects discriminatory sign under the guise of “political incorrectness”

Last week Harris County, Georgia Sheriff Mike Jolley erected a sign outside his department building, under the county’s official welcome sign, which reads: "Warning: Harris County is politically incorrect. We say: Merry Christmas, God Bless America and In God We Trust. We salute our troops and our flag. If this offends you . . . LEAVE!"

On Wednesday, November 25 the American Humanist Association sent a letter to the Sheriff and county officials condemning the Sheriff’s actions. This week T-shirts with the sign’s language appeared for sale on the Harris County Sheriff’s official website. AHA asked Harris County to stop selling the T-shirts on a government website and move the sign to private property.

“Far from being a politically incorrect joke, the Harris County sheriff's sign and t-shirts are an egregious violation of the Establishment Clause [of the Constitution],” said Monica Miller, senior counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Many local citizens object to the divisive message of the sign and t-shirts, which send a disturbing message of intolerance.”

Sheriff Jolley appears unmoved by the reaction to his divisive rhetoric: “If it truly offends someone, they're more than welcome to leave,” Jolley told Fox & Friends. “I spent 20 years in the Army to give everyone the right to disagree with me or anyone else. If they disagree, they can voice that opinion. But if it offends them, truly offends them, then maybe they're in the wrong country.”

U.S. District Court finds the World War I Veterans Memorial Cross in Bladensburg, Maryland constitutional

On Monday, November 30 the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland upheld the constitutionality of a 40-foot cross on public land at the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial. The judge held that the cross’s primary purpose is not religious, but rather for secular commemorations, and therefore not a violation of the First Amendment. The lead plaintiff American Humanist Association is currently reviewing the decision and considering options for appeal.

Morris County, New Jersey sued to end state-funded church construction

On Tuesday, December 1 the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit in New Jersey state court challenging public grants of tax dollars to churches to repair and maintain places of worship. Since 2012 it is estimated that more than $5.5 million of the County’s Historic Preservation Trust Fund has been awarded to churches – more than 55% of the Fund’s total assets. The suit comes after FFRF sent multiple letters of complaint to the Morris County Board of Freeholders, none of which received a response. The plaintiffs allege that the grants violate Article I, Paragraph 3 of the New Jersey Constitution guaranteeing that no person “be obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry[.]”

Court issues preliminary injunction to prohibit Indiana public school’s live nativity performance

On Wednesday, December 2 a U.S. District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting Concord Community Schools from performing a live nativity scene in its 2015 Christmas Spectacular holiday concert. The order comes from a lawsuit filed by Freedom From Religion Foundation and the ACLU of Indiana challenging the school’s annual live nativity enactment. Because the nativity scene represents an explicit religious message, as District Court Judge Jon Deguilio noted, “the Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits on their claim that the inclusion of the living nativity scene in the show, as currently proposed, violates the Establishment Clause.”

December 1, 2015 - 2:27 pm

A look at the week ahead:

Congress is back in session this week after taking last week off for the Thanksgiving holiday. The House is expected to vote on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization that emerged from the conference committee before the recess. The House will also hold votes on two bills that came out of the Senate that would repeal EPA regulations on carbon emissions, as well as working on a new energy bill and finalize the bill securing long-term authorization for higway and transit funding.

Over on the Senate side, the Republican majority will be meeting to discuss strategies for a budget reconciliation package. Unlike most bills, a budget reconciliation only requires 51 votes to pass. Although the current budget reconciliation bill passed by the House would repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act and deny funding to Planned Parenthood, it’s possible some Republicans won’t vote for it because it doesn’t go far enough to repeal the ACA. If the reconciliation does pass the Senate, President Obama is expected to veto the bill.

President Obama is in Paris this week for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. This conference runs until December 11, and will address various issues surrounding climate change and how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the world.

On our radar:

Budget reconciliation: As stated earlier, the budget reconciliation bill is going to be the main focus of the Senate this week. The portions of the Affordable Care Act being targeted include funding for public health, as well as working on a repeal of federal funding for Planned Parenthood. While there is no word about whether or not the birth control mandate will be targeted, the Secular Coalition stands for the continued funding of comprehensive and vital reproductive health care services provided by Planned Parenthood for all Americans.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act/Every Child Succeeds Act: The final version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been released, with a vote expected before the holiday break. The Secular Coalition is pleased that there are no provisions that would allow federal funding to go to private religious schools, and we want to thank all those who wrote to their legislators urging them to vote against those provisions.

During the initial floor vote for the ESEA, SCA successfully lobbied against amendments that would have funneled taxpayer money to religious schools. Thanks to your advocacy efforts and support, the final bill includes for the first time language defining “evidence-based” regarding to programs or activities covered by the ESEA. While the definition is broader than the Secular Coalition would like, we view it as a first step toward ensuring that programs receiving funding from the federal government adhere to evidence-based standards.

November 25, 2015 - 7:38 pm

Presented this week by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Seventh Circuit Strikes Down Anti-Abortion Law

7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner wrote a scathing opinion declaring a Wisconsin anti-abortion law unconstitutional. The 2013 Republican-backed law required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, drastically restricting women’s access to reproductive care. U.S. District Judge William Conley opposed the law, stating that it served no legitimate health interest.

“What makes no sense is to abridge the constitutional right to abortion on the basis of spurious contentions regarding women’s health—and the abridgement challenged in this case would actually endanger women’s health,” wrote Judge Posner. Judge David Manion disagreed and was the sole dissenter.

Last week the Supreme Court granted cert to a challenge to Texas’ law, and their decision could have national ramifications.

Kim Davis Controversy Continues

Since serving time in jail for contempt, Rowan County, Kentucky, Clerk Kim Davis has allowed others in her office to issue altered marriage licenses. There has been uncertainty as to whether the altered marriage licenses would be effective if challenged.

Kentucky governor Steven Beshear stated that although the licenses are “not fully consistent with Kentucky statute . . . such deviations do not render the marriages ineffective.” The ACLU responded by filing a motion on November 20, asking the court to require Davis’s office to issue marriage licenses in their original form.

November 23, 2015 - 6:57 pm

Recap from Last Week:

Both the House and the Senate have returned home for the Thanksgiving break. Before leaving DC, the conference committee for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act came to an agreement on a revised bill to send to both chambers. The Title I portability section, which would have allowed for money to follow the child and whose advocates use similar language to vouchers, was not included.

Also last week, the House voted to implement further layers to screening Syrian refugees, essentially barring them from being approved. With 47 Democrats joining the Republican members, the bill passed with a veto-proof majority. It now moves on to the Senate, where it is uncertain if the bill can pass with the 60 votes needed to override a veto.

Awaiting the legislators when they return next week are looming financial deadlines. The current continuing resolution runs out on December 11, which means Congress needs to pass a spending agreement by then. Also on the clock is a deal for continued highway funding.

This week, President Obama welcomes French President Hollande to the White House. Afterwards, he will participate in the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey pardoning.

On our radar:

Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act: The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (HR 1299 and S 667) have been gaining more co-sponsors in recent weeks. These bills would prohibit the federal government from blocking funds to adoption or foster care agencies that participate in discriminatory placement practices if they cite religion as an excuse. No child should ever be denied a loving family because of the agency handling their adoption or foster care.

Every Child Deserves a Family Act: To counter the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, the Secular Coalition has been working with our LGBT allies to promote the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (HR 2449 and S 1382), which prohibits agencies or entities they subcontract with from discriminating against potential families if they receive federal funds. These bills would hold all adoption and foster care agencies to the same standards and ensure that no child should be denied a family because of discrimination against potential parents. Please take a moment to sign our action alert if you haven’t done so already.

 

November 16, 2015 - 6:44 pm

A look at the week ahead:

After taking last week off, the House is back in session before they break for Thanksgiving. This week, the House is expected to debate a short-term extension to the Highway Trust Fund, as well as a bill that would undo segments of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations. Also this week, the House could vote on the bill coming out of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act conference committee, designed to reconcile the two different House and Senate ESEA bills.

The Senate returned to DC as well after their Veteran’s Day break. After passing the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations bill last week, the Senate is expected to take up the Transportation-HUD appropriations bill. The Senate will also be holding various hearings and voting on judicial nominations this week.

President Barack Obama will be attending the G20 conference in Turkey at the beginning of this week. Among the topics of discussion will be the ongoing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq in the wake of the Paris attacks. Afterwards, he’ll travel to the Philippines and Malaysia for trade conferences with Asian partners.

On our radar:

Every Child Deserves a Family Act: November is National Adoption Month. Unfortunately, in many states, adoption and foster care agencies are allowed to discriminate against potential families by citing religious beliefs. The Secular Coalition, along with our LGBT allies, support the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (HR 2449 and S 1382), which prohibits agencies or entities they subcontract with from discriminating against potential families if they receive federal funds. These bills would hold all adoption and foster care agencies to the same standards and ensure that no child should be denied a family because of discrimination against potential parents. Please take a moment to sign our action alert if you haven’t done so already.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Week of Action: This week the Secular Coalition, along with our allies in the sex-ed community, will be promoting a week of action around the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP). The TPPP, which requires that programs receiving funding use evidence-based and medically-accurate materials, is facing severe cuts in the current appropriations cycle. We’ll be using #NoTPPPcuts on Twitter and Facebook to highlight the valuable work this program plays and to urge members of Congress to keep funding it. You can also sign our action alert and let your legislators know that secular Americans support continued funding for sex-ed programs.

Pregnancy Center Week: Before leaving to return to their home states, 25 Republican Senators joined Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) in backing a resolution designating last week as “National Pregnancy Center Week” (SRes 312). These pregnancy centers, however, are often religiously affiliated and do not provide necessary medical services to pregnant women. Instead, they spread misinformation and are designed to prevent women from seeking abortion. Opponents to Planned Parenthood claim these clinics would serve as viable alternatives if federal funding to Planned Parenthood is removed despite not providing the needed range of family planning services.

In Case You Missed It

The Secular Coalition live-tweeted the Democratic Debate on Saturday evening. You can check our Twitter feed to see what the candidates said relating to issues important to our community.