Get Out and Vote – 2014 Edition

November’s coming up fast upon us, and there are a number of ballot measures to be passed or rejected and offices to be filled with elected officials. We all want to be good and informed voters, so, if you’re looking for information on officials and ballot measures available in your state of Kansas or Missouri, read below!

Missouri

Kansas

 

Make sure you remember to carve off time on November 4, 2014 to make your voice heard and participate in the voting process!

Helen Stringer Interviewed as Officiant of Same-Sex Wedding

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Our director of community, Helen Stringer, exercised her position as a humanist celebrant to officiate the wedding of two friends in front of the Johnson County Courthouse last evening. The event attracted the attention of local news media, such as KSHB 41 Kansas City:

The state Supreme Court put a hold on giving out marriage licenses after a Johnson County judge essentially made same-sex marriage legal in Kansas. But for these two, it’s not about the state laws. It’s about their love.

Video Available: Debate: Which View Better Fits Reality?

Kansas City Atheist Coalition was invited to a panel debate on the topic of which worldview fits reality with Abundant Life Church members in Lee’s Summit. The evening included 6 panelists presenting for 5 mins each, 30 mins of Q&A among the panelists, and 60 mins of Q&A from the audience.

You can see the entire debate here:

Nate Phelps to Speak in KC: “God and Gays”

Nate Phelps and the director of his upcoming documentary, Terrie Johnson, are going to appear in Kansas City as keynote speakers for a free workshop/speaking combination event:

Where can we go to hear Nate and executive producer Terrie speak at a live event? Funny you should ask because Nate and Terrie are the keynote speakers at an upcoming conference in Kansas City on October 11th. Admission is free … we hope to see you there!

Nate and Terrie will be speaking from 1 to 3 pm on Saturday, October 11, 2014 at this address:

Center for Spiritual Living
1014 West 39th Street, Kansas City, MO 64111

You can find out more about this event and Nate’s new documentary on their Facebook page here.

‘Special Rights’ Are Critical to Equality

Last evening, I had the experience of sitting in on the Roeland Park city council meeting as it heard from multiple members of the public speaking in favor of a non-discrimination policy that would protect employees in and citizens of Roeland Park against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

In addition to the overwhelming majority of supporters, a minority of dissenters came up to speak. One, in particular, stuck in my mind: a man came up and spoke of a hypothetical situation wherein his three sons (none of whom, he noted, were gay) were with a friend who was gay and all four were attacked. He then asked: why does their gay friend need “special rights”? Aren’t we equally protected under the law?

Let’s put aside, for the moment, the increased risk a gay man faces of violence merely for his sexual orientation and focus on the more fundamental thought here: the idea that everyone, enjoying equal protection (or vulnerability) according to the letter of the law, enjoys “equal rights”.

Yes, according to the letter of the law, I am vulnerable to being fired for using the restroom that aligns with my gender (male, men’s room). Yes, according to the letter of the law, I am vulnerable to being denied service at a restaurant for being attracted to the people I am (women, in this case). However, trans people and people who are attracted to members of the same sex, although they have the same rights as written in our laws, do not have the same protections that are afforded me by the happenstance of gender identity and sexual orientation – in this, although the letter of the law superficially protects us equally, we are, in actuality, unequally protected when accounting for the circumstances of our society.

We cannot let ourselves be trapped by the idea that the law is a perfect reflection of social conditions; when we codify special protections into law for individuals, it is not to elevate them above others who do not fall under these special protections, but, instead, it is a reflection of the inherent disadvantages interwoven into the system from which we would seek to explicitly protect someone – whether that system is our government, their place of employment, their housing, or any other component of our society.

As such, when we work to write into law to protect individuals from discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability, sex, and so many other factors, it isn’t to imply that the individuals who would be protected are incapable of achieving greatness on their own, but is instead to reflect that there are factors beyond their control that set the odds against them for reasons that are neither their fault nor cause for them to receive anything but a fair chance to flourish. To not do this is to let the false narrative brought by privilege blind us into the false belief that, simply because we, personally, may not suffer discrimination, no one else must face difficulties in their daily lives.

The Importance of Being an Atheist LGBT Activist

Back in the days leading up to the Supreme Court hearing about a pivotal case regarding the federal government’s mistreatment of same-sex couples – during which your Facebook friends became indistinguishable behind an array of similar pink-and-red equality sign profile pictures – some friends chose to represent themselves as atheist LGBT activists. They did this by, for example, adding the signature “red atheist A” on top of the equality symbol. This raised the question: why did some atheists feel the need to add “atheism” to the message of equality?

This question came to mind again as we stood at the Million “Fag” March cheering for equality, carrying, among other things, a banner for KCAC. There’s always at least one or two people who ask the question, “Why are the atheists here?”

The answer to that question, of course, will vary from person to person; some will say it’s to add balanced representation amidst the mix of messages about a love-affirming God or Jesus; some will say it’s because the path that took them to atheism was a direct result of their support for LGBT equality; some will say it’s to show that atheists support issues and people that span the theological divide between religious and non-religious; some will say it’s to represent their whole identity – a person who belongs to both the LGBT and atheist community. Whatever the personal reasons are, I want to make the reason KCAC makes a noticeable presence at events like these clear:

We do it because we want to make sure everyone knows we’re building an LGBT-inclusive community.

Now, for many, this seems unnecessary; most, if not all, of you reading this are very, very pro-LGBT (if not a member of the LGBT community yourself). The fact of the matter is, though, that anti-LGBT sentiments, while commonly held by religious people, are not the sole domain of religion. In many ways, it’s a cultural phenomena. I’ve seen and argued with atheists who believe that homosexuality is “contrary to the natural intent of sex”, that trans people are “living unnatural lifestyles”; I’ve heard from friends who have been the direct targets of these kinds of experiences.

As sad as it is, it’s necessary (and important) to stand up at these events, as atheists, and say, “The Kansas City atheist community is a community for you. You are welcome, you are loved, and you are wanted.”

KCAC Makes Media Apperance at MFM

The Kansas City Atheist Coalition was able to bring a few members to participate in the 2014 “Million ‘Fag’ March” and show our support for equality. A local journal, The Topeka Capital-Journal, briefly interviewed us and posted a quotation:

Joshua Hyde, president of the Kansas City Atheist Coalition, said he wanted all at the event to know the atheist community in Kansas City supports them.

“We feel that equality of LGBT people is a very necessary prerogative of any advancing progressive society,” Hyde said. “And we very much want to root out any anti-LGBT bigotry within our society.”

You can read more about the journal’s coverage of the event here:

http://cjonline.com/news/2014-05-04/groups-rally-million-fag-march-equal-rights#1

International House of Prayer

The International House of Prayer, or IHOP, says on its website that it is

“Committed to praying for the release of the fullness of God’s power and purpose, as we actively win the lost, heal the sick, feed the poor, make disciples, and impact every sphere of society — family, education, government, economy, arts, media, religion, etc.”1

But what does that mean? Judging by the church’s actions and affiliations, it means an astonishing amount of bigotry toward anyone not following a fundamentalist Christian lifestyle — especially those who are gay or who support women’s reproductive rights.

Take a look at some of the statements attributed to IHOP’s leaders, as well as the agendas of the organizations and individuals that IHOP is affiliated with:

  • The International House of Prayer’s founder, Mike Bickle, claims that Christians who are gay are opening themselves up to attacks from Satan. Bickle, who is best known for saying  Oprah Winfrey is the harbinger of the Antichrist2 and arguing that the “gay marriage agenda” is “rooted in the depths of Hell,”3 said in an interview about homosexuality that gays and lesbians must “declare war” against their sexual orientation or will face “flaming missiles of the Evil One.”4 (RightWingWatch.org)
  • IHOP is affiliated with the Desert Stream and Living Waters “ex-gay” ministries5 which promote “therapy” that purports to turn gays into heterosexuals. These therapies have been condemned by all leading medical and mental health organizations in the United States, including the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association6. Consider the words of one man who was active in the ex-gay ministry movement and has since left:

“There’s psychological damage … when sexual orientation remains homosexual. I certainly heard stories and knew people who committed suicide. I’ve seen what I believe is a higher incidence of risky behavior and alcohol and drug use among a lot of people who go through an ex-gay ministry.”7 (Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, Winter 2007)

  • Lou Engle, an evangelical who has spoken at IHOP conferences and whose books and sermons are for sale on the IHOP website, has openly affiliated with and supported individuals who work to push through of legislation aimed at gay people — including a bill in Uganda that would have made homosexuality punishable by death. Engle praised the country’s “courage” and “righteousness” in promoting the bill.8 (The New York Times)
  • In associating closely with Engle, IHOP is associating with a man who believes that the tornado that killed more than 150 people in Joplin, Mo., in 2011 was sent by God. At IHOP’s 2011 Onething conference, Engle reiterated his claim that the Joplin tornado was a sign of “the beginning of God’s redemptive judgments” for abortion.9
  • Alarming reports from former IHOP interns have surfaced about the treatment they received while in the organization. One former IHOP staff member and Christian blogger recounts the use of sleep deprivation, mandatory fasts and other cult-like isolationist practices, such as not being allowed to have an outside job. IHOP tightly monitors and controls information and freedom to leave IHOP premises. Protesting or failing to comply results in strict disciplinary actions, such as manual labor or the loss of free time.10
  • Other former interns complain

“that the sensory overload and isolation had left them unable to think for themselves, and that some leaders had urged them to avoid contact with skeptical parents.”11

These are only a few examples of the statements and worldviews that IHOP supports, either directly or through close association. We encourage anyone attending the Onething conference to learn more about the IHOP organization, whose radical and dangerous views are described in numerous reports widely available online, and ask themselves whether this is a group worthy of their support.

__________

  1.  http://www.ihopkc.org/about/
  2. Watch video: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/rick-perry-partners-pastor-who-thinks-oprah-precursor-antichrist
  3. Watch video: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/rick-perry-ally-bickle-says-marriage-equality-rooted-depths-hell
  4. Watch video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcNnhTQv2D8&feature=youtu.be
  5. http://www.desertstream.org/Groups/1000040180/Desert_Stream_Ministries/Looking_For_Help/Friends_of_Desert/Friends_of_Desert.aspx
  6. http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/the-lies-and-dangers-of-reparative-therapy
  7. http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2007/winter/coming-out
  8. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/03/world/africa/03uganda.html?ref=africa&_r=2&
  9. Listen: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/lou-engle-has-prophecy-looming-natural-disasters-and-economic-wreckage-because-legal-abortio
  10.  http://gospelmasquerade.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/why-i-believe-ihop-is-a-cult/
  11.  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/us/10prayer.html?_r=1&http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/us/10prayer.html?_r=5&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23&

Looking for Skepticon 6 Tabling Volunteers!

Hey, there, fellow Kansas City atheists! We’ll be proudly supporting Skepticon this year with a table and letting people know about all the cool things we’re up to here in Kansas City – a bit of a bright spot of non-belief in a region otherwise awash in some very staunch religiosity. We need some help, though, in staffing our table, and we’d like to ask you all to volunteer. Your responsibilities will include:

  • Telling people about how awesome it is to be an atheist in Kansas City
  • Urging people to eat the free candy we’ll have out on our table
  • Stopping any KCAC directors or officers from eating the free candy we’ll have out on our table
  • Answering questions about the kind of activities and community we have in Kansas City

We’re dividing the our schedule into blocks similar to how Saturday and Sunday are divided up up until dinner time (we won’t ask anyone to stay through or after dinner each day) on the Skepticon schedule (we’ll also be looking for volunteers on Friday evening from 6 to 8 PM and 8 PM to 11 PM, if you’re feeling adventurous). If you’re up for spending one of these blocks at our table or even only able to volunteer for part of a block, that’d be greatly appreciated.

If you’re interested in tabling with us, go ahead and drop us an e-mail at contact@kcatheists.org.

Mary Ibrahim: Freethinker Syrian Refugee in Need of Your Help

The Kansas City Atheist Coalition has been asked to help promote the fundraiser to help Mary Ibrahim, a refugee from the violence in Syria, to raise enough funds to attend classes here in Missouri at UCM. Her story:

Mary Ibrahim is a 21-year-old Syrian from Homs, which was Syria’s third largest city and considered by many the capital of the peaceful protest movement, before it was devastated and largely depopulated by the ongoing civil war. Mary studied hospitality management at Al Baath University in Homs until October, when it became too dangerous to attend classes and she fled to Turkey. She has had an uncle and several close friends killed in the war and her family, which was upper middle class before the war has lost almost everything. Her father, an architect before the war, now repairs cars so that her family can continue to eat.

Mary only has enough money to stay in Turkey for about two months. After that, she will be forced to return to her home town of Homs and the constant shelling, shooting and kidnappings engulfing it. As an atheist and someone who comes from a Christian family, Mary has to worry on the one hand, about the regime’s brutal security apparatus and its indiscriminate shelling and checkpoints manned by trigger-happy security forces. On the other hand, she also faces a very real threat from Al-Qaeda-linked jihadis who make up part of the opposition in Homs and have a nasty habit of attacking, kidnapping and assassinating both secularists and Christians.

Mary desperately wants to study in the United States. Toward that end, she applied for and was awarded a scholarship at the University of Central Missouri to finish her studies. The scholarship though, only covers half of tuition, which means Mary still needs to come up with $17,000 (the remaining cost of tuition and housing for her final year of studies) in order to get a student visa to the United States.

This is where you come in. Your donations to Mary’s Go Fund Me page will allow her to escape the war entirely and finish her degree in the safety of the United States. None of us can fix the catastrophe that is consuming Syria, but we can make an enormous positive difference in the life of one Syrian. We invite you to join us in responding the massive injustice and cruelty engulfing Syria with a small bit of justice and generosity.

As mentioned in the post above, you can donate to her via her Go Fund Me page here:

http://www.gofundme.com/456veo

If you have  a few dollars (or more) to spare, she would greatly appreciate it!