If you’ve looked out your window or taken a breath outdoors, you are probably aware that we are in a state of emergency due to massive, rapidly spreading wildfires all over the state. Several people have inquired how we, as Tri-City Freethinkers, might be able to help.
I reached out to Rebecca Vitsmun with Foundation beyond Belief, who said, “Foundation Beyond Belief is monitoring the unfolding wildfire situation in Washington. They report that at this time monetary assistance is not needed by local officials and only highly specialized individuals are needed for volunteering. As with all disasters sending people or donations that are not needed create MORE of a problem by creating unnecessary work for the individuals working on the ground. Unsolicited donations and volunteers require management and take resources away from those truly in need.
“Foundation Beyond Belief discourages sending in-kind donations and self-deployment to Washington State. Humanist Disaster Recovery staff will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates as appropriate.
“A previous blogpost written on Responsible Giving in Disasters can provide some additional clarity to our current decision.”
When: Saturday, September 26th at 3:00 pm
Where: Washington State University, Tri-Cities Campus, 2710 University Drive, East Building Auditorium, Richland, WA
About the guest:
David Silverman is the president of American Atheists and one of the best-known atheists in America. Known as “America’s loudest heathen,” a term he embraces proudly, Silverman is passionate about atheism and atheist equality. He has appeared on several TV programs for on-air debates, including, The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, Scarborough Country and CNN’s Paula Zahn NOW. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and child. His first book, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World, is currently available on Kindle and a hardback version will be available in December of this year.
Silverman was raised Jewish and went through the standard religious education, but never believed. In college, he engaged in many debates with Orthodox Jews, but, since Silverman’s style is fierce but not insulting, he became very good friends with many of his opponents, eventually marrying one of them.
Across the Internet and on TV, Silverman has been called rude, uncaring, and fascist (the latter by Bill O’Reilly), but the readers of Fighting God will realize he is none of those things. His methods ruffle feathers, but they work, and they work for the good of all people (except those who make money with religion). As Silverman’s Jewish mother told him on her death bed, he not only helps atheists, but every person in any religious minority, because in the end, he fights only for the equality that is due all of us.
Today, after nearly 20 years in activism, Silverman is arguably America’s best-known atheist activist. In Fighting God, Silverman lays out why telling people God doesn’t exist and religion is a lie is not only effective, but downright nice.
We are still accepting donations via our CrowdRise campaign to help offset the expenses involved in hosting this free event. Every little bit helps!
Questions? Email email@example.com.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I really wish I could eat dinner with America’s loudest heathen”? Well, this is your chance! Following David Silverman’s talk at Washington State University, “Fighting the Lie of God,” join fellow freethinkers in welcoming the firebrand president of American Atheists, to the dinner table. Rub elbows with Mr. Atheist Pants himself while enjoying an entertaining evening with your fellow freethinking friends.
We will hold a silent auction to raise funds for future guests and activities, so please bring cash or a credit/debit card to show support for local atheists and win some nifty stuff!
Additional details available at our Universe event page.
The “Resolution affirming freedom of conscience” correspondence between Family Policy Institute of Washington and City of Kennewick Councilman John Trumbo
At the next Pasco City Council meeting, Councilman Bob Hoffman is likely to bring the “Resolution Affirming Freedom of Conscience” up for a vote.
Regardless of your religion or freedom from it, secular laws protect us all from tyranny and theocracy, so we are calling on all who oppose government-sanctioned elevation of an individual’s personal religious beliefs above the rights of others to show up in force to hold our elected officials to the oaths taken when they assumed office–to uphold the laws of Washington State and the United States of America.
Not all of the council members are in favor of Hoffman’s proposed Resolution, so please join us in representing the thousands of residents of Pasco and all of the Tri-Cities who support the council members who will vote against a Resolution that would symbolically sanction a “license to discriminate.”
You do not have to be a Pasco resident to attend. The meeting starts at 7, but please plan to arrive early to ensure we can claim space in what will likely be a full council room.
Despite what a vocal minority thinks and would have others believe, discrimination and religiously-based bigotry is not the way of the Tri-Cities. It’s time to show them that diversity, tolerance, peace, love, and Reason will prevail.
Resolution Affirming Freedom of Conscience
WHEREAS, America is the land of opportunity.
WHEREAS, we are stronger because we are different.
WHEREAS, the freedom of conscience and the right to the free exercise of religion is a fundamental American idea that extends beyond the walls of a church, mosque or synagogue.
WHEREAS, diversity promotes the principle that while we all may come from different backgrounds, and hold different religious views, we can live peaceably and respectfully with one another.
WHEREAS, we support the right of every American to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, and believe the best way to achieve this is to encourage free markets, and limited government interference.
WHEREAS, in a free market the government should not be forcing anyone to violate his or her religious beliefs.
WHEREAS, every American has the right to life and work faithfully;
We respectfully request that Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson drop his lawsuit against Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers and ask the Legislature to take appropriate steps to ensure that Washington’s business climate never requires someone to choose between their job and their conscience.
Agreed this day , 2015 in Kennewick, Benton County, Washington
[This is a copy of the “Resolution Affirming Freedom of Conscience” submitted by Kennewick City Councilman John Trumbo, to the Kennewick City Council for their full consideration and adoption.]
TALKING POINTS FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE RESOLUTION
This resolution affirms that Washington State and our Nation have established in their respective constitutions that freedom of religion and freedom of conscience are essential in guaranteeing democracy of and for the people.
This resolution, despite the protestations of some, is not about discrimination, nor is it an instrument to promote any particular faith, culture or person, regardless of their gender, age or race, above any other person. The proposed resolution is totally absent of such language.
This resolution has no bias, intended or otherwise, pro or con to any religion. As presented, this resolution offers equal benefit for all persons, preferring none as better than another. Any interpretation otherwise is a misreading and misunderstanding.
Let’s be clear… this resolution also carries no mention of a creator, or of a god, or to Jesus, Mohammed, Moses or any other prophet. It is entirely empty in reference to Christianity or any religion in any way.
The intent of the resolution is to clarify that freedom of religious conscience is a personal choice in which government has no right to interfere. The authorities of government must not be allowed to dictate to a citizen of this State and this great Nation how people are to live their lives in obedience to their conscience.
Mr. Mayor, what I am seeking here, is the full council’s endorsement of this fundamental right. Unfortunately, this right has been undermined by a state law that threatens to corrode our freedoms that are written into our founding documents.
Fortunately, we have an opportunity to stand tall in defense of all Washingtonians. Barronelle Stutzman has courageously provided that opportunity. According to the state Attorney General Ms. Stutzman broke the law. OK, fine, but what about the law itself? Is it good for all of us? Man-made laws are just that, made by man.
Many bad man-made laws have been put on the books, only to discover later that it took acts of civil disobedience to get those bad laws removed.
Ms. Stutzman’s actions challenge this ill–fitting law. She is forcing us to consider what we will do and how each of us will respond to our own consciences.
This resolution is vitally important. We should not simply let it drop to avoid whatever criticism may come. The mere fact that emotions and passions are as intense as they are, proves that this is an issue that must be faced.
I direct your attention to our congressional Representative Dan Newhouse, and to from 8th District state Representative Brad Klippert. They, too, have strong feelings favoring a resolution for freedom of conscience as expressed in recent letters. Ours is a government of, for and by the people -- at all levels of government.
Critics of this resolution insist that we should forget this matter and attend to issues of greater local import such as paving streets and building better communities. To that I say, what could be more important and local than to stand with principle and conviction in defense of freedom? A better community is more than infrastructure, more than great retail centers, beautiful parks and a world-class carousel. Pasco City
Councilman Bob Hoﬀman pointed out in his opinion piece for the newspaper that local leaders often must address issues outside the normal routine of a consent agenda. It is our duty and responsibility to also consider what is best for the people who live and will live here. We want to ensure that we have a safe and secure city where we will continue to be known as a great place to raise families, and where basic freedoms are protected.
This council rejected marijuana for our city. We took heat for it, but our decision was wholly consistent with the people in Kennewick and Benton County who in 2012 voted a strong 56.4 percent against Initiative 502. How much more should we consider the voters who in that same election rejected Referendum 74, known as samesex marriage, by 63.2 percent. There’s a message there as we consider the conscience of Barronelle Stutzman who respectfully said no to providing flower arranging services at a gay couple’s marriage.
As a final point, this resolution does not create or encourage discrimination. People who promote that view have inserted that argument into this issue. Rather, this resolution is wholly in concert with the theme of freedom that echoes in our constitutions, state and national. Freedom is an inherent part of our society today. Denying individuals the right to obey their consciences is the wrong direction for our society. Approving this resolution will send a strong message to our state Legislature, and to the people who came tonight, that we care enough about doing the right thing to just do it. Thank you for hearing me out. And thanks to councilman Bob Parks who on June 2 declared that I should at least have the courtesy of a vote on the resolution.
FAST FACTS Resolution Affirming Freedom of Conscience
Amendment 1, U.S. Constitution
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Washington State Constitution, Article 1, Section 11: Religious Freedom
Absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief and worship, shall be guaranteed to every individual, and no one shall be molested or disturbed in person or property on account of religion;
Benton County Election results (November 2012) 82 percent turnout
Referendum 74, Same-Sex Marriage Y = 29.109 votes 36.8 percent
N = 50,007 votes 63.2 percent
Initiative 502, Marijuana Y = 34,530 votes 43.6 percent
N = 44,686 votes 56.4 percent
Franklin County Election results November 2012
Kennewick statistics 78,000 population 36,449 registered voters
Response to Critics
I appreciate your taking the time to comment regarding the proposed Freedom of Conscience resolution pending before the Kennewick City Council. I want you to know this is not about discrimination. It is about ensuring that all people in our state be allowed to choose what they are willing to participate in according to their consciences. I agree with you that a business owner does not have the right to discriminate by refusing to provide goods or services that would otherwise be available to the public at their place of business or as part of the normal course of doing business. But if I were asked to participate in an event such as a wedding where it would be against my beliefs or personal ethics, I would have to refuse -- even as a paid participant. I stand against any law that forces me to join an activity which is against my conscience.
This is exactly the situation with Arlene’s Flowers. I don’t know if you have a particular moral sensibility or cultural/ethic mores that you adhere to, but if you do, then that’s what I’m talking about. For example, it might be offensive to some people of Native American Heritage to join in an event that they believe is offensive to their long-held traditions or desecrates their traditional sacred sites. We have such an area at Columbia Point. Or, it could be offensive to a business person of Muslim culture/faith of or Jewish heritage to participate as a food server or entertainer/musician at a luau where pig was being roasted as the main course. Would you expect people you count among your friends to willingly provide paid services for a KKK-sponsored public event? Perhaps not. I know of or about people whose strong beliefs that prevent them from participating in certain holidays (Christmas, Easter and Halloween as examples) and cultural holidays. It is their choice to do so. Mandating they join in would be very wrong.
Hiring business people to provide service (catering, entertainment, publicity, decorations) at those events/holidays should be respectful of the individuals’ moral and ethical beliefs. In the above examples, the consciences of the persons involved should be respected. That is all I am saying here. And that is all that this freedom of conscience resolution is trying to do. This is not about discrimination. It is about respecting the consciences of all people, regardless of faith, culture, creed, gender, age or race. Please don’t think that it is anything more.
The amount of misinformation being circulated by emails, the internet, Facebook, etc. is very harmful in this discussion. Please consider carefully what I am trying to make clear here. The Freedom of Conscience resolution is for all our benefit, including yours.
John Trumbo/Kennewick Council
As reported today in the Tri-City Herald in the article Proposal to support Arlene’s Flowers to be voted on by Kennewick City Council, the City of Kennewick Councilmen are set to vote on a “freedom of conscience” (also known as “freedom to discriminate”) resolution in September.
The resolution, introduced by Councilman John Trumbo, also asks Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson to drop the case against Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in nearby Richland. Mr. Ferguson has stated, “That won’t happen.”
Two years ago, Ms. Stutzman refused to sell flowers to long-time customer, Robert Ingersoll, for his wedding to Curt Freed, because of her “relationship with Jesus Christ” and belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. She lost in court earlier this year and is appealing the decision. She and her attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom seek to take the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
One of Ms. Stutzman’s supporters, the Family Policy Institute, has been seeking sympathetic city leaders throughout the country to get this kind of resolution introduced at the local level. They found an ally in Mr. Trumbo, who has previously proposed that the Kennewick council meetings be opened with explicitly Christian prayers and wrongly believes that was the religion of the Founding Fathers. That resolution received little support from other council members and never came up for a vote. Mr. Trumbo has asserted that all 78,000 residents of Kennewick are in agreement with his proposed “freedom to discriminate” resolution. It is unknown whether he actually believes that or if the statement is mere bandwagon propaganda. Either way, it is a disturbing assertion.
Though I no longer reside in Kennewick myself, as President of the Tri-City Freethinkers I can assure you that the members of our organization, including many longtime Kennewick residents and voters, are deeply concerned about the foolish and embarrassing “Resolution affirming Freedom of Conscience” proposed by Councilman John Trumbo. This resolution does not “speak for all the city’s 78,000 residents,” and that anyone could presume so is the very height of arrogance and ignorance. Interacting with many Christians in this community every day, I know that what most of them would consider “un-Christian” is such an attempt to use religious freedom as a weapon to tread on the rights of others.
These ongoing efforts to pander to a religious base with “freedom to discriminate” resolutions and resolutions to open council meetings with explicitly Christian prayers is a blight on the Tri-Cities’ already tarnished reputation. Many business owners have expressed that the overly pious climate in the area is making it difficult for them to attract new talent.
We are disappointed you have chosen to add this resolution to the agenda. It should have been immediately dismissed as legally dubious, selfish, irresponsible, and inhumane. Discrimination, for any reason, is bad for business, bad for communities, and bad for human beings—especially those whom Trumbo and his ilk so callously disregard as second-class citizens.
We strongly urge you to abandon any attempt to privilege religion by elevating the rights of religious people above the rights of others to not be discriminated against in public accommodations. With few exceptions, the courts at every level have found that anti-discrimination laws have no bearing on individual religious beliefs.
Though such resolutions are primarily symbolic and do not carry the weight of law, should you choose to adopt it, know that if any business owner in the City of Kennewick attempts to unlawfully discriminate based on their personal religious beliefs, legal action will be swift and the financial repercussions will be on your heads.
Just prior to publishing this post, two councilmembers responded to Ms. Goulet’s email.
From Mayor Pro Tem, Don Britain:
Hello Ms. Goulet,
Thank you for your email. I do not support the resolution that Councilman John Trumbo has submitted and will be voting “No” when it comes to a formal vote. Last night was our Workshop where we were able to discuss Mr. Trumbo’s proposal. In the Tri City Herald article this morning, you can read where most Councilmen stand. I made the suggestion that Mr. Trumbo and his group go out and petition signatures for their cause, but it was not accepted.
Please feel free to come to our Council meeting when this issue will be formally voted on to approve or deny the resolution. If you would like, I can let you know when that will take place so you have advanced notice. Thank you again for your input.
Ms. Goulet’s response:
Thank you for the quick response. I did read in the paper that you were one of the councilmembers that was not in favor of the resolution, and for that I thank you. My message was sent to all of the councilmembers so that those of you who oppose it know that there are a great many people who appreciate and support your no vote. Mr. Trumbo is shamefully wrong when he states that all 78,000 residents are with him on this. I will be sure to let the members of the Tri-City Freethinkers and others know your position.
I would very much appreciate knowing when the formal vote will be held. Will it not be at the next meeting on Tuesday, August 18th?
Again, thank you for voting against city-sanctioned discrimination.
John Trumbo’s responses came from his personal email account, rather than his government one. Sounds like someone doesn’t want to have his conversation become part of a public records request. Note the informal greeting used…
I appreciate your taking the time to respond to me regarding the proposed
Freedom of Conscience resolution pending before the Kennewick City
Council. I want you to know this is not about discrimination. It is about
ensuring that all people in our state be allowed to choose what they are
willing to participate in according to their consciences. I agree with you
that a business owner does not have the right to discriminate by refusing
to provide goods or services that would otherwise be available to the
public at their place of business or as part of the normal course of doing
business. But if I were asked to participate in an event such as a wedding
where it would be against my beliefs or personal ethics, I would have to
refuse — even as a paid participant. I stand against any law that forces
me to join an activity which is against my conscience. This is exactly the
situation with Arlene’s Flowers. I don’t know if you have a particular
moral sensibility or cultural/ethic mores that you adhere to, but if you
do, then that’s what I’m talking about. For example, it might be offensive
to some people of Native American Heritage to join in an event that they
believe is offensive to their long-held traditions or desecrates their
traditional sacred sites. We have such an area at Columbia Point. Or, it
could be offensive to a business person of Muslim culture/faith of or
Jewish heritage to participate as a food server or entertainer/musician at
a luau where pig was being roasted as the main course. Same could be said
for a KKK-sponsored event. I would guess that you know of people whose
strong beliefs that prevent them from participating
in certain holidays (Christmas, Easter and Halloween as examples) and
cultural holidays. It is their choice to do so and mandating they join in
would be very wrong. Hiring business people to provide service (catering,
entertainment, publicity, decorations) at those events/holidays should be
respectful of the individuals’ moral and ethical beliefs. In the above
examples, the consciences of the persons involved should be respected.
That is all I am saying here. And that is all that this freedom of
conscience resolution is trying to do. This is not about discrimination.
It is about respecting the consciences of all people, regardless of faith,
culture, creed, gender, age or race. Please don’t think that it is
anything more. The amount of misinformation being circulated by emails,
the internet, facebook, etc. is very harmful in this discussion. Please
consider carefully what I am trying to make clear here. The Freedom of
Conscience resolution is for all our benefit, including yours.
As it was only just received at the time of this writing, Ms. Goulet has not yet responded to Mr. Trumbo’s email. Please check back for updates.
Good evening, everyone.
For those of you who are new to the conversation, I’m posting my original correspondence sent to the City of Kennewick Councilmembers earlier today. Following that, since it was sent from his personal email address, I’m looping you all into the email exchange between “John” Trumbo and myself. I suggest you read the emails between Mr. Trumbo and myself from the bottom up for proper order.
Any of you who may not yet be familiar with what these emails are about can read about it in this article from the local Tri-City Herald: Proposal to support Arlene’s Flowers to be voted on by Kennewick City Council.
Allow me to go ahead and respond up front to the last question Mr. Trumbo asked of me though, so he’s not left aching for an answer. He asked, “By the way, what did God do to you to make you so antagonistic to Christ followers?”
John, as he does not exist, god did nothing to make me antagonistic. It’s “Christ followers” like you who are such a nuisance, especially those elected to public office who can’t wrap their heads around the law and what it is to be a good Christian, an informed American citizen, or a decent human being.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality last month, city council members in Pasco, WA are considering a resolution proposed by Councilman Bob Hoffman that would enable business owners in the city to use their religion as a weapon against others. (Read about it in this Tri-City Herald article.)
The resolution mirrors that of one put forth by Councilman John Trumbo inthe neighboring city of Kennewick one month ago. The “Resolution affirming Freedom of Conscience” is based on one drafted by the Family Policy Institute of Washington, an organization with ties to Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal team defending the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, Barronelle Stutzman, who lost in court when a judge determined she had violated Washington’s consumer protections laws when she refused to sell flowers for the wedding of Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll.
Speaking about “businesses in our community [being] forced by the attorney general to have compelled artistic expressions” Councilman Hoffman said, “I think the consensus of our community, if you talk to a bunch of people and the votes in our area, is that this is not something we want and this is simply expressing the region’s take on this issue, and I think it’s important to make a public statement to that effect.”
We encourage any who live in the Tri-City area and beyond to email or call the city council members to let them know that there are, in fact, many of their constituents who do not share their arrogant and divisive views.
There should be no special accommodations for the religious when it infringes on the rights of others!
Contact info for the council members:
Mayor Matt Watkins, firstname.lastname@example.org, (509) 416-6696
Mayor Pro-Tem Rebecca Francik, email@example.com, (509) 545-6134
Councilmember Al Yenney, firstname.lastname@example.org, (509) 547-8021
Councilmember Mike Garrison, email@example.com, (509) 545-3404
Councilmember Bob Hoffmann, firstname.lastname@example.org, (509) 547-7373
Councilmember Saul Martinez, email@example.com, (509) 547-7285
Councilmember Tom Larsen, firstname.lastname@example.org, (509) 545-9916
The following email was sent by Tri-City Freethinkers president, Jennifer Goulet.
Dear City of Pasco Council Members,
As a community leader and long-time voting resident of Pasco, I strongly urge you to abandon the foolish and embarrassing “Resolution affirming Freedom of Conscience” proposed by Councilman Bob Hoffman, which seeks to privilege religion by elevating the rights of religious people above the rights of others to not be discriminated against in public accommodations. With few exceptions, the courts at every level have found that anti-discrimination laws have no bearing on individual religious beliefs.
Addressing Councilman Hoffman specifically, I would caution you to reexamine your belief that “the consensus of our community, if you talk to a bunch of people and the votes in our area, is that this is not something we want and this is simply expressing the region’s take on this issue.” Many of your constituents, religious and nonreligious alike, do not share such arrogant and divisive views. Many of your constituents, whom you have been elected to represent, are appalled by the use of religious freedom as a weapon to tread on the rights of others. Many of your constituents view your attempt to pander to a religious base in such a way as a blight on our community’s reputation.
To the other council members, I am disappointed that any of you would consider adding this resolution to the agenda. Councilman Hoffman’s suggestion should have been immediately dismissed as legally dubious, selfish, irresponsible, and inhumane.
Discrimination, for any reason, is bad for business, bad for communities, and bad for human beings—especially those whom Hoffman and his ilk so callously disregard as second-class citizens.
Should you choose to adopt this resolution, know that your action will not go unchallenged and the legal and financial repercussions of your decision for our city will be on your heads.
Jennifer Goulet, President
Atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists have long been active allies in the fight to grant equal rights to our LGBT friends, family, and strangers across the country.
Opposition to their rights to equal treatment under the law is based in outdated religious dogma, and today a majority of our Supreme Court Justices have upheld what we have long known to be true: that religion does not and cannot trump our secular government.
The Tri-City Freethinkers will once again play host to Australian Indie singer/songwriter Shelley Segal, who will be back in town to grace us with her enchanting and thought-provoking songs infused with “elements of jazz, folk, pop, blues, reggae and electronica.”
“An artist, an activist and an explicit storyteller, Shelley uses her music not only to express the way she sees the world, but to create the world that she wants to see.”
Please RSVP via Meetup by clicking below.
In case you missed seeing Shelley Segal the last two times she was in town performing for us, take comfort that you will get another chance late this summer! Details coming soon, but for now, enjoy this video taken in April 2013 when she played at Zinful in Kennewick.
For Mid-Columbia Pride Week, the Tri-City Freethinkers will host special guest speaker, Greta Christina, the well-known author and public speaker on atheism, sexuality, sex-positivity, LGBT issues, politics, culture, and whatever crosses her mind. She is co-founder of the Godless Perverts, a performance series and social community that promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion.
Greta will discuss what the atheist movement can learn from the LGBT movement. “The atheist movement is already modeling itself on the LGBT movement in many ways — most obviously with its focus on coming out of the closet. What else can the atheist movement learn from the LGBT movement… both from its successes and its failures?”
Greta will be doing a book signing following the talk. Books will be available for purchase.
This free event, cosponsored by Pride Foundation, will be held on Tuesday, June 16th at 6:00 pm at the Shilo Inn International Ballroom at 50 Comstock St. in Richland.
Pride Foundation is a regional community foundation that inspires giving to expand opportunities and advance full equality for LGBTQ people in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Visit www.pridefoundation.org.