Tuesday, April 23, 2013

OK-AU Spring Dialogue Event Examines Mixing Religion and Civil Government

For Immediate Release

OKC Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church & State

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Contact: James Nimmo, Communications Chair,

OK-AU Spring Dialogue event examines

mixing religion and civil government

What:    OKC Chapter of Americans United Spring Dialogue Event 

When: Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 7 to 9 p.m.

Where: Turkish Raindrop House, 4444 N. Classen Blvd., Oklahoma City

Who: OKC Chapter of Americans United for Church & State and the public!

OKLAHOMA CITY - On Tuesday, May 7, 2013, the Oklahoma City Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church & State will host its annual Spring Dialogue.  The free event will begin at 7 p.m. at the Turkish Raindrop House, 4444 N. Classen Blvd., in Oklahoma City, and will conclude at 9 p.m.  

The theme is; “Advantages and Disadvantages of Religious Involvement with Civil Government.”

"Our AU chapter looks forward to presenting speakers who can provide an interesting inside look at important issues concerning the First Amendment support of separation of religious views from civil laws,” said OK-AU Communications Chair, James NImmo. 

"The United States supports hundreds, if not thousands, of religious denominations.  Not a single one of them can be allowed to gain political strength over any other denomination."

The event will be a four person moderated panel discussion that will explore the advantages and disadvantages of mixing religion and civil government.

Panelists will include the Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, Executive Director Oklahoma Conference of Churches; Dr. Bilal Erturk, Assistant Professor, Department of Finance at Oklahoma State University; Clayton Flesher, co-founder of Odd Oklahoma; and James Nimmo, OK-AU Communications Chair.

Dr. Tabbernee will speak on capital punishment. The death penalty is carried out by the State but opposed by many religious groups, including the Oklahoma Conference of Churches. 

"The Death Penalty is literally 'a matter of life and death,'" Tabbernee said.  "Like all such matters, people have strongly held opinions on the subject. Opinions influenced by their religious beliefs and values." 

Tabbernee has extensive experience in ecumenical and interfaith relations, including more than 20 years as a member of the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order. 

A volunteer in various capacities for the Raindrop Turkish House, Dr. Ertuck was born in Istanbul, Turkey, and is a finance faculty member at the Spears School of Business, Oklahoma State University.

The topic of my talk will be ‘Secularism: Lessons learned from the Turkish experience,” said Ertuck. “My talk will be generally centered around experiences of the idea of separation of church/mosque and state in Turkey.”

Flesher, is a contributing writer for OKC.net and the website Odd Oklahoma. He is the Education Chair for the Oklahoma Atheists group. He will look at both the pragmatic and principled reasons for supporting a strong separation.

"I'll talk about what role separation has had in keeping religion robust in the US while keeping religious violence relatively low,” said Flesher.

I am convinced that the best way to make progress politically is through non-partisan state and national organizations,” said Nimmo.

Chas Stewart, OK-AU Chapter Secretary will be the event moderator.

A question and answer period will be held following the panel discussion.  Turkish refreshments will be served. 

Hosting the event, the Turkish Raindrop House promotes education about the culture and history of Turkish life. The event is open to the public with free street parking available.

Interested citizens who support or want to know more about the importance of the First Amendment and the wall of separation between religious dogma and civil laws are encouraged to attend. 

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., founded in 1947. The organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. 

For more information about the Oklahoma City Chapter of Americans for Separation of Church & State or the Spring Dialogue event, please visit www.okau.org

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spring Dialogue for 2013--Save the Date

Colleagues and friends who support separation of religious views from civil law,

The annual Spring Dialogue sponsored by the Americans United for Separation of Church & State, Oklahoma City chapter (www.okau.org)
will be held on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 in the facilities of our new friends and co-host, the Turkish Raindrop House.

We will have a moderated four-person panel discussion with topics ranging from marriage equality to how keeping religion separate from government helps reduce violence in society.  There will be time for discussion with the audience and panelists.

The Turkish Raindrop House promotes education about the culture and history of Turkish life and is located at 4444 N. Classen in Oklahoma City with easy access from I-40 and east of Penn Square Mall.  Free street parking is available.  (http://www.raindropturkishhouse.org/)

Confirmation of the speakers and topics will be forwarded soon.

The Spring Dialogue will begin at 7:00pm and conclude by 9:00pm.

Turkish refreshments will be served.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Protect Americans’ Access To Birth Control

Protect Americans’ Access To Birth Control, Americans United Tells HHS

Church-State Watchdog Group Says No More Exemptions Are Needed To Health-Care Regulations

The federal government should protect Americans’ access to contraceptive coverage, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has told the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

In comments submitted to HHS, Americans United urged the department to reject demands from conservative religious interest groups that seek to curb access to contraceptives under the guise of religious liberty.

“Americans want and deserve access to safe and affordable birth control,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Put simply, the decision to use contraceptives is a personal matter and should be governed by the individual, not powerful sectarian lobbies.”

Under the Obama administration’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act, most employers are expected to offer a health-care policy that includes no-cost birth control. Houses of worship and ministries are exempt from the requirement, and other accommodations have been made for religiously affiliated entities, such as church schools and hospitals.

But the Roman Catholic hierarchy and some Religious Right groups say that’s not enough. They are pressing for a broad exemption that would permit even secular corporations to deny their workers contraceptive coverage if the business owners have personal religious objections to birth control.

Americans United says the demands by religious groups go too far and argues that they subject employees to dogmatic views held by a corporation’s owners.

AU’s April 8 comments note that the proposed HHS regulations don’t force anyone to use birth control. Furthermore, contraceptives are just one of many benefits offered under comprehensive health-care plans, and the decision to use them rests with the individual employee as guided by his or her doctor.

“In the end, the provision of a comprehensive set of health-care benefits is really no different than the provision of a paycheck; employees are free to utilize both kinds of benefits in any manner that they wish, and the employer cannot reasonably be perceived to support or endorse any particular use thereof,” asserts AU in the comments. “Thus, the requirement that entities include insurance coverage for contraceptives as part of group insurance plans places no substantial burden on the employer.”

The comments also say that more than enough has been done to accommodate religious groups.

“The current exemption and accommodation far surpass necessity, and the Administration should reject further arguments to extend them,” argues AU.

The comments were drafted by AU Legislative Director Maggie Garrett.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.