December 19, 2006
This bulletin, edited and produced by Fred Whitehead, Kansas City, Kansas, U.S.A., for the International Committee to Protect Freethinkers (ICPF) is FREE for the asking (see end of this installment).
(1) Updates on current cases
(2) New Issues and Campaigns
(3) New Unity reported in France
(4) Mexico: Anarchy at the corner of Church and State
(1) Updates on current cases
Salah Choudhury – Bangladesh
As reported in FSB#6, Choudhury’s trial on the charges of blasphemy and treason has now been scheduled for January 22, 2007. His American supporter Dr. Richard Benkin has secured the interest and support of two U.S. Congress representatives, Mark Kirk and Nita Lowery. In addition, the noted Canadian Member of Parliament, Irwin Cotler has agreed to serve on Choudhury’s legal defense. For current information, go to: http://www.freechoudhury.com/.
(2) New Issues and campaigns
Petition against Sharia Law in Kurdistan
A Petition being circulated against the adoption of Sharia law in the constitution of Kurdistan is at:
www.petitiononline.com/15122006/petition.html. It is quite easy to add one’s signature; do it today!
International Student Solidarity
The student assembly at Frankfurt University in Germany voted on November 30 to actively support the campaign against stoning of women in Iran. The assembly also voted to gather in front of the Iranian consulate on December 7. Subsequently, students in Iran itself protested against President Ahmadinejad at the Universities of Tehran and Amirkabir. According to an article from the Inter Press Service in early December, nine women and two men are currently facing death sentences by stoning for the crime of adultery.
The Luigi Cascioli Case
Readers of the ICPF journal Brave Minds will be familiar with this case from translations of original documents. In brief, Cascioli charged a priest under an Italian law against fraud, for claiming that Jesus had really existed. Full documentation is available at his website: http://www.luigicascioli.it/. There are sections of the site in English and other languages, though the translations were apparently done by computerized programs. At the end of April, an Italian court not only rejected Cascioli’s case, they fined him 1500 euros. Now he is appealing to the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights of the European Union.
Teachers in Afghanistan
An Associated Press story of December 9 reported that the Taliban murdered two more teachers, both women who had been warned to stop teaching or be killed. 198 schools have been burned down this year so far, with a total of 20 teachers assassinated. Simultaneously with these latest crimes, the Taliban published a set of rules endorsing executions of teachers.
(3) New Unity reported in France
Philippe Besson of the French organization La Libre Pensée (“Freethought”) reports that on December 9, a coalition of humanist/freethought organizations met in Paris as the “Estates General” and issued a new call for unity and progress in defense of the separation of Church and State in that country. Specifically, this call is for documentation of the millions of euros spent in favor of churches by the French government, in contravention of the 1905 law on separation.
The meeting was in the central headquarters of the French labor unions, the Bourse de Travail, and the appeal to the People from the Estates General recalls the momentous gathering of 1789, which opened the vistas of Revolution.
Further information on the Libre Pensée’s current activities is available from their website (with some sections in English and other languages): http://librepenseefrance.ouvaton.org/.
The full text of the December 9 Appeal follows:
Appeal of the Estates General for Secularism
at the initiative of the Libre Pensée
- 9 December 2006 at Paris-
“ The Republic does not recognize, does not salary nor subsidize any religion”
(Article 2 of the Law of 9 December 1905)
10 billion €uros of public funds
embezzled at the profit of the Roman Catholic Church !
10 billion €uros stolen every year from the secular Republic !
10 December, 2005: 12,000 free thinkers, secularists, unionists, labor activists, freemasons, democrats and republicans, in the broadest unity on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the 1905 law, took to the streets in Paris to demand the defense and the promotion of the law of separation between the Churches and the State. At the end of the demonstration, they decided to organize secular inventories to draw up the exact situation of the violations of the principle of secularism which provides that religion should be a strictly private matter and that public funds should be allocated only to the public system of education.
2006: at the initiative of the local federations of the Libre Pensée, secularists and republicans drew up an inventory of the municipal, departmental, regional budgets and all public authorities to draw up the exact anti-secular situation in our country.
9 December 2006: gathered as the Estates General in defense of secularism in the Great Hall of the Paris Labor Hall, a venue symbolizing the union of the working class with republican democracy, delegates of free thinkers and secularists from all the regions of France have centralized the results of their survey. We have to admit the following conclusion:
Secularism is being flouted !
The result of the secularist survey is instructive and distressing. The State pays € 8.2 billion, municipalities give € 530 million, regions and local authorities subsidize private - mainly Catholic - schools up to € 499 million. All that amounts to a total sum of € 9.2 billion of embezzled public funds to finance the school of the few against the school of all. This is equivalent to the budget for more than 200,000 jobs (including social contributions) which are stolen from the Department of Education along with all the relevant investment and budget.
Every aspect of public life is plundered to finance religions. Thus, € 242 million are embezzled through tax exemptions favorable to religions, subsidies to pro-life associations and compensation of the priests' healthcare system. Nearly € 100 million are unjustifiably paid for maintenance work for which departments, municipalities and regions have no responsibility. Throughout France, the housing of the 16,000 Roman Catholic diocese priests is paid by local authorities for an estimate budget of € 54 million.
The clerical laws of exception of Alsace Moselle and of the French Overseas Territories represent an anti-secular expenditure without a just cause of € 72 million. More than 2,000 priests are paid on public funds to teach religion in state-owned schools. Here is the monthly income of a Roman Catholic bishop in Alsace: € 4,484.57 € (FF 29,418. 80), of a Catholic priest: € 2,703. 99 (FF 17,738. 20), of a protestant minister: € 3,150 (FF 17,738. 20), of a Grand Rabbi: € 2,916. 07 (FF 19,129. 40). And they are thousands to be paid out of the budget of the State's public funds by citizens.
The regulation known as the Martinière Circular (1966) makes it possible for religious associations to run profitable business activities. Thus, the Cathedral Notre-dame de Paris sells altar candles for more than two million Euros every year without paying all the taxes to the State. Shortfall for public finances: 660,000 €uros !
More than 10 billion stolen from the secular Republic !
We repeatedly wrote to government ministries (Budget Ministers Nicolas Sarkozy and Jean-François Copé) to ask for information on the amount of the shortfall in the budget of the State caused by the special tax exemptions in favor of religions. We received no reply. We notably warned public authorities on the procedures of the private Catholic TV channel KTO which delivers illegal tax receipts to get tax exemptions. There again, we received no reply. It looks like louts only live in suburbs and never in bishops' palaces.
All those anti-secular provisions were established by Petain's law of 25 December 1942. Our fellow-citizens must be aware that Petain's anti-secular laws (5 February 1942; 8 April 1942; 25 December 1942) have never been repealed since the Liberation of France. They have set a precedent. Concerning anti-secular regulation, Paris is still at the age of Vichy.
Citizens have also to be aware that the taxpayers' income tax amounts to € 49 billion per year and the annual national debt amounts to € 42 billion.
Clearly, in France, the equivalent of 20% of the income tax and one fourth of the annual national debt is given to the Roman Catholic Church !
It is time for a secularist mobilization!
On 9 December 2006, with the National Federation of the Libre Pensée, hundreds of secularists, trade unionists, labor activists, freemasons, democrats and republicans, from all over the country, gathered to collect their secular Books of Grievances in defense of the indivisible and secular Republic.
Among those who spoke: Gabriel Gaudy, General Secretary of the CGT-FO Paris Labor Council; Joachim Salamero, President of the National Federation of Libre Pensée; Jean-Michel Ducomte, President of the League of Education; Daniel Morfouace, Deputy Grand-Master of Grand Orient de France; Hubert Raguin, Federal Secretary of the FNECFP-FO on behalf of CGT-Force Ouvrière; Gérard Cambussat, President of Laïcité-Liberté; Philippe Foussier, President of the Comité-Laïcité-République; Jean-Marc Schiappa, President of IRELP (Research Institute of Libre Pensée); Yves-Henri Saulnier, national Secretary of the SNETAA-EIL trade union; Etienne Pion, Secretary of the Movement Europe and Secularism (Europe et Laïcité); Claude Champon, Vice-President of the Atheist Union (Union des Athées); Roger Lepeix, Member of the Executive Committee of the IHEU; Christian Eyschen, General Secretary of the Libre Pensée.
The CNAL (National Committee for Secularist Action) apologized for being absent and invited the Libre Pensée to attend all its meetings.
Together, the 500 delegates decided:
· To publish the Black book of the violations of secularism, recording the results of the secular inventories and the report of the Estates General in defense of secularism of 9 December 2006 and to circulate it on a large scale in the public.
· To send a delegation to the Speaker of the National Assembly and to the chairpersons of parliamentarian caucuses and political groups to hand in the petitions to repeal the law of 25 December 1942.
· To write to all the candidates running for Presidential and general elections to demand the repeal of Petain’s laws.
· To publish the results of the secular inventories in all the departments of France.
· To massively endorse the Appeal of the Lamoura National Congress of the Libre Pensée in defense of public instruction, an absolute prerequisite for the defense of democracy and equality among citizens before instruction.
In defense of Secularism !
Public funds exclusively to public state-owned schools !
Paris, 9 December, 2006
(4) Mexico: Anarchy at the corner of Church and State
A Report by John Hazard
Norberto Rivera, Cardinal of Mexico City, is feeling the heat. In September, a team of U.S. lawyers led by Jeff Anderson, formerly of St. Paul, arrived to hold a press conference announcing that the cardinal is one of the defendants in a suit they`re filing on behalf of victim Joaquín Aguilar and others for covering up child abuse committed by priest Nicolás Aguilar Rivera. (In a reverse of the usual procedure, in which toxic chemicals and toxic priests who´ve outlived their usefulness or their welcomes in the U.S. are dumped on developing countries, Cardinal Rivera sent priest Rivera to California when things got too hot in Mexico. Supposedly progressive cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, also a defendant in the suit, sent the Mexican cardinal a letter scolding him for not having told him of the abuse problems when he facilitated the transfer.)
Cardinal Rivera used his connections to have the lawyers harrassed at the press conference and arrested for immigration violations. But reporters and local police--loyal to the opposition Partido de la Revolución Democrática of Andrés Manuel López Obrador--impeded the actions of the immigration officers, who had arrived in a van with no license plates. Several days later, Anderson was barred from entering Mexico for the next five years, in an extraordinary display of muscle on the part of the archdiocese in this supposedly secular country. (Outgoing right-wing president Vicente Fox was the first openly Catholic president since the dictator Porfirio Díaz was sent into exile in 1911 during the Mexican Revolution. On his first visit to the last pope, Fox kissed his ring, an action that shocked advocates of the separation of church and state.
Later, on Sunday, October 29, 80 demonstrators, mostly independent operators, some linked also to the PRD, entered the cathedral during services and interrupted with shouts and signs calling the cardinal a protector of child abusers, a condoner of right-wing election fraud, etc. (It is illegal for church officials to comment on political matters in Mexico, though Rivera constantly disregards this law.) The in-church demonstration was a healthy departure from PRD behavior in recent years, which saw the local governments of López Obrador and his predecessor, Cuáuhtemoc Cárdenas, seek to break (or enter?)the traditional church-rightwing alliance by subsidizing church activities and facilities. (Cárdenas, in the eighties, as governor of the state of Michoacán, had declared the pope persona non grata in the state during his first visit to México. During the nineties, as mayor of Mexico City, he channeled city funds to the remodelling of the Basilica of Guadalupe.
López Obrador authorized the use of an abundance of city funds and personnel during the last pope´s last visit to Mexico in 2002.) Lòpez Obrador`s mild criticisms of the church during the post-electoral period, when his rhetoric was, in general, more radical than before the election, provoked an "I thought we were friends" comment from the cardinal. But the civil resistance to the election fraud has largely been directed by Jesusa Rodríguez, actress, director, lesbian feminist, and fierce critic of the church.
The church has named her as responsible for the demonstration in the cathedral, but participants say she heard about it later in the news, like everyone else. A few days after the interruption of church services, a church spokesperson said he didn`t understand the actions of the protesters, as Rivera had never been aggressive toward them or toward social movements. Apparently he forgot, for example, about Rivera`s comment that "it`s a good thing that these foreign agitators have been kicked out of the country," referring to three foreign women raped by state and federal police and deported without due process in May in the wake of protests and repression in the village of Atenco, in an incident in which around 40 Mexican women suffered a similar fate, minus the deportation, but with indefinite incarceration.
Church officials even threatened to close churches (in protest!). Callers to radio shows said: Please do. (Churches closed in protest for about three years during the guerra cristera, literally a war between the semirevolutionary government and the church, during the 1920s.)
On Monday, November 13, one tabloid newspaper carried a banner headline with the Spanish word for HERETIC, quoting one of the cardinal`s henchmen. This time he referred not to Anderson, the U.S. lawyer who specializes in child abuse cases against priests, but to local council members who voted (47 in favor, 17 against) to institute Mexico`s first civil union law in Mexico City a few days earlier.
The same day, another local newspaper, the left-leaning La Jornada, carried a story saying that the cardinal advised children who complained to him about the priest Aguilar Rivera that "soon you`ll forget about this. He`s a sick man. You should learn to forgive him." He also warned that if they filed legal complaints, they would be the most adversely affected.
The post-electoral process of harnessing the angry of the people in a nonviolent direction has been a challenge for López Obrador and his inner circle. During some of the massive marches, the Cathedral--across the street from the city´s main square--closed because of fear of "violence." (The cancellation of Sunday masses was itself a victory, according to many marchers.)
On a plywood wall outside the cathedral, ostensibly erected because of remodeling, there appeared, during the march, the following apparently contradictory pieces of grafitti:
1. "We´re going to win, and we don`t need to use violence."
2. "Death to the clergy."
Twelve of the 80 church-gate-crashers remained camped outside the cathedral for several days after the mass-crashing incident. The cardinal asked for and received police protection.
In early December, Cardinal Rivera issues contradictory statements about whether he will testify in the U.S. case, first invoking a kind of born-again nationalism to say he wouldn`t recognize a foreign court`s jurisdiction, later saying of course he would do anything to fight child abuse.
All of this makes me reflect about the tyranny of politeness that afflicts U.S. politics (and discussion about religion) where, for example, it`s difficult to imagine even the most outspoken elected official refer to the current president as "fascist," "lackey of the rich," etc., truths that Mexican politicians like López Obrador utter regularly.
And when I think about people expressing their right to free speech during a religious service, I wonder when someone will have the guts to do the same in some powerful country when the government of an important allied country, dominated by a certain religion, kills, due to a "technical error," let`s say, 18 civilians who are, coincidentally, not members of that religion and who are pawns in a holy war. Does anyone have the guts to demonstrate even OUTSIDE of the temples of the supporters of the government in question?
A long interview with the late novelist Abdelrahman Munif is now available at: http://tinyurl.com/y3amxg
Munif was the author of the brilliant multi-volume series of novels, Cities of Salt, and remains one of the most incisive voices of Middle Eastern literature. The interview addresses a number of topics, including literature and politics, the role of intellectuals, and the connections between art and writing.
Leland Ruble edits and publishes a useful, informative printed newsletter, the Freethought Perspective, which has critical essays, poetry, and a wide range of notices. It’s free; contact him via postal mail by writing 833 Orchard Street, Toledo, Ohio 43609, USA.
Brave Minds, journal of the ICPF, edited by Dr. Marvin F. Zayed, is available from PO Box 41153, Elmvale, 1910 St. Laurent Blvd., Ottawa, Ontario K1G 5K9, Canada. This is a large format print magazine for which a subscription is required, but it is now established as a major source of international documentation and analysis concerning the status of Freethinkers and Freethought in many countries, with a focus on the situation in the Islamic ones.
In addition, Brave Minds and the IPCF now have a website!!
Go to: http://www.braveminds.info/.
Parts of the site are still under construction. We need your interest and support for this project.
If you wish to receive this Freethought Solidarity Bulletin, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with “FSB SUBSCRIBE” in the subject box.