The First Amendment Watchdogs are a group of people who are concerned with the separation of church and state. They serve as an independent group, no longer as a committee of Minnesota Atheists.
From Bob Schmitz:
* August Berkshire will update us on his tour for Atheist Alliance. He may also have some information on plans for The Secular Coalition of America to establish a presence in Minnesota. If that occurs the Watchdogs could either join that movement or become a supporting organization. We may wish to actively support that plan.
* Discussion of "First Freedom First" by the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy (Inter-Faith Alliance) and the Rev. Barry Lynn (Americans United). This book is an excellent source on the history of the struggle for church-state separation in the United States. It is a citizens guide to protecting church-state separation. In Part Two of the book, entitled "A Legal Perspective", by Barry Lynn, you will find a history of constitutional law on religion. For example, it includes cases such as the Milford School District vs The Good News club, which we have discussed in relation to use of Elk River Schools to promote Christian youth activities. The two Reverends are much more adamant in their concern about the erosion of separation than I find some of my fellow atheists to be. I believe there has been a tendency to become complacent and somewhat accepting of religious incursions into our public institutions. I hope this book can be discussed in the MN Atheists Book-Club meet-ups, and also become a reference for the Watchdogs.
* Updates on legislative issues, such as Charter Schools. Should we ask Pawlenty to unallot Positive Alternatives? I received some real flack from a good "liberal" Catholic who is heavily involved with social justice issues and supports their version of the Positive Alternatives program. I thought this wonderful former nun was going to crucify me for challenging this tax expenditure to support religious dogma. This exchange took place within a progressive political action group.
Comment from "First Freedom First": As observed by Barry Lynn, Justice Hugo Black wrote that the Establishment Clause's basic purpose is to ensure that "No tax, in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion." Lynn believes that funding faith-based initiatives is no different than forcing us to put money in the collection plate. I agree.
Please let me know what if there is something you want added to our agenda.
Bob Schmitz [masked]