A panel of nine brilliant legal scholars in the United States has great power to shape the meaning of law and policy. In the last two weeks the Supreme Court of the United States has dispensed several decisions on issues that we as a people interested in human rights and the separation of religion and government bring close focus upon . 

This week in Espinoza v. Montana the Court upended longstanding secular precedent through permitting public dollars going to religious education programs. The Court also protected the last refuge in Louisiana for women to obtain legal and safe abortion services (June Medical Services v. Louisiana). I will go into greater detail next week on these pivotal cases. 

Last week (near the 50th anniversary of the first post-Stonewall Riot commemorations) the Court held that employment discrimination grounded in sexual orientation of gender identity violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964's provisions on protecting employment rights in regard to the sex of an individual (Bostock v. Clayton County). The Court sadly increased a hurdle of hardship for those seeking asylum in the United States (Nasrallah v. Barr and Homeland Security v.Thuraissigiam). As an organization who has previously assisted in the area of helping individuals find safe harbor in other states, this is truly troubling. 

Additionally in other news from around the globe, Saudi authorities have strictly limited the permissible number of pilgrims in this year's Hajj. The current pandemic was not the first instance of restricting pilgrims heading to Mecca in order to limit disease transmission. This is more prescient with the global CoVid-19 response i interrupting vaccine chains for other pathogens (e.g., polio).

In the time since our last newsletter, we held a conference call with secular leaders from a number of organizations and one of our fellows (Dr. Elham Manea) on the condition of Mubarak Bala, the Humanist Association of Nigeria president who has been effectively disappeared by authorities in Kano State. Mr. Bala has been incommunicado for nearly two months. We are sending out the draft of our sign on advocacy letter to help Mr. Bala's cause among our coalition members on Monday, and posting it here in our weekly newsletter next Thursday. 

Humanist Association of Nigeria founder Dr. Leo Igwe, penned an essay on "Lives of Atheists Matter," advocating for Mr. Bala. Igwe was on the call, and the video should be published soon via our youtube page. 

Lastly, this weekend marks the annual commemoration of the Independence of the United States from Great Britain. In my three day weekend there are two reads that I plan to dive into. 

The first is a translation from the French of a study on religion. Olivier Roy's Is Europe Christian? looks like a fantastic read for those interested in changing religious demography and secularization (a review from the Wall Street Journal). 

The second is surely a classic for anyone interested in the interplay of religion, politics, daily life, and human rights: The Age of Reason. Thomas Paine helped foment democratic revolution on both sides of the pond and showed even greater bravery by taking on the most daring of tasks, criticizing revealed religion both in essence and in socio-political practice. 

I leave you with the words of Paine:

"I believe the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow- creatures happy." If these were the only aims of religious individuals and institutions aspiring themselves to be political figures, a certain and more passive form of secularism would be called for. Until then, stay strong, stay safe, wear your mask, and have a great week. 


Jason Frye, CEO
Secular Policy Institute                             
International Update:

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released a new report on Bangladesh.

An article in Foreign Policy details Hindu nationalist sentiment increasingly embedded in Indian foreign policy. 

The honor murder of a 14-year-old girl is igniting discussion and fomenting the grounds for change in the Islamic Republic. 

An attacked by suspected Boko Haram insurgents killed 81 in Borno State. 

Saudi Arabia was removed from a UN Blacklist on child-killing. 

Female Genital Mutilation in Sudan's condemned by USCIRF.

A new study found London to be "more religious" than the rest of Britain.

LGBT Persons (Employment) Protected 
The United States Supreme Court extended Civil Rights Act (1964) Title VII employment protections that bar discrimination on the basis of sex to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

Capital Punishment
After a presidentially-mandated review following several botched death penalty sentences, the U.S. Federal Government is set to resume conducting executions. 

Religious Freedom Executive Order
On 2nd June, President Donald Trump signed an executive order asserting religious freedom as a priority in foreign policy. 

US Supreme Court Upholds CoVid Orders Involving Churches
The United States Supreme Court sided with the State of Californian in the enforcement of its public gathering orders in relation to the state's CoVid-19 response. 
Saving Mubarak Bala

We are introducing our new sign on letter on Monday. A copy will be sent to our organizational members for review and singing. 

We are going the efforts to help in the campaign to #FreeMubarakBala.Mr. Bala is still being held without the ability to contact counsel, his family, or other forms of support. Bala has been in this terrible position for nearly two months. We are joining the international effort to helps secure his liberty and safety. 

The draft will be available here next Thursday for your consideration and distribution. A youtube version of our recent coordinating call will also be online in the near future. 


Update on SPI Fellows: Drs. Klein, McWhorter, and Semple

Marty Klein
In a Mercury News interview, Dr. Klein discusses potential effects of sheltering-in-place on relationships and ways to navigate its features. 
Read more....

John McWhorter
An essay in The Atlantic has Dr. McWhorter discussing his views on the dictionary definition of "race" and its value in today's changing socio-political climate.
Listen here...

Michael Semple
As the crisis in Afghanistan continues to unfold, the Taliban are found to be developing new alliances. Foreign Policy quote Dr. Semple on this issue.  
Read more....

Science News

Humans & Chimp Communication
A fascinating study has come out on the ability for humans to decipher the meaning in chimpanzee communication. 

Dinosaur Eggs
A new study has come out on the nature of dinosaur reproduction focussing on the consistency of their eggshells. 


We are returning to our monthly conference call on secular policy and human rights. 

Our first regular call will be held on Thursday August 6th at 1 pm EDT (GMT -4). 

The topic will be the waning secular state in India, the circumstances related to the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the human rights crisis in Kashmir. 

A zoom link will be shared soon in this newsletter as well as a bulletin sent out to the member organizations of our coalition. 
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