Atheist Republic News Summary: Alabama Conservatives Maintain Ban on Yoga

Alabama fails to reverse ban on school yoga as conservatives say they fear rise in Hinduism
Location: Alabama

Since 2019, democratic representative, Jeremy Gray of Opelika, has been trying to revoke the ban on yoga from Alabama public schools. His bill would allow school systems to offer yoga as an elective activity. On March 31st, representatives from two conservative groups said this bill could promote Hinduism or guided meditation practices. The bill proposed by Gray, who is a Christian himself, mentions that all yoga instruction shall be limited exclusively to poses and stretching techniques and exclude any chanting, mantras, and "namaste" greetings. Yet his bill did not advance in the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee. With two members absent, the vote on the bill ended in a tie. Earlier this year, the state's House of Representatives passed the bill to override the ban. Gray expects the bill to come up again before the committee in the coming weeks.

Creationism Could Now Be Taught In Arkansas Science Classrooms
Location: Arkansas

On April 7th, Arkansas's House Bill 1701 passed the House with a vote of 72 to 21. This bill would allow Christian beliefs to be taught in public schools. Representative Mary Bentley sponsored this bill stating that HB 1701 will result in healthy classroom debates. This bill will let public schools teach students in grades K-12 about the Christian theory of creationism by a divine entity. The same law was considered by the United States Supreme Court in 1987 and rejected. State Representative Deborah Ferguson challenged the bill's legality, asking why would we teach creationism when the judicial system has repeatedly ruled that it is illegal. Senator Greg Leding noted that he would vote against HB 1701. Rene Shroate-Lewis, a professor at the University of Arkansas, a Christian, stated that it might confuse the young students if they are taught the creation theory in their formative years.

The ‘nones’ are growing — and growing more diverse
Location: Illinois

In the book "The Nones: Where They Came from, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going," author Ryan Burge, a political scientist, and Baptist minister, discusses the questions many people have about religion and nonreligion. Burge states that religious disaffiliation has risen in every generation, but the sharpest spike in “nones” occurs with the millennials. In his book, he asserts the influence of secularization and the growing polarization of politics as the reason for more people leaving religion. According to Burge, "church attendance is the first thing that goes, then belonging and finally belief — in that order." One of his critical arguments is as the “nones” have increased in quantity, they've also become more diverse. He states that men compared to women or parents in contrast to people with no children are more likely to be a “none.” Among African Americans, only 14% of “nones” are self-identified atheists or agnostics. By comparison, 40% of “nones” in the white population identify as agnostic or atheist. The lower percentage among African Americans is likely resulting from the stigma against atheism within the community.

New Law Allows Medical Workers To Refuse Treatment To LGBTQ People
Location: Arkansas

On March 26th, Asa Hutchinson (R), Governor of Arkansas, passed Senate Bill 289 (Medical Ethics and Diversity Act), into law. This bill will give doctors and medical professionals an easy path to deny LGBTQ patients the medical treatment they require. Hutchinson noted that he believes that allowing medical providers this right is acceptable because of “the federal laws that prohibit discrimination.” The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are concerned that critical services will be denied to LGBTQ patients. The state Chamber of Commerce is also against the bill stating that it sends the wrong message about the state of Arkansas. Hormone treatments for transgender patients, patients requiring in-patient treatment for infection, or even grief counseling for gay couples are some of the critical medical care that could be denied. The bill might also allow professionals to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control or override end-of-life patient directives.

Italy ends censorship of films on moral and religious grounds
Location: Italy

Since the dawn of cinema in 1914, Italy's censorship law has banned many artistic works. In a survey by Cinecensura, an online exhibition promoted by the culture ministry, more than 700 movies have been censured since 1944 primarily for political, moral, and religious reasons. On April 5th, culture minister Dario Franceschini announced that censorship has been abolished. It will not be possible to prevent the publicity of a new movie or demand modifications for moral or religious reasons. Filmmakers will classify movies based on the age of the audience. A new commission, made up of members from the film industry and experts in education and animal rights, will verify their decisions. The last major case of censorship was against the movie "Toto Who Lived Twice" in 1998. Traditional Catholics criticized the film as they found it blasphemous and grotesque.

'Freedom of Speech at Stake': High Court Cautions Cops Over Plaints of Outraging Religious Sentiment
Location: Mumbai, India

On December 18th, 2019, four rock band musicians were arrested by Panaji police for allegedly insulting the Hindu religion during their performance at the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa. Recently, the Bombay high court canceled the first information report (FIR) filed in 2019 against the band members. The musicians were arrested under the Indian Penal Code's Section 295 (hurting religious sentiments) following a Supreme Court complaint filed by advocate Venkata Krishna Kunduru. They were later granted bail after they deposited a surety of 20,000 Rupees. The complaint was filed against the song "Mantra Kavita," composed by two-time Sahitya Academi Award winner Vaidyanathan Mishra. Advocate Shivan Desai claimed that the complainant was taking lines out of context to insist that the song hurt the feelings of millions of Indians and a few million abroad.

ISIS recruiter murdered gay man for committing ‘grave sin’ of holding hands
Location: Dresden, Germany

On October 4th, 2020, 21-year-old Abdullah AHH, using a large kitchen knife, stabbed two tourists who visited the eastern town of Dresden, Germany. Abdullah was granted refugee status in May 2016 in Germany after traveling from Aleppo, Syria. He was tied to the killing after investigators discovered DNA evidence on the weapon, which remained at the scene of the murder. He faces one count of murder for fatally wounding Thomas L, 55, and one count of attempted murder for injuring Thomas's partner Oliver L, 53. His trial for this attack began on April 13th, 2021. Abdullah told the court psychologists that his only regret was not being able to kill Oliver. During the Dresden Higher Regional Court hearing, Abdullah said that he believes that the couple "committed a grave sin" by holding hands in public. In 2018, Abdullah was sentenced to spend two years and nine months in jail for allegedly planning a suicide bomb attack with other militants' help.

Christian women face death penalty in Pakistan after removing 'Quran sticker'
Location: Faisalabad, Pakistan

Two Christian nurses, Maryam Lal and Newsh Urooj, face the death penalty in Pakistan after they removed a sticker, highlighting a verse from the Quran, from a colleague's locker while they were cleaning. On April 9th, a violent mob appeared at the emergency department of Civil Hospital to attack them. Some of the protestors were chanting, "Beheading the only punishment for the blasphemer." Both of them are in custody at Civil Lines Police Station. During the riots, Lal was stabbed by a colleague who worked at the hospital. The colleague stated that "A Muslim can't keep quiet against blasphemy to his prophet." A far-right Islamist group called Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) prompted the violence, and people were calling on the pair to be hanged. This is one of many incidences in Pakistan where women of minority religions are caught in the crosshairs of the nation’s blasphemy laws.

Pakistan ‘to ban’ hardline religious party after violent protest
Location: Islamabad, Pakistan

Pakistan’s interior minister, Sheikh Rasheed, stated that the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party would be banned due to its violent countrywide protests on April 14th. Sheikh Rasheed confirmed that at least two policemen had been killed and more than 340 wounded during the protests. He said the ban would be declared under Pakistani anti-terrorism legislation. The TLP, a religious group founded by Muslim leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi, has made the issue of perceived “blasphemy” its rallying cry. Since November 2020, the group has been demanding the French ambassador's removal and a prohibition on all French goods over statements by French President Emmanuel Macron in 2020. On April 12th, police arrested TLP chief Saad Rizvi, son of Khadim Hussain Rizvi. The arrest sparked days of unrest, with many TLP supporters starting protests and blocking roads and highways across the country. Violent clashes between police and protesters can be seen on video footage from protests in Karachi, Lahore, and elsewhere.

Atheist Republic Founder, Armin Navabi, Speaks to Vice News about Ex-Muslims in Malaysia

This week, the Atheist Republic team discussed an article that features our founder, Armin Navabi! Armin was quoted in a recent article by VICE World News titled “Renouncing Islam in Malaysia Is Dangerous. We Spoke to Those Who Did It.” This article details how being an atheist in Malaysia can be a risky matter, and how many individuals are not raised Muslim by choice but due to government mandate. This article also profiles an Atheist Republic member and leader of a local consulate in Malaysia! He shared his experience of organizing the 2017 meeting of atheists that caused prominent figures to call for atheists and our members to be hunted down. This incident was eventually brought before the United Nations Human Rights Council.

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