Rotunda blog: Nonbelievers band together to lobby lawmakers

2013-03-01T13:20:00Z 2014-06-20T09:17:15Z Rotunda blog: Nonbelievers band together to lobby lawmakersBy JoANNE YOUNG / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers and secularists are banding together for a lobbying effort at the Nebraska Legislature.

They sent notice Friday they will support a list of bills and testify at some of the hearings on those bills.

Mike Lewis of Lincoln is the chairman of the group. Other leaders are Ryan Duell of Lincoln and Justin Evertson of Waverly.

Lewis said he identifies himself primarily as a native Nebraskan who has been an atheist since ninth grade, and this lobbying effort is a way to do some good for the cause of secular government in Nebraska.

"We want to keep tabs on religion having an improper influence on public policy," he said.

Nebraska Secular Advocates is not opposed to religious organizations trying to influence public policy or politicians talking publicly about their faith, he said.

"Those things are guaranteed under the First Amendment, just as they're guaranteed to us," Lewis said.

But there are instances in which religion goes too far in influencing life for those who don't have those beliefs, he said.

A bill (LB564) in front of the Legislature that would give health care providers and institutions the right to refuse medical care that violates their religious, moral or ethical convictions is one example, he said.

Freedom of religion is not an unlimited freedom and it shouldn't interfere with the right to reasonable access to legal products and procedures, Lewis said.

Another bill (LB14) the group opposes is one that would create income tax credits for individuals and corporations that donate to organizations that grant scholarships for tuition at private K-12 schools. The groups says taxpayers should not have to subsidize religious education.

The Nebraska Secular Advocates supports a bill (LB603) that would allow people to make an affirmation in place of swearing an oath and strike the words "so help me God" from such oaths.

It also supports gay rights bills and those that would expand reproductive health services and improve sex education.

Reach JoAnne Young at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com -- You can follow JoAnne's tweets at twitter.com/ljslegislature.

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