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Moving on Over-Transferring the OPP Blog to OPP Website June 12, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements.
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This WordPress blog is being transferred to the Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy website. Look for our blog on the OPP home page. Thanks for your attention and participation. We hope you continue to view and commment on the Center for Inquiry Offiice of Public Policy’s important work in Washington DC.


Toni Van Pelt on Pete Dominick’s Radio Show June 11, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements.
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Toni Van Pelt, Policy Director of CFI’s Office of Public Policy, appeared on Stand Up! with Pete Dominick on Tuesday 9 June. The show is featured on Sirius 110 and XM 130 satellite radio.
Toni talked about a news article that appeared earlier in the day in a Capitol Hill newspaper Politico . The article, entitled “Atheists Keep Faith with Obama,” included quotations from Toni and Nathan Bupp, director of communications for the Center for Inquiry. Referring to her group as “nonbelievers” and “secular humanists,” Toni emphasized the need to tread lightly on certain issues, in order to avoid a backlash. “Pragmatically, there are some really serious things that we need to focus our work on.”
Pete directed the conversation to CFI’s current work on the Hill and one of the most important issues of the day Charitiable Choice. Toni recounted the history of Charitable Choice and what it meant in the fight to tear down the wall separating church and state. CFI performed a detailed historical study of federal funding for faith-based programs, extending from the rise of “charitable choice” legislation during the Clinton administration through the explosion of taxpayer funding for religious programs under George W. Bush’s Faith Based and Community Initiative. Charitable Choice and Faith Based Initiatives are the most potent weapons being used in the battle today. For more information on this crucial issue please read the CFI position paper. Toni may be heard on the Pete Dominick show from time to time–a “semi-regular,” as Pete said on air. Stay tuned to an important voice for secular humanism.
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OPP at Endorsement of Sotomayor by Law Enforcement June 10, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements.
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Yesterday Toni Van Pelt, Policy Director, CFI Office of Public Policy, and Ruth Mitchell. OPP staff associate, attended a press conference in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, hosted by Vice President Joe Biden. Representatives of law enforcement from across the U.S. endorsed the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The press conference focused on the earliest part of Sotomayor’s career, when, fresh out of law school, she served as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan under legendary district attorney, Robert Morgenthau. Now 90 years old, Morgenthau was present at the press conference and enthusiastically endorsed his former assistant district attorney.

The speakers made their endorsements in front of a line of city police chiefs, including Cathy Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan DC Police. Other speakers included Joseph I. Cassilly, president of the National District Attorneys Association, and John F.Timoney, Chief of Police in Miami, FL, and president of the Police Executive Research Forum. The audience consisted of representatives of police organizations and district attorneys from near and far.

In his remarks, Vice president Biden stressed Sotomayor’s experience as a district attorney, sharing the experiences of police and prosecutors in combating crime in New York neighborhoods. He appealed to the shared experience of everyone in the room as a reason to support her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Join the call for Sotomayor! May 26, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements.
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On Wednesday May 27 at 2:00 PM, there will be a national conference call on the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor. If you would like to help get her nominated, send a message to grassroots@civilrights.org, giving your full name, organization and state to get the toll-free number and passcode for the national conference call.
This national conference call is organized by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the Alliance for Justice (AfJ), and People for the American Way, coalition partners with CFI’s Office of Public Policy.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor is an outstandingly well qualified woman with an inspiring life story. The Center for Inquiry has hailed her nomination, with a note of caution because her views on church-state separation are unclear so far.
Send that email, join the call!

Civic Days at the OPP July 18-21! You all come! May 13, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Action Item, Annoucements, Press Release.
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Change has come to Washington DC—
and So Should You. Join Us!

The CFI Office of Public Policy invites you to participate in the second annual

Civic Days at the Capital, 18-21 July 2009

Come to Washington for four days of immersion in how Congress and the nation’s capital city work. You will hear about what’s on Congress’s agenda right now; about lobbying works; about The Credibility Project, an OPP-sponsored project exposing fake “scientists” who oppose global warming; visit the National Archives and other historical sites; go on a walking tour of Robert Green Ingersoll’s life in Washington; meet and hear from Congressional staffers; and lobby your own members of Congress. And you will also enjoy networking with other Friends of the Center from across the country.

The following is a tentative schedule of events. First lesson of Washington: Congress sets the agenda and we have to follow.

When: July 18, Saturday-July 21, Tuesday
Where: CFI Office of Public Policy, 621 Pennsylvania Ave. SE Washington DC 20003

July 18 Saturday
Informal welcome social at the OPP office from 12 noon to 9:00 PM.
Participants will be greeted by Toni Van Pelt, Director of Public Policy; Ruth Mitchell OPP staff associate; Melody Hensley, CFI/DC executive director; and members of the Civic Days Planning Committee.

July 19 Sunday
• What’s moving through the Congress. Briefing by Toni Van Pelt
• The Credibility Project, an analysis of the 650 global warming denier “experts.” Thomas O’Brien and Dr. Stuart Jordan, emeritus senior staff scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
• Private docent visit to the National Archives
• Ingersoll’s Life in DC, 1.5 mile, 2 hour walking tour. Steve Lowe, member of the Civic Days Planning Committee.Bring your favorite Ingersoll quotation to share.
• Private briefing with Friends of the Center congressional staff members.

July 20 Monday
• Briefing about current issues by a member of Congress (tba)
• Tour of Capitol Visitors Center
• Group Photo in front of Library of Congress
• Tour the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, on Capitol Hill, a museum devoted to the history of women’s emancipation
• Teaming up, role playing and coordinating our lobbying appointments.
• Dinner together at Union Station
• Evening walk round the monuments.

July 21 Tuesday
• Day in Congress, beginning with breakfast in a House Office Building cafeteria.
• Meetings with legislators, attendance at congressional briefings or hearings.
• Fly home tonight.

We have several suggestions for hotel and b-and-b accommodations which will be e-mailed to registered participants upon request. We’ll include maps for easy Metro, bus, and walking directions to the OPP office and our other destinations.

Please go to http://ga1.org/center_for_inquiry/events/civic_days.

The phone number for the CFI/OPP is 202-546-2330. Toni Van Pelt can be reached by email at tvanpelt@centerforinquiry.net.

We’re looking forwarding to introducing you to Washington and its ways!

CFI/OPP Presents Awards to Members of Congress March 25, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements, Press Release.
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The CFI Office of Public Policy last week presented awards to five members of the House of Representatives who worked to further our values in the 110th Congress, 2007-2008. They are:Representative Vernon Ehlers of Grand Rapids Michigan, who is a tireless worker for education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM); Representative Brian Baird of Vancouver, Washington, who is promoting science as vital international cooperation; Representative Diana DeGette of Denver Colorado, who tried over and over again in the 110th Congress to get federal funding for embryonic stem cell research; Representative Michael Honda of San Jose, California, who supports education in science and eloquently speaks for the rights of Muslim Americans; and Representative Henry Waxman of Los Angeles, who held committee hearings which exposed the attempt to muzzle climate scientists during the Bush years.
OPP director Toni Van Pelt presented each representative with a crystal tower engraved with the award and embellished with a globe that represents the transnational nature of the Center for Inquiry. She read a citation and a professional photographer took pictures that we will post as soon as we receive them. Citations detailing the achievements of each awardee are posted on the OPP website, http://www.centerforinquiry.net/opp.

The House Gets It Right February 28, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements.
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Yesterday the House of Representatives passed the omnibus funding bill–not the budget that the President is sending to Congress today, but a bill appropriating money for federal agencies to keep operating until September 30, the end of fiscal year 2009. The bill now goes to the Senate and could be swiftly signed by the President if there are no amendments to debate.
The omnibus funding bill includes an increase in funds for family planning programs, such as Title X at home, and the United Nations Population Fund abroad. It fixes a problem with the price of birth control for family-planning clinics and student health centers, a problem that meant increased prices for contraception just when we didn’t need increases.
Perhaps most encouraging to CFI supporters of real sex education for adolescents, the omnibus spending bill cuts funds for so-called “abstinence-only sex education” by $14 million.
The bill increases spending on domestic programs by eight percent for the current fiscal year. For reproductive health, they got it right!

Obama gets it right! February 5, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements.
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Although President Obama intends to continue faith-based social service programs, his administration is quite clear about separating religion from public schools.

The so-called stimulus package intended to promote economic recovery passed by the Democrats in the House of Representatives last week bans money for school renovation from being spent on facilities that allow religious worship.Funds may not be used for the “modernization, renovation, or repair” of facilities that allow “sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity.”

The package passed by the House includes $20 billion for public school infrastructure renovations, of which $6 billion would go to institutions of higher education where the restrictions against divinity schools or departments would apply.

Conservatives groups are expressing outrage at what they see as curbs on religious liberty in higher learning, but constitutional law experts say conservatives don’t have much legal basis for complaint.After all, President Obama himself formerly taught constitutional law.

Beware these bills! February 2, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements, Commentary.

Bills by the hundred are introduced daily in Congress. Many of them concern trivial and local matters like recognition of local heroes and support for specific individuals, but some malicious bills are slipped in, hoping that no-one will notice.

Recent examples are the House and Senate bills S.270 and H.R. 605, mentioned in the following post “When Two Bills Look Alike.”  S.270 and H.R. 605 are two versions of a bill purporting to help pregnant women. Don’t be deceived–these bills are sponsored by Democrats for Life and supported  by the U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  They don’t provide funds for contraception and real sex education, but refer throughout to “unborn children,” an common anti-abortion tactic to promote an emotional response to pregnancy.  The bills are intended to coerce women into bearing children, whether they want to or not.

Last week another no-good, very bad bill was introduced in the Senate–S.346, sponsored by Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. This bill would extend the protection of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution to what are called “preborn persons.”  They mean fetuses, but deliberately don’t use the correct scientific term.  If  by any chance this bill were to become law, it would change the constitution so that a fetus would be a person and abortion would become murder.

We’ll keep you posted on the progress of these bills. At the moment they are all three in committee, a common graveyard for unpopular bills. Let’s hope they stay there.

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Plea for End to the Hyde Amendment January 16, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements, Commentary.
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On December 12, 2008, our OPP director, Toni Van Pelt, was among a group who met with Melody Barnes of the Obama transition team to urge an end to the Hyde Amendment, which restricts access to abortions for women enrolled in Medicaid. After the meeting, the 119 organizations, including the Center for Inquiry,  in the National Network of Abortion funds sent this letter to Ms.Barnes.

Fund abortion. Protect dignity and justice for all women.

January 8, 2009
Melody Barnes
Dear Director Barnes:
Thank you for taking the time to meet with members of the reproductive health and rights community on Friday, December 12, 2008. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in the Obama-Biden Transition Project’s information-gathering process. We look forward to working with you and the new Administration to ensure real reproductive choices for all women.
We wish to underscore the importance of our request that President Obama strike language in his first budget that blocks women’s access to abortion care, including restrictions on abortion funding for Medicaid-eligible women and Native American women (the Hyde Amendment), disabled women covered under Medicare, federal employees and their dependents (FEHB), residents of the District of Columbia, Peace Corps volunteers, and women in federal prisons. Women in the military and military families are also negatively affected by abortion funding bans. Though attached to different funding streams, we consider these restrictions to be a single issue requiring consistent and equal treatment by President Obama.
For more than thirty years, the Hyde Amendment and other funding restrictions have affected the poorest and most vulnerable of low-income Americans, with a disproportionate impact on women of color and immigrant women. The Hyde Amendment denies abortion access to the seven million women of reproductive age who are currently enrolled in Medicaid. These funding restrictions are the most detrimental of all attacks on safe, legal abortion care, and represent a clear violation of low-income women’s human rights.
In addition, abortion funding restrictions marginalize abortion care and disregard the fact that it is an integral part of the continuum of women’s reproductive health care.
By striking funding restrictions, President Obama can place abortion back in the context of health care, thereby setting a new tone and signaling to Congress his commitment to comprehensive women’s health care.
Further, this early commitment will bolster the efforts of our diverse and growing grassroots advocacy campaign as we continue educating the public and Members of Congress about the urgent need for a full repeal of these restrictions. There is precedent for a President who supports reproductive freedom to take this action, and we look forward to working with and supporting President Obama as he takes this step.
Today, more than ever, low-income women in the United States must have access to the resources that allow them to determine the size and timing of their families. Many of these women are already balancing the demands of jobs, children, school, diminishing paychecks, and the disproportionate burden of an economic downturn. Funding restrictions are often insurmountable obstacles for women with limited resources. Removing them is the first step to true health care reform, to abolishing class- and race-based discrimination, and to placing control, dignity, and self-determination back in the hands of the women to whom it belongs.
The signatories of this letter are members of a diverse and growing coalition of organizations who have come together to fight restrictions on abortion funding in order to ensure true access to abortion for the most marginalized women in our society. The Hyde – 30 Years is Enough! Campaign is coordinated by the National Network of Abortion Funds and was formed to mark the 30th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment in October, 2006. Since that time, the seventy organizations and more than 100 abortion Funds of the Network have worked to educate the public about the impact of funding restrictions and build public support for their repeal. These organizing efforts are successfully laying the groundwork for public support for an end to these damaging and discriminatory restrictions.
We look forward to continuing this conversation with the new Administration and encourage you to contact us with any questions. In the meantime, we thank you again for your commitment to women’s health and well-being.
National Network of Abortion Funds