Berger Spoke At Lights4Liberty Vigil

On Friday evening, July 12th, at Levis Square in downtown Toledo, the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) co-sponsored the Lights For Liberty vigil to End Human Concentration Camps.

Lights for Liberty partnered with international, national, regional and local communities and organizations who believe that human rights are fundamental rights, are not negotiable, and are willing to protect them.

President Douglas Berger was one of several speakers, at the event in Levis square, who highlighted the human rights issue with the immigration detention camps setup around the country.

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Toledo And Lucas County Need To Step Up To Save Public Transportation

It was reported in the news this week that the Board of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) voted to cut Sunday and Holiday service due to continuing financial problems. SHoWLE sent an email to the city and county elected officials to step up and save the only public transportation option in Lucas county.

Some background:

The service cut, which, with one exception, will take effect Jan. 6, is expected to cover most of a $3-million-plus budget gap that TARTA leaders had hoped to fill by switching the agency’s local subsidy from property taxes to a sales tax.

But the sales tax failed — for a third time in eight years — to clear a statutory process for getting on last month’s general-election ballot in Lucas County, and the transit authority had no alternative revenue proposal ready to go.

That process required all of TARTA’s current member communities’ legislative bodies to endorse the admission of Lucas County as a new member. Sylvania Township’s trustees, as they had done twice before, voted that resolution down in July, and several TARTA trustees and Mr. Gee on Thursday blamed them for the transit authority’s current situation.

Among board members opposing the service cut was Daniel Woodcock, who said imposing it before seeing how a fare increase might improve the authority’s finances would do a “major disservice” to the community.

But agency administrators said that with each 25 cents of increase generating no more than $250,000 in revenue, and with TARTA already having exhausted its monetary reserves, there was no way to put off the service cut any further.

TARTA board approves service cuts

Here is the email SHoWLE President Douglas Berger sent on behalf of the group:

My name is Douglas Berger and I am President of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE), a chapter of the American Humanist Association. I am contacting you today with our concern about the current struggles of the TARTA system and the announced end to Sunday and Holiday service.

I don’t think I need to say that a strong and vibrant city and county that is able to be inclusive of all socioeconomic strata needs to have a strong public transportation system. Toledo and Lucas county does not have one and the one we do have seems to be getting worse.

Cutting service impacts the people less able to have or afford alternatives. They may have to work on Sunday or they want to attend church services. Cuts in service also impacts local businesses by reducing the ability of some customers to visit their stores.

I watched again as one stakeholder community was able to block a viable plan for TARTA to survive and be the public transportation option we can all be proud of. I’m afraid that the block was due to a lack of compassion and empathy for the workers and others who depend on the service.

We here at SHoWLE would like to know what are you doing or plan to do to fix TARTA for long term success? I know public transportation isn’t as flashy as a new employer or a renovated hotel downtown, but many people who make up the backbone of the city ride the bus and they vote.

One idea I had is to see if TARTA could be dissolved and a new authority agency created to take over the assets and this new authority would start off funded by a sales tax as most modern public transportation systems are in this country.

The county might see if a small percentage of the hotel motel tax could be used to supplement TARTA funding until a better funding source could be used.

The other stakeholders in the TARTA system need to pressure the lone hold out to allow a sales tax measure to take place. A sales tax would be better than a property tax.

SHoWLE really hopes that all members of the TARTA authority can work to solve this issue so Toledo won’t lose out future businesses who see a broken public transportation system as a negative when considering where to locate.

 

Pastor Protection Act Not Needed And Wrong For Ohio

Testimony given to Ohio Senate committee

TOLEDO, November 28, 2018 – Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) submitted written testimony opposing Ohio House Bill 36, also known as the “Pastor Protection Act”. The bill would repeat 1st amendment protection given to faith practitioners but would also allow religious groups to avoid public accommodation laws even if a property is used for commercial purposes.

This is a very dangerous change in our civil rights,” SHoWLE President Douglas Berger stated in written testimony submitted to the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee today. “This bill would allow religious groups to discriminate against ANYONE that they feel doesn’t conform to their religious beliefs. Do we want to see a church food pantry turning away a needy family because they are Mormon, since this particular church doesn’t believe Mormons are Christians?

Churches and property owned by religious groups aren’t normally required to follow state or federal public accommodation laws when used explicitly for religious purposes. House Bill 36 doesn’t make such a distinction. The bill as written also wouldn’t just affect same-sex couples. A pastor performing weddings at the court house for a fee could decide not to solemnize a marriage because the couple in question are members of the military or a church fellowship hall might require renters to only allow straight people to attend the event.

Religious freedom should be a shield to protect people from persecution and not a sword to give special rights to a favored group that ends up persecuting people not in that favored group, ” Berger wrote.

This bill is a waste of time and taxpayer money for a problem that doesn’t and will never exist. Instead we would like to see the legislature work to make performing marriages more accessible by considering and passing Senate Bill 52 that also amends 3101.08 to allow anyone who registers with the state to solemnize a marriage.

A pastor or priest will never be forced to perform a ceremony that doesn’t conform to their deeply held religious beliefs but HB 36 is being used to discriminate against those who don’t conform to the favored religion – namely LGBTQ people but the vagueness of the law will allow all kinds of discrimination – with the force of the state.

The Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting this week and the hearing for opponents of the bill is Thursday with a possible committee vote following.

It’s saying something when the majority party is rushing to protect pastors and priests from something that will never happen while they continue to ignore helping the victims of clergy abuse,” Berger said.

While SHoWLE doesn’t believe a pastor or priest should be forced to do something that violates the 1st amendment, religious groups shouldn’t be allowed to arbitrarily discriminate in the use of property it owns not being used for strictly religious purposes.

Link to the  full written testimony

About SHoWLE

The mission of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie is to provide a supportive local community for humanists and other nontheists, while promoting an ethical, reasonable, and secular approach to life through education, community service, outreach, activism, and social events.

SHoWLE meets on the 2nd Saturday of each month and all general meetings are free and open to the public. The website is humanistswle.org

Media Contacts

Douglas Berger – President
567-302-0209

Shawn Meagley – co-Founder
419-266-7945

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