Tag: Diversity

Winter solstice billboard graces entry to town, thanks to Grand Junction’s growing secular community

Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) is running it’s annual wintertime billboard celebrating the solstice on the digital billboard facing west on I-70 Business Loop in front of Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A at Rimrock Marketplace. At a recent meeting, WCAF members estimated that approximately 15-20% of western Colorado residents are non-religious and identify as atheists, agnostics, humanists or freethinkers.

New scholarship established for western Colorado LGBTQ+ students

Jeff Basinger, July 8, 1953 – May 6, 2018

Western Colorado’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender + (LGBTQ+) students have a new scholarship fund to boost their higher education aspirations, thanks to the thoughtful people who formed the Basinger Leadership Scholarship Committee. The Jeffrey Alan Basinger Leadership Scholarship was established to recognize beloved local resident Jeff Basinger, who died in May of 2018. Jeff was a strong advocate for western Colorado residents living with HIV/AIDS and members of the LGBTQ+ community through decades of working with various community organizations, and as a volunteer. Jeff worked on the “Vote No on Amendment 2” campaign in 1992 and was a founding member of the Common Decency Coalition, which later became Western Equality. He belonged to the Grand Junction Downtown Association and other community organizations, had a deep working historical knowledge of the Grand Junction area, and a long and successful career working with the Western Colorado AIDS Project (WestCAP).

Grand Junction mosque’s new sign vandalized

Two Rivers Mosque’s new sign after vandalism

On August 31, the Islamic Center of Grand Junction unveiled a colorful new sign installed in front of its new Two Rivers Mosque at 8th and Gunnison Ave. and held a community barbecue to celebrate. About 50 people attended the barbecue, and it was an afternoon of peace, friendship and great food.

Not three weeks later, the sign was vandalized beyond all recognition.

Annual Grand Junction Women’s March draws huge crowds again

The third annual Women’s March in Grand Junction on Saturday, January 19th, drew an enthusiastic crowd of about 2,000 liberal and progressive western slope residents who came out to support women’s rights, equality for women and gay, lesbian and transgender people, people of color and immigrant communities.

Atheist billboard graces entrance to Grand Junction for Christmas

WCAF’s 2018 winter billboard in Grand Junction, up now in front of Hobby Lobby on I-70 business loop (on the board facing west).

The non-profit group Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) has a digital billboard up on I-70 Business Loop in front of Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A for Christmas that says “Make Christmas great again. Skip church!”

The sign is a reminder that the holiday focus should be more on kindness, humanity and ethical treatment of others than on organized religion, which has been proving problematic lately, and to a horrific degree.

Grand Valley Business Times repels Democratic business owners

Placard proposed to be displayed by businesses that advertise in the Business Times.

The Grand Valley Business Times (GVBT) has long been a source of business news in Mesa County, usually focusing on helpful items like what new businesses are moving in, the newest  soups at Zoup, and which authors will be appearing at the downtown bookstores. In his latest issue, though, the paper’s owner, Craig Hall, used his editorial column to denigrate and insult Democratic and progressive business owners in the valley, and criticize women who seek to control their own reproductive destiny.

Atheist billboard graces entrance to Grand Junction at Easter, 2018

Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) has a new digital billboard up in front of Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A at Rimrock Marketplace on I-70 B just in time for Easter. It shows a child with a shocked look on his face holding a book that looks very much like a Bible. It says “Belief without proof is gullibility.” You can see the board as you are heading west on I-70 B.

WCAF wanted their spring billboard to have an educational component this year. The group wanted to emphasize that people deserve proof before believing what they’re told. They also want to urge people to come to logical conclusions based on verifiable facts rather than on lore, mythology or pure faith.

WCAF’s mission is to educate the public about atheism, promote acceptance of atheism as a rational belief system and preserve and promote the wall of separation between church and state.

The board is up through Tuesday, April 4. WCAF says anyone who takes their photo with the billboard and posts it on WCAF’s Facebook page will get a free package of M&Ms.  To donate to more billboards like this, go to WCAF’s Donation page.

Grand Junction City Council has an opportunity to end divisive religious invocations at public meetings. Let’s hope they do.

The Devil is among the many diverse religious players who are likely to get more chances to say invocations at City Council meetings, unless the invocation is eliminated entirely or the invocation policy is changed changed to a moment of silence instead of prayers.

Grand Junction City Council plans to re-assess the issue of hosting religious invocations at public meetings at their Monday, March 5 workshop.

Grand Junction made history in 2017 as the first city in Colorado host a Satanic invocation at a City Council meeting. News of the event spread across the country, and the story even made it onto Russia Today’s news website, RT.
How could something like this happen?
Under pressure from the City’s secular community to abide by the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, in 2008 the City of Grand Junction adopted an invocation policy that opened up the invocation to anyone, instead of reserving the opportunity to say it only to representatives of a few selected religious groups. Over the last ten years, the new policy has resulted in the City making history  with invocations given by atheists, Satanists and anarchists.
But the most prominent non-Christian invocation — a Satanic invocation last August, and all the hoopla that surrounded it — TV news cameras, prayer circles at City Hall and Bible-toting people in the audience — seems to have made Council interested in revising their invocation policy.

City Council endorses protections and path to citizenship for DACA recipients. G.J. citizens react.

On January 17, 2018, the Grand Junction City Council sent an official letter (above) to Senators Cory Gardner, Michael Bennet and House Representative Scott Tipton urging the House and Senate to pass “a clean bill as soon as possible to prevent the end of DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] in March.”

Republican and “Deplorable” G.J. City Council member Duncan McArthur voted against the letter supporting young DACA recipients in our community

The letter was signed by Mayor J. Merrick (“Rick”) Taggart. City Council approved it on a 5-2 vote. Councilmembers Duncan McArthur and Barbara Traylor-Smith voted against it.

Grand Junction’s Satanic Invocation a Success, More Diversity Likely Coming Soon

Grand Junction, Colorado’s first Satanic invocation went off without a hitch yesterday evening, with an audience of about 50 interested onlookers and five out of seven city council members present.

The audience and was quiet and respectful as the speaker made the following statement to Council:

Central High Seniors Take Steps Toward Eliminating Religious Baccalaureate

Word is out that Central High School’s Senior Student Senate has voted to change the school’s annual baccalaureate from a religious event featuring a blessing by a pastor to a secular event featuring 3-5 minute speeches by students about what they are grateful for.  By the time the Student Senate voted on the issue, it was too late to change the name of the event because the materials promoting it had already been printed, but they say next year the name of the event will be changed as well.

Undecided About Who to Vote for for City Council? Maybe Some Notes from the Candidates Forum March 23 Will Help

The City Council Candidate Forum March 23

For those who couldn’t attend the League of Women Voters City Council Candidate Forum last Thursday, March 23, at City Hall Auditorium, I am sharing my notes here. The notes are not a direct recording of what was said, but rather a synopsis. I wrote as fast as I could!

Names in boldface type indicate the incumbents. Jesse Daniels is challenging Norris for her seat on Council. At age 35, Daniels is the youngest candidate. Duncan McArthur is running unopposed, but you can write in a candidate you’d rather see in his Council seat. Duke Wortmann is a relocation consultant for Mesa Moving and Storage and is challenging incumbent Marty Chazen. Incumbent Rick Taggart is a former executive with Swiss Army Knife, and did not attend the forum, citing a previous engagement. Taggart is running against C. Lincoln Pierce for an At-Large seat on Council. For folks hoping Grand Junction will someday have a recreation/community center, two incumbents, Duncan McArthur and Phyllis Norris, both said clearly they were NOT in favor of building a public community/recreation center.

Non-Religious Holiday Message Graces I-70 Business Loop in Grand Junction

Billboard celebrating the 2016 Winter Solstice graces I-70 B, in front of Chick Fil-A and Hobby Lobby. The board will be up until December 26th.

Grand Junction’s growing secular community wishes people well this holiday season with a bright, 12 x 24 foot digital billboard on I-70 Business Loop that says “Merry Winter Solstice.” The digital billboard is by the Rimrock Marketplace, in front of Chick Fil A, a fast food chain with a history of anti-LGBT activism, and Hobby Lobby, a craft store with a reputation of catering to an evangelical clientele. The board runs until December 26th and was purchased by the members of Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers, a local nonprofit group whose mission is “to inform and educate the public in Western Colorado about atheism,” and “promote acceptance of atheism as a valid, rational belief system.” WCAF also advocates for separation of church and state, and has served as a sounding board, exposing and confronting illegal religious proselytizing in public schools and local governments on the western slope. WCAF also gives western Colorado’s atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and humanists a way to connect with each other, share information, enjoy social activities, develop new friendships and enjoy freethinking conversation. It is the oldest secular advocacy organization on the western slope, and will celebrate its 10 year anniversary in February, 2017.

Don’t Be Fooled: Saying the Pledge of Allegiance, Now a Religious Oath, is Always Optional

pledge-of-allegiance-1892

The text of the original Pledge of Allegiance, as it existed until 1953. In 1954, Congress added the words “under God” to it, effectively changing it from a purely patriotic statement into a religious statement.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s recent refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem has spurred debate over coerced and often perfunctory recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance.

In reaction to the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, people started reciting the Pledge more frequently, on more occasions and in more venues than ever before. Many U.S. public schools starting requiring students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily. Mesa County’s District 51’s student handbook (pdf, at page 35) says students get an “opportunity” and have the “right” to say the pledge, but it never expressly says in a neutral manner that students also have a legal right not to say it. Rather, the manual practically sneers at students who choose not to say the pledge by using language that infers such students are likely to be disruptive and disrespectful in doing so:

“If you feel, based on personal convictions or religious beliefs, that you do not want to recite the Pledge or salute the flag, we ask you to remain respectfully silent, not interfering with the
rights of others to recite the Pledge and salute the flag.”

City of Grand Junction Officially Endorses Gay Pride Week

The City of Grand Junction's official proclamation endorsing Gay Pride Week in town

The City of Grand Junction’s official proclamation endorsing Gay Pride Week in town

In a landmark action towards welcoming diversity in our community, at its Wednesday, May 4, 2016 meeting, the Grand Junction City Council will officially declare May 2nd through May 8th, 2016 “Grand Junction Pride Fest Week.”

Mesa County Democrats Give the Nod to Retail Recreational Weed

Dave Edwards

Palisade Mayor Pro Tem Dave Edwards accepts the nomination to run for District 3 County Commissioner at Central High School auditorium

The Mesa County Democratic Party became the party of “Yes” today when it came to allowing recreational marijuana commerce in Mesa County.

At their assembly at Central High School auditorium, Democratic Party delegates voted by an overwhelming majority to amend the party’s platform to back ending the ban on recreational marijuana sales and cultivation into the County.

The current Board of Mesa County Commissioners have banned marijuana commerce, sending cash-carrying tourists and area residents seeking legal weed up-valley to DeBeque, Parachute, Silt and Glenwood Springs, to purchase legal pot.

Democrats in favor of the measure cited the economic benefits much of the rest of the state is enjoying from sales taxes on marijuana, the tourism and job creation Mesa County is missing out on, and the lives unnecessarily ruined by the criminalization of marijuana, which is now widely accepted to be a failed strategy. Opponents cited the fact that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, but those in favor countered that the federal government is no longer actively enforcing marijuana laws in Colorado and other states that have legalized it.

Dems: Change McInnis Canyons back to “Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area”

Revert McInnis Canyons back to Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area

Scott McInnis got a national conservation area named after himself in violation of a federal House Rule that prohibits Congressmen from naming public works and lands after themselves.

In another notable amendment to their platform, Mesa County Dems also voted to support reverting “McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area” back its original name, “Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area.” The change would require an act of Congress. Speakers in favor (and all speakers were in favor) noted that the idea to change the area’s name did not originate from Colorado’s representatives or from any Colorado citizens. Also, in order to pass the name change, a handful of House representatives suspended a Congressional House Rule that prohibits sitting members of Congress from naming public works and lands after themselves. Supporters also cited the fact that national conservation areas are always named after the geological features that make them unique, and not after people. Others took exception to former Congressman Scott McInnis’ opposition to land conservation locally, and his 2010 plagiarism scandal as making him unfit to have the area named after him.

The vote to revert the name was unanimous, without a single dissenter among the approximately 150 delegates at the assembly.

Also by another unanimous vote, Mesa County Democrats backed adding a 5-10 cent deposit on bottles and cans locally to encourage recycling, help clean up litter around the county and provide a source of income for homeless people.

Districts 1 & 3 Commissioner Candidates Accept Nominations, Promise Economic Benefits

Fruita City Councilman Mel Mulder

Fruita City Councilman Mel Mulder

Palisade Mayor Pro Tem Dave Edwards formally accepted at nomination to run for District 3 County Commissioner. The District includes eastern Mesa County, Palisade, Orchard Mesa, DeBeque). The seat is currently held by incumbent Rose Pugliese, an attorney who is currently mired in a malpractice lawsuit and facing legal sanctions, and who openly opposes wilderness areas.

Fruita City Councilman Mel Mulder accepted the nomination to run for County Commissioner in District 1 (western Mesa County, Fruita, Mack, Loma and Glade Park) to replace incumbent Commissioner John Justman, who last year took a controversial $2,500 trip to Hawaii on the taxpayers’ dime, and who holds anti-federal government views while also accepting over $200,000 in federal agricultural subsidies for his own farm.

Both candidates vowed to start working on turning around Mesa County’s failing economy as soon as they are elected. Since the County Commission consists of only three members, they pointed out, electing both of them at once would allow them to start initiating quick changes for the better as the two would be a majority on the county commission.

Dems enjoyed the morning, and each other’s company, snacking on union-made doughnuts from Safeway and locally brewed coffee from Traders’ Coffee at 7th and Patterson Road as they organized to move forward stronger than ever before.

More Proselytizing Reported in District 51 Schools

Proselytize definition

Yet another incident of inappropriate proselytizing was reported in a District 51 school late last month. The parties spent the last few weeks working to resolve it. An update was just recently available. Following is a description of what happened.

On December 31, the father of a Lincoln Orchard Mesa (LOM) Elementary student contacted Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF), a western slope group that advocates for separation of church and state, about an inappropriate incident of proselytizing involving his child that occurred at LOM on November 20.  The student is 8 years old and in the 3rd grade.

According to the parent and child, here is what took place:

LOM students were taking their regularly-scheduled lunch break in their school’s lunchroom on Friday, November 20, 2016.  The student at the center of the incident was sitting at a table chatting with friends in the lunchroom, as was usual for kids at lunch. During the conversation, the student shared with her friends that she did not believe in God. A friend who heard the comment immediately went to a nearby lunchroom assistant named Jody Payne and told her that her friend did not believe in God. Ms. Payne went over to the table and told the student, in front of her friends, that “God created everything” that she “needed to, and should believe in God.”

The Problems with Mixing Religion and Government in Mesa County & Grand Junction

“Sad, that their choice was taken away…. No one had to take a Bible if they didn’t want one. All through life you have to make life decisions. This would have been a good life training to stand up as an individual and say ‘no thank you.’ ”

The above was a comment left on a previous blog about the Gideon Bible giveaway that was to take place at the Colorado Mesa University’s nursing program pinning ceremony December 11. This commenter, and others who wrote in a similar vein, show there is a fundamental misunderstanding about U.S. government locally, and about the nature of the U.S. government and the benefits of keeping church and state separate.

churchstateMany people mistakenly claim the U.S.was “founded as a Christian nation,” and point to our country’s founding documents as proof.

They need to look more closely.

The U.S. Constitution contains no mention of “God,” “Lord,” “Jesus,” “Christ” or any other deity. The founders intentionally designed it as a completely secular document. The Declaration of Independence does mention a generic “Creator,” but the Declaration is not U.S. law. It was a letter addressed to the King of England. Many people confuse the two documents. The difference between them is huge. The only document that has the force of law behind it is the Constitution. It’s the only one that really matters.

The Bill of Rights is similarly secular, with no mention of a god or gods, lords or deities. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, contained in the Bill of Rights, provides for a separation between religion and government. This provision truly sets the United States apart from other countries.