Church-State Update, Vol. 28, No. 3

Edd Doerr, Tom Flynn

A U.S. district judge upheld a Texas moment-of-silence law, even though it had been amended to call specifically for “prayer.”

The U. S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case regarding a neon-lighted Bible display outside a Texas courthouse. A lower court decision that the Bible display must go stands. —TF

Global Warming, Population, Clericalism

In their two-part important article on global warming, “Can We Survive?” (FI, February/March 2008, concluding in this issue), Stephen Paley, George K. Oister, and Richard T. Hull mention overpopulation as a major component of the problem. Curiously, few now sounding the alarm about global warming call attention to this vitally significant aspect of the threat we face. Even Nobel Laureate Al Gore barely mentions overpopulation in his book An Inconvenient Truth.

Yet the overpopulation threat—and what must be done about it—were spelled out in great detail in a federal government report that President Richard Nixon ordered in 1974 and President Gerald Ford approved in late 1975. What, you’ve never heard of The National Security Study Memorandum 200 Report: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests? Not surprising, because the report was stamped “classified” and buried until population scientist Stephen D. Mumford unearthed and published it in his 1994 book, The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy. (See also Mumford’s article “Overcoming Overpopulation: The Rise and Fall of American Political Will,” FI, Spring 1994.)

NSSM 200 covered all the bases of the population problem—resource depletion, social and political instability, and the like—and recommended that U.S. policy promote universal availability of comprehensive sex-education and family planning and also extend full equality to women worldwide. The report also stated that “No country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion. . . . Indeed abortion, legal and illegal, now has become the most widespread fertility control method in use in the world today.”

Since NSSM 200 was suppressed a third of a century ago (!) world population has grown by over 50 percent, greatly exacerbating the problems of global warming, climate change, resource depletion, air and water pollution, deforestation, desertification, growing poverty and wealth maldistribution, and social and political instability.

Meanwhile, the Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II administrations implemented a global gag rule that hobbles U.S. efforts against overpopulation. At the same time, theocons in Congress and state legislatures have labored unceasingly to limit reproductive choice and women’s rights of conscience.

Who deep-sixed NSSM 200? No one has come forward, and no definitive proof has been offered. In a January 1995 article in USA Today Magazine (not related to the Gannett paper), I wrote, “According to [Stephen] Mumford and others who have worked in this area, the only organization with both the motive and the political clout to exert such pressure is the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic laity is nearly indistinguishable from non-Catholics in attitudes and behavior regarding reproduction and reproductive rights. It is the Church’s top leadership that can be seen as the problem.”

It is impossible not to conclude that dealing with the global warming crisis will necessitate dealing with the overpopulation problem.

On a closely related matter, the National Council of Jewish Women is promoting its “Plan A: Campaign for Contraceptive Access.” The campaign focuses on five key issues that must be addressed to ensure that women in the U.S. have access to contraception and medically accurate sexuality education: pharmacy refusals, emergency contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, affordable contraception, and young women’s access.

NCJW’s rationale for the campaign is clear: “Denial of the right to birth control has always been entangled in religious belief. NCJW believes that the exercise of reproductive rights is closely tied to religious freedom. Interference with family planning decisions denies a woman’s right to be respected as a moral decision-maker and to make personal decisions based on her own beliefs and traditions. For one religious view of reproductive freedom to be imposed on us all defies the very meaning of religious liberty and the First Amendment of the Constitution” (emphasis added).

This campaign fits perfectly with the humanist principles expressed on page 2 of this journal. —ED

A federal judge halted enforcement of Illinois’s new moment-of-silence law (see Church-State Update, FI, February/March 2008), ruling that it raises serious First Amendment issues.

Apparently having nothing better to do, Congress passed a law requiring the U.S. Mint to add “In God We Trust” to the front or back of future dollar coins. This countermands a previous law in which Congress required the mint to engrave “In God We Trust” and “E Pluribus Unum” on the coin’s edge. (Religious Right leaders objected to that.) Hmm—if Congress is so busy legislating coin design, maybe some numismatic stylists could bring the troops home from Iraq. . . . —TF

Edd Doerr

Edd Doerr is a senior editor of Free Inquiry. He headed Americans for Religious Liberty for thirty-six years and is a past president of the American Humanist Association.

Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn is editor of Free Inquiry, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, director of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, and editor of The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief (2007).


A U.S. district judge upheld a Texas moment-of-silence law, even though it had been amended to call specifically for “prayer.” The U. S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case regarding a neon-lighted Bible display outside a Texas courthouse. A lower court decision that the Bible display must go stands. —TF Global Warming, Population, Clericalism …

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