National Atheist Party Grows: News Roundup

In the news this week: a Queens man firebombs a mosque, more people are joining the National Atheist Party, Tennessee introduces a bill that could protect students who harass based on religious beliefs, and other stories.

To ring in the New Year, CNN's Belief Blog asked experts in religion, faith leaders, and a secular humanist about how the forces of faith and faithlessness will shape the world in 2012. CNN
 
A prominent group of Muslim leaders on December 31st made good on a pledge to boycott New York City's annual interfaith breakfast with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in protest of a controversial surveillance program.
 
The move stemmed from a series of news reports that raised questions about the nature of a Central Intelligence Agency partnership with the New York Police Department, pointing to the alleged surveillance of Muslim communities in New York. CNN
 
A Queens man confessed Tuesday to a frightening New Year’s Day firebombing spree — claiming a personal vendetta drove him to tossing the Molotov cocktails, police said. Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, appeared dazed and mumbled incoherently as he was led out of the 103rd Precinct stationhouse and into an ambulance Tuesday night.
 
Lengend, an unemployed truck driver, was charged with five counts of criminal possession of a weapon and five counts of arson, one considered a hate crime, police said. He made “broad anti-Muslim statements” to detectives and said each of the five attacks in Queens and Elmont, L.I., stemmed from ongoing beefs. He tried to torch a Jamaica mosque because he wasn’t allowed to use its bathroom. NY Daily News
 
Last March, Troy Boyle and a friend founded the National Atheist Party, which they believe to be the first American political party organized on the belief that God does not exist.
 
First called the Freethought Party, its original Facebook page attracted only a couple hundred members. But when the name was changed to the National Atheist Party, supporters started streaming in, currently more than 8,200.
 
What it stands for, Boyle said, is no governmental favoring of religion — including no religion. Boyle says the NAP has 7,500 members and a chapter in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The largest chapter is Florida, with 200 members, and the smallest is Alaska, with two. USA Today
 
A recent spate of campus controversies involving professors who made provocative statements about Muslims shows one of two things: a decreasing tolerance for inflammatory speech, or how easy it is for academics to get into trouble.
Or, perhaps, a little bit of both. Huffington Post
 
A proposed bill that will be debated in Tennessee would create a loophole in state schools' anti-discrimination laws that could protect students who engage in harassment if it falls under their religious or political beliefs. CNN