The Freedom From Religion Foundation made quite a splash this week.
Much of it was due to our significant appeals court victory on behalf of the First Amendment and aggrieved parents, students and employees of a stubbornly religious California school board.
“A federal appeals court decided Wednesday that Chino Valley school board meetings may not include prayers, proselytizing or the citing of Christian Scripture,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “A group called Freedom from Religion Foundation Inc. sued the San Bernardino County school district, charging that in addition to the opening prayer, board members read from Christian Scripture at various times.”
What was amazing was the historic way in which the court acknowledged the presence of freethinkers — and the discrimination they suffer when official bodies institute prayer practices.
“The purpose of respecting religious diversity, to the extent that it does not encompass nonreligious belief systems and their diversity, is itself constitutionally suspect,” it stated. “Atheists and agnostics comprise 4 percent and 5 percent of the California population, respectively. Neither the purpose of respecting religious diversity nor the means of doing so via prayer acknowledges or respects the beliefs of nonreligious citizens in the district.”
You can say that again. This case applies to nine states and adds to significant circuit court precedent nationwide. Hooray!
Watch FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel pithily explain the case and its significance on our “Newsbite” segment.
On our radio show this week, we exult with the lead attorney in the Chino Valley case, David Kaloyanides. Then, more somberly, we talk with ACLU’s Daniel Mach about the precarious status of state/church separation in the country today.
Megyn Kelly notices us
Our recent objection to a Texas police department’s religious lip-sync video has also created waves in the national media. None other than Megyn Kelly (ex-Fox News) talked about it on the NBC national “Today” show, grudgingly conceding that we had strong grounds for our objection.
A discriminatory discount
Another incident sort of involving us actually made it to the international media.
“Once again, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is the subject of a conservative media feeding frenzy,” FFRF Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell explains in a blog. This time it is over a complaint to an Ohio restaurant for its ‘church bulletin’ discount. … Although FFRF received credit (and much vilification) for it, we didn’t actually send a letter to the Starters Cafe, let alone threaten potential legal action, as some news outlets have falsely reported.”
We did object to the discount when contacted by the media, and our objection actually featured in the pages of The Guardian newspaper in London.
“A restaurant would not discriminate based on, ‘Oh, if you’re white, today, you can get 20 percent off.’ You can’t say, ‘Oh, if you went to church today, you can get 20 percent off,’” the paper quoted FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor telling an Ohio media outlet. “We are shocked that there is such little understanding of the Civil Rights Act and that there could be this kind of confusion and naiveté that you can reward some customers for their religious beliefs and penalize others.”
You can quote us on that.
What’s happening in Israel?
We often gaze abroad, especially when there’s an outrageous fusion of religion and government in a country. Israel has recently offered a particularly egregious example, and FFRF intern Paul Epland enlightens us about what’s going on there.
“Israel’s newest law exposes the crack in its founding vision, marking a moment when the most fundamentalist factions in the country have succeeded,” he writes.
Our planetary reach
One reason we feel comfortable about commenting on international issues is the planetary reach of our radio show.
“Our podcast statistics last year revealed that we had listeners from every European country except Estonia, all Latin American countries (except Suriname and French Guiana), 21 African nations, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and pretty much all East and Southeast Asian countries (with the obvious exception of North Korea),” Annie Laurie writes in a blog about our long-running broadcast project. “Wow! Freethought is global.”
Check out some of the appreciative feedback we receive from our listeners the world over.
Thank you, CFI!
It is love like that which keeps us going — and encouragement from fellow groups. A leading national humanist group, the Center for Inquiry, is backing the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s legal challenge to a discriminatory religious tax handout. We appreciate the support.
States listen to us
With all this reinforcement, it is not surprising that we regularly score wins for freethought and secularism. Just this week, we found out that we persuaded the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to stop endorsing religion to those wishing to become foster parents. See, people listen to us.
See you in San Francisco (maybe with flowers in your hair)!
And it’s all due to you. That’s the reason we organize our annual convention: to have so many of you in one place. Join us the weekend of Nov. 2-4 in San Francisco to revel in freethought and to meet folks like Salman Rushdie, Cecile Richards, Adam Savage, and U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, founder of the new Congressional Freethought Caucus.
Hope to see you all there!