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‘60 Minutes,’ a defaced Bill of Rights display, Jan. 6 reflections and legal activism begin the year

Happy 2022 from the FFRF!

This first week of the new year for FFRF involves the shocking “beheading” of our Bill of Rights Nativity in San Diego, reflections on Jan. 6 and many legal developments.

New Year begins with big-name allies
The Freedom From Religion Foundation will be running our iconic 30-second TV ad featuring Ron (“unabashed atheist . . . not afraid of burning in hell”) Reagan on ‘60 Minutes’ for the first time. After eight years of refusal, CBS national network has finally seen the light and agreed. Thanks to your support, we are airing our highly successful ad on all four of the January broadcasts of ‘60 Minutes’ starting this Sunday, Jan. 9.

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We started the New Year off with in style with none other than iconic feminist Gloria Steinem as our guest on “Freethought Matters,” FFRF’s public interest television show. Gloria talks candidly about her views on religion, having an abortion in the “bad old days” and why she’s a “hope-aholic.”

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FFRF’s weekly TV show follows up this 2022 debut with another distinguished guest this week, U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (Virginia’s 8th District), who talks about why he is part of the Congressional Freethought Caucus and his concern for the separation of state and church. Catch the only broadcast freethought show in our country on major cities Sunday mornings or watch the interviews with Steinem or Rep. Beyers right now on Youtube.

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Lady Liberty beheaded, and reflections on Jan. 6
For FFRF, the most shocking news of the week was receiving word that our “Bill of Rights Nativity” and an accompanying Winter Solstice banner championing reason were defaced in Balboa Park, San Diego. (A nearby manger display was left unscathed by the vandals.) FFRF’s whimsical Bill of Rights display features founding fathers and the Statue of Liberty gazing at a baby Bill of Rights in a manger, commemorating the adoption of the Bill of Rights on Dec. 15, 1791. FFRF has offered a $2,000 award for this felony defacement, and also has a “Resurrection Fund” where donors may help replace our defaced or stolen signs, an unfortunate recurring fact of life in America today. “The symbolism of the Statue of Liberty being beheaded, particularly close to the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection, is deeply dismaying,” says Dan Barker, Foundation co-president.

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FFRF issued a timely statement, “Remember Christian nationalism’s role in Jan. 6 insurrection,”and commemorated that chilling anniversary on our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live video program featuring FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel. Andrew presented riveting evidence with videos and photographs documenting the Christian nationalist roots of that attempted coup.

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While grateful for the House response on Thursday, Jan. 6 to last year’s attack, FFRF was not pleased that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi scheduled a prayer vigil as part of the observance. We sent a letter earlier this week calling the prayer vigil “tone-deaf and highly ironic,” given the major role that Christian nationalism played that day, and asking her to cancel that portion of the remembrance. (She did not, but we keep educating.)

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Protesting ‘Jesus is born’ assignment and nativity plays in public schools
It’s been a busy end of the year for FFRF intake attorneys concerning state/church violations in December, and we’re still mopping up. Legal Fellow Karen Heineman wrote a letter of complaint regarding an elementary school nativity play — such an obviously inappropriate event for a public school that FFRF hardly ever hears of such violations anymore. This one occurred at Pied Piper School in Alpena, Mich., and also involved ostracization of a nonreligious student. We plan on stopping it.

In a similar vein, FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line contacted Putnam County Schools to report that first graders were being assigned a Sunday school coloring book called “Jesus Is  Born! Informational booklet”!  What next?

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Legal allies join FFRF in condemning courtroom prayers
FFRF is grateful for the support of 13 historians and legal scholars who signed an amicus brief filed on their behalf this week by our friends at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Judge Wayne Mack, Montgomery Co., Texas, opens court sessions with prayers by invited Christian chaplains, a practice not replicated in any other court in the country, thankfully! FFRF appreciates this support for our winning lawsuit, which Mack is appealing.

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In other legal developments, FFRF condemned South Dakota’s new abortion restriction, imposed by fiercely anti-abortion Christian nationalist Gov. Kristi Noem, forcing abortion patients seeking medication abortion to have three (unnecessary) in-person appointments. “Religion has no place in the legislative decisions in a secular country, but especially in health care decisions,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “Gov. Noem’s actions to restrict abortion are abhorrent attacks on reproductive rights.”

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Religious anti-vaxxers threaten pandemic mitigation in court and media
FFRF monitored today’s irregular emergency Supreme Court hearing involving a challenge of the Biden Administration’s commonsense federal vaccination mandates for many healthcare workers and employees in large businesses. Our news release warns that the ultraconservative majority appears poised to block OSHA’s vaccine-or-test regulation, possibly as soon as tonight.

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FFRF took to task Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson for his reckless religious advice made on a radio show this week against vaccinations. We wrote him to stop spouting nonsense and urged his constituents “to trust in science and the advice of medical professionals, not pious politicians.”

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Freethought philosophies counter irrationality
To counter all of this irrational thought is FFRF Blogger Laureate Jim Haught, with his reflective and powerful essay, “Life lessons for my children,” written from his perspective at almost 90. He writes: “It would be comforting to tell myself that the end isn’t the end . . . [but] there isn’t a shred of trustworthy evidence to back up the notion of heaven. It’s wishful thinking — self-deception.”

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Also combatting “theodicy” and other Christian apologetics on this week’s radio show is former evangelical minister John W. Loftus, author of more than 10 books critiquing religion, including the just published volume, God and Horrendous Suffering.

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None of this would be possible without your “faithless faithful” support. We’ll be back next week to report what FFRF is doing to advance freethought, reason, science and our secular Constitution on your behalf.

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