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A fresh coat of equality highlights FFRF’s busy week

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A photo of a large 10 commandments mural with a person standing underneath it.

Welcome to the end of another busy week we’ve had here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, as we’re only a week away from the unofficial start to the summer season.

Well, let’s jump right into this week’s roundup!

Spring coat
Highlighting the week is FFRF’s victory in Minnesota, where we saved inmates and others at Itasca County Jail from having religion forced upon them in the form of a massive two-story Ten Commandments display. FFRF wrote to Jail Administrator Lucas Thompson demanding that the painted display, as well as the other religious quotes, be removed. FFRF’s efforts won the day.

The news made it to the front page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune this week: “The oversized display was discovered during tours of the new northeast Minnesota facility. The Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation had received 20 complaints by the end of April, many contending the displays were unconstitutional.”

Also commenting on the issue was the right-wing news site, The Epoch Times: “A two-story mural featuring the Ten Commandments and historic religious quotes, including two from former President Ronald Reagan, at a new county jail in Minnesota, has been painted over due to pressure from the same group that won a federal court ruling against recognizing Good Friday as a state holiday.”

Summer worthy, some aren’t
More big news this week: FFRF Action Fund, the lobbying arm of FFRF, has announced a new initiative to begin endorsing school board candidates who champion secular education and the separation of state and church. This groundbreaking move is aimed at supporting candidates who are not only qualified and uphold secular values but also have a demonstrable path to victory. Candidates who seek the Fund’s endorsement will have the opportunity to connect with and represent a significant and growing demographic — the religiously unaffiliated population, which now makes up roughly one-third of Americans.

Fall of the Seattle Archdiocese?
A photo of the Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson
FFRF lauds the decision of the Washington attorney general to force the Seattle Archdiocese’s compliance with a clergy child sexual abuse investigation.

FFRF has long called for independent and secular inquiries to uphold the integrity of any such findings into clergy sexual abuse. The Seattle Archdiocese seems committed to impeding the investigation. Perhaps it realizes that the findings will uncover years of cover-up that will do serious financial damage to the church. FFRF Senior Policy Counsel Ryan Jayne has pointed out that as instances of abuse are uncovered, dioceses across the country dishonestly have resorted to bankruptcy to protect themselves against lawsuits.

Boo to Billy Graham statue in U.S. Capitol 
FFRF is sorry to see the addition of a bronze statue honoring evangelist Billy Graham in the National Statuary Hall Collection. Making the tribute all the more untenable, the 7-foot statue depicts a gesturing Graham holding an open bible — and the pedestal is engraved with bible verses. FFRF was instrumental in calling the nation’s attention to the role Graham played in lobbying Congress to pass the National Day of Prayer.

FFRF tells Idaho school board to end prayers
FFRF is insisting that the Minidoka County Board of Trustees stop imposing religion on district students, parents and community members by starting each board meeting with Christian prayer led by trustees. On March 18, a trustee opened the meeting with a prayer delivered “in the name of our savior Jesus Christ.” The Feb. 26 meeting began with a prayer delivered by another trustee “In the name of thy Son Jesus Christ,” and the Jan. 23 meeting started with a prayer delivered by yet another trustee “in the name of Jesus Christ.”

FFRF calls out Louisiana school
The cover of the life book
FFRF strongly objected to the distribution of unconstitutional and highly inappropriate religious material at a Louisiana elementary school. During school hours, Journey Church distributed “The Life Book” at Lessie Moore Elementary (in Pineville, La.). The book, published by Gideons International, contains passages from the bible and is intended for high school students because it contains material on sexuality. FFRF’s complainant felt that this was inappropriate for their third-grade child. Administrators reportedly instructed students to turn the book in later that day.

FFRF has asked the Rapides Parish Schools system to investigate the incident and to ensure that religious groups are not allowed to distribute religious literature on school grounds in future.

FFRF condemns teacher for insulting atheist student
A photo of a mini-fridge in a classroom with many religious and political stickers on it.

FFRF has contacted a California school district demanding that it put an end to a high school teacher’s promotion of religion and bullying of his nonbelieving students. A teacher at Mission Oak High School in Tulare Joint Union High School District has been using his position to promote his personal religious views to students. The teacher has several displays on a fridge in his classroom. He reportedly instigated a discussion with students about “666” being the “devil’s number.” This discussion led to a student revealing that they’re an atheist. Another student asked what an atheist is, the teacher replied that an atheist is “a fool,” proceeding to directly call out the student for not believing in God.

Feminism shows the way to a better future
A photo of a statue of a girl facing off a bull

“As we seek routes toward a kinder, gentler future, a new feminism seems a hopeful signpost,” FFRF columnist Barbara G. Walker writes in her blog post, “Feminism shows the way to a better future.”

“In ancient societies where women created ethical and moral codes, people seem to have been more peaceable, contented and cooperative, better supported by the kinship structure, and less troubled by manufactured guilt. The natural desire of mothers to promote the health and happiness of their children seems to have been reflected in the social rules formulated by matrifocal groups, whereas patriarchies like our own engendered many oppressive restrictions aggressively imposed by violence and cruelty.”

Secularist and Theocrat of the Week
A photo of Glenn Greunhagen with the title theocrat of the week and a photo of Justin Parmenter with the title secularist of the week.

FFRF Action Fund’s “Secularist of the Week” is North Carolina teacher Justin Parmenter, who is championing public schools by speaking out against voucher schemes that funnel public funds into discriminatory Christian schools. Meanwhile, our “Theocrat of the Week” is Minnesota state Sen. Glenn Gruenhagen, a Christian nationalist seeking to harm public education by inserting creationism into science curricula.

Public school officials behaving badly
A photo of a classroom with the title public school officials behaving badly

On this week’s episode of “Ask an Atheist,” FFRF Deputy Legal Director Liz Cavell and Staff Attorney Chris Line discuss two recent instances of school officials overstepping the Constitution in order to violate students’ rights to be free from religious indoctrination at school.

Talkin’ genealogy
A photo of the author with his book.

On Freethought Radio this week, philosophy Professor Patrick J. Hurley discusses his insightful new book, “Religion, Power and Illusion: A Genealogy of Religious Belief.” And FFRF Legal Fellow Hirsh Joshi talks about how FFRF got a Minnesota jail to paint over a Ten Commandments display (as reported above).

Remembering Daniel C. Dennett
A screenshot from the show Freethought Matters of Daniel C. Dennett

On this week’s “Freethought Matters,” we honor the life and achievements of Daniel C. Dennett, the eminent philosopher and FFRF honorary director who died last month, by airing our Nov. 2, 2023 episode featuring an interview with Dennett about his recent memoir, “I’ve Been Thinking.”

Thanks for being a member of FFRF! Have a great weekend!

PJ Slinger
Freethought Today editor

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