It’s been another eventful week for us at the Freedom From Religion Foundation — complete with major news coverage.
FFRF filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of nearly a dozen parents and students in a high-profile case over a Christian revival in a West Virginia school that prompted a recent student walkout. The suit has garnered national media attention.
“A group of parents and students are suing a West Virginia school district for allowing an evangelical preacher to hold a religious revival assembly during the school day earlier this month that some students were required to attend,” states an Associated Press story that NPR has featured on its website. “The suit, filed in a U.S. District Court in West Virginia on Thursday on behalf of families by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says the Cabell County school system in the southwestern part of the state has a systematic history of disregarding the religious freedom of its students and instituting Christian religious practices.”
No religious charter schools in Tennessee
Our objection to the Tennessee governor authorizing a Michigan Christian college to establish dozens of religious public charter schools in his state has also received media play.
“The nonprofit Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is targeting Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to partner with a Christian institution to open public charter schools in the state,” reports the Fox affiliate Nashville TV station.
If we’re “targeting” the governor, it’s for a good reason: to defend the secular Constitution.
Mobilizing for abortion rights
We’ve joined more than 100 other organizations (ACLU, Planned Parenthood, American Humanist Association and National Organization for Women among them) in calling on President Biden to mention the need to protect abortion rights in his State of the Union address. Our joint letter is urging “everyone, from the White House to Congress to state and municipal governments to local communities, to work hard to protect and expand abortion access.”
FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez offers a little-discussed perspective on this issue. “During Black History Month, let’s remember that it is Black women who introduced the revolutionary concept of ‘reproductive justice,’” she writes in her column this week.
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There was some good news on the reproductive rights front at the state level: We applauded recent moves in Vermont and Maryland to make abortion a constitutional right. “With the uncertain future of Roe v. Wade, we must do all that we can to codify abortion rights, since abortion is health care and the only organized opposition to it is religious in nature,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
Surely, Indiana has plenty of natural beauty
Another state received a thumbs down from us for its odd notion of nature. Focus on the natural outdoors instead of church interiors, we advised the Indiana DNR after it gushed about a Roman Catholic church in its official materials. “Indiana has abundant natural beauty for the state DNR to promote,” Annie Laurie remarked.
Our person on Capitol Hill
An FFRF staffer has been successfully toiling for us on Capitol Hill, raising our profile and lobbying on behalf of secular issues. FFRF’s Director of Governmental Affairs Mark Dann talks with Freethought Radio co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor on our radio show this week about his work in D.C.
The life and legacy of Thomas Paine
Among the recent legislative achievements that Mark has played a part in is the introduction of a congressional bill to memorialize “Forgotten Founder” Thomas Paine. Veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught uses this occasion to reflect on his legacy. “The U.S. Congress would be paying Thomas Paine a befitting — if belated — tribute in setting into motion a permanent memorial to him in the nation’s capital,” he concludes.
We got a Mich. city to chuck its religious mission statement
We obtained a nice recent victory at the local level, ensuring that a Michigan city jettisoned an overtly religious mission statement. After we complained, the Hudsonville mayor informed us that the city would be updating the mission statement to: To grow a Distinctive, Livable, Vibrant, and Connected city offering excellent services and amenities. We can live with that.
The “IM GOD” guy is no more
We have some sad news to share. FFRF member, chapter leader, court victor and feisty octogenarian Ben Hart has died. After FFRF and the ACLU of Kentucky filed a federal suit in 2016 on Ben’s behalf after his “IM GOD” license plate was denied by the state of Kentucky, the BBC picked up the story and, as Ben noted: “It went around the world.” Watch here the wryly funny video acceptance speech that Ben recorded when he was bestowed with FFRF’s “Freethinker of the Year” award in 2020 after winning the lawsuit.
Our law student essay contest has been renamed
Another FFRF friend left us not too long ago, and our law student essay contest is being renamed in part in his memory. FFRF major donor Diane Uhl has given $100,000 to sponsor the law school competition, which will now be called the Diane & Stephen Uhl Law School Essay Contest. The deadline of midnight on March 15 is fast approaching, and so please spread the word!
It’s only because of the goodwill of all of our members and donors –- big and small — that we’re able to keep achieving so much.