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Bad governors and teachers, essay winners, unwarranted legal defeat, and atheist activism

East Baton Rouge 9 22 Bad governors and teachers, essay winners, unwarranted legal defeat, and atheist activism

What a range we cover at the Freedom From Religion Foundation in a typical week.

We started off the week vehemently objecting to a highly religious and discriminatory outing that a Louisiana school district recently encouraged its students to attend.

“We’ve witnessed over the years some outrageous religious events that public schools participated in,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, “but this one really takes the cake.”

FFRF Strategic Response Attorney Ryan Jayne, FFRF Intake Attorney Chris Line and FFRF Equal Justice Works Fellow Kat Grant discussed the event — and its troubling implications — on our Facebook Live “Ask an Atheist” show.

Yeshiva University’s ‘nuclear approach’ toward its LGBTQ-plus students

Yeshiva Bad governors and teachers, essay winners, unwarranted legal defeat, and atheist activism

Kat has also written a hard-hitting column detailing the “nuclear approach” that Yeshiva University has taken toward its LGBTQ-plus students in a case that’s gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. “The students of the Yeshiva Pride Alliance, like all LGBTQ-plus students, deserve the equal access and dignity guaranteed to them by law, and no university or religious institution should be able to stand above that law,” Kat concludes.

Our college student essay winners!

Proulx Essay winners 11 mugs 2022 Bad governors and teachers, essay winners, unwarranted legal defeat, and atheist activism

We proudly announced this week the 11 winners and 13 honorable mentions for the 2022 Kenneth L. Proulx Memorial Essay Contest for Ongoing College Students, with a total of $18,350 in award money this year. Check out the list of winners here (with their truly superb essays published in the current October issue of Freethought Today, online already and en route to members who prefer a hard copy).

In other positive news 
Our Co-President Dan Barker just got back from the second annual Latin American freethought conference in Colombia, which FFRF’s co-sponsorship made possible. (A link to the recording to follow next week!) Among the news coverage of FFRF this week is a major national Associated Press story about the fallout from the Coach Kennedy Supreme Court decision generously quoting FFRF Intake Attorney Chris Line. (Well done, Chris!)

In other outreach, FFRF Strategic Response Attorney Ryan Jayne represented FFRF in a Facebook Live program, “Unrig the Courts  — Supreme Court Preview: What’s Next from the MAGA Court.” Watch here.

And four of our attorneys, including Legal Director Rebecca Markert, are winging their way back from Washington, D.C., this afternoon after taking part in the annual secular litgators’ meeting, where the threats from the supermajority extremists on our Supreme Court were uppermost in the discussion.

An unwarranted legal defeat

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We took our lumps, too, this week. In a case we’ve been fighting for years, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled just yesterday that a local justice of the peace’s practice in Texas of locking doors and opening with a prayer ceremony is “noncoercive.”

Annie Laurie blasted the decision, saying, “A courtroom is not a church, and a judge’s bench should not be a pulpit. This is a dishonest decision, both in claiming a tradition of courtroom prayer and in denying that it is coercive.”

Unfortunately, the decision reflects the appeals court’s acknowledgment of the changing ideology on the U.S. Supreme Court, with its growing hostility to the separation of state and church. Look for more legal commentary and analysis by our attorneys soon.

Tenn. governor needs a constitutional lesson
We insisted that the Tennessee governor rescind an offensive prayer proclamation naming today, Sept. 30, as a “Day of Prayer, Humility and Fasting.” In a letter to Gov. Bill Lee, FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor critiqued his theology, calling the wording in the proclamation a “slap in the face” to the nearly one-third of adult Americans today who identify as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular.”

A proselytizing Ga. teacher should be fired

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In another not-too-happy scenario, we’re urging a Georgia school district to fire a middle school teacher who has been boastfully proselytizing students. “If Ms. Jenny Savoy is incapable of teaching without abusing her position to convert students to her personal religion, which appears to be the case, she must be terminated,” our letter to Gwinnett County Public Schools states.

TV guest urges atheist activism

KateCohenImage Bad governors and teachers, essay winners, unwarranted legal defeat, and atheist activism

Nonbelievers need to make their presence urgently felt in today’s United States, and the appealing guest on FFRF’s TV show Sunday urges atheists to speak up — and speak out. You can watch our interview with award-winning scriptwriter, author and Washington Post contributing columnist Kate Cohen on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it Sunday.

Activist guests on our radio show

The two guests on our Freethought Radio show this week are already making their mark with their activism. Former Mormon Ray Matthews tells Freethought Radio co-hosts Dan and Annie Laurie why he agreed to appear on FFRF’s “I’m an Atheist and I Vote” billboard in Salt Lake City. And then Adrienne Martin recounts her experience of testifying before her Texas school board in protest of a religiously motivated book banning in the public school.

A reproductive rights Week of Action
FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez urges us all to follow in our radio show guests’ footsteps by participating in a “Week of Action” in support of reproductive rights.

“There has never been a more crucial time to stand up for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care,” she concludes. “We can start by defending these principles in our own social circles and at the polling place.”

Fond farewell to ‘unabashed atheist’

Connie Threinen 2004 Convention 2 Bad governors and teachers, essay winners, unwarranted legal defeat, and atheist activism
Connie Threinen speaks at an FFRF convention.

Annie Laurie bids a fond farewell to “unabashed atheist” and FFRF member Connie Threinen, whose activism over the decades Annie Laurie personally encountered.

“Connie Threinen did much to make the world a better, more rational and more egalitarian place,” she writes. “She is truly irreplaceable.”

Why Christianity is collapsing

Chrsitianity Collapsing Bad governors and teachers, essay winners, unwarranted legal defeat, and atheist activism

What gives us hope for the world is that young folks are carrying on Connie’s work. That’s why Christianity is collapsing in the West, as veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught details.

“We are living through a historic culture change that many of us oldsters weren’t sure would ever happen,” he begins. “Christianity is collapsing in Western democracies with astounding speed. The long-awaited Secular Age is rolling like a juggernaut. Freethought efforts finally are winning the day.”

With your help, we’re making sure that this is indeed the case.

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