We engaged in constant striving on behalf of the U.S. Constitution this week — and managed to get some attention while doing so.
We successfully got an unconstitutional Ten Commandments plaque inside a Kentucky county courthouse removed. FFRF requested that Spencer County cease exhibiting bible edicts after a concerned resident contacted the state/church watchdog to complain about encountering the Ten Commandments inside the courthouse during a visit there. “This email is intended to notify you that the display referenced in the letter has been taken down,” the county attorney recently replied.
Ex-Fox personality notices our activism
Our intervention caught the eye, interestingly, of Todd Starnes, the conservative commentator who was let go from Fox News after insinuating that Democrats worship Moloch.
“The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Wisconsin-based group of atheists,” he writes. “They say the Ten Commandments are unconstitutional — and show government favoritism toward religion.”
That’s one thing you are right about, Todd.
Media attention to our backing of student freethinkers
Our backing of two on-the-ball students who objected to the proposed introduction of prayer at school board meetings in Washington state made a media splash.
“The student representative opposition to the Prosser School Board beginning its meetings with a prayer has now been taken up by the Freedom From Religion Foundation,” says a story in the local NBC affiliate. “According to a Freedom from Religion press release, issued on Feb. 1, the student representative to the school board objected to the implementation of an opening prayer, noting that people of various faiths attend Prosser school board meetings and prayer could be disrespectful to some.”
Even the area newspaper grudgingly accepted in an editorial that our perspective is the correct one.
An Ohio investigation cites us
Much to our pleasant surprise, an Ohio media investigation of an officially permitted release time bible study public school program mentioned a critique we wrote a while ago.
“The Freedom From Religion Foundation last year issued a document urging all Ohio’s public school district not to allow release time bible study,” says a feature in the Dayton Daily News. “LifeWise ‘seeks to indoctrinate and convert public school students to evangelical Christianity by convincing public school districts to partner with them,’ FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence wrote. ‘All too often, districts not only authorize LifeWise’s classes, but they proceed to inappropriately and unconstitutionally devote public resources to helping promote, organize and encourage student attendance at an overtly evangelical Christian bible study class.’”
We castigate Arizona’s tie-up with PragerU
We lambasted the top Arizona school official’s recent decision to partner state schools with a constitutionally suspect and academically dubious outfit — meaning that PragerU materials will now be allowed in Arizona’s public schools. PragerU and its content belongs nowhere near a public school classroom, we emphasized.
We ask Texas sheriff to get rid of biblical decals
We insisted that a Texas sheriff department get rid of Christian decals affixed on its vehicles, such as Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” Other bible quotes displayed include Mark 12:30, which commands people to “love the Lord your God,” and Isaiah 6:8, which implies that officers are sent by “the Lord.”
“The Kinney County Sheriff’s Office exists to enforce law and keep the peace, not to serve as preachers,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “This is an outrageous overstep that violates freedom of conscience and constitutional dictates.”
Radio show spotlights our efforts
Our “Freethought Radio” show this week focused on our activism. Co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor spoke with FFRF attorneys Sammi Lawrence and Chris Line about their watchdog letters of complaint to public officials who violate state/church separation and the legal friend-of-the-court briefs they have written to keep religion out of government.
Combating school board prayer
Our Facebook Live feature was in a similar vein. Chris Line and FFRF Associate Counsel Liz Cavell discussed on “Ask an Atheist” how FFRF is combating school board prayer. Unfortunately, many newly elected school boards have been trying to institute prayer at their meetings, and FFRF has received numerous complaints that it has often responded to.
Freethought in Africa
Our current TV show focuses on freethought activism internationally. Africa’s largest and most active atheist group is Atheists In Kenya — promoting freedom of thought and speech and advocating for the rights of nonbelievers. It has also won a significant lawsuit against government censorship. The guest on “Freethought Matters” is Harrison Mumia, the courageous founder and president of Atheists In Kenya. You can already watch the show on our YouTube channel. Or find out here where you can catch it on television Sunday.
We submitted testimonies to state legislatures
Our lobbying arm, the FFRF Action Fund, was in the thick of action, too. It was busy submitting testimony on crucial state-level bills around the country, in Missouri against giving an unfounded right to “belief-based associations” to discriminate and a bill allowing public officials to issue religious diktats and in Arizona countering a measure promoting satanic panic. Whew!
The Fund spotlighted a new ProPublica exposé on school vouchers that reveals the greed of religious schools.
“The ProPublica investigation shines light on just how greedy these religious schools are,” says FFRF Action Fund President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “But it also shows how eager pro-voucher lawmakers are to destroy our public educational system.”
Condemning an anti-free speech bill
The Fund also condemned a novel attack on free speech being pushed in the Florida Legislature that would turn virtually any accusation of discrimination into “defamation” but would exempt religiously inspired discriminatory language.The goal of the expansive legislation is to silence virtually all accusations of racism, sexism or homophobia.
Commending a health insurance measure
The Fund commends Arizona state Sen. Juan Mendez for introducing a significant bill to rein in health care sharing ministries and safeguard consumers against potentially harmful practices. These religion-based entities often operate with limited transparency and oversight, leaving consumers vulnerable to unexpected limitations and discriminatory practices. The bill seeks to remedy these problems by establishing essential standards to protect individuals.
Contrasting state lawmakers
For its theocrat/secularist of the week picks, the FFRF Action Fund chose contrasting lawmakers. It gave its “Secularists of the Week” award to two colleagues of an Oregon legislator for rebuking his un-American claim that atheists and Muslims are not fit to hold public office. Texas state Sen. Mayes Middleton receives its “Theocrat of the Week” after admitting his godly motive in authoring the new Texas law allowing uncredentialed chaplains to replace bona fide school counselors and social workers.
A childhood of enduring school prayer
FFRF Contributing Writer and Lifetime Member Barbara Walker has a moving column about being forced to endure prayer throughout her school years.
“Children need to be protected from forced beliefs,” she concludes. “Instead of training them to call on an outmoded emotional construct, they should be taught to trust their own foresight and responsibility, to change what they can change, and to accept what they can’t — and, naturally, to possess the wisdom to know the difference.”
We feel for what Barbara had to endure as a child — which is why we work tirelessly week after week to ensure constitutional violations of this sort don’t happen in our day and age.