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Weekly Wrap: Clarence Thomas, Christopher Hitchens, Catholic abuse and Christian nationalism

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9fa402d0 ad40 6849 ef09 0662564c0a34 Weekly Wrap: Clarence Thomas, Christopher Hitchens, Catholic abuse and Christian nationalism

We have recently worked on an assortment of timely issues at the Freedom From Religion Foundation — and have gotten some welcome media attention while doing so.

Our ad last Sunday in the Little Rock newspaper assailing Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was approvingly written up in the leading progressive publication in the Ozarks.

“The Freedom from Religion Foundation said in a statement [about our ad] Friday that Gov. Sarah Sanders’ school voucher plan will destroy Arkansas public schools and described the governor’s views as ‘white Christian nationalist,’” writes the Arkansas Times. “The ad, cheekily, says it agrees with Sanders’s position that schools should educate rather than indoctrinate students. Clearly, Sanders and the organization disagree as to what that means.”

We’re OK in Oklahoma
Oklahoma publications seem to be paying special attention to us. The main paper in Northwest Oklahoma quoted FFRF State Policy Manager Ryan Dudley at length on a pending bill that would let local governmental bodies display “In God We Trust” at their facilities. “I think it’s indicative of how emboldened Christian nationalists have become by the courts to do such a thing,” Ryan told the Enid News & Eagle. And a prominent state news portal noted that we may sue if the state approves a religious charter school.

Madison publication interviews Annie Laurie Gaylor
A “student-led community news source” in FFRF’s hometown did an extensive interview with FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. She expressed appreciation for Madison’s open-mindedness while spotlighting some challenges the city faces. Read the full interview here.

Sympathetic coverage from a surprising source
And a surprising media outlet provided extensive (and sympathetic) coverage of us asking a California city to stop having prayer at its meetings. “The issues and concerns that the council is dealing with regarding its opening prayer practice perfectly illustrate that government prayer is an unnecessary entanglement of religion with our secular government and why the practice should be dropped altogether,” the Christian Post quoted FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line.

An encouraging appeals court decision
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We were encouraged by an appeals court decision affirming that public schools can require even religious teachers to call transgender students by their preferred names in a case that we filed an amicus brief in on behalf of the Secular Student Alliance. “The ruling is an important win for trans rights, which are under concerted attack by Christian nationalists across the country,” Annie Laurie remarked.

An outrageous abortion ruling
We asked again: Why is a Trump-appointed district judge in Texas allowed to practice medicine without a license? U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Christian nationalist extremist, handed down an outrageous decision to ban the abortion pill mifepristone on the evening of Good Friday. Kacsmaryk’s ruling has set off a confusing cascade of events that is going to be decided soon at the U.S. Supreme Court level, as we explain here.

What’s wrong with Justice Clarence Thomas?
Talking of the Supreme Court, our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature this week had an intriguing question: What’s wrong with Justice Clarence Thomas? FFRF Co-President Dan Barker and FFRF Director of Governmental Affairs Mark Dann spoke with with Meagan Hatcher-Mays, Indivisible’s director of Democracy Policy, about Thomas’ undeclared acceptance of lavish gifts, as well as about Judge Kacsmaryk and gerrymandering.

A manufactured Walter Reed ruckus
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Christian nationalist lawmakers are crying wolf over a determined contract involving pastoral care at the Walter Reed hospital. Rather than demonstrating Christian animus by the Biden administration, this routine change in service providers reflects the need for our secular government to remain religion-neutral, particularly regarding the military.

Catholic abuse report shocking but not surprising
A Baltimore Catholic Church abuse report is shocking but not surprising, we commented. The Maryland attorney general’s office has released a damning report on child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore that is horrific in sadly predictable ways and shows the urgent need for secular intervention into allegations of systemic church abuse.

Latinos are rejecting Catholicism — and we’re delighted
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We’re pleased about a new Pew study revealing that Latinos of all ages are rapidly leaving Catholicism. In fact, half of Latinos born in the United States today identify as religiously unaffiliated (“Nones”). “I am absolutely elated to see members of the Latino population casting aside the dogma that has resulted in generations of families following the Catholic Church,” says Annie Laurie.

Our activism at the local level
We were on top of things at the local level, too. Please immediately get rid of a bible verse displayed in your office, we urged a North Carolina sheriff. And we complimented a Virginia school district for doing the right thing in ignoring a recent misguided missive from a Christian nationalist group that objected to the district’s decision to stop a teacher for sending official religious messages.

Remembering Christopher Hitchens
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On our latest Freethought Radio episode, FFRF attorney Liz Cavell first describes the Groff v. DeJoy case before the Supreme Court that will likely extend religious privilege in the workplace. Then in this anniversary week of his birth, we hear in memory of Christopher Hitchens his never-before-played “God is not Great” speech at our 2007 convention.

White Christian nationalism expert on FFRF TV show
An academic opinion researcher and white Christian nationalism expert dissects the phenomenon on our “Freethought Matters” Sunday TV show. Robert P. Jones, the president and founder of Public Religion Research Institute, is the author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, which won a 2021 American Book Award. You can already watch his compelling analysis on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch the show on television Sunday.

FFRF lobbying arm anoints Nebraska state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh ‘secularist of the week’
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FFRF’s lobbying arm, FFRF Action Fund, continued its tradition of naming its secularist and theocrat of the week. The secularist pick this week is Nebraska state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, chosen for her ongoing “Don’t legislate hate” campaign to stop a bill against trans children from passing. She has been filibustering 12 hours a day for seven weeks! The theocrat of the week is, of course, Judge Kacsmaryk.

Raising awareness for Black Maternal Awareness Week
FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez focuses in her latest column on Black Maternal Awareness Week, which, she says, “is a necessary time for us to bring awareness and advocacy to the systemic injustices that harm Black mothers and birthing people. As secular activists, we can also consider the dangerous impact of Christian extremist policies on communities of color, particularly Black communities.”

We’re entering the secular age
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Veteran writer and freethinker Jim Haught has a good piece of news for us this week.

“Human civilization has staggered and lunged through many phases and subphases,” he writes. “Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I predict that the Secular Age is taking shape under our noses.”

We agree with Jim, and with your help, we’re working hard to make the Secular Age come about.

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