Director of Communications
Freedom From Religion Foundation
The U.S. Supreme Court has provided us needed comfort. In a 5-4 decision issued very late on Friday, May 29, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s more liberal justices to deny an appeal by a California church seeking to block enforcement of the state’s stay-at-home orders. FFRF has been working diligently since the pandemic hit America to encourage governors and other officials to protect public health by including church gatherings in stay-safe orders, so this decision was most welcome: “Thankfully, the majority on the Supreme Court displayed better sense than Trump and litigious churches bent on exposing congregations to the coronavirus, and we at the Freedom From Religion Foundation truly appreciate that.”
We excoriate Trump’s pandering bible photo op
Talking of President Trump, has he kept us busy! We condemned his biblical photo-op in front of a Washington, D.C., church, staged via a brutal police clearing of protesters. “It was shocking to see a president jeopardize the safety and well-being of his fellow Americans just so that he could engage in theocratic posturing,” said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.
Trump wasn’t done — and we weren’t done with him. On June 2, he signed a troubling (if lacking in detail) Executive Order on International Religious Freedom. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation will continue to guard against this order and examine its implementation,” we warned.
We also issued a statement in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, noting that justice and healing are needed to address racism: “Americans — white and black, religious or freethinking — must speak up and demand not only justice for Floyd, but a national reckoning with racial profiling, police brutality, vigilantism, and institutional indifference and racism.”
A failed attempt to change the subject
Someone eager to change the subject was the second-highest official in the state of Texas. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick took to Fox News to basically blame irreligiosity in an effort to distract viewers from the failure of leadership. “Patrick didn’t just get the Constitution wrong, he got the bible and his religion wrong, too,” we commented.
The religious roots of racism
Our radio show this week was very topical: FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor spoke with author and filmmaker Jeremiah Camara about his movie Holy Hierarchy: The Religious Roots of Racism in America and about how we can address oppression and inequality in our country.
FFRF’s “Ask an Atheist,” our live program on Facebook airing Wednesdays at noon Central, was also devoted to #BlackLivesMatter, with guest Mandisa Thomas, founder and president of Black Nonbelievers. This week’s show was co-hosted by FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert and FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel.
James Baldwin was brilliant on religion, too
A writer who is being remembered and quoted frequently (including by us) right now is James Baldwin. But not many people know that he renounced religion at an early age — after being drafted as a teen Pentecostal preacher. Veteran journalist James Haught enlightens us on this aspect of the great author. “We can profit from Baldwin’s insights on religion as much as his observations about race,” he concludes.
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How the Religious Right bribed Jane Roe
Another person from the past who is currently in the spotlight is the real-life Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade fame. A new FX network documentary reveals that the Religious Right, in a shockingly cynical ploy, paid her money for her “conversion” to its cause.
“Essentially, the anti-abortion-religious movement exploited a low-income woman who was struggling to make ends meet,” writes Barbara Alvarez, FFRF’s first Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern, in her latest blog. “Using religion and nearly half a million dollars, it made Norma McCorvey [Jane Roe’s real name] a poster child.”
Some satisfying wins
We had some sweet, overdue victories at the local level, the first one in the Midwest hinterland. The city of Effingham, Ill., removed a Christian cross from a city-owned mural primarily viewed by public school students after the Freedom From Religion Foundation protested a number of times. “The last thing the City Council wants is for any members of our community to feel excluded or treated as second-class citizens because they hold a minority belief,” reads an official statement reprinted in the local paper.
And in the Deep South, a Georgia school district stopped the Gideons from distributing bibles in a number of elementary schools after the Freedom From Religion Foundation raised several objections. Our admonitions finally had an effect.
Our full-time advocate on Capitol Hill
Of course, given how much we focused on the White House and the Supreme Court, we couldn’t neglect the nation’s legislative branch. FFRF Director of Governmental Affairs Mark Dann keeps full-time tabs on Congress, and in his fresh dispatch, he describes what’s been happening there — and what we’re doing about it.
“There’s a lot to be done between now and the election,” he concludes. “In hard times, it is hard to see good news, but America, with your continuing help, is moving in a secular direction.”
There’s no better way to wind up this Weekly Wrap than to paraphrase Mark: It’s only with your help that we’re able to face up to folks at the highest levels of authority so that we can make this country a better, more inclusive place to live.