As FFRF founder Anne Nicol Gaylor wrote for FFRF years ago, “In celebrating the Winter Solstice, we celebrate reality.”
Today is the day we turn the corner from darkness toward light, kind of like what FFRF tries to help our country do on a daily basis.
One shining example of this came early week, as FFRF was on the winning side of an important appeals court ruling.
On Monday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided in favor of Elizabeth Deal, a parent of a student, in a high-profile case involving bible classes in the Mercer County (W.Va.) school system. Deal, along with FFRF, had last year challenged in federal court these proselytizing classes.
It was a huge victory for FFRF and Deal. Several media outlets covered the ruling, including the Washington Post. “The ruling means that the case will be sent back to a district court and that the fate of the suspended Bible in the Schools program in the public school system of Mercer County could be resolved,” Joe Heim writes in the Post article.
For a look at some of the other reports about the decision (and other FFRF-related news items), check out our “FFRF in the News” page. For more on the appeals court ruling, tune into this week’s Freethought Radio program, as FFRF Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott discusses the victory. Then, after hearing some “holiday humor,” Christmas jokes, and irreverent seasonal songs (including Tom Lehrer’s “A Christmas Song” and Roy Zimmerman’s “Christmas is Pain”), we explain the real reason for the season and listen to Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun” and Dan Barker’s “Solstice Tribute.”
After we complained to an Indiana public school about coaches and other school personnel praying with student-athletes after football games, FFRF heard back from the school district’s attorney.
“We want to emphasize to our personnel that they may not participate [in] any such student led prayer,” the attorney’s letter read. “We further plan to instruct the school personnel, including all coaches, that they may not encourage, lead, initiate, mandate, either directly or indirectly, any such student prayer.” Hooray!
We spent part of the week contacting counties and police departments over their religious-themed displays.
In Indiana, we requested that a county-sponsored nativity scene be removed. The front lawn of the Jackson County Courthouse in Brownstown is decorated with a prominent, life-sized light display depicting a Christian nativity scene, including Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, heralding angels and magi bearing gifts. The display spans both sides of the courthouse’s front lawn, and there are no other visible holiday decorations.
We also sent a letter to an Ohio police department for its unconstitutional annual hosting of a religious event. Each year the Amberley Village Police-Fire Department hosts a menorah lighting ceremony, which is sponsored by the department and this year’s event was promoted on the village’s website and social media pages.
FFRF joined other secular groups, including American Humanist Association, Center for Inquiry, American Atheists and Secular Coalition for America, in asking the U.S. Senate to remove a religion-imposing provision in the proposed crime reform bill. The First Step Act, currently under consideration, has a proviso that would violate the Constitution by foisting religious programs and services on incarcerated persons, and by funding religious programs and services with taxpayer dollars.
As we mentioned last week, FFRF members and chapters have been busy in December setting up displays around the country to counter religious nativity scenes and other overtly religious propaganda on public property. FFRF’s Bill of Rights “nativity” displays this week were added to the state Capitol grounds in Sacramento and the Iowa state Capitol in Des Moines. In Washington, FFRF’s “Let Reason Prevail” banner was put up today on the state Capitol grounds in Olympia.
Outside our own building, Freethought Hall, passersby can view our electronic marquee and our Richard Dawkins-inspired light-up “A” (for atheism).
Tune in on Sunday!
And on our weekly “Freethought Matters” TV show, we present our Winter Solstice special! Be sure to tune in on Dec. 23 for a plain-spoken and entertaining explanation of the real “reason for the season.” If you’re not in one of the nine cities that broadcast our TV show, you can always catch this and previous episodes on YouTube.
Celebrating the Solstice
As we headed off into the weekend, FFRF celebrated the Winter Solstice today, with its annual party in the Charlie Brooks Auditorium at Freethought Hall, where dozens of our members showed up to eat, drink and be merry. Guests were also treated to musical entertainment by Midwest folk singer Kristin Lems and FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.
Finally, as the crazy year of 2018 winds down, FFRF wishes to thank all of our members for joining us in our fight to keep state and church separate. FFRF has been on a winning streak since 2016, winning 16 rounds, cases or settlements.
We ask at year’s end for your help in replenishing FFRF’s legal coffers for the state/church battles ahead. Our end-of-the-year appeal letter (also sent via snail mail) describes many exciting special projects FFRF will be undertaking on your behalf in 2019. Please consider donating. It’s only because of you that we can continue to take on these important cases of state-church separation.
Have a wonderful Solstice weekend and season!