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Weekly Wrap: Justice Samuel Alito, Southwest Airlines, Black disbelief, and religious school vouchers

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The Supreme Court as composed October 27, 2020 to present

This week at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, much of our concentration was on the judiciary — unsurprising because it’s so central to what we do.

We welcomed a Supreme Court decision ending a phony lawsuit seeking to curtail availability of the abortion medication mifepristone. The court agreed with our amicus brief that anti-abortion groups and their members lacked legal standing to sue.

“We can breathe a sigh of relief for now,” commented FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The court has done the bare minimum in tossing this case.”

Along with other groups, we took a firm stance against the recent unethical behavior of Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. We joined letters calling for a thorough investigation and immediate reform, reinforcing our commitment with secular allies and as a member of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to uphold the integrity and impartiality of the U.S. judiciary.

And when Alito’s recently revealed comments — affirming the need for the country to return to “godliness” — made the news, we renewed our call for comprehensive judicial reform. Such a perspective from a sitting Supreme Court justice threatens the integrity and impartiality of the court, we emphasized.

Southwest Airlines and compulsory Christian training
Early in the week, we commended an appeals court ruling halting a lower court order that attempted to compel Southwest Airlines attorneys to attend “religious liberty training” by the Christian nationalist advocacy group, the Alliance Defending Freedom. We filed an amicus brief in this case urging the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the district court’s inappropriate order. Thankfully, a three-judge panel from the 5th Circuit apparently agreed.

We liberated Tenn. children from religious coercion
A flyer for a vacation bible school

Certainly, we weren’t completely occupied with the judiciary. We proudly freed kids in a Tennessee school district from coercive religious handouts. A concerned parent had informed us that four adults — including two teachers — were handing out red, pocket-sized versions of the New Testament on May 9 as their student entered Brown Intermediate School in Sweetwater, Tenn. “The district cannot allow its schools to be used as recruiting grounds for religious missions,” FFRF Patrick O’Reiley Legal Fellow Hirsh M. Joshi wrote to the Sweetwater City School System. District Director Rodney Boruff responded that the group supplying the New Testaments and the bible fliers will no longer be welcome.

Texas school district shouldn’t allow bible handout
We also called out Victoria Independent School District in Texas after bibles were distributed at the end of a local high school’s graduation practice. “This example of religious coercion shows that no matter the event, Christian apologists will attempt to spread their doctrine onto students in any way they can,” Annie Laurie remarked.

How religious vouchers destroy public schools
A protest photo that is titled public vouchers funding religious schools

Our Facebook Live “Ask An Atheist” show dealt broadly with public schools, discussing the rising trend of school voucher systems in the United States and how a vast majority of them are being used to fund private religious schools. Watch here the informative conversation between FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line, FFRF Legal Fellow Hirsh Joshi and Jess Piper, executive director of Blue Missouri and an advocate for public schools.

Black disbelief
A photo of Anthony B. Pinn with the book The Black Practice of Disbelief

The feature interview on the Freethought Radio show had co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor talk with Professor Anthony B. Pinn about his compelling new book, The Black Practice of Disbelief: An Introduction to the Principles, History, and Communities of Black Nonbelievers. (This was preceded by a tribute to composer Charles Strouse on the occasion of his 96th birthday).

A commendable member of Congress and a despicable GOP state chair
A photo of Diana DeGette with the title Secularist of the Week and a photo of Dave Williams with the title theocrat of the week

FFRF Action Fund, our lobbying arm, declared as its “Theocrat of the Week” the Colorado Republican Party chair and current candidate for Congress, Dave Williams, for his perpetuation of  vehemently homophobic ideas. Its “Secularist of the Week,” Rep. Diana DeGette, became a founding member of a new task force that will counteract the far-right policy plan Project 2025. We desperately need allies like our “secularist” as “theocrats” continue to entrench themselves.

Anti-reproductive-rights GOP Senate theocrats
Annie Laurie focused her latest blog on anti-reproductive-rights theocrats lodged in a very important legislative body: the U.S. Senate. “As our rights appear to be boiled alive in front of us, we must — before it’s too late — resist and  collectively take action to demand through the ballot box that the United States once again honor the essential human right of the individual to determine if and when to become a parent,” she concluded.

Off the wall Texas professors
FFRF Governmental Affairs Coordinator Caitlin Berray deals in her new column with a lesser-known threat to reproductive rights: two professors at UT-Austin that are suing to penalize students who miss class in order to receive abortion care. Although it is, to a good extent, a publicity stunt (how will the professors know a student has had an abortion?), this is still part of an overarching challenge to federal protections in Texas, Caitlin elaborates.

How patriarchal religion suppressed sexuality
A photo of a statue with the title how patriarchal religion suppressed sexuality
Patriarchal religion has historically played a massive role in suppressing female sexuality, Barbara Walker explains in her blog this week. “It has been the primary offender in promulgating this cultural distortion, from which we are just now beginning to recover,” she writes.

Religion has been a culprit not only on this but on so many other social fronts, which is why — with your help — we aim week after week to limit its influence.

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