By Andrew L. Seidel
Freedom From Religion Foundation
The Liberty Institute, an obscure group of theocrats based in Texas, released its annual “Survey of Hostility to Religion in America.” The survey, ironically titled “Undeniable,” is full of misinformation, twisted facts, and erroneous conclusions. My friend Rob Boston at Americans United has helped debunk several of the stories that the Institute has used previously. But I don’t want to focus on the hundreds, perhaps thousands of factual errors in their ponderous 400-page cut-and-paste job. Instead, I’ll just point out that the Institute’s fear-mongering shows what and who they are truly afraid of: Us. Liberty Institute is terrified of — and perhaps a bit obsessed with — FFRF and the great work we do.
The survey comes on the heels of Liberty Institute releasing its top “five foes”: FFRF, Americans United, American Atheists, the American Humanist Association, and the ACLU. And just days ago, the American Family Association — the $30 million hate group — released its “Bigotry Map” and rudely left our hard-working friends at the Center For Inquiry off it. (Which they’re not taking lying down!) That map had to be puffed up to scare AFA’s donors, so the group included FFRF chapters, AU chapters, and even college atheist groups.
You have to hand it to them, they really know how to name things. “Liberty” Institute, “Undeniable,” and the Survey of “Hostility to Religion” in America. They simply choose the word that best represents the opposite of their intent. Big Brother and the Ministry of Love would have been so proud. Only in the warped mind of an evangelical Christian law firm does upholding the separation of state and church amount to hostility. They need to feel persecuted, even if they aren’t. And because Christians are (for now) the majority in this country, vastly overrepresented in government, and used to exercising their privilege without being challenged, the Institute scraped together this glorified Internet search.
Liberty Institute’s timorous survey mentions FFRF 420 times in 393 pages.* On top of those 420 mentions, the survey referenced our website 185 times. Thanks for all the hits guys. Our friends at the ACLU come in second with about 260 mentions. (Others in our secular family received respectable marks: Americans United (27), AHA (19), AA (9), and CFI (2).)
It’s clear that Liberty Institute envies FFRF’s effectiveness.
Sometimes, they like to pretend they are as effective as we are. If you look at their website, they claim to have won 90% of their cases against groups like FFRF and the ACLU. Liberty Institute has gone up against FFRF precisely once in court. That was the case of the Jesus portrait in the public school in Jackson, Ohio. FFRF and the ACLU won, and the school district, which unfortunately made the mistake of listening to demagogues driven by a religious agenda, ended up paying nearly $100,000 in legal fees.
So, at least against FFRF, they’ve lost 100% of their cases. But why let facts get in the way of mythology, right guys?
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* Counts were completed using the search function in Adobe Acrobat. They are “FFRF” (147) and “the Freedom From Religion Foundation” (273). We realize this may include some repeats (i.e., “The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF)”), but the point stands, and all groups were counted using the same procedure. I’ve got other things to do.
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