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National Prayer Breakfast, the pope, Deion Sanders and blasphemy

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This has been a major week for us. From the National Prayer Breakfast and blasphemy laws to the pope and Deion Sanders, we’ve handled a lot.

Our efforts to get members of Congress to boycott the annual theocratic National Prayer Breakfast has resulted in interesting developments. We took the lead in a recent coalition letter calling on politicians to boycott the event, and are viewing subsequent modifications in the set-up with a bit of skepticism.

Religion News Service, the most prominent news outlet covering religion and freethought, has featured our perspective. It quotes us: “FFRF President Annie Laurie Gaylor told RNS in an email that her organization welcomes the changes, but said, ‘It does look as though the creation of a new entity to sponsor the prayer breakfast is essentially a subterfuge, because the folks running the National Prayer Breakfast Foundation are all connected with the Fellowship [the shadowy outfit controlling the event].’”

Stop proselytizing, Deion Sanders
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We called out sports legend Deion Sanders for misusing his new position as the University of Colorado football coach to impose Christianity on the program. “There is no doubting the sporting accomplishments of Deion Sanders,” Annie Laurie remarked, “but that doesn’t give him the right to force his religion upon student athletes at a public university.”

No accolades for the pope
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We didn’t join in the accolades Pope Francis has been receiving for his recent remark that “being homosexual is not a crime.” The pope followed up this sentiment with the obnoxious affirmation that homosexuality itself is a “sin.” It is really stating the obvious to point out that being gay or engaging in homosexual acts is not a “sin.”

Social media star needs to stop the bigotry
Another, lesser-known public personality had an even more obnoxious take on being gay. “Woah Vicky,” whose real name is Victoria Rose Waldrip, was invited to a Georgia high school to speak, and when asked if being gay was bad, Waldrip stated that it was a sin and the result of molestation as a child. She then equated being gay to murder, and stated that after Jeffrey Dahmer “found God” in jail, his sins were forgiven. We’re calling for an investigation.

We’re still seeking resolution in Florida
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We are still seeking resolution due to being publicly insulted by a Florida county  board of commissioners. We wrote a letter to the Lake County Board of County Commissioners after a December secular invocation by Joseph Richardson, a director of our chapter, the Central Florida Freethought Community, was immediately followed by a “corrective” Christian prayer. The board has neither acted to correct this mistake nor has it made any official comment regarding the insult. If the board insists upon having invocations before meetings, it must straightforwardly accept secular invocations, too, we’re insisting. Failing to do so will run the risk of lawsuit.

Joseph Richardson spoke on Freethought Radio this week about the Florida fracas. Then, show co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor interviewed a Michigan city councilor who received a death threat after she complained about prayers before council meetings.

Blasphemy is a victimless crime
We condemned new blasphemy legislation in Pakistan. The country’s blasphemy laws have resulted in a long line of vigilante killings. Now, Pakistan’s Parliament has, lamentably, strengthened such legislation. The country needs to instead move in a more secular direction — a prerequisite for a truly democratic society.

Death with dignity should be legalized
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We focused attention on a tragic recent case involving the arrest of a 76-year-old woman in Florida for fatally shooting her terminally ill 77-year-old husband at his request that would not have happened if the state had rational medical-aid-in-dying laws. Much of the opposition to medical aid-in-dying laws is based on religiously motivated beliefs that end-of-life care encroaches on “God’s Will” or jurisdiction. Such beliefs have no place in secular legislatures.

No public money for parochial schools
We condemned the passage of Iowa’s massive private school funding bill that will funnel over $340 million in taxpayer dollars to private, mostly religious schools. We have long held that where public tax dollars go, public accountability must follow, which won’t be the case for these religiously segregated and unaccountable schools.

We interview Ron Reagan
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We are reprising a memorable TV interview this Sunday: with Ron Reagan, who is, of course, the son of Nancy and President Ronald Reagan and has most graciously endorsed FFRF in a now famous TV ad. In his interview, he’s “unabashed” as usual in a no-holds-barred discussion about his dissent from religion. You can already watch the show on our YouTube channel. Or find out where all you can catch its Sunday broadcast.

A unique podcast talks about a Supreme Court case
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We also have a fresh installment for you of a unique podcast. “We Dissent,” the only legal affairs show for atheists, agnostics and humanists hosted by female lawyers, this month has FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert, FFRF Staff Attorney Liz Cavell and American Atheists’ Vice President for Legal and Policy Alison Gill discuss a pending U.S. Supreme Court case involving a Christian website designer who would like to expand her business to create wedding websites, but would refuse to do that for same-sex couples. Listen to the fascinating discussion here.

Five reasons why no abortion bans are beneficial
FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez convincingly lays out in her column this week five reasons why all abortion bans are harmful.

“The next time someone says to you ‘I support abortion, but …’ I hope that you’re able to explain to them why there is no such thing as a justifiable abortion ban,” she concludes. “All abortion bans cause harm. That’s why abortion should be legal without exception.”

Commemorating Roe v. Wade’s should-be Golden Jubilee
Annie Laurie and Barbara get together on FFRF’s “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature to commemorate what should have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, discussing, among other things, the religious anti-abortion crusade, latest developments and upcoming legislation.

Does higher IQ mean lower religiosity?
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Veteran writer freethinker and writer Jim Haught grapples with an intriguing notion in his latest piece: Has a rise in IQ contributed to the decline of religion? “I hope some researchers explore to determine whether better brainpower undercuts religion,” he states.

Join Thomas Paine birthday celebration Sunday
It’s not too late to sign up to attend an international Zoom celebration of Thomas Paine this Sunday at 2 p.m. Central on the anniversary of Paine’s birthday, Jan. 29. Rep. Jamie Raskin, principal sponsor of the new law enacted at the end of the year approving a long overdue memorial to Paine, has sent a video greeting, and other celebrities and activists will be on hand. Register here.

In the meanwhile, we’re ensuring with your support that organized religion exerts less and less influence over our society. Hopefully, the National Prayer Breakfast changes are only a beginning.

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