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Religion and war, Pride Month, indoctrinating schools, and the largest secular democracy

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We covered a lot of territory — geographically and otherwise — this week at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The media featured us in states such as Minnesota, Ohio and Oklahoma. When we successfully prevented a school district in the Land of 10,000 Lakes from installing a proposed Ten Commandments monument, the local media outlet generously covered the major part that we played in this victory for the U.S. Constitution. Obviously, we were pleased to see the First Amendment winning out over religious hectoring.

Ohio media notices our objection
The Sandusky paper prominently featured our objection to a release time bible study program organized by LifeWise, an overtly Christian outfit.

“The Freedom From Religion Foundation released a statement urging school districts in Ohio not to release kids from school for Bible study,” stated a Sandusky Register story. “‘Per its own words, LifeWise’s goal is clear: They seek to indoctrinate and convert public school students to evangelical Christianity by convincing public school districts to partner with them in bringing LifeWise released time Bible classes to public school communities,’ said Sammi Lawrence, a legal fellow with the organization.”

Oklahoma legal action draws media attention
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The most prominent publication in Oklahoma took note of our strenuous legal efforts, as part of a secular coalition, to block a religious public charter school.

“Opponents of what is proposed to be the nation’s first religious public charter school have asked a district court to issue a temporary injunction preventing the school from opening in Oklahoma City and receiving state funds,” the Oklahoma City newspaper reported. “The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are The Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee, a nonpartisan public school advocacy group, and nine other parents, faith leaders, and public-education advocates. They are represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, Education Law Center and Freedom from Religion Foundation, as well as by Oklahoma-based counsel Odom & Sparks PLLC and J. Douglas Mann.”

We caught the eye of an Oklahoma City TV station, too.

“A new effort is underway to stop the nation’s first publicly-funded religious charter school, St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School, from operating in Oklahoma,” the NBC affiliate in the state capital said in a news segment. “Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, Education Law Center and Freedom From Religion Foundation, as well as Oklahoma-based counsel Odom & Sparks PLLC and J. Douglas Mann, are representing the plaintiffs in the case against St. Isidore.”

We and our legal partners actually won this legal round on Wednesday! Read more about it.

Our allies (The Satanic Temple) and antagonists (First Liberty Institute)
We announced that we’re joining hands with the Satanic Temple to distribute materials to students in a Colorado school district if officials don’t prevent the Gideons from targeting students with bibles. “It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer outside adults access to students in order to indoctrinate them and distribute religious materials,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to Park County Board of Education President Sheila Waite. FFRF has sought to distribute its own literature in schools with overly broad distribution policies — and aims to do so in the Park County School District if it maintains this inappropriate “open forum” in an elementary school.

And we demolished the reasoning of First Liberty Institute, a Christian nationalist law firm, in backing a decision by the city of Carlsbad, Calif., to end sectarian chaplain prayer.

“We commend the city for defending the First Amendment and urge it to stand firm in defense of the separation between state and church,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “First Liberty’s ludicrous arguments should be dismissed out of hand.”

A praiseworthy Wash. Post exposé of school vouchers
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We commended a new Washington Post exposé revealing the folly of taxpayer-funded school voucher programs nationwide. In addition to reporting on the dramatic expansion of voucher programs in states throughout the country, and the eroding line between state and church, the piece documents the astronomical sums going to religious schools.

“The Washington Post article shines light on how well-funded religious schools are milking taxpayers,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “The erosion of our vaunted wall of separation between state and church is endangering our public schools. We’ll continue vigorously fighting to strengthen that wall.”

Indian voters finally saved their secular, democratic Constitution
We ventured internationally, drawing comfort in election results from the world’s largest secular democracy. Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been barely returned to power and will have to rely on regional entities that do not share his majoritarian, intolerant vision. As Harsh Mander, an outspoken social worker, put it in an interview to be broadcast on Madison community radio station WORT’s “World View” show this Sunday evening: Hate may not have been defeated in India, but at least it has been checked.

‘Secularist’ and ‘theocrat’ of the week have contrasting public school visions
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FFRF’s lobbying arm, the FFRF Action Fund, chose as its “secularist” and “theocrat” of the week officials from neighboring states who have contrasting visions for public education. Oklahoma state Rep. Andy Fugate has been a vocal opponent of a recently passed measure mandating that every public school board in Oklahoma must create a policy for students to attend off-site religious classes during school hours. He has warned that the legislation will “turn Monday school into Sunday school.” Unfortunately, our “Theocrat of the Week” is a noteworthy proponent of the movement to instill Christianity into schools nationwide. Appointed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency Mike Morath recently oversaw a new elementary school curriculum proposal designed to draw connections between classroom content and various religious texts. That’s why we need elected representatives such as Fugate.

A round-up of recent state/church developments
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FFRF’s “Freethought Matters” show is on summer hiatus, returning on Sunday, Sept. 8, but we still have other media productions for your viewing and listening pleasure.

Our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature this week engaged in a national round-up. FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence, Staff Attorney Chris Line and Legal Intern Grace Kraimer discussed recent state/church violations, as well as a welcome FFRF victory.

The man who hated women
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After co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor talked about the Oklahoma lawsuit and the Indian election results (with yours truly) on our most recent Freethought Radio show, they spoke with Amy Sohn about her timely book on Anthony Comstock, The Man Who Hated Women: Sex, Censorship, and Civil Liberties in the Gilded Age.

Trailblazing abortion rights activists
Annie Laurie remembers secular abortion rights trailblazers in her new column memorializing their work.

“Pat Maginnis and Anne Treseder were early abortion rights pioneers and avid secularists who deserve to be acknowledged and lauded, however belatedly,” she writes. “FFRF had its very roots in my mother’s early abortion rights activism and our growing awareness that the problem of women’s subjugation was religion and its influence on our law. Pat and Anne shared this conviction.”

LGBTQ freethinker compendium for Pride Month
In honor of Pride Month, we also remember and salute famous LGBTQ freethinkers. Check out the amazing array we have put together.

Religion has always supported war
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There has seldom been a war that religion did not support, FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Walker asserts in her blog this week. “We cannot imagine an end to warfare until we can, as John Lennon suggested, ‘Imagine no religion,’” she writes.

Obviously, Lennon’s song is a favorite of ours, too. That’s why we strive — with your crucial support — to fulfill Lennon’s vision at home and abroad.

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