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Sen. Josh Hawley, “Satan’s Guide to the Bible,” Washington Times and a Christian think tank

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It sometimes defies belief (pun intended) as to how broad a range of issues we are able to tackle in a typical week at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

We started off Monday on the occasion of Roe’s (nullified) 51st anniversary with a condemnation of the U.S. Supreme Court (for its anti-abortion rulings) and of House Speaker Mike Johnson (for addressing a militantly anti-abortion rally). Where are abortion rights today? In a very scary place, as we explain.

The issue of abortion — and the toll from the religion-based opposition to it — took up a fair amount of our bandwidth.

FFRF Governmental Affairs Fellow Caitlin Berray wrote a riveting column about how abortion bans are killing women. “You can now be criminalized for having a miscarriage, and you can now die without ever even discussing the life-saving option of abortion with the doctors entrusted with your care,” she warned.

FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Walker emphasized that men should have no say on abortion. “Patriarchal religious groups are particularly unsuitable,” she stated,” because of their radically misogynous history.”

Our constitutional victories
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We achieved a couple of constitutional victories through the week.

A North Carolina public-supported senior center has replaced its lunchtime prayer with a moment of silence after we contacted it about its unconstitutional prayer practice. “Religious rituals should never be a condition of receiving such life-essential services as meals,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

We successfully stopped a Las Vegas teacher from using their official school email to promote their personal religious beliefs. After FFRF sent the letter of complaint, legal representation for the district reached out to FFRF to inform it that the district’s updated policy prohibits usage of email signatures completely.

News portal highlights our rebuke
We chastised a Mississippi school district for punishing a child on the nonexistent grounds of blasphemy (with accompanying media attention).

“The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) notified Elizabeth Lee Maron, attorney for the DeSoto County (Miss.) School District in a Jan. 19 letter that the practice of imposing discipline for Christian blasphemy was a violation of the establishment and free speech clauses of the Constitution,” reports a major state news portal. “‘The child who was reprimanded is attending a secular public school, not a religious institution,’ said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.”

Moonie-owned Washington Times notices us
The conservative Moonie-owned paper in our nation’s capital grudgingly covered our admonishment of a member of Congress for displaying outside his Capitol office a Christian flag associated with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol itself.

“An atheist group is demanding that a Republican House lawmaker remove a Christian-themed flag that stands outside his Capitol Hill office,” said a story in the Washington Times. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation said it is ‘rebuking’ Rep. Greg Steube of Florida for displaying the 126-year-old banner — a white field with a blue square and red cross in the upper left corner — outside his Rayburn House Office Building quarters. The group says the flag makes non-Christians feel ‘unwelcome.’”

What’s with the scare quotes, guys? A Christian flag outside an elected representative’s office does indeed make many folks feel unwelcome.

We insisted Texas university clean up its act
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Quit propounding religious sectarianism, we have asked the West Texas A&M University leadership.

The university has started the Hill Institute, which is designed to promote, among other things, “the Free And Open Exercise Of Faith.” And the school’s president, Walter Wendler, authored a Christmas card to all students, published on the university website and sent through his official email, that includes three different biblical quotes. “Public universities may not promote or favor religion,” FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence wrote to Wendler.

Stop praying, we’re urging Virginia school board
We demanded that a Virginia school board rescind its recent decision to open official meetings with prayer. “It is beyond the scope of a public school board to conduct, or allow others to conduct, prayer as part of its meetings,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to York County School Board Chair Lynda Fairman.

New survey of ‘Nones” is pleasing
Despite our intense focus on local matters, national and international issues didn’t escape our attention.

We were pleased to see a new Pew Research Center national report affirming that the “Nones” remain the single largest group by religious identification in the United States. There are a lot of fascinating data points contained in the report (and some contentious assertions). Dig in here.

Biden administration disappoints on human rights
We were disappointed that the U.S. State Department has once again decided against designating Nigeria and India as “Countries of Particular Concern” for religious liberty violations. This is despite the quasi-official U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s recommendation to the contrary.

A Hindu temple and an atheist chaplain
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I discussed on this week’s Freethought Radio show with co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor the Indian prime minister’s recent egregious inauguration of a temple at the site of a destroyed mosque. Then, they spoke with Devin Moss, the humanist chaplain who was called in to support an atheist death-row inmate executed in Oklahoma and was featured in a major New York Times article this week.

An Oregon state rep’s inexcusable comments
Our lobbying arm was also not letting things slip by.

The FFRF Action Fund called out Oregon state Rep. E. Werner Reschke for his recent comments revealing clear prejudice against non-Christians holding public office. It called on Reschke to either apologize to all non-Christian and nonreligious citizens in his district or resign.

Illinois stance on vouchers a beacon amid darkness
The Fund commended the state of Illinois for allowing its voucher program to sunset last year amid the many states adopting school voucher schemes that primarily support religiously segregated schools. “Other than Illinois, the constitutionally and fiscally reckless trend nationwide seems to be creating new voucher-type schemes and expanding existing programs toward universal vouchers,” reported FFRF Senior Policy Counsel Ryan Jayne.

Sen. Hawley and an Iowa state rep in our spotlight
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And the Fund chose Iowa state Rep. Sean Bagnieswki as its “Secularist of the Week” for his work documenting how much support is being drained from public schools in order to subsidize private religious schools under Iowa’s voucher program. Its “Theocrat of the Week,” Sen. Josh Hawley, recently published a 4,334-word Christian nationalist manifesto in an ecumenical academic journal, earning him his second “Theocrat” title.

“Satan’s Guide to the Bible” filmmaker interviewed on Sunday TV show
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Our multimedia offerings this week also provided our viewers a wide span of subjects.

The fascinating and fun guest on the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s TV show Sunday is a documentary filmmaker whose latest movie, “Satan’s Guide to the Bible,” tackles religion head-on. “This Christian nationalist, oftentimes fascist, movement that we have in America is a real threat to democracy,” Zeke Piestrup says. You can already watch the show on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it on television Sunday.

“We Dissent” podcast hosts open up their mailbag
On the latest episode of the “We Dissent” podcast, two of our hosts sat down and answered questions from our loyal audience. FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert and FFRF Attorney Liz Cavell opened up their mailbag, answering questions relating to religious liberty issues and more.

Anti-LGBTQ legislation around the nation
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On our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature this week, FFRF’s Equal Justice Fellow Kat Grant and Associate Counsel Liz Cavell discussed the latest anti-LGBTQ+ bills from around the country. Watch the informative discussion here.

So, there you have it — the enormous scope of things we addressed this week. It was all made possible, of course, due to your generous and constant backing.

 

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