By Amit Pal
Director of Communications
Freedom From Religion Foundation
At the Freedom From Religion Foundation, we’re constantly faced with brush fires. We manage to extinguish one successfully, and others pop up just as quickly.
A fire of biblical proportions
We focused this week on a fire of biblical proportions: Ken Ham’s so-called Creation Museum. Ken is free to do whatever he wants, but we strenuously object to public schools subjecting their kids to his nonsense. Alarmingly, we’ve learned that several public schools in the region have already made or are planning trips to Ham’s literalist ode to the scriptures. What they will see there is a diorama of a human and a dinosaur together, implying that they existed simultaneously. Each display at this “museum” contrasts science with a literalist interpretation of the bible. Public schools shouldn’t be patronizing and subsidizing such places, and we’re calling them on it.
We’re still combating “Jesus Lunch”
We’re still fighting the conflagration set off by the “Jesus Lunch” folks next door in Middleton High School. The organizers insisted on again putting on their religion-infused weekly meal at a park adjacent to the school, and so we countered them with delicious pizza (some of it provided free by Ian’s Pizza, a local institution). We also sent out an Action Alert urging you to contact the Middleton city authorities and ask them to see things the Middleton-Cross Plains School District’s way, which is to have the pious parents out of the park.
Resisting longstanding malpractice
Another of our ongoing battles over the past few months has been with an Indiana public school that insists on putting on a nativity story every Christmas for almost the past half a century. When we got an injunction issued, the school just substituted mannequins for the students, thinking this made them bypass the First Amendment. So, we’re on it again, filing a motion for a summary judgment. For our troubles, we’ve gotten a death threat and plenty of vitriol. That hasn’t deterred us, however.
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But let us not despair. We do make people see reason ever so often. In Oak Ridge, Tenn., we went after the City Council after it cut off a secular invocation by an FFRF member. The result? The council is changing its selection process for deciding who gets invited to speak, and has promised to call back Aleta Ledendecker. Yippie!
Getting an ex-con proselytizer barred
And we won a really gratifying victory in Florida when we got an ex-con proselytizer barred from the Hillsborough County Public Schools. Fellowship of Christian Athletes employee David Gaskill was given complete access to students in the county schools. He was allowed to pose for “selfies” and pictures with students, including with his arms draped around shirtless students. The schools also permitted Gaskill to meet with students in “intimate locker room” settings with no other adults present. “This is one of the worst violations by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes that we’ve ever dealt with,” FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel said. The school responded swiftly and decisively to FFRF’s complaint, suspending not just Gaskill’s access but that of all Fellowship of Christian Athletes employees until they undergo training. The school’s coaches will also be required to attend a mandatory training outlining the school district’s policies, presumably guiding them on why they shouldn’t be giving individuals like Gaskill unlimited access to their students.
Such outcomes bring us joy and happiness and keep us going, along with your support. That’s why the next time we see an outrageous state/church violation blaze, we’ll be able to muster the required energy to try to squelch it.
FFRF is a national nonprofit dedicated to keeping state and church separate and educating about nontheism. For more information and a copy of our paper, Freethought Today, please click here.