By Amit Pal
Director of Communications
Freedom From Religion Foundation
With the Reason Rally occupying so much of our energy through the end of last week, we thought we’d get a bit of down time during the past few days. But noooo. There are always matters to be taken care of.
Those of us from the Freedom From Religion Foundation who went to the Reason Rally in Washington, D.C., reported back that it was an exceptional occasion to hear and meet like-minded people—and to have fun. Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor spoke at the gathering, Staff Attorneys Rebecca Markert, Sam Grover and Andrew Seidel put together a panel, while several others helped operate the booths and spread the word. As Seidel wrote for The Progressive, the message of the rally was: “We’re here, we’re determined, and we’re happy.”
NASA needs to lose its religion
And then we had to quickly shift gears. As if challenging earth-bound entities is not enough, we took on NASA this week. In all its wisdom, the organization has decided to award $1.108 million to the Center of Theological Inquiry for “an interdisciplinary inquiry on the societal implications of astrobiology, the study of the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.” Say what? And some of us thought NASA was suffering from budget constraints. FFRF has asked NASA to rescind its grant, a step that has gotten us compliments from Steven Pinker and Lawrence Krauss.
An Iowa marathon to boycott Another endeavor of ours that has gotten attention is our protest of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s recent proclamation “encouraging” all Iowans to participate in a Bible Reading Marathon to take place in front of all of the state’s 99 courthouses and “to read through the bible on a daily basis until the Lord comes.” Really?! Our response of threatening to take legal action has gotten a lot of play in the media, especially in the Des Moines paper.
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We took the opportunity this week to tout two recent victories. After we complained, a fire department in the state of Washington agreed to stop posting religious messages on its outdoor marquee, since it realized it is important to “uphold the laws of the state of Washington and the Constitution of the United States of America.” Glad to hear!
With the odds not in its favor, a Nevada school district agreed to halt several constitutional violations at a local high school after we alerted officials. The Las Vegas-headquartered school district tallied for us several steps it has taken to rein in a constitutionally renegade principal.
We were also working this week on things off to the side, but no less important. In our effort to encourage diversity within the freethought movement, we announced the annual First in the Family Catherine Fahringer Memorial Scholarships, administered by the Black Skeptics Group Los Angeles and underwritten by us. These $2,500 scholarships are each available to four high school youths in the United States who identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist and/or secular and are accepted into two or four-year colleges. Preference is given to students of color. The deadline is June 17, and we hope to get a lot of response.
Protest the theocracy
None other than Christian evangelist Franklin Graham is visiting Madison, Wis., next week to engage in religious politicking. We will be picketing on Wednesday, June 15, at noon in the Capitol Plaza area (King Street). Please join us if you’re in the area. Even though the Reason Rally is over, we aim to keep the spirit alive.
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.