By Amit Pal
Director of Communications
Freedom From Religion Foundation
Our adrenaline was rushing at the Freedom From Religion Foundation this week. We had to deal with a lot of things, keeping us on our toes.
Protesting Franklin Graham
We were ready for Christian evangelist Franklin Graham when he visited our hometown of Madison, Wis., on Wednesday. Franklin, son of Billy and infamous for his narrow-mindedness, is visiting all state capitols to “urge Christians to vote” and to “stand up for the things of God and his Word.” Madison was his 28th stop. Hundreds of staff, members, and freethinking and LGBT supporters turned out to protest, equipped with FFRF’s “I’m Secular & I vote” placards, “Fan of Reason” fans and sunglasses. Our voice got heard loud and clear. “Annie Laurie Gaylor, with the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, said Graham’s remarks promoted hatred and misinformation that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation,” Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
View more photos of the protest here:
Our reflections on Orlando
Like everyone else, our thoughts were preoccupied with the ghastly killings in Orlando. Annie Laurie Gaylor offered her reflections. “The way to protect our nation and the world from Islamist terrorism is to redouble our efforts to keep religion out of government, not to fan the flames by indulging in hateful rhetoric or by engaging in harmful interventions abroad,” she wrote.
Suppress the censors!
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We received some good news, too. We prevailed in a court battle over a California school district’s censorship. In a legal settlement, the Antelope Valley Union High School District consented to distribute scholarship opportunities offered by FFRF and Antelope Valley Freethinkers and also agreed to reimburse $10,000 in attorneys’ fees. This should teach the School District a lesson in nondiscrimination.
And we blocked a Christian organization’s infiltration into athletic programs throughout a Kentucky school district. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes had embedded itself into athletic programs all over the Jefferson County Public Schools system (located in Louisville), including in elementary schools. FFRF requested that the school district put a stop to such behavior, and the district recently responded that it has taken corrective measures. It’s easy if you try.
Countering the Catholic Church
We challenged a particularly egregious example of the Catholic Church’s political activism in Pennsylvania. Of 195 members of the Pennsylvania House, 180 voted in favor of a bill designed to prevent those accused of sexually abusing children from claiming legal immunity due to the existing statute of limitations. In response, Church leaders publicly humiliated a number of legislators who had backed the bill. We sent out a press release and an Action Alert to our members highlighting the Church’s odiousness. “If the Church were really concerned about victims of sexual abuse, it would be doing everything in its power to support this bill,” Gaylor noted.
Everything is bigger in Texas
As often, Texas took up a good amount of our attention. We raised red flags about a publicly funded Texas charter school chain (Newman International Academy) that has frequently breached the constitutional wall separating state and church. Either it should comply with the U.S. Constitution or no longer receive state funds. It can’t have it both ways.
And we challenged signs proclaiming “Welcome – this is God’s country. Please don’t drive through it like hell ¬– Hondo, Texas” at the city’s borders on U.S. 90. Not only are they constitutionally inappropriate, they might have the opposite of the intended effect, since some people may actually want to run away from God’s abode.
Paying attention to home base
But Texas is not causing us to neglect our home territory. We are still combating the divisive Jesus Lunches that have taken place outside Middleton High School very near our offices in Madison. The Middleton City Council met this week to allow public comments on whether the lunches should continue the next school year. The organizers of the Jesus Lunch rallied their supporters, and we urged our area members not to let their message go unopposed.
And we announced major donations through our new charitable arm Nonbelief Relief to help with the Orlando tragedy and to assist Bangladeshi nonbelievers, among several worthy causes. You’re welcome to contribute how much ever you can.
Protests, challenges, victories, alerts, and donations—all part of a typical week for us. And all made possible by your generosity and support.
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.