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That was the week that was — April 21

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Religious Liberty Under ThreatCropped That was the week that was — April 21

The news cycle this week was dizzying. FFRF and FFRF Action Fund have addressed the ethics crisis at the Supreme Court and the latest Christian privilege case before it. But here’s a roundup of some other timely developments. Let’s start with cause to celebrate!

Two-thirds of Americans say you can be good without God. The Pew Research Center released this week new results from a poll showing that 65 percent of Americans say it’s not necessary to believe in God to be moral. This is a monumental change in our nation’s attitudes toward nonbelievers. One of the biggest bugaboos against nonbelievers has been the knee-jerk assumption that you can’t be “good without God.” Philosophers and movement activists have written eloquent reams in rebuttal of this defamation, best summarized in the Old Testament’s notorious slander of atheism: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good” Psalm 14:1.

We’ve long pointed out that it’s not what you believe that makes you a good person, but what you do. (In fact, some of us have turned the table, asking whether you can really be good if you worship a bad deity, or if you only “do good” for an extrinsic reward, i.e., heaven, or to avoid punishment, i.e., hell.) As the number of “Nones” and nonreligious has climbed, it’s heartening to see these old prejudices fall away. Among other European countries, Canada and Australia, at least two-thirds of their citizens also agree. It’s about time!

Holding our collective breath over the Supreme Court and medication abortion. It’s looking grim as we await action today by the anti-abortion majority Supreme Court, which is taking on the medication abortion crisis manufactured by a rogue district judge out of Texas practicing medicine without a license. The court once again punted on what it will do about emergency appeals until midnight today — Friday being when many judges and public officials prefer to announce controversial actions.

The best commentary to date on what’s at stake is “Our Victorian Supreme Court,” published this week by Slate, and written by Reva Siegel and Mary Zielger, the latter the law professor who will receive a “Forward” award at FFRF’s fall convention. They warn that if the high court agrees to resurrect the Comstock Act of 1873 — which deputized a religious zealot to personally enforce the prohibition of use of the mails for “obscene” purposes — it could end up not only banning medication abortion but also surgical abortions, emergency contraceptives and birth control pills (which depend on mail and delivery services). Whatever happens today, this is just the first installment in the fanatical quest to ban abortion and contraception nationwide. And make no mistake, it is a religious crusade.

What doctors and pharmaceuticals are saying. GenBioPro, the generic maker of mifepristone, the medication abortion drug in the legal crosshairs, filed its own lawsuit this week seeking to block the Food and Drug Administration from complying if courts order mifepristone off the market. GenBioPro, which is at risk of major civil and criminal penalties, is basically accusing the FDA of wimping out by failing to stipulate that it will follow the regulatory process and give the company due process rights.

The president of the American Medical Association is calling the district and appeals court decisions against medication abortion, which were approved by the FDA 23 years ago, “a brazen attack on Americans’ health.” “We simply cannot be a country where your access to the care you need is determined by the whims of ideologically driven judges and lawmakers without medical or scientific training,” writes Jack Resneck Jr. “But there are even broader implications of this case: the integrity of the long-established F.D.A.-approval process and whether we want science — or ideologues — informing decisions about our individual and collective health.”

Speaking of religious crusades . . . The House of Representatives yesterday approved legislation barring transgender girls and women from participating in women’s sports by a 219-203 margin. While hateful, it was a performative vote, as it has no chance to pass the Senate or be signed into law. The national ban made no distinction between elementary- and middle-school teams, where young students would be excluded from sports, which are usually gender-designated. What is so distasteful, aside from the specter of the House picking on a tiny, vulnerable minority of students to earn political points, is the phony evinced concern by many for girls’ sports, something they never cared a fig for in the past.

No marriage equality here. The former Calvin University professor who lost his job after performing a wedding for a transgender student is suing his ex-university, which is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church in Michigan. It’s not just “Calvinist” religions that continue to oppose marriage equality: It’s Methodists, Anglicans, Mormons, other fundamentalists and, of course, the Catholic Church.

And hate leads to much worse in Uganda. Tax-free U.S. ministries, which have spent upward of $50 million manufacturing hate against LGBTQ individuals in Uganda, have used that country as an experiment in passing extremist legislation. As affected individuals wait to see whether Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has called gays “deviant,” signs the bill calling for life imprisonment for same-sex relations, the New York Times reports that gay Ugandans are fleeing to nearby Kenya. The bill even threatens the death penalty for some actions.

Unfortunately, Kenya may not long be a haven. “It’s going to spread like a whirlwind,” warns Kenyan lawmaker George Peter Kaluma. Already an anti-gay bill was introduced to return sexually persecuted refugees, ban anyone from identifying as LGBTQ and give citizens the power to arrest someone they suspect of being gay.

If only they understood there is no god, religious lawmakers and judges could stop hating LGBTQ individuals and subjugating women. As we see the numbers of nonreligious folks grow, we are seeing a corresponding backlash by Christian nationalists desperate to retain their power. This week, as every week, religion has so much to answer for — revealing why it’s essential to keep religious dogma out of our laws.

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