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The Supreme Court, the pandemic, abortion rights and profound questions

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Between the Supreme Court and the pandemic, we at the Freedom From Religion Foundation had scarcely a moment’s respite over the past week.

The court had a couple of awful decisions on state/church matters — and we offered our sharp critique as soon as they came down Wednesday. We decried the unwarranted expansion in the Guadalupe ruling of a religious exemption. An amicus brief we had filed in the case was unique in warning the court that adopting the test preferred by the religious defendants would have a devastating impact on the rights of more than 1 million health care employees — a point that is even more pertinent now. “The Supreme Court is allowing religious employers a broad opportunity to discriminate against employees,” commented FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.

Unfortunately, the court wasn’t quite done. The very same day, it lamentably blessed (in Trump v. Pennsylvania, and its companion case “Little Sisters”) the Trump administration’s broadening of exceptions to contraceptive coverage for religious reasons.

“Employers should not have free rein to deny women workers much-needed contraceptive care,” remarked FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “This is discriminatory and unacceptable.”

A multibillion religious boondoggle

Of course, given what we all are facing, much of our work has been dealing with various aspects of the pandemic. We did an analysis exposing the religious giveaways of the Trump administration: More than 12,400 American churches took in billions of taxpayer dollars under the pandemic relief program. Church leaders personally connected to President Trump raked in at least close to $50 million! The U.S. Roman Catholic Church amassed at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid, with many millions going to dioceses seeking bankruptcy protection because of clergy abuse cover-ups.

“These numbers are staggering,” says Annie Laurie. “It’s everything the framers of our godless Constitution dreaded: the government wielding its taxing power to force citizens to support churches and pay preachers’ salaries.”

FFRF will continue to publicize the tax money that has gone to the likes of televangelist Jim Bakker and defrocked telehuckster Jimmy Swaggart. Trump’s evangelical advisory board members who profited include Paula White and Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress. If this makes you indignant, read on.

Taxpayer handout to a sinking ark

The infamous Ark Encounter in Kentucky took in more than $1 million in taxpayer dollars while it was also busy badgering the faithful for donations to help it “survive” the pandemic. “Even for Ken Ham, that is stunning hypocrisy,” Dan remarked, referring to the beached monstrosity’s founder. As we pointed out, without its history of public subsidies, this ark would long ago have been shipwrecked.

Exposing religious privilege

On our weekly radio show, FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert dissected the two Supreme Court decisions and FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel provided details about the Trump administration’s religious handouts. Then, Dan and Annie Laurie chatted with professor Khyati Joshi about her new and highly timely book: White Christian Privilege: The Illusion of Religious Equality in America. 

Don’t exempt religious entities!

Our hackles have been raised during the pandemic by official exemptions for houses of worship. We recently castigated Columbus officials for making an exception for churches and the like from mask-wearing requirements. Such religious pandering violates the First Amendment — and puts the city’s population at risk, we pointed out.

The man — and the mindset — behind a historically awful anti-abortion law

A consistent focus of our work has been abortion rights — and protecting such rights from the Religious Right. FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Intern Barbara Alvarez in her latest column delves into the history of an egregious piece of anti-abortion legislation — and the religious mindset of the person who crafted it.

“Perhaps most notable about Henry Hyde is not that he simply engineered the Hyde Amendment, but that he created a platform persisting for nearly 50 years,” she writes. “Indeed, it is easy to put all the blame on Hyde. But doing so erases the decades of bipartisan support for this oppressive anti-woman piece of legislation. Simply put, abortion rights must never be taken for granted.”

Barbara joined Annie Laurie on our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature to discuss the Supreme Court’s good recent decision overturning a Louisiana anti-abortion law, and examining the current precarious state of abortion rights and access in the United States. Tune in!

How can we lead purpose driven-lives?

We occasionally tackle profound questions such as this one: How can freethinkers lead purpose-driven lives? Veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught, in reclaiming the notion from the likes of evangelist Rick Warren, offers an approach. Find out what it is.

Whether it’s giving it back to the Supreme Court, exposing religious boondoggles or pondering about weighty issues, we are able to do all of it only due to your unremitting patronage.

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