The news cycle moves with dizzying speed these days. So, for the benefit of those of you who feel like you’re getting whiplash in trying to keep up with state/church and secular developments, here are highlights of the week, digested just for you.
Celebrate the rise of the Nones
Uncork your champagne bottle! The Pew Research Center this week has released a projection that the number of nonreligiously unaffiliated people may approach or exceed the number of Christians by 2070! Already, those who are not affiliated with a religion have grown from 16 percent in 2007 to 30 percent in 2020, while Christian adherents have dropped to 64 percent of the U.S. population.
Let’s hear it for the rise of the Nones.
Scary (and really dumb) Christian nationalism
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley went “full Christian nationalist” this Monday, as Salon put it, at the National Conservatism Conference in Miami, where he said: “We are a revolutionary nation precisely because we are the heirs of the revolution of the bible.” Hawley also said that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God,” and, again, “from the bible.” Absurdly, he added, “This was a revolution that began with the founding of the nation of Israel at Sinai and continued with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth in the days of ancient Rome.”
I realize you can’t reason an unreasonable person out of their delusions. But surely it’s not unreasonable to expect that a United States senator would have actually read the U.S. Constitution he took an oath “to support and defend” and noticed some omissions. To wit: no reference to deity, Jesus of Nazareth, the bible or the nation of Israel.
We’re celebrating the 235th anniversary of the signing of our godless and entirely secular Constitution tomorrow, on Sept. 17. With enemies from within like Hawley in Congress, the future of that Constitution and our secular democracy has never seemed more imperiled.
Fighting back against Christian nationalism
The academic cavalry is coming to the rescue! The Harvard student newspaper announced this week that it is dedicating a regular column to the “existential threat of Christian nationalism.” The Harvard Crimson LINK reports that student writer Aidan Scully will launch a column called “Free Exercise Thereof” every other Tuesday to investigate the concerted efforts to undermine the separation of state and church. We look forward to Aidan’s significant contributions to educating the public about the growing dangers of a Christian theocracy in the United States.
Abortion rights ups and downs
First, the bad news. On the abortion front came terrible news that the West Virginia Legislature on Wednesday became the second state since the Dobbs ruling against Roe v. Wade to adopt an almost complete ban on abortion, over the massive and desperate protests in the Capitol by feminists.
What will unhappily pregnant people trapped in West Virginia — the fifth poorest state with a poverty rate of almost 15 percent — do now? Here’s a clue on how that vote happened: Only 13.4 percent of state legislators are women! And West Virginia is ranked as the seventh most religious state.
Speaking of religious fanatics, Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a bill on Tuesday to ban abortion nationwide at 15 weeks of pregnancy. The anti-abortion and Christian nationalist goal, we know, is a federal ban on all abortion. This is how it begins. (Graham, as you’ll recall, embarrassed himself and the nation by demanding to know during her confirmation hearing what faith Ketanji Brown Jackson practices.) It was heartening to see many members of Congress appearing to distance themselves from his proposal.
Now, the good news. Reason, compassion and the right to free conscience prevailed in a ruling this week by an Ohio judge who enjoined Ohio’s abortion ban, saying it violates the Ohio Constitution’s equal protection clauses by discriminating against women. This involves one of those fake “fetal heartbeat” bills that bans abortion by six weeks’ gestation, even though at six weeks you have an embryo that has no heart, only an electrical pulse. A six-week embryo weighs 0.04 ounces and is 0.13 inches in length. Let’s get real: An abortion at this stage is essentially the evacuation of a menstrual period.
The decision by the judge is temporary, but looks promising. And, from California came other good news: a law enacted to bar digital companies in that state from sharing private information to do with pregnancy and abortion about clients nationwide. This is intended to protect women from prosecution in “anti” states.
Kudos to the New York Times for its yeshiva exposé
The power of the press was on full display this week. Two days after the New York Times’ impressive investigative piece on yeshivas was published, the New York Board of Regents enacted regulations to provide a “road map” to hold Hasidic yeshivas and other private schools accountable for minimum academic standards. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.
What’s the issue? “The schools appear to be operating in violation of state laws that guarantee children an adequate education,” reports the New York Times. Virtually no secular classes are offered and corporal punishment is the norm. Yet, “Hasidic boys’ schools have found ways of tapping into enormous sums of government money, collecting more than $1 billion in the past four years alone,” the Times reports. Wowser!
The city now gives nearly a third of its money for child care — $50 million a year — to Hasidic schools and neighborhoods. They receive $100 million through anti-poverty programs, plus $30 million to transport students, plus $200,000 in federal money for internet-related services — even though students are forbidden to go online! Please read this phenomenal report for yourself.
We at FFRF have responded by officially calling on the New York City Council to stop funding altogether unaccountable religious schools.
Finally, some good news from SCOTUS
You’ve heard of “shadow dockets.” Almost without fail in the last couple of years, if a religious plaintiff goes to the Supreme Court seeking emergency relief, it is granted disproportionately. But this Wednesday, the Supreme Court surprised many of us by ruling 5-4 not to grant emergency relief to Yeshiva University, which is appealing a decision by a state judge ruling that it must allow an LGBTQ club on campus.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the court’s three liberals in that decision. This doesn’t mean the case won’t wind up before the Supreme Court, or that the court, with its extremist supermajority, won’t rule the wrong way in the future. But it does seem to signal at least some self-consciousness by the captured court that it hasn’t looked very judicial of late in its disposition of emergency orders. Even the appearance of being judicial is a welcome change.