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Trump administration, the courts, science and skeptical theology

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On our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature, FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert, FFRF Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott and FFRF Legal Fellow Brendan Johnson talk about this and other recent state/church cases at the Supreme Court. Tune in and enhance your legal knowledge.

Intervening in our state Supreme Court
We were busy at the state judicial level, too. We filed an amicus brief before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in favor of the state’s stay-at-home order, specifically as it applies to religious gatherings. FFRF’s brief cogently asserted that the order did not infringe the state Constitution, and then went on to convincingly explain why. Read further here.

Battling Trump administration mischief
When legal issues were not preoccupying us, the Trump administration’s theocratic shenanigans were. We castigated a senior Health and Human Services official(described by the New York Times as having “deep ties to religious conservatives”) who raised absurd objections to the CDC’s’s reopening blocked guidelines as they pertain to church gatherings. “We must demand that our federal government be free from such religious sway, and be run by evidence, reason and science,” we remarked.

Prominent secular groups, led by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, asked the Food and Drug Administration to disregard a theocratic plea to limit stem cell use for COVID-19 vaccine research. “We urge the FDA to reject the unscientific assertions of the bishops and to ensure that Americans will have access to the highest quality vaccines that untrammeled research can produce,” FFRF, the Secular Coalition for America, Center for Inquiry, American Humanist Association and American Atheists wrote to FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn. Let’s hope for the sake of humankind that the Trump administration listens to secular voices for once.

Legal issues and the Trump administration have made huge demands on our time recently at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Some good news! A year after the Freedom From Religion Foundation won a resounding victory halting millions in tax dollars flowing unconstitutionally to repair churches in Morris County, N.J., a judge has ruled that the state/church watchdog and its attorneys are entitled to attorneys’ fees. Cheers to that!

A Supreme Court hearing
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in a significant case pertaining to the civil rights of individuals employed with religious entities, a case in which the Freedom From Religion Foundation has submitted an amicus brief.

“This court and this country stand at a fork in the road,” FFRF’s brief concludes. “One road leads to an unprecedented limitation on the people’s ability to democratically legislate civil rights protections. . . . A second road leads to a nation whose inhabitants know their government provides recourse in the face of invidious reproach or termination based on a person’s ‘race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,’ regardless of where they work.”

We also raised the alarm against the unconstitutional massive bailout of houses of worship, conveying our formal objections to the Small Business Administration.

“The White House has distorted the rules beyond belief to make sure that its religious base gets massive handouts at taxpayer expense,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “In the process, it has violated our basic constitutional tenets.”

We chided a pandemic-ignorant sheriff
It may seem amazing, but we found time to do a whole lot of other things. We urged a New Mexico sheriff to quit enabling a church to breach pandemic social-distancing orders.

“A sheriff acting in the service of a particular religion is bad enough,” said Annie Laurie. “But when the intent is to help flout pandemic directives, it becomes an outrageously irresponsible dereliction of duty.”

Watch our iconic ad with “unabashed atheist” Ron Reagan
We began rebroadcasting our iconic ad with Ron Reagan on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” this week. The “unabashed atheist . . . not afraid of burning in hell” commercial will air tonight and tomorrow and then replays Monday-Thursday, May 18-21. Catch the spot here, if you haven’t seen it already.

An interview with an agnostic scholar of Christianity
Our offering on our “Freethought Matters” TV interview show this week is with a unique academic: a prominent skeptical scholar of Christianity. Bart Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, is a leading New Testament researcher who has written and edited at least 30 books. He talks about his latest book about the evolution of the concepts of heaven and hell.

Promoting science and humanism globally
Our radio show this week focused on a different part of the world. Annie Laurie and FFRF Co-President Dan Barker spoke with Bonya Ahmed and Imtiaz Shams, founders of the new THINK project that is producing quality videos about science, reason and humanism in many languages for countries (including Bangladesh) with little access to such information. More power to them!

There’s little honestly in theology
Our regular blog by veteran writer and freethinker James Haught went in an interesting direction this week, taking a simultaneously lighthearted and serious poke at theology.

“I’ve decided that there is no such thing as sophisticated theology” Haught writes. “At bottom, the issue is simple: Either supernatural spirits exist, or they don’t. Either heavens, hells, gods, devils, saviors, miracles and the rest are real, or they’re concoctions of the human imagination.”

The courts, the Trump administration, theocratic sheriffs and (anti-)theology — we’re able to be present in all of these diverse spheres only due to your sustained generosity.

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