Vaccines, abortion rights highlight another busy week at FFRF

Boy, it sure would be nice if FFRF didn’t HAVE to be so busy every week. But since we are fighting for your constitutional (and human) rights, there is no shortage of battles to be fought.

And each week we unfortunately find (or are pointed to) more issues we must address. Take, for example, the latest anti-abortion bills in Florida.

On the first day of Florida’s legislative session, religiously-inspired lawmakers filed Senate Bill 146 and House Bill 5, which would ban physicians from performing an abortion after 15 weeks of gestation. There are no exemptions for rape or incest.

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FFRF says that this move by Florida legislators shows why Congress must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify abortion rights throughout the nation. FFRF submitted formal testimony in support of this act, and thanks to the work of many activist citizens, including FFRF members, it passed the House.

It is now in the Senate. In a similar vein, we condemned South Dakota lawmakers for capitulating to their Christian nationalist governor this week and adopting a rule forcing patients seeking a medication abortion to make not just one or two in-patient visits, but three — in contravention of the FDA’s new telemedicine recommendations.

New Jersey gets it right
FFRF celebrates passage of a positive piece of reproductive rights legislation. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday signed a bill into law that enshrines abortion rights. With the future of Roe v. Wade on shaky ground, thanks to the stacking of the Supreme Court with ultra-conservative religionists, Murphy indicated he wants to ensure the right to legal abortion care. The bill also outlines a right to contraception.

TrustWomenChrisLine Vaccines, abortion rights highlight another busy week at FFRFAccording to the Guttmacher Institute, only 15 states and the District of Columbia have laws that protect the right to an abortion. In contrast, 22 states have laws that could be used to restrict abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

“Human rights and individual liberties — particularly the decision of if and whether to become a mother or parent — cannot be subject to the whims of whatever state you happen to live in,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.



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OSHA cut off at the knees
Over at the Supreme Court, another horrible decision by the conservative court came out Thursday. It said that large employers could not force their employees to be vaccinated or undergo frequent testing for the coronavirus. In an expected 6-3 ruling, the court found that OSHA lacked statutory authority to issue such a rule. Ugh.

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Left-leaning Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, writing: “Nothing about that measure is so out-of-the-ordinary as to demand a judicially created exception from Congress’s command that OSHA protect employees from grave workplace harms.”

But it’s not all bad news when it comes to the courts and vaccines, according to FFRF Senior Attorney Patrick Elliott. In his latest blog post, “One neat trick to get out of vaccinations?” he writes that several cases have ruled in favor of requiring healthcare workers to be vaccinated.

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“These [religious] plaintiffs act as if they can play a ‘religion card’ and get out of obligations that everyone else must follow,” Elliott writes. “While the Supreme Court has grossly favored religious plaintiffs in free exercise cases, it appears that plaintiffs are having a harder time winning when it comes to vaccination requirements.”

How many kids does the pope have?
You’ve no doubt heard about Pope Francis’ recent proclamation that people should be having more kids, even going so far as to say that people who choose having pets rather than more children is a “form of selfishness.”

Barbara Alvarez, FFRF’s first reproductive rights intern, writes in her blog that “Being childfree is not selfish.”

Catholic Church
“I look forward to a world where we can speak openly and honestly about parenthood and being childfree without judgment or labels. Pope Francis and the Religious Right’s condemnation does not move us in that direction.”

A pledge to be a secular parent
FFRF Attorney Ryan Jayne, who has two small children at home, found out the hard way that raising kids in a secular environment doesn’t mean they won’t be fed religion by other adults, other children and even in public school (via the Pledge of Allegiance).

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In his latest blog post titled “Atheist parenting lesson: Kindergarten daily pledge leads to early God talk,” Jayne writes: “The pledge forces young kids into religious conversations at a tender age, even when schools are not violating the law, and often without parents’ knowledge. That’s too bad. I wish we could ditch this weird nationalistic practice altogether — or at least make it secular again, so that it’s not at odds with our Constitution.”

America is waking up
James Haught, at nearly age 90, is pleased to see that America is moving away from religion year by year, and that education has propelled that to greater heights. In his latest blog post, “The Final Great Awakening,” he writes: “Well, I think America is enjoying a Fourth Great Awakening — a rational shift away from religion, a growing realization that gods and devils, heavens and hells, miracles and prophecies, are just fairy tales, unfit for intelligent, educated people. We’re living through a Final Awakening, one to atheism.”

Great Awakening
A constitutional hero
On this week’s TV episode of “Freethought Matters,” FFRF speaks with First Amendment champion Ellery Schempp.

Schempp is the distinguished retired scientist, who, as a 16-year-old high school student in the late 1950s, helped forge constitutional law by protesting bible reading and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at his school. He and his family became the winning litigants in the landmark Supreme Court case, Abington v. Schempp, handed down in 1963.

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Now 82, Ellery confides to host Dan Barker that his high school principal had even urged Tufts University, where he’d been accepted as an undergrad, not to accept the academically gifted young man because of his prayer protest. You can watch it here.

Seal of disapproval
FFRF has urged the Saint Francois County Commission in Missouri to remove the image of a bible with a cross on it from its county seal. The seal, which includes a bible with a cross on it, is being redesigned to include that same inappropriate image.

“The religious significance of the Latin cross is unambiguous and indisputable,” Legal Fellow Karen Heineman wrote in a letter to Saint Francois County Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher. “A majority of federal courts agree that the Latin cross universally represents the Christian religion and only the Christian religion.”

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FFRF in the news
Throughout the pandemic, TV news coverage of FFRF’s many legal complaint letters to local governments over violations have become rarer. But we’re pleased to see the coverage this week over a particularly egregious violation in a Michigan school. Watch the segment and FFRF’s Karen Heineman explain why nativity plays are a constitutional no-no in our public schools.

“Eve” and “Cheesecake” on Freethought Radio
On this weeks’ Freethought Radio program, you’ll get to hear singer/songwriter Shelley Segal‘s feminist song “Eve” from her “An Atheist Album.” Then listen to excerpts from Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times columnist and Supreme-Court observer Linda Greenhouse‘s “Cheesecake, anyone?” speech at FFRF’s national convention in November.

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By the way, the online version of the fascinating 28-page January/February issue of Freethought Today, which we just completed this week, is already up! Although the paper version is en route, you can get a sneak preview of what’s coming in the mail here.

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I’ve enjoyed subbing for FFRF Communications Director this week, but he will return to edit FFRF’s Weekly Wrap for you next week! Thank you for your support.

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