The past and the present, local, national and international — we at the Freedom From Religion Foundation have been engaging with issues multidimensionally.
First, some good news. We had a slew of victories all over the country last week. We’re delighted that our work is having so much impact nationwide — and are appreciative of our legal staff and citizen watchdogs who enable this to happen. State/church violations may be reported here. Take a peek at our wins and savor in our constitutional triumphs.
We imparted a historical lesson this week. Discard a religious bigot from your official seal, we urged California’s Ventura County. The Board of Supervisors is considering redesigning its seal, which may include the elimination of an image of Father Junipero Serra that currently dominates it. Serra’s reputation has deservedly fallen from grace for his establishment of the California mission system during the era of Spanish colonization, which was genocidal in its treatment of indigeneous populations. “Ventura County would do well to get rid of this racist image in this time of heightened sensitivity toward historical injustices,” said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, who is a California-born member of the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) tribe.
A President Trump-allied megapastor attacked us on Fox TV for going after his illegal electioneering — and after he repeated his partisan endorsement on the show, we once again complained to the IRS. FFRF Attorney Maddy Ziegler noted in her new letter to the IRS that its regulations expressly specify that 501(c)(3) organizations, which include churches, are prohibited from “participating in or intervening in . . . any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office” (a prohibition known as the Johnson Amendment). Let’s hope the IRS takes note.
On the other side of the political aisle, FFRF advised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: action, not prayer. This was in reaction to Pelosi placing on her official congressional homepage a prayer called “A Responsive Prayer for Justice.” As a reply, FFRF offers a secular call of action.
At the state level, we applauded New York lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo for passing a law that gives the survivors of child sexual abuse more time to bring civil cases against their abusers. And internationally, we strongly denounced a Nigerian court’s recent imposition of the death penalty on a young composer for the supposed crime of blasphemy. We have been urging Congress to pass a resolution calling for blasphemy, heresy and apostasy laws to be revoked worldwide.
We’ve also been tracking the impact of the Religious Right on society, historically and currently. Veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught blogs about how racism is much stronger among America’s white Christians than among churchless whites — and how this always has been the case. “Religious, racial and sexist bigotry seem to be flourishing together in the minds of white evangelicals,” he concludes.
FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Intern Barbara Alvarez dissected how for Christian conservatives, “life begins at convenience.” She wrote, “The Religious Right will continue to impose their inconsistent religious rhetoric in health and tax laws.”
FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel powerfully tied the past and the present in his commentary on old and new symbols in the South, using Mississippi and North Carolina as examples.“We’re not trading in bigotry for equality,” he stated. “We’re trading it in for more subtle bigotry — for more politically palatable bigotry. It’s up to us to demand better.”
Andrew mentioned in his column a pair of scholars who have authored a recent book on Christian Nationalism, and we had them as guests this week to discuss their work. Dan and Annie Laurie interviewed Andrew Whitehead, co-author of the book (with Samuel Perry) Taking America Back For God, about how Christian Nationalists are reacting differently to the coronavirus pandemic. And Andrew chatted with Perry on our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature this week. Tune in!