By Amit Pal
Director of Communications
Freedom From Religion Foundation
A riveting week for us
Every week is riveting at the Freedom From Religion Foundation — and this week was no exception.
A loss after several victories
After winning three federal lawsuits in the space of two weeks (for a total of seven court victories so far in 2017), we had a legal loss. (Watch a discussion of two of our recent victories on our “Ask An Atheist” Facebook Live feature.)
In a wake-up call to nonbelievers, we did not prevail in the first round of our censorship case against the U.S. Congress for barring FFRF Co-President Dan Barker from delivering an atheist invocation before the body. This is in spite of the fact that over a recent 15-year span, 96.7 percent of all guest chaplains were Christian. No atheist or agnostic has been allowed to officially offer the opening invocation before Congress. The tax-paid Roman Catholic chaplain specifically barred Dan’s address.“Shouldn’t the House of Representatives — the People’s House — be representative?” Dan asks. Dan is not posing a mere rhetorical question. Every nontheist (and fair-minded citizen) should be appalled at this second-class treatment! Stay tuned.
Get to work, Speaker Ryan!
House Speaker Paul Ryan, entrusted with the legislative affairs of the United States, took time out of his seemingly not very busy schedule to issue a statement on our case. “I commend the District Court for its decision, and I am grateful that the People’s House can continue to begin its work each day as we have for centuries: taking a moment to pray to God,” it said in part. (Ryan was a named defendant in the case because his office oversees the chaplain.)
Get back to work, Neighbor Paul! (Unfortunately, FFRF has as a fellow Wisconsinite the Janesville-based theocrat enabler.)
A refusal of help
We gave a piece of our mind to a Florida relief group that tersely denied our offer of aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
“Our charity is called Nonbelief Relief,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Nonbelief Relief’s administrator and FFRF Co-President. “But we find it beyond belief that a charitable organization would put its biases above the needs of its recipients.” (For the record, the Florida nonprofit denied after the fact any political reasons for its refusal to cash the $2,500 check.)
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In a more positive money disbursal episode, we awarded almost $10,000 to the winners of our graduate & slightly older student essay competition on the topic: “Why religious liberty shouldn’t mean the right to impose your religion on others.” The winner, Alexander Reamy, a grad student at Arizona State University, received $3,000. Congratulations, Alexander and others! (And we’re quite certain that all the recipients here will cash their checks.)
We did a lot this week of what we’re good at: calling out entities for behaving wrongly. The Boy Scouts of America is progressing in the right direction by dropping bans on LGBTQ individuals and girls, we stated, but still maintains its bar against atheists and nonbelievers. Time to drop this last barrier, guys!
A captive congregation
We also slammed a Kentucky jail for organizing an unconstitutional “Night of Prayer” event, supposedly to combat drug use. “Proselytizing to a literally captive audience of prisoners is repugnant to the individual right to freedom of conscience enshrined in the First Amendment,” Dan said.
Prayers don’t work
And, of course, we couldn’t let go when, in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, some individuals recommended prayer. “Don’t Pray. Do,” FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel responded.
A picker-upper goodbye
Want to leave on a picker-upper note? Watch Dan happily chat about our legal triumph last Friday in our case against the IRS for its clergy housing allowance in our bite-sized newsbite feature. This victory has resonance and is sending shock waves through churches.
And hear Dan and Annie Laurie discuss the victory on our radio show this week (in addition to listening to an excerpt from Nation columnist Katha Pollitt’s speech at our recent convention).Thanks for all your support that enables us to live rivetingly, week in and week out.