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Weekly Wrap: Greg Abbott, Deion Sanders, Walgreens and the United Nations

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From the Arkansas Statehouse, Gov. Greg Abbott, Deion Sanders and Walgreens all the way to the United Nations and global Pentecostalism, we had a lot on our plate this week.

We were among a bevy of plaintiffs asking a federal court on Monday for summary judgment to remove a Ten Commandments monument displayed on the Arkansas Capitol grounds.  FFRF filed a lawsuit in 2018 within one month of the installation. Our legal move has gotten major media attention, with the Little Rock paper noting: “Attorneys for The Satanic Temple, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Arkansas attorney general’s office filed motions in federal court this week asking for summary judgment in a lawsuit over a Ten Commandments monument that was erected on the grounds of the state Capitol nearly five years ago.”

“In this case, the establishment clause was designed to prohibit governmental preferences for any faith or religion,” it quotes FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover, who wrote the brief, as saying. “That’s exactly what the Arkansas General Assembly did in this case. It created a monument that, by its own admission, is meant to commemorate the Ten Commandments, a quintessentially religious idol.”

Sam is absolutely correct. He appeared on our radio show this week to explain the case, following which five Black atheists discussed why they left religion and the special challenges African American nonbelievers face in today’s world.

Our testimony before two legislatures
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We testified on important issues before two statehouses this week, opposing the suspension of Wisconsin’s student vaccination policy and backing a bill to end an unconstitutional Maryland provision barring atheists from holding offices or trusts. We’re always delighted to offer our input on key issues such as secularism, rationality and science to legislators around the country.

Christian nationalists outraged at our Deion Sanders success
Our successful coaching of the University of Colorado over its coach Deion Sanders’ pious activities has sent the Religious Right into a tizzy. First Liberty Institute, a Christian nationalist group, has written a letter to the university claiming that by balancing the religious freedom rights of all parties, it has “unconstitutionally censored” Sanders. On the contrary, we pointed out, directing Sanders not to engage in religious exercise while officially acting as a public school coach protects students’ religious freedom rights while doing no harm to his.

Greg Abbott is irony-free
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott simply has no understanding of the word irony when he says: “Our schools are for education, not indoctrination,” we emphasized. Abbott announced during his State of the State address last month that he is making “parental rights” a priority and would introduce “state-funded education savings accounts.” And he is famous for his book censorship crusade, as well. Constitutional principles and rights are being ridden roughshod over in Texas by an executive officer who is essentially a Christian nationalist.

Walgreens is dismayingly craven
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We’re dismayed that Walgreens has caved to bullying from 20 anti-abortion state attorneys general who have tried to pressure major pharmacies not to mail mifepristone to patients. We are committed to fighting for abortion access in the post-Roe era — and will not stop until the religiously motivated assault on reproductive autonomy is defeated.

Our appeal to the United Nations
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We joined hundreds of rights advocates (such as Amnesty International and Center for Reproductive Rights) in an urgent appeal to U.N. officials to hold the United States accountable for its wrecking of abortion rights.

“The United States is one of only five nations, including Iran, that have failed to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women — and that’s because of theopolitical opposition,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “It’s heartening to see so many organizations and individuals point out that anti-abortion bans violate international law.”

Pentecostal surge spotlighted on our TV show
Our “Freethought Matters” TV show this Sunday spotlights the surge of Pentecostalism globally. Elle Hardy, who joined the show from London, is an Australian-born writer whose new book is called Beyond Belief: How Pentecostal Christianity is Taking Over the World. You can already catch the show on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can watch it this Sunday.

Our local activism
We didn’t neglect matters at the grassroots. We convinced an Oklahoma town to remove several religious displays disrespectful to veterans from city property. “Contrary to the myth, there are many ‘atheists in foxholes.’ We’re glad Lawton city officials are now cognizant of that,” Annie Laurie remarked. And we demanded the immediate end to the practice of an opening religious invocation at a Georgia school board’s meetings.

Our student essay competitions are open
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We’re proudly announcing our four 2023 essay competitions for freethinking students — offering more than $45,000 in total scholarships. Students are required to submit their essay via an online application, and should carefully review all contest rules; the contests cater to students in different age/class ranges. Please help spread the word!

The Satanic Panic
On our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature this week, FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line and FFRF Associate Counsel Liz Cavell examined the recent re-emergence of the Satanic Panic, discussing Sam Smith’s satanic Grammy performance, Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show, and the emergence of after-school Satan clubs nationwide. Watch the lively, fun discussion here.

Is wearing a kilt illegal in Tennessee?
Would my kilt-wearing twin be doing something “illegal” in Tennessee, asks Annie Laurie in a piece that takes aim at a new anti-drag law in that state. “Until sanity looms,” she concludes, “I’ll be advising my twin brother to stay out of Tennessee.”

Two important anniversaries
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In another blog, Annie Laurie recalled two coinciding events this week important to the secular world. “It’s fitting that the 75th anniversary of the landmark Vashti McCollum decision by the Supreme Court shares the same day as the annual celebration of International Women’s Day,” she writes.

How to support abortion providers
Talking of anniversaries, today is National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day, and Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez shows us a number of ways we can support abortion providers. Find out how.

Preacher bling
“Among sleazy occupations, is anything worse than big-money evangelists with their private jets, garish diamonds, piled-up hairdos and $5,000 suits?” Veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught asks. The examples he gives of preacher material excess will make your hair stand on end.

Organized religion, preachers, Ten Commandments, religious indoctrination — we know their reality and, with your support, we are committed to spreading the truth.

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