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Weekly Wrap: Adultery, the Ten Commandments and death of an atheist icon

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Welcome to the end of another busy week at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, where we continue to try to make America a better place for everyone.
(I’m filling in this week for FFRF’s Communications Director Amit Pal, who is in Pittsburgh at the Religion News Association convention.)

N.C. board rescinds ‘Christian Heritage’ proclamation
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No doubt feeling pressured by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Wilkes County Board in North Carolina on Thursday replaced its proclamation declaring “Christian Heritage” all year round with a less objectionable resolution proclaiming April 21–27, as “Religious Heritage Week.” FFRF contacted the board twice, once on Dec. 20, 2023, the day after the board had adopted the resolution, and again on Jan. 16, with a second request showing that it was “full of distortions, errors, misquotes and bowdlerizations.”

FFRF tells court to checkmate Rooks
On Thursday, FFRF and the Secular Coalition for Arizona asked a federal district court to dismiss a case that a religion-spouting board member has brought against her school board in Arizona. The case arises from last May, when FFRF and Secular Coalition for Arizona requested Peoria (Ariz.) Unified School District to halt board member Heather Rooks’ quotations from the bible at every board meeting. Rooks filed a federal suit in September in the U.S. District Court of Arizona against her school board, contending that her free speech rights were being curtailed. You can read the full FFRF amicus brief here.

It’s not a Tenn. commandment, but it is a law
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FFRF has criticized a theocratic bill signed into law in Tennessee that makes a version of the bible an “official state book.”

House Bill 1828, which was signed Tuesday by Gov. Bill Lee, adds the “Aitken Bible” (among other documents) as an official state book of Tennessee. The Aitken Bible plays an important role in Christian nationalist rhetoric because of a persistent myth that it was printed by the U.S. Congress for use in public schools. This is false. In fact, Congress declined a request of Robert Aitken to publish his bible. Aitken wanted Congress to endorse his bible and to publish it for placement in schools, and Congress said “no.”

Reporting on the story was Vivian Jones, the state and local government reporter for the Tennessean, who mentioned FFRF and quoted Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor from FFRF’s statement on the subject.

“But the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which promotes the separation of church and state, criticized the bible bill and ‘Christian Heritage Month’ legislation on Tuesday.”

It may be good bayou, but it’s not good by us
In a published op-ed in the Daily Star of Hammond, La., FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor warned the state of Louisiana that FFRF would take the state to court if, as she writes, “the Legislature approves a bill requiring every public elementary, secondary and postsecondary school, as well as nonpublic schools that receive public funding, to prominently display a large copy of the Ten Commandments in every classroom.”

‘Crime’ of passion should be no crime at all
Lauding the New York Legislature’s repeal of a law criminalizing adultery that’s awaiting action by the governor, Annie Laurie also wrote this week that adultery between consenting adults should not be considered a crime. The Ten Commandments lists adultery as one of its sins, but she wonders, “Why does adultery, rather than rape and incest, rate the top 10 anyway?” Read her blog post here.

Marjorie Taylor Greene leaves us feeling blue
Annie Laurie had a busy week, also penning a roundup of what the Christian nationalists have been up to recently. Unfortunately, it’s a long list, and includes (as usual) Marjorie Taylor Greene, who tops the list with her absurd hysterical rant, blaming a rare East Coast earthquake — and the predicted and benign eclipse — on God’s wrath: “God is sending America strong signs to tell us to repent. Earthquakes and eclipses and many more things to come. I pray that our country listens.”

Early observance of Earth Day
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On this week’s Freethought Radio, in honor of Earth Day (April 22), satiric songwriter Roy Zimmerman performs his climate-change song “We Are The Worst,” and Wisconsin TV meteorologist Bob Lindmeier tells us that “climate change is serious and solvable.”

Ready, set, Action Fund!
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On this week’s “Ask an Atheist” YouTube program, FFRF Senior Policy Counsel Ryan Jayne speaks with Jason Benell, president of Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers, about grassroots and local advocacy, as well as demonstrating how to utilize FFRF Action Fund to take action.

State/church scholar tells it like it is
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On this week’s “Freethought Matters” TV show, a prominent legal scholar and secular advocate goes after religious privilege and extreme religious liberty. Marci Hamilton is a leading state/church scholar who has been warning for years that, as she puts it, we’ve “created a culture of narcissistic religious believers who sincerely believe that their view should trump anybody else’s rights.”

Secularist and theocrat of the Week
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The FFRF Action Fund, FFRF’s legislative arm, has named Oklahoma state Rep. Jared Deck as its “Secularist of the Week” for his pushback against the attempt to replace qualified counselors with chaplains to proselytize students during the school day. Explains Deck, “The bill not only flies in the face of church/state, but is also a slap in the face to school professionals who endure years of education and certification to do their job.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, FFRF Action Fund has designated Maine state Rep. Michael Lemelin as its “Theocrat of the Week.” During a floor debate for an abortion “shield bill,” Lemlin distastefully claimed a tragic mass shooting that killed 18 people and injured 13 others was a result of God’s wrath for the state expanding abortion accessibility.

Atheist icon dies
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In sad news, FFRF notes that renowned philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist Daniel C. Dennett died today. Dennett, 82, was an honorary director of FFRF, spoke at several FFRF conventions and appeared on “Freethought Matters” last fall to talk about his memoir. FFRF will be writing a memorial tribute to Dennett, one of the “Four Horsemen of New Atheism” (along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens).

Well, that wraps up another week here at FFRF. Thanks for being a member!

PJ Slinger
Freethought Today editor

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