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Weekly Wrap: Coach Kennedy, Mayor Adams, Leo Tolstoy and the Moonies

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0B1684 close Weekly Wrap: Coach Kennedy, Mayor Adams, Leo Tolstoy and the Moonies

A shortened workweek at the Freedom From Religion Foundation meant that we got just as much done — and with as much media attention — but within a compressed schedule.

FFRF Attorney Liz Cavell had an op-ed in the Seattle Times decrying prayerful Bremerton Coach Joe Kennedy’s publicity-seeking antics.

“Kennedy’s [Supreme Court] case undermined the cherished principle of separation between state and church,” she pointed out. “But the court’s insistence that the coach’s practice was ‘private, personal, prayer’ means that his performative, coercive prayers with players remain unconstitutional.”

Her piece was one of the most popular opinion columns in the paper recently and generated hundreds of comments. Read it all here.

A billboard we put up in Bremerton to counter Kennedy’s shenanigans got lots of attention. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which works to keep government and religion separate, placed a billboard message near the school that read: ‘Wishing Bremerton High School a safe, secular & successful school year,’” said an Oregon Public Broadcasting feature. National NBC News also mentioned and showed our billboard, as did an ABC story. Wowie!

FFRF Attorney Liz Cavell and FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence used the Coach Kennedy contretemps to discuss the broader issues of religion in public schools and students’ rights. Watch the absorbing discussion here.

And then Coach Kennedy, much as we had predicted, decided to quit. We issued a strong statement lambasting him. “For nearly a decade, Kennedy claimed he was fighting to get back on the field,” commented FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, “but his goal is really to erode the wall of separation between religion and government that has safeguarded our secular schools.”

Moonie-owned Washington paper does big story on us
Even media outlets controlled by religious entities are covering our activities.

“Allowing Ohio’s public school students an excused absence during class instruction hours for private religious instruction ‘can negatively impact schools’ educational goals,’ an atheist advocacy group claims in a letter sent to more than 600 public school districts in Ohio,” reports the Moonie-owned Washington Times. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which claims 1,000 members in Ohio, sent the letters as word spread that LifeWise Academy, an evangelical Christian program that helps churches set up ‘released time’ off-campus religious instruction programs for schoolchildren, was expanding its efforts this year.”

Dayton paper publishes our op-ed opposing school vouchers
It always feels great to make a splash in regional papers. The Dayton Daily News in Ohio ran FFRF Attorney Ryan Jayne’s column opposing the state’s recent huge expansion of its school voucher programs. “The lesson is clear: Vouchers are a failed experiment,” his piece concluded. Indeed.

Stop religious privilege, we insist to Mayor Adams
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New York City should rescind its special privileging of the Muslim call to prayer, we’re insisting to the mayor. The city has granted special permission for mosques to amplify their call to prayer on Fridays and at sunset every night during Ramadan without a permit. “Displaying favoritism toward religion seems to be Mayor Adams’ forté,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, “but this still flies in the face of the Constitution.”

San Antonio shouldn’t partner with anti-abortion group
Our lobbying arm is urging the San Antonio City Council to not expend nearly half a million dollars in support of an anti-abortion campaign helmed by a religious group called Safe Haven Baby Boxes. “These ‘baby boxes’ do not address the real problem, which is unwanted pregnancy and being forced to give birth without consent,” said Annie Laurie.

Michigan ends child marriage
And FFRF Action Fund is celebrating the Michigan Legislature’s passage of crucial legislation banning child marriage without exception. Michigan is now the 10th forward-thinking state to mandate the marriage age of consent to be 18. FFRF’s lobbying arm will continue working to end child marriage in the remaining 40 states that still, to their ignominy, allow it to placate religious advocates of child marriage.

Meet a science-educating rap artist
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The lively guest on our TV show this Sunday has made an art of educating about science in the rap form. Baba Brinkman is an atheist and New York-based rap artist who is best known for his series on evolution, human nature, medicine, religion, climate change and consciousness. “I pretty much don’t do a hip-hop project or a video or a show unless I have consulted with primary researchers and checked my lyrics by them because I don’t want to be out there just expressing my opinion as an artist,” he says. You can already watch his show (and excerpts of his rap videos) on our YourTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it Sunday.

How an evangelical educator lost his faith
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The feature interview on our Freethought Radio show this week is with R. Scott Okamoto, author of Asian American Apostate: Losing Religion and Finding Myself at an Evangelical University, who explains to hosts Dan and Annie Laurie how, ironically, he transformed into a skeptic while teaching at a religious institution.

Protect pregnant workers
Pregnant workers should be granted workplace accommodations — regardless of whether they carry their pregnancy to term or have an abortion, argues FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez. “The overarching theme of those seeking to deny abortion accommodation as part of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act [which went into effect recently] is based on Christian nationalism — not medical evidence,” she points out.

Leo Tolstoy’s fascinating life
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FFRF columnist Jim Haught (who died at the end of July) left us a column on the fascinating life of Leo Tolstoy, who rejected formal Christianity while living a monk-like life. “I am convinced that the teaching of the church is in theory a crafty and evil lie, and in practice a concoction of gross superstition and witchcraft,” Tolstoy once remarked. Read on.

News you might have missed
Annie Laurie did a recap after Labor Day of recent news of interest to freethinkers and secularists that people may have missed during vacations.

“Folks, roll up your sleeves,” she concludes. “We who value reason and our secular Constitution have a lot of work to do this fall gearing up for 2024.”

Very much so. And we’ll be with you week in and week out fighting for our values.

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