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Weekly Wrap: Congressional reception, Christian nationalism fightback, ‘Friendly Atheist’ and TV treats

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We are creating quite a stir across the country.

We co-sponsored the inaugural congressional Reason Reception on Capitol Hill Wednesday night in honor of the National Day of Reason (May 4) that Reps. Jamie Raskin and Jared Huffman have sought recognition for. (The press release on the resolution mentions us — or to be more precise, our lobbying arm.) Raskin was at the reception with Rep. Jared Huffman, his co-chair at the Congressional Freethought Caucus, and Rep. Greg Casar. There were also representatives from the sponsoring groups, such as FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It was a great event — fun and meaningful all at once,” reports Annie Laurie.

Our lobbying arm, the FFRF Action Fund, chose Kate Cohen, Washington Post contributing columnist and author, as its “Secularist of the Week,” for being the keynote speaker at the Reason Reception and pushing back against the National Day of Prayer in a recent Post column. Its “Theocrat of the Week” is an alt-right Georgia GOP district chair and former gubernatorial candidate, Kandiss Taylor, who was bestowed the title for her threats of extreme violence while appearing on a white nationalist and conspiracy theorist’s program.

The Oklahoma City paper cites us
When a terrible bill in Oklahoma encouraging chaplains in public schools passed the House, the state’s leading publication remembered us.

“The bill has other critics, as well,” The Oklahoman reports. “Oklahoma Faith Coalition, a coalition of Christian denominations, individuals churches and other faith groups; ACLU-Oklahoma and the Freedom From Religion Foundation remain opposed to the bill.”

Minnesota media pays attention
A photo of a person standing next to a gym wall that has the 10 commandments printed on it. The mural is much larger than the person.

We’ve been getting a lot of media play in our neighboring state due to our objection to a humongous Ten Commandments display at a new Minnesota county jail (in addition to religious quotes, many of them misquotes, plastered all over the facility).

“The Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has fielded 20 complaints, it said, many contending that the displays are unconstitutional,” states a Minneapolis Star-Tribune story. “It sent a letter this week to the county asking it to investigate and remove the displays. ‘Repaint and repent,’ the group said in a press release.”

Read the rest of the piece here, including quotes from FFRF Legal Fellow Hirsh Joshi.

MinnPost, the premier news portal covering the Upper Midwestern state, also provided our complaint major coverage, including extensive quotes from FFRF attorney Chris Line:

“Government should take no position with regard to religion,” Line said. “It should neither favor nor go after religion. It should be completely neutral.”

Unconstitutional N.C. school board prayer
Our recent insistence that a North Carolina school board (in Winston-Salem) must immediately halt its practice of starting its meetings with board member-led prayer has almost instantly generated media buzz. We have already been contacted by local media, so watch this space for upcoming press coverage.

A terrible Ga. school voucher program
A graphic that says vouchers hurt our public schools. The ouch in vouchers is in red, and the s in vouchers is a dollar sign. The word hurt is also highlighted in red.

We condemned a new Georgia private school voucher scheme. Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed SB 233 into law, which will force taxpayers to fund private religious education across the state. Private school vouchers are perhaps the biggest current threat to the constitutional separation between state and church in the United States, we emphasized.

Good news in Arizona
There was better news in a state further out west. A recent vote in the Arizona Legislature to repeal a Civil War-era abortion ban revived by the state Supreme Court last month was welcome, especially since it came on the same day that Florida’s devastating abortion ban took effect.

“The Supreme Court is responsible for incalculable chaos, hardship and misery in overturning abortion as a federal right,” said Annie Laurie. “The religious war against abortion rights shows so clearly why religious doctrine should have no place in America’s civil laws and why reproductive freedom must be a federal right.”

An array of treats on our TV show
A photo of Kate Cohen speaking at the FFRF convention

Headliners at the FFRF convention last year provide a diverse range of treats on our “Freethought Matters” TV show this week. Among the speakers are Kate Cohen, political satirist and co-creator of the “Daily Show” Lizz Winstead and Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for The Nation magazine and author of Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution. You can already watch the show on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it on television Sunday.

We interview the ‘Friendly Atheist’
A photo of Hemant Mehta speaking at a FFRF podium. The title says Ask the Friendly Atheist

FFRF Associate Counsel Liz Cavell and Staff Attorney Chris Line spoke with the “Friendly Atheist” Hemant Mehta, a well-known freethinking writer, about recent state/church separation news, on FFRF’s Facebook Live “Ask an Atheist” weekly program. Watch the absorbing discussion here.

The future of the world’s largest secular democracy
A photo of Shabnam Hashmi

For our Freethought Radio show this week, yours truly (subbing as a guest host) interviewed activist Shabnam Hashmi on possibly the most important election in the history of the world’s largest secular democracy — and her fight to make sure that India remains true to its founding ideals.

How to fight back against Christian nationalism
On the latest episode of “We Dissent” (a joint venture podcast between FFRF and American Atheists), the hosts are joined by a special guest to spotlight the dangers of Christian nationalism. Outgoing FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert, FFRF attorney (and incoming Deputy Legal Director) Liz Cavell and American Atheists Vice President for Legal and Policy Alison Gill talked with Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee and lead organizer of its Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign, about the urgent threat that Christian nationalist ideology poses to American democracy — and how nonreligious and religious Americans alike can fight back. Listen to the scintillating discussion here.

We are able to make numerous waves in many different ways through a variety of mediums — all due to your unstinting support.

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