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Weekly Wrap: Deion Sanders, Katha Pollitt, the MSU shooting and Jesus-y Super Bowl ads

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It always feels extra special when the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s activities obtain media coverage — and in recent days we’ve received plenty.

Our successful efforts to curb rampant proselytization by sports legend Deion Sanders in his new role as University of Colorado head coach has gotten lots of notice.

“The [Freedom From Religion Foundation] letter asserted that numerous legal precedents, including a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, prohibited such religious activities in educational settings and suggested that student-athletes may feel pressured to participate even if doing so conflicts with their religious convictions,” reports the Tampa Dispatch. “Sanders took over as Colorado’s coach in December and has been asked to concede to the group’s demands. The university also asserted that Sanders was ‘very receptive to this training and came away from it with a better understanding of the University of Colorado’s policies.’”

Oklahoma City paper gives us space
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The leading newspaper in Oklahoma provided space to our objection to the proposal for a Catholic charter school to be set up in the state. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation contended a Catholic charter school would siphon taxpayer funds away from other Oklahoma public schools, ‘robbing students of a secular education,’” says The Oklahoman (the Oklahoma City paper).

It’s a perfectly valid argument, as our press release explains.

Our objection to a Texas school board’s prayer practice
We caught the eye of a Christian media portal with our objection to a Texas school board’s prayer practice.

“A school board in Texas is being targeted by an anti-religion group for praying before meetings,” it says. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), whose purpose is to ‘promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church,’ sent a letter to the Midlothian school board, accusing it of acting unconstitutionally.”

For a factual corrective, read our account here.

Dan Barker and I discuss our India travels
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And, last but not the least, FFRF Co-President Dan Barker and I were on Madison’s community radio station to talk about our India travels that we undertook to assess the state of freethought and rationalism in that country. Listen to the conversation here. (Scroll down to “World View” for Sunday, Feb. 12; the interview starts at the 27-minute mark.)

Dissecting cheesy Jesus-y Super Bowl ads
We had a fun, topical discussion on our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature this week: Dan and FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line analyzed the Jesus-y “He Gets Us” commercials that popped up during the Super Bowl on Sunday. Don’t miss Dan and Chris dissecting the ad campaign.

Another victory in the Chino Valley school district
We achieved a constitutional victory in a California school district with which we have a history when the Chino Valley school district corrected a First Amendment violation by a board member. We had sued Chino Valley in 2014 over opening school board meetings with prayer and bible readings. FFRF emerged victorious in December 2018, and, ultimately, the school board was ordered to pay $275,000.

A deluge of (mostly awful) state-level bills
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We have been diligently keeping track of the awful onslaught of state-level regressive bills — and, would you believe it, there have already been more than 1,000 this year. (This includes a slew of legislation to divert public money to private, overwhelmingly religious schools.) “FFRF is committed to monitoring and taking action on these crucial issues, offering expert testimony and mobilizing our 40,000 members to contact their lawmakers and stand up for secularism,” says FFRF Senior Policy Counsel Ryan Jayne.

A couple of heartbreaking events
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Two heartbreaking events — one domestic and the other international — compelled a response from us over the past week. The Michigan State University shooting occurred coincidentally on the fifth anniversary week of the Parkland, Fla., high school killings, and in reaction the Michigan House majority whip had an amazingly gutsy tweet decrying the usual “thoughts and prayers” bogusness. Tellingly, the Michigan shooter had posted a very unpleasant bible verse on his profile. And a recent report revealed Portugal to be yet another country scarred by the Catholic Church’s crimes. Clergy abuse has destroyed too many lives — in Portugal and across the planet.

More cheerful news
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But it’s not all doom and gloom. We welcomed the newest member of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, Rep. Kevin Mullin, D-Calif., who has demonstrated his commitment to the separation of state and church and freethinkers’ rights by joining the group. And we issued a last call for our law student essays making the argument, under current case law, that a law banning or restricting abortion should be invalidated based on the religious liberty interests of a potential plaintiff (whether the person is a nonbeliever or believer). The deadline for entry is March 15. Please help spread the word!

Feminist writer Katha Pollitt guest on our Sunday TV show
Speaking of abortion, the guest on FFRF’s “Freethought Matters” TV show this Sunday is renowned feminist, atheist and writer Katha Pollitt. See her convincingly explain how the post-Roe world is going to be much more dire than the pre-Roe era for abortion rights. You can already watch the interview on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it on Sunday.

A talk about the setback to abortion rights
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Our radio show this week has as its centerpiece a talk by Amy Hagstrom Miller (with Whole Woman’s Health Alliance) describing at the FFRF convention last October the devastation to abortion access wrought by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.

Reproductive Justice for All
FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez adds a layer of thoughtful complexity in her discussion of reproductive rights this week.

“I like to say that I support Reproductive Justice for all,” she writes. “Let me explain why.”

Too many people
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Veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught spotlights an astonishing global phenomenon that has happened in his own lifetime: the quadrupling of the world’s population. Of course, as he points out, religion is a major culprit.

Religion is a major villain in a lot of negative phenomena happening domestically and internationally — which is why we strive with your support to keep it contained as much as possible.

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