This was a week at the Freedom From Religion Foundation in which we didn’t get tired of winning (if you may forgive us purloining the phrase from an unlikely source).
And what an appropriate day for sending out this Weekly Wrap, since today we celebrate Bill of Rights Day.
A resounding defeat!
On Tuesday, FFRF’s bête noire Roy Moore was handed a stunning defeat at the hands of the people of Alabama in his senatorial bid. FFRF has been tackling him and his unconstitutional proclivities for the past two decades, and so we proclaim (to quote our marquee display): Can you imagine a Moore fabulous outcome?
We’re winning against the clergy
But this wasn’t even the half of it. Our lawsuit against the discriminatory clergy housing allowance received a big boost when a judge ordered the suspension of the IRS regulation governing the giveaway (pending appeal). It’s a case with enormous ramifications.
“A federal judge ordered the IRS to stop letting clergy deduct housing allowances, after finding that the federal law violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by endorsing religion,” Courthouse News reported. “U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled for atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation, or FFRF, in October, finding that a provision of the tax code, Section 107(2) of Title 26, unconstitutionally allows Christian ministers to deduct housing allowances from their taxable income, because it benefits religious leaders and no one else.”
We won against a horrendous nominee
We also played a part in blocking possibly the worst Trump judicial nominee, a guy by the name of Jeff Mateer. He would have been an utter catastrophe, and the country managed to dodge a bullet, judicially speaking.
A two-part megavictory
And on an issue that we’ve toiled at pretty much ever since we came into existence, we obtained a victory so big that it was a two-parter. Congress dropped at the reconciliation stage a proposed House repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which bars church electioneering. We mobilized you, and you — our cherished members — played a role in helping maintain this ban that is so crucial to the normal functioning of our democracy.
“This win is bigger than most people realize,” explained FFRF’s Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel. “It keeps billions of dollars in dark money out of churches and stops a desperate religious power grab.”
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To complement this on the executive side, we had the Trump administration admit in response to a lawsuit we filed in May that the president’s executive order supposedly lifting the church politicking ban was actually a nothing-burger. “Essentially, the Department of Justice called the president a liar and explained to the court that everything the president has said about the Johnson Amendment is nonsense,” FFRF Co-President Dan Barker commented.
In our mini-sized “Newsbite” segment, Andrew talks about these victories with yours truly.
Hosts Dan and FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor also discuss many of these victories on our radio show this week, in addition to interviewing Diana Sabillon, a Honduran feminist atheist fighting for secular values there.
And Dan will be on our hometown community radio station 89.9 FM WORT on Monday morning starting at 8:05 a.m. Central time to chat about our achievements over the past year (so many!) and our challenges in the year ahead. The show will stream live at and will be archived at Listen in!
We were on such a roll that we had good luck even in more local cases. A judge actually sided with us and against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, an extremist nemesis, in our lawsuit directed at an overly prayerful justice of the peace. U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. commented on the AG’s ham-handed attempt to intervene in the case: “The fact that FFRF in other cases has brought Establishment Clause challenges to different practices by different Texas officials does not transform this case into a statewide attack on all Texas officials such that any state agency may intervene as of right.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
We have a special affection for Texas politicians. That’s why we sent today a special Bill of Rights-themed greeting to every Texan legislator — with the same image that formed the basis of the cutout Gov. Greg Abbott got yanked from the statehouse two years ago. We sued Abbott over the censorship and won in October. He’s appealing.
Smaller, but no less important, triumphs
We bagged so many big ones this week that our regular victories felt a bit lost in the shuffle. But they were important, nevertheless — the heart of what we do. We had a religious banner — with a church name and logo and a New Testament quote — removed from an Indiana high school. In Indiana again, we blocked coach-led prayer at public school football games. And we got the Gideons banned from a Michigan school district after we called them out for evangelizing outside an elementary (!) school there.
Freethinking displays everywhere
When we were not busy winning, we were doing what we do frequently during this season. We put up freethinking Bill of Rights displays to counter religious tableaus everywhere from our home state and Michigan next door all the way to the California state Capitol. We relied on our hardworking members and local chapters to do all the legwork.
On our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature this week, we talk about these displays — and the backlash they often receive.
Appealing an injustice
We were so enthused by all this triumphing that we chose this week to appeal a rare case we’ve lost recently: over the barring of atheist invocations in the U.S. Capitol. We’re suing the House Chaplain and Speaker — and with your help, we’re sure we’ll win this one, too.
After all, everything we do — including the winning — is possible only because of you.
Happy Bill of Rights Day!
Andrew has a great perspective on the Bill of Rights in an op-ed for the Religion News Service.
“Rights are not bestowed, not by magistrates, kings, or even by gods,” he writes. “Rights are asserted. Once they are asserted they must be defended.”
Happy Bill of Rights Day!