We at the Freedom From Religion Foundation made some eye-catching moves this week.
We took legal action just yesterday to preserve our 2018 win before the New Jersey Supreme Court that halted unconstitutional official funding of church repairs in the state. A new lawsuit, brought by First Liberty Institute (a Christian nationalist outfit) on behalf of two New Jersey churches in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, seeks to overturn this ruling, arguing that the state’s Religious Aid Clause violates the U.S. Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause.
“The legal claims being advanced by these churches are identical to arguments already heard and rejected by the New Jersey Supreme Court,” explained FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover. “These plaintiffs are attempting to relitigate the case that FFRF won five years ago, and they’re attempting to do it without FFRF’s involvement.”
“PBS NewsHour” featured us
We were extensively featured on no less a show than the “PBS NewsHour,” which gave major coverage to the recent lawsuit we filed (along with other secular-minded groups) against a Catholic charter school in Oklahoma. The program at length quoted FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor and FFRF Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott, who helped file the suit.
“As it stands now, there’s just no way this passes constitutional muster,” Patrick told PBS. “I think when a judge reviews it, they’ll have to explain how it’s not only against Oklahoma state law but the Oklahoma state Constitution before they can even begin to contemplate how it goes against the Constitution, as well.”
Read on for more unassailable quotes from Patrick and Annie Laurie.
Wisconsin Public Radio interviewed Annie Laurie Gaylor
The Wisconsin arm of PBS’ radio counterpart also interviewed Annie Laurie for a superb project it has done on the history of abortion in the Badger State.
“When Annie Laurie Gaylor was in her early 20s, she joined forces with her mother to establish the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which advocates for the separation of church and state,” Wisconsin Public Radio reported. “Annie Laurie Gaylor said they were motivated, in part, by their encounters with religious opposition to abortion.”
Now you know!
The segment abundantly quoted decades-long FFRF member Edie Rein, now 89, an early abortion rights proponent who worked with FFRF principal founder Anne Gaylor in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Fox News focuses on us
Even Fox News placed the spotlight on us in a big story about a long-running campaign by California freethinkers to have a cross removed from public land, giving us a surprising amount of play and quotes. The headline on the story blares: “Bay Area atheists who fought for cross removal: Christians shouldn’t have ‘special privilege’: The Freedom From Religion Foundation said the hilltop cross in a park made California city look like a ‘Christian theocracy.’”
A judge’s outrageous order
We decried a U.S. district judge’s order requiring Southwest Airlines lawyers to take “religious-liberty training” from a theocratic legal group. President Trump appointee Brantley Starr, a longtime Federalist Society member, worked in the Texas attorney general’s office, a hotbed for attorneys espousing a conservative Christian agenda, for several years. “Unfortunately, it is no longer surprising to see judges of this pedigree push Christian nationalist views from the bench,” said Annie Laurie, “but mandating that lawyers must train with a designated hate group is beyond the pale.”
P.S. Starr is a nephew of Kenneth Starr. It figures.
Myrtle Beach paper liked our press release
Our follow-up request to a South Carolina school board to stop praying at their meetings so intensely caught the eye of the Myrtle Beach newspaper that it published our press release pretty much in its entirety.
“The Freedom From Religion Foundation once again asks the Dorchester School District Two School Board to stop opening meetings with prayer,” the piece begins. “In fact, the group wants all S.C. institutions to stop school board prayer before each meeting.”
Idaho religious child abuse
On our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature this week, we tackled a grim but important subject. FFRF State Policy Manager Ryan Dudley and Staff Attorney Chris Line discussed a paper recently published by Guido Giuntini that has examined religious exemption laws to child neglect in Idaho. Linda Martin, a key contributor to the paper, joined the show to discuss her first-hand experiences with the Followers of Christ, a group that practices faith-healing on children with dire consequences. Watch the insightful discussion here!
Our ‘Secularist of the Week’
In recognition of his lifelong commitment to defending civil liberties and advancing secular values, the FFRF Action Fund posthumously names Woody Kaplan as the recipient of its “Secularist of the Week” award. Woody, 80, a proud atheist, longtime FFRF member and former advisory board chair of the Secular Coalition for America, died on Aug. 3.
“Woody was a person who caused the moral arc to bend much faster, always on the front lines,” commented FFRF Governmental Affairs Director Mark Dann. “Woody saw how another person’s liberation was tied to his own — and that nobody is free until we all are.”
A Florida member of Congress’ theocratic bill
The Fund doesn’t have similar feelings for Rep. Matt Gaetz, who it called out for his misbegotten attempt to force religion on public schools via a school prayer bill he has recently introduced. The Fund is urging Gaetz to withdraw his unconstitutional bill and cease using his position as a member of Congress to try to push his personal religious beliefs on a captive audience of public school children.
Abortion bans result in increased deaths
FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez has a sobering finding in her latest column: Abortion bans lead to maternal mortality.
“Time and time again, we are told by anti-abortion proponents that banning abortion and supporting anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers is ‘pro-life,’” starts her piece. “But the facts show otherwise.”
The persecution of nonbelievers
FFRF columnist Jim Haught is no more, but we still have a bunch of pieces that Jim gave us to use. In this week’s column, he focuses on the persecution of nonbelievers throughout history that continues to the present day.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights — drafted by world figures led by Eleanor Roosevelt and adopted by the United Nations in 1948 — guarantees everyone everywhere ‘freedom to change his religion or belief,’” he concludes. “This guarantee is contradicted horribly, however, by national laws decreeing death for doubt and by believer mobs who murder skeptics.”
Belief is declining globally
Fortunately, societies around the world are changing for the better. On this week’s Freethought Radio, co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor speak with University of Aberdeen Professor Isabella Kasselstrand about a new book she has co-authored, Beyond Doubt: The Secularization of Society, delving into the global upswing of nonbelief.
We at the Freedom From Religion Foundation would like to believe that our work — with your invaluable support — has contributed in its own way to this welcome trend.