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Weekly Wrap: Gov. DeSantis, Professor Daniel Dennett, The Satanic Temple and the Catholic Church

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis posing with a signed bill with a small crowd of people in a school gym
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing into law a bill authorizing school districts to permit “volunteer school chaplains”

It is energizing at the Freedom From Religion Foundation to be tackling hot-button subjects — even more so when the public receives our perspective on such issues.

Wichita columnist includes our viewpoint
Wichita Eagle Opinion Editor Dion Lefler prominently featured our point of view in a column about Gideon distribution of bibles in a local public school: “Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the foundation, said the organization will be following up with a letter to the school district telling them it’s not allowed. ‘This has been going on for decades,’ she said. ‘This is a new one, where they’re sending permission slips in an attempt to justify this.’”

Read further quotes from Annie Laurie and the entire column here.

N.C. paper provides us lots of space
When we welcomed a new resolution by a North Carolina county that revoked a constitutionally problematic proclamation, the local paper gave it extensive coverage.

“A nonprofit organization that twice sent letters to the Wilkes County commissioners urging them to repeal a Christian heritage proclamation they approved on Dec. 19, 2023, last week issued a statement regarding the board’s passage of a more inclusive proclamation on April 16,” starts off a lengthy piece in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) on April 19 issued a statement saying ‘it is pleased.’”

Mich. TV station quotes us
A Michigan TV station interviewed our new Legal Director, Patrick Elliott, for a story about controversy generated due to The Satanic Temple offering an invocation at a county board meeting.

“I think what most people want their county commissioners to do is to act as a government and not get involved in these controversial religious disputes,” Patrick told the station. “And so we think the best way to resolve it is to drop the invocation or drop the prayer. If they’re not going to do that, there may be some prayers that some on the board don’t like, and that’s OK. They’re going to have to tolerate that.”

Christian outfit includes our two cents
Ryan Jayne of the FFRF Action Fund (our lobbying arm) was quoted by a Christian media outlet about the unintended consequences of a new law in Florida that allows chaplains in public schools: “I think there is a 100 percent chance you see satanic chaplains, and also, of course, other religious minorities that the majority-Christian population might not be a fan of. The Satanic Temple is a church, whether people like it or not.”

DeSantis and The Satanic Temple have a showdown
A photo of Lucien Greaves labeled secularist of the week next to a photo of Ron DeSantis labeled theocrat of the week

Not surprisingly, the Fund chose DeSantis as its “theocrat of the week” and Lucien Greaves of The Satanic Temple as its “secularist of the week.”

We make Ga. school system cancel prayer walk
We achieved some notable victories around the country this week for state/church separation in public schools. Bremen County Schools in Georgia canceled a prayer walk in an elementary school after we contacted district officials.

“FFRF is happy that students’ rights will not be violated at Jones Elementary School,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’re glad to continue fighting for state/church separation no matter what form it takes.”

We ensure that Christian club closes elementary school chapter
We made certain that the Fellowship of Christian Athletes will not be able to organize and run a religious club for students at an elementary school in Florida’s Hamilton County School District. “In an effort to avoid any perception that such a gathering on the campus of Hamilton Elementary is being organized, promoted or endorsed by the district or its employees, the club has been dispersed,” the district assured us.

Our perseverance pays off in Indiana
An Indiana school board halted its ritual of starting off its meetings with a prayer after we informed it that the practice is unconstitutional. We had to send two letters — and our follow-up communique seems to have done the trick. “It took some persistence on our part, but we were finally able to show the Community Schools of Frankfort Board how its prayer practice violated the First Amendment,” said Annie Laurie.

An Earth Day warning
We issued a warning on the occasion of Earth Day: The 10th hottest month in a row requires action. We included recommendations on what you can do on an individual basis, riffing off of a talk that Madison-area meteorologist Bob Lindmeier recently gave at Freethought Hall.

Raising the alarm about measles
A cartoon of a child covered in red spots wearing a shirt that says "my parents went to the anti-vaxxers and all i got was this measly t-shirt"

Sadly, we had to raise the alarm on another issue this week: A new measles spike is affecting 18 states, almost half occurring in children under age 5. State legislators must prioritize the repeal of religious exemptions from vaccinations and get the United States back on track as an evidence-based country that prioritizes public health, we emphasized.

The importance of freedom from religion
On our radio show this week, Freethought Radio co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor interview Adam Neiblum, the author of a new book on the rise of the “Nones” and the importance of freedom from religion. How can we disagree with that?

A Vietnam War ‘atheist in a foxhole’ on our TV show
A screenshot from the show freethought matters with guest Robert Richert

A freethinking Vietnam War veteran who is astonishingly multitalented is the guest on our “Freethought Matters” TV show this week. Robert Richert was an “atheist in a foxhole,” serving in the Army infantry in the Vietnam War, where he earned an Army Commendation Medal for valor. Richert is also an accomplished artist, photographer, writer and public speaker whose work will be featured in FFRF’s 2025 calendar. You can already watch the show on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it on television Sunday.

Dan Barker’s homage to Daniel Dennett
A photo of Dan Barker and Daniel Dennett. Dennett is holding a statue of a gold naked emperor.

FFRF Co-President Dan Barker engages in a touching tribute in a new column to world-renowned philosopher and freethinker Daniel Dennett, who died recently. “Here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, we feel like we have lost a member of the family,” Dan mourns.

The Catholic Church’s greed
A blurred out painting of a man in black and white. On top of the painting written in cursive is the title "why the church is against suicide"

FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Walker convincingly explains in her column this week as to why the Catholic Church is so hellbent against suicide: It all comes down to avarice, she says.

Greed seems to be a hallmark of not just the Church but pretty much all organized religion — which is why, with your backing, we aim week after week to diminish religion’s influence.

Amit Pal
Communications Director
Freedom From Religion Foundation

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