Freethought NOW!

Weekly Wrap: Gov. Youngkin, PragerU, Wis. Justice Protasiewicz and J. Edgar Hoover

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Lerone A. Martin

It feels great at the Freedom From Religion Foundation to be constantly striving to defend the Constitution — and even better when this work receives notice.

An amicus brief we filed against a Catholic group’s attempt to evade the unemployment tax was spotlighted by a prominent legal news agency when a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice quoted from it.

“The more liberal Justice Rebecca Frank Dallet, who is Jewish, appeared highly skeptical of [attorney Eric] Rassbach’s arguments,” reports the Courthouse News Service. “Citing an amicus brief from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an advocacy group which champions the separation of church and state, Dallet noted many of the state’s hospitals and colleges could claim similar tax exemption if the court ruled on the side of the bureau.”

Alabama news portal reports on our admonishment
The leading Alabama news portal provided coverage to our admonishment of a community college president for imposing his religion on his subordinates.

“A Wisconsin-based nonprofit is calling on the president of an Alabama community college to ‘immediately cease holding prayer at staff events or meals’ and including religious messages in official communications to staff members,” report “The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), in a Sept. 8 letter to Snead State Community College President Joe Whitmore, said it was contacting him after complaints from a staff member. According to the FFRF, the employee said staffers have been required to participate in Christian prayer before meals and staff events, and that Whitmore presents a ‘guiding Bible verse’ each year in official communications.”

Calif. publication notes our objection to Christian Heritage Month
Our objection to a California county proclaiming an official Christian Heritage Month received big play in the local media.

“When the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors declared July to be American Christian Heritage Month, it caught many by surprise and drew the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), leaders of other religions, proponents of ‘Separation of Church and State,’” says an article in a South Tahoe publication. “‘By issuing this proclamation advancing Christian nationalism and the debunked myth that we are a Christian nation, El Dorado County is ironically violating the country’s true heritage of religious liberty based on a secular government,’ the Freedom From Religion Foundation said in response to the board’s actions.”

Ohio paper displays our recent win
An Ohio paper highlighted a recent victory of ours.

“In May, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) was contacted by a concerned community member, resulting in a change to New Riegel Local Schools’ graduation ceremony — excluding prayer from the service,” states a story in The Advertiser Tribune. “The FFRF is a national nonprofit organization that aims to lead school districts to take action to abide by the First Amendment, and due to the foundation, New Riegel Schools will no longer include prayer at graduation ceremonies.”

A religious bathroom poster is removed due to us
Media coverage or not, our victories and efforts on behalf of the Constitution have continued unabated.
1294e33d db43 db32 69b8 d6836f742960 Weekly Wrap: Gov. Youngkin, PragerU, Wis. Justice Protasiewicz and J. Edgar Hoover

A California school district removed a problematic (and inadvertently humorous) prayer poster from a high school bathroom after we contacted it. “The content referenced in your communication has been removed as of Monday, August 28, 2023,” the district responded within days. “We’re pleased the district is now more inclusive and respectful of all of its students,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, “and that religion and school sanitation requirements are being kept separate.”

Stop official baptisms, we insisted to a Fla. district
22b20eef 2ab1 2ef0 dfc8 5d92d3397ed8 Weekly Wrap: Gov. Youngkin, PragerU, Wis. Justice Protasiewicz and J. Edgar Hoover
We insisted that a Florida school district immediately end coach-led religious activities, including Christian baptisms, from a high school football program. It is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer or instruct others to lead their team in prayer or religious activities, we’ve reminded the school district, asking it to take immediate action to protect its students.

No imposition of religion, we’re asking an Idaho library official
We’re pushing back against the attempts of a northern Idaho public library network board chair to change policies in accordance with her religion. “Our Constitution’s Establishment Clause — which protects Americans’ religious freedom by ensuring the continued separation of religion and government — dictates that the government cannot in any way show favoritism toward religion,” FFRF Attorney Chris Line wrote to the chair.

PragerU’s massive national propaganda campaign
We’re warning that an industrial-scale disinformation campaign by the deceptively named PragerU is being increasingly embraced officially by states such as Oklahoma and Florida. We will continue to stand up for evidence-based public education in the face of Christian nationalist disinformation campaigns.

Virginia governor is engaging in a nasty pardon
30e16d25 0cbc a55a b996 b395abb24825 Weekly Wrap: Gov. Youngkin, PragerU, Wis. Justice Protasiewicz and J. Edgar Hoover

We’ve deplored Christian nationalist Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s pardon of an anti-trans violent disruptor.

“There is no data to suggest that trans people are inherently dangerous to their cisgender peers, and this myth harms victims of sexual assault across the gender spectrum,” notes FFRF Equal Justice Works Fellow Kat Grant, whose fellowship focuses on the intersection of LGBTQ-plus rights and state-church issues. “By focusing on an imagined threat, these individuals and organizations are intentionally distracting the public from the very real sexual assault crisis happening as a result of misogynistic control theology in their churches.”

We extended our focus on this issue in our Facebook Live “Ask an Atheist” feature this week. Kat and FFRF Associate Counsel Liz Cavell provided updates on the religious right’s war against trans people, sharing what’s been happening in the courts, legislatures and the medical community. Watch the discussion here.

Don’t unnecessarily quote from the bible
We’re rebuking two President Trump-appointed federal appeals court judges for gratuitously injecting a bible verse into an unrelated debate. Federal judges using biblical verses like references or citations in their opinions gives fodder to those who dishonestly proclaim that the United States is a Christian nation. “This biblical debate is a stark reminder that religion, and specifically a particular brand of Christianity, holds unwarranted prominence in the minds of some powerful federal judges,” comments Annie Laurie.

A baseless impeachment attempt
681c71a7 9f24 ee2d f3f4 1f5b62cf0b89 Weekly Wrap: Gov. Youngkin, PragerU, Wis. Justice Protasiewicz and J. Edgar Hoover

Our lobbying arm also got into the fray, insisting that a partisan effort to baselessly impeach newly elected Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz must be rejected. The impeachment push is nothing more than hypocritical gamesmanship. Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers, who have long enjoyed control of the Legislature due to gerrymandered districts, know that the tipping of the balance of the state’s top court could threaten their dictatorial grip, and particularly their religious crusade against abortion rights.

Mike Huckabee earns the “Theocrat of the Week” for his ridiculous statement
FFRF Action Fund names Mike Huckabee its “Theocrat of the Week” for his shocking statement, which reads like a threat, that if Trump’s legal problems keep him from winning in 2024, “It’s going to be the last election that will be decided by ballots rather than bullets.” FFRF Action Fund is delighted, on the other hand, to hand a figurative bouquet to the only supervisor on the El Dorado (Calif.) County Board to vote against a resolution declaring a county “Christian heritage month.”

J. Edgar Hoover’s bigotry exposed on our TV show
The distinguished guest on our Sunday TV show has exposed the massive role that J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI played in fostering white Christian nationalism. Stanford University Professor Lerone Martin is the author of The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover: How the FBI Aided and Abetted the Rise of White Christian Nationalism. “Hoover believed that … America itself was a Christian nation and that America would only survive and thrive if it continued to be a Christian nation,” Martin tells “Freethought Matters” co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. You can already watch the show on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it on television Sunday.

Protesting Fla. ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law
6aecdc57 8241 04fc d5bb 1fb14213c8ca Weekly Wrap: Gov. Youngkin, PragerU, Wis. Justice Protasiewicz and J. Edgar Hoover

The main section of our Freethought Radio show this week has courageous freethinking high school student Will Larkins explaining how he has protested Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. Then, we honor Margaret Sanger’s birthday by hearing FFRF Co-President and show co-host Dan Barker’s song “No Gods, No Masters.”

Why the concept of an afterlife is dangerous
Annie Laurie has a blog this week that is an adaptation of a recent talk she gave on why the concept of an afterlife (involving heaven and hell) is dangerous. “The ‘tribe’ of Nones knows that the only afterlife that ought to concern any of us is leaving our descendants and our planet a secure and pleasant future,” her column concludes.

Mexico gives us reason to celebrate
FFRF contributing writer Barbara Alvarez points out the contrasting recent trajectories of Mexico and the United States on abortion.

“The underlying message is clear: Mexico and other countries in Latin America show that it is possible to have a culturally religious majority while remaining a secular democracy that prioritizes science and human rights,” she writes. “As a nation founded on the separation of state and church, the United States has no excuse for allowing Christian nationalism to take center stage in our laws, including those related to reproductive health care.”

Free speech is sacred
4da05415 33f3 4288 428d 59dba41ce07d Weekly Wrap: Gov. Youngkin, PragerU, Wis. Justice Protasiewicz and J. Edgar Hoover

FFRF columnist Jim Haught, who died in July, left for us among his columns a piece emphasizing why free speech is sacred — and delineating threats (very often from religion) to the notion. “Free speech means the right to voice any beliefs or ideas, even unpopular ones — orally, on paper, on the Internet or anywhere — without fear of being punished,” he writes.

We agree with him, which is why — with your support — we’re industriously trying to preserve free speech and so many other of our basic rights from religion and its proponents.

Please share this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.