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Weekly Wrap: ‘Liberal redneck,’ Joe Scarborough, atheist culture and a fine-tuned universe

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We at the Freedom From Religion Foundation have been spreading the secular word far and wide.

When the Wisconsin Supreme Court handed down a good decision recently denying Catholic-affiliated organizations an exemption from the state’s unemployment insurance tax, media sources everywhere readily quoted us.

An Associated Press story stated: “Patrick Elliott, a Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney, called the ruling a win. If the charity groups had prevailed, the next step would be arguments to exempt religious hospitals and colleges, such as Marquette University, from paying the unemployment tax, he said. ‘It’s really a win for employees who work for religious organizations,’ Elliott said. ‘They get coverage under the Wisconsin unemployment system.’”

Wisconsin Public Radio also quoted Patrick extensively: “You’re seeing these types of cases where religious organizations just don’t want to play by the same rules as everyone else,” Elliott said. “I think this really fits into the larger legal themes that these groups are pushing at a high level.”

And the Wisconsin Examiner, a progressive news outlet, cited at length the brief we filed before the court siding with the state government: “A single friend-of-the-court brief in favor of denying Catholic Charities the exemption came from the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which argues for the rights of secular people and nonbelievers from religious involvement in public policy matters.The Foundation warned that granting the Superior Diocese Catholic Charities group the religious exemption from taking part in the Unemployment Insurance program would qualify ‘numerous religiously affiliated hospitals and colleges’ across Wisconsin employing thousands of people — and many of which have gone through significant rounds of layoffs. ‘All of these employees would be at risk of losing their unemployment benefits overnight, if this court accepts the employers’ argument,’ the Foundation brief stated.”

FFRF Attorney Chris Line’s op-ed in Caif. papers
A photo of Jack Hibbs preaching

FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line had an op-ed published in several California newspapers (including the Los Angeles Daily News and the Orange County Register) asking the IRS to revoke the tax-free status of an electioneering pastor’s church. Read Chris’ convincing indictment here.

Is the universe fine-tuned? 
FFRF Co-President Dan Barker was on a popular Australian YouTube show to expound on profound issues, such as: Is the universe fine-tuned? Watch the fascinating discussion here.

Our testimony to the Minnesota Legislature
FFRF Action Fund State Policy Manager Ryan Dudley was in a very different forum. He submitted testimony to the Minnesota House and Senate in support of the Minnesota Recovery Options Act, which would require individuals who need substance use treatment to be made aware of secular alternatives to traditional, 12-step programs that often have religious undertones.

We urge Biden to jettison anti-abortion amendment
At the national level, we signed onto a large-scale coalition urging President Biden not to include an anti-abortion amendment in his 2025 budget. The need to remove the Weldon Amendment is more urgent than ever as the fight for abortion access becomes more tumultuous, we noted.

We made an Ohio school district change policy
A photo of a permission slip for the Good News Club

A complaint from us resulted in an Ohio school district prohibiting outside groups, including religious organizations, from recruiting elementary school children during school lunch hours. “We made the district realize the exploitation of young and impressionable students that such a policy had created,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Our other interventions
A screenshot of a facebook post from caroline middle school that shows teachers praying together

And we intervened in a number of other places. We called out a Virginia school district for multiple constitutional violations that involve repeated religious entanglement. Please comply with the First Amendment of the Constitution and protect the religious freedom of students, we insisted. And we told a N.C. board of education to stop praying at its meetings. “A sectarian religious prayer at the start of a board of education meeting begins things off with an insensitive, discordant tone,” said Annie Laurie.

What is atheist culture? 
This week’s “Ask an Atheist” FFRF Facebook Live feature attempted to answer an intriguing question: What is atheist culture? FFRF Associate Counsel Liz Cavell and FFRF IT Director Scott Knicklebine spoke with YouTuber Genetically Modified Skeptic about his new video on atheist culture, and about being an atheist content creator.

‘Liberal redneck’ Trae Crowder returns to FFRF TV show
A screenshot of the show freethought matters with guest trae crowder

A hilariously freethinking comedian comes back to FFRF’s TV show this Sunday. Comedian Trae Crowder has written a number of books and has appeared on “Nightline,” “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “The View” and even once before on “Freethought Matters.” He reprises his inimitable humor, and the lively show features clips of his standup and videos. You can already watch the show on our YouTube channel. Or find out where to catch it on television Sunday.

Protecting the political rights of ‘Nones’
After the usual news recap and playing an irreverent Joe Hill song lampooning “pie in the sky” on the occasion of “Pi Day,” Freethought Radio co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor spoke with Steven Emmert, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, working to “protect the equal rights of nonreligious Americans.” Tune in to the timely conversation.

Joe Scarborough and a Christian nationalist Texas state rep
A photo of Joe Scarborough with the title secularist of the week and a photo of Mat Schaefer with the title theocrat of the week

FFRF’s lobbying arm chose MSNBC television host Joe Scarborough as its “Secularist of the Week” for his fearless critique of Christian nationalism during his news talk show, “Morning Joe.” In contrast, FFRF Action Fund’s “Theocrat of the Week” is a Texas state representative, Matt Schaefer, who made the Christian nationalist claim that every elected U.S. official is required “to worship God.” The Fund applauded Scarborough’s acknowledgment of Christian nationalism and hoped that more mainstream political commentators follow suit as the threat of Christian nationalists, such as the current “Theocrat of the Week,” continues to grow.

Theocratic threat to IVF
FFRF Governmental Affairs Coordinator Caitlin Berray penned a blog about how the recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling signals a nationwide theological threat to in vitro fertilization. It is more important than ever that we examine the true intent behind decisions like Alabama’s IVF ruling, Caitlin warned, and vote for those who will ensure that abortion rights are protected in a post-Dobbs world.

Not afraid of death
A vintage photo of a forest that has the title I'm not afraid of death in cursive

I’m not afraid of death, declares FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Walker, 93, in her column this week. And Barbara isn’t afraid of what God will do to her. “Some day in what I hope is the not-too-distant future, most of the world will finally realize how absurd the whole idea of God is, and celebrations of life’s beginnings and endings will become much more secular,” she concludes.

It is such freethinking consciousness that we aim to circulate — with your support — in society week in and week out.

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