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Weekly Wrap: Mass mailings, billboards, victories and TV and radio shows

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Seal of Ohio Weekly Wrap: Mass mailings, billboards, victories and TV and radio shows

Nobody can accuse us at the Freedom From Religion Foundation of taking it easy during the last week of the summer break.

We dispatched a mass mailing to all 600-plus school districts in the state of Ohio to urge them not to allow released time bible study. Districts throughout the state have unfortunately begun approving release time for LifeWise Academy’s bible study classes without fully understanding constitutional concerns and how such programs can negatively impact educational goals. “If parents want their children to learn about the bible, there are so many ways to do it without cutting into valuable school hours,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor pointed out.

Countering Bremerton Coach Kennedy’s theocratic antics
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We’ve issued a strong response — including a local billboard, op-eds and a “Know Your Rights” campaign for students — to a disturbing publicity stunt on the part of prayerful Bremerton Coach Joe Kennedy. Today, Friday, Sept. 1, Kennedy returns to the Bremerton High School football field accompanied by an organized publicity drive. And Kennedy’s memoir is being released soon. In an appropriate counter to such cynical p.r. ploys, FFRF is placing a billboard that reads: “Wishing Bremerton High School a safe, secular & successful school year” at about a two-minute drive from the school. “Coach Kennedy’s antics are a desperate way of keeping his unconstitutional agenda in the spotlight,” says FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert.

How religiosity is declining globally
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We’ve been busy starting up our TV show for the new season. Our guest on our first episode asserts that religion is declining globally — and has the data to prove it.

“On every measure — you can measure religiosity — whether it’s belief, behavior, belonging, you name it, the arrows point down in almost every society around the globe,” secularity expert and Pitzer College Professor Phil Zuckerman tells “Freethought Matters” co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. “There are some exceptions that we deal with, but as a global phenomenon and as a national phenomenon here in the United States, the evidence is beyond doubt that secularization is occurring.”

You can already catch the interview on FFRF’s YouTube channel. Or find out where you can watch it on Sunday.

School board prayer ends due to us
We got prayer removed from board meetings of a Connecticut school district. “It is beyond the scope of a public school board to schedule or conduct prayer as part of its meetings,” FFRF Equal Justice Works Fellow Kat Grant wrote to Enfield Public Schools Board Chair Tina LeBlanc. Now, a moment of silence will be held instead without endorsing any particular religion, LeBlanc has informed us. Yay!

We get prayer removed from graduation ceremonies
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And thanks to our work, New Riegel Local Schools in Ohio will no longer include prayer at graduation ceremonies. “Students have the First Amendment right to be free from religious indoctrination in their public schools, including when participating in commencement ceremonies,” FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence wrote to Superintendent David Rombach. An email from Rombach informed us that the violation has been corrected.

We condemned a proposed ban on Quran-burning
We deplored the announcement by Denmark’s government that it wants to make it illegal to desecrate any “holy book” in response to a series of violent reactions in the Muslim world to several public burnings of Qurans in Sweden and Denmark. A board member at PEN International, an organization that advocates for “everyone’s freedom to write and read, wherever they are in the world,” told the New York Times that “we should not go back in time and rewrite laws about blasphemy. If you open that door, there’s a labyrinth behind it.” PEN is right.

Using the bible against book bans
On our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature this week, we spotlighted invaluable grassroots activism. FFRF Associate Counsel Liz Cavell and FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line spoke with Rob Rogers, an activist from Colorado Springs, about how FFRF has been using the bible to combat book bans in public schools. Watch the scintillating back and forth here.

A better vision of religious liberty
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The latest episode of “We Dissent,” co-hosted by two FFRF’ers, constructs a better vision of religious liberty with the help of a guest from Columbia Law School. On episode 21 of the podcast, “We Dissent” hosts FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert, FFRF Attorney Liz Cavell and American Atheists Legal Director Alison Gill engage in an enlightening discussion with Liz Reiner Platt, director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School, about using religious exemptions to promote progressive social causes and issues. Listen to the edifying discussion here.

The assassination of an Indian rationalist
On this week’s radio show, we observed the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Narendra Dabholkar, founder of an Indian rationalist group, by interviewing his brave successor Avinash Patil. Patil spoke with Freethought Radio co-hosts Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker (and guest host yours truly) about the state of the murder investigation and about how a progressive coalition is forming to take on the Hindu nationalist government in next year’s election.

A Texas secular and theocrat shoutout
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FFRF’s lobbying arm is focusing on Texas in its weekly shoutout for secular activism and against Christian nationalism. FFRF Action Fund is naming a brave group of 100 Texas chaplains as “Secularists of the Week” for urging school districts not to fill the positions of school counselors and social workers with chaplains lacking academic qualifications. Disgraced Texas pseudohistorian and avowed Christian nationalist David Barton, meanwhile, has earned the title of “Theocrat of the Week” for his recent outrageous comments.

How the political parties switched places
FFRF columnist Jim Haught is no more but he gave us so many pieces to use before he died that he is having a long “afterlife.” In his column published at the FFRF Action Fund website, he marvels at how “over a century, America’s two major political parties have gradually reversed identities, like the magnetic poles of Planet Earth switching direction.” He traces the process of the “fascinating transition” very deftly in his piece.

The Catholic takeover of the health care system
Health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients, not priests, asserts FFRF Legal Fellow Kat Grant in a column about the insidious Catholic takeover of the health care system. “All of this leaves us with a very important question: What do we do now?” Kat writes. Find out here.

How policy is being weaponized in the anti-abortion crusade
FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez reveals how the courts and tax code are being misused in the anti-abortion crusade. “As secular activists, we must not only be cognizant of harmful legislation but also aware of the different ways in which policy is weaponized against women and pregnant people across the country,” she concludes.

Call to prayer exemption demonstrates religious privilege
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Exemptions for the Muslim call to prayer (such as a recent one in Minneapolis) demonstrate religious privilege, not religious freedom, asserts FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line in a new blog. “Our laws should treat religion neutrally — with neither hostility nor favoritism, as the Constitution requires,” he writes.

This is what — with your support and goodwill — we attempt to impress upon governmental entities week in and week out.

Have a wonderful long weekend!

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