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National Prayer Breakfast, a troubling flag, abortion rights marches and India

Prayer Breakfast

It’s great to be back in the office and observe closely again the myriad activities that the Freedom From Religion Foundation engages in.

(FFRF Co-President Dan Barker and I were actually on a two-week tour of India to learn about rationalism and the battle against Hindu nationalism in the country. More on that later.)

For instance, we organized a successful sign-on letter to members of Congress and the White House urging a boycott of the National Prayer Breakfast. The event, held annually in the first week of February in Washington, D.C., is framed as a large bipartisan forum for political, social and business leaders to gather and pray together, but is actually a nexus of Christian nationalist organizing.

“A coalition of religious and secular groups is calling on President Joe Biden and Congress to end their involvement with the National Prayer Breakfast, a private event used by its secretive sponsor to foster right-wing networking around the globe,” reports The Young Turks news portal, prominently citing FFRF’s role in the effort.

Get rid of the insurrectionary Christian nationalist flag, Congressman!
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We appealed in the name of the Constitution to a home state member of Congress to get rid of a Christian nationalist flag associated with the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., has a flag reading “Appeal to Heaven” flying from the flagpole outside of his congressional office. As a member of Congress who took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Grothman has sworn to uphold a godless and entirely secular Constitution, we stressed.

We’re trying to uncover the truth in Texas
A Texas public community college is covering up details of its transfer of significant public land to a private Christian school. FFRF has discovered that Weatherford College requested of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that the exact details related to the transfer remain confidential. “Friendly Atheist” Hemant Mehta writes about our efforts to get to the truth here.

Media covers our efforts to stop inmate baptisms
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We insisted to an Indiana sheriff’s department that it must immediately halt inmate baptisms. Our demand got some media attention.

“A nationwide group is protesting a program by the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department to offer baptisms in the county jail,” reported a Hoosier radio station. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation announced today that it was calling on Sheriff Dave Durant to stop the ceremonies, calling it a violation of the First Amendment.”

We’re insisting that Charleston, S.C., nix school board prayer
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We urged the Charleston, S.C., school district not to begin school board meetings with a prayer. It is coercive, insensitive and intimidating to force nonreligious citizens to show obeisance to a religion in which they disbelieve, or to “out” themselves as nonbelievers by not participating in prayer, we noted.

Supreme Court sends off alarming signal
We’re disheartened that the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear yet another case involving a Christian plaintiff seeking to broaden religious exemptions in the workplace. The high court has granted review in a case in which it will reconsider the longstanding doctrine concerning accommodation for religious practices and what constitutes undue hardship for employers. “Religious freedom protections have never before required employers or the government to burden others,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor points out.

Watch FFRF’s ‘Ask an Atheist’ for a little levity
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Get an insider’s look at the crank phone calls we regularly receive at the Freedom From Religion Foundation — especially after whenever our Ron Reagan ad airs on television. FFRF Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence talks with FFRF Director of First Impressions Lisa Treu (who handles most of our phone calls) on our Facebook Live “Ask an Atheist” feature about some of the interesting messages that turn up on our answering machine. It’s very funny!

A special sculpture television tour
We are undertaking a special trip to a renowned freethinking sculptor’s studio for our TV show this Sunday. More than 100 of Zenos Frudakis’ works are displayed throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, Japan, South Africa and other countries. His sculpture, “Freedom,” has been listed in the top 10 public art exhibits worldwide by The (London) Independent newspaper. Don’t miss glimpsing all the freethinking busts filling Zenos’ fascinating studio. You can already watch “Freethought Matters” on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch a glimpse of the tour this Sunday.

An amazing India journey
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Speaking of tours, Dan Barker and I went on an amazing two-week journey around India to learn about the efforts that rationalist-minded groups are undertaking to fight the pernicious Hindu nationalist ideology of the ruling government. Listen to us talk about our adventures on this week’s episode of Freethought Radio.

Dan Barker’s debate with a child-abusing cardinal
Dan has traveled to several countries, often to debate theocrats. In a recent blog, he details an especially memorable encounter with an Australian cardinal who was afterward convicted of child sex abuse, and whose death has been in the news.

“After the debate was over — during which I had challenged the greatness of Mother Teresa and affirmed a woman’s right to control her own reproductive future — the organizers called us participants together to take a group photo, as we had earlier agreed,” Dan finishes his blog. “But Cardinal George Pell walked away, saying, ‘I don’t want my picture taken with that man.’ I take that as a compliment.”

March in defense of abortion rights this Sunday
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Annie Laurie writes about what in two days should have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and is instead now a day of nationwide protests.

“Get out and march Sunday,” she says. “If you can’t make it or a march isn’t happening near you, then get and stay involved in other meaningful ways. There is no other endangered right today in America as fundamental to true liberty and bodily autonomy as the right to decide if and whether to be pregnant, if or whether to become a mother or parent.”

Abortion pills should be available to all
FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez focuses on a related aspect of the reproductive rights debate: abortion pills. “Comprehensive abortion access includes total access to abortion pills,” she concludes. “Let’s work toward a future where that is a reality.”

Annie Laurie’s tribute to a secular jurist
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Annie Laurie wrote another blog earlier this week paying homage to a secular jurist who ruled “God” unconstitutional. “The immortal legacy of Alfred T. Goodwin, 99, who died last month and who naturally learned that godless pledge, will be as the author of a brilliant decision declaring the religious Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional,” she states.

Mangled methodist morality
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Veteran writer Jim Haught exposes all that is wrong with religion in his piece this week. “The bible says that we must kill gays,” his column begins and then goes on to recount the convulsions inside the United Methodist Church because of its institutionalized bigotry.

We know all the ways that organized religion is messed up and that’s why, with your support, we constantly strive to keep it contained. I’m always glad to help out with these efforts — whether in India or in Madison, Wis.

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