As we near the end of summer (and for many students, summer is already over), the Freedom From Religion Foundation has been keeping up the heat on fighting for your rights. As a matter of fact, things are going swimmingly this week. So, let’s dive right in!
The FFRF legal team was able to convince the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District in Middleton, Wis., to allow the girls swim and dive team to participate in an invitational competition held during the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah.
BIPOC student essay winners announced
FFRF’s annual student essay contest for Black, Indigenous and Students of Color had some wonderful responses. FFRF awarded $17,750 in prize money to the top 11 essayists and 10 honorable mentions. Those 11 winning essays can be read in the upcoming September issue of Freethought Today, or you can read them now at FreethoughtToday.com.
Abortion drug ruling reprehensible
FFRF condemns Wednesday’s U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of severe abortion medication restrictions. If the Supreme Court upholds, not only would this limit abortion medication to just seven weeks of gestation, but it would also ban telemedicine and mail-order shipments for abortion pills.
Speaking of which, Patrick Elliott, FFRF’s senior counsel, wrote this week on FFRF’s blog site (FreethoughtNow.org) about that very topic.
Elliott writes: “This case appears destined for the Supreme Court, which, ultimately, will have to ask itself: Do the court’s jurisdiction rules apply to religious litigants or only to everyone else?”
Some good news on abortion
FFRF contributing writer Barbara Alvarez also wrote a blog about abortion, but this one is on a happier note. She notes that voters have shown several times since the demise of Roe v. Wade that the abortion issue is a political winner, as in last week’s Ohio referendum:
“It happened again; abortion won at the ballot box. We see this in election after election. The results are clear: Abortion is a winning issue.”
Napoleon was cynical about religion
And we still have several columns from prolific FFRF columnist James Haught, who died July 23. This week, we published his column about Napoleon Bonaparte’s views on religion.
Haught writes: “Napoleon was an agnostic during his years of triumph but as he neared death, broken by captivity, he uttered religious declarations. During most of his life, he cynically commented on religion many times” . . . including, “Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”
Tangential Joke of the Week: Napoleon may not have designed his coat, but he did have a hand in it.
Catholic health care an oxymoron?
On this week’s episode of FFRF’s “Ask an Atheist,” FFRF Co-President Dan Barker was joined by FFRF’s Equal Justice Works Fellow Kat Grant as they speak to Dave Heide, whose family is the victim of bishops denying affirming health care in Madison, Wis. How much actual power do U.S. Catholic Bishops have when it comes to health care for non-Catholic citizens?
Now listen to this
On Freethought Radio, Dan and Annie Laurie interview Stanford Professor Lerone A. Martin about his fascinating new book, The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover: How the FBI Aided and Abetted the Rise of White Christian Nationalism — a must read (available at ffrf.org/shop).
FFRF Action Fund, FFRF’s lobbying arm, has condemned the Biden administration’s inexplicable appeasement of discrimination of LGBTQ-plus students by Baylor University.
Religion News Service reported that: “The U.S. Department of Education accepted Baylor University’s request for exemption from Title IX’s sexual harassment provision after the private Baptist school asked to dismiss discrimination complaints filed by LGBTQ-plus students that the university said were ‘inconsistent’ with the institution’s religious values.”
FFRF Action Fund pushes against N.C. board proposal
FFRF’s lobbying arm insisted that a North Carolina county board should vote against imposing “In God We Trust” on 10 county buildings at its meeting last night.
Unfortunately, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted to allow the transgression, to the tune of $40,000 in taxpayer money, meaning more religion will be forced upon residents and visitors of that community.
Bo Derek has nothing on Mark Pocan
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a good friend of FFRF, scored a perfect 100 on FFRF Action Fund’s Dynamic Scorecard. Pocan, who represents Wisconsin’s 2nd District in Congress, earned the top score by proving his staunch commitment to the separation of church and state and his freethinking constituents.
In 2019, Pocan publicly announced he is a freethinker after being named a “Champion of the First Amendment” at FFRF’s annual national convention due to his work in the Congressional Freethought Caucus and his support for a secular invocation.
California mayor is ‘Secularist of the Week’
The FFRF Action Fund has given the mayor of Albany, Calif., its “Secularist of the Week” accolade for making an unusually thoughtful and brave statement about the need to keep government spaces free from religion and welcoming to all.
Mayor Aaron Tiedemann oversaw the removal of a large cross from a city park earlier this summer.
Good job, mayor!
22 representatives are ‘Theocrats of the Week’
And, on the opposite end of the spectrum, we have 22 members of Congress who the FFRF Action Fund has named the “Theocrats of the Week.” Or should that be “of the Weak”?
These 22 representatives signed a cruel and biblically inspired amicus brief supporting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s lethal buoys in the Rio Grande to hamper border crossings. After the Justice Department sued the state for putting an obstruction in a “navigable river” without its permission, the 22 members of Congress filed an amicus brief invoking Noah’s Ark.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Guardian enters FFRF’s galaxy
A lawsuit that we recently filed (along with a bunch of other groups) against a proposed religious charter school in Oklahoma actually received major play in the prestigious British Guardian.
“On Monday, the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Education Law Center and Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of nearly a dozen plaintiffs including parents, education activists and faith leaders seeking to stop Oklahoma from sponsoring and funding St Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School,” the paper reported.
FFRF case gets national play
Our legal action to maintain a 2018 win that cut off county funding for church renovations in New Jersey got press coverage, too.
“The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which sued Morris County in 2015 over its disbursement of $4.6 million in public funds to repair 12 churches, has filed a motion to intervene,” says a story in Center Square, a national media initiative to report on state-level happenings. We will act to preserve the rights and interests of New Jersey taxpayers, Annie Laurie Gaylor, the foundation’s co-president, said in a statement. ‘We won’t merely sit by and watch while religious entities maneuver to get the official funding spigot opened again.’”
Religion News Service highlights FFRF report
A more favorable mention of us and our work was in a Religion News Service piece about how groups battling Christian nationalism are collaborating. “The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Freedom From Religion Foundation produced a joint report on the role Christian nationalism played in the Jan. 6 attack,” it stated.
The (Washington) Times they are a-chagrined
Even the conservative media is noticing us. The Moonie-owned Washington Times covered a recent successful intervention of ours with alarm.
“The distance between the Madison, Wisconsin, home of an atheist advocacy group and the public school district in Burnet, Texas, is just under 1,200 miles,” the publication noted. “But with an email, the Freedom from Religion Foundation shut down the district’s ‘pray to the first day’ social media campaign. Citing national surveys showing the percentage of nonbelievers, a lawyer for the group demanded the school system take down the prayer list that implored people to pray for each of the six schools in the district, as well as groups in the district’s administration and school employees.”
Yes, it’s bizarre
And, finally, FFRF got a shout-out in the story “Judge sanctions Southwest’s attorneys, orders religious-liberty training by Alliance Defending Freedom” on the conservative Legal Insurrection website in which the author tried to take a dig at FFRF.
“The atheist organization Freedom From Religion Foundation voiced strident objections to the court’s order. The judge ‘revealingly referenced the biblical story of Adam, referring to it as “historical,”’ which the FFRF apparently found ‘bizarre.’”
Thanks for being a member of FFRF! Now, get out there and enjoy the rest of August!