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Weekly Wrap: Ron DeSantis, House Speaker Johnson, a satanic fracas and free will

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e684f2ff 1046 6f42 2667 20ceb1fb2696 Weekly Wrap: Ron DeSantis, House Speaker Johnson, a satanic fracas and free will

There has been a distinct lack of snow flurries in our hometown this winter, but we at the Freedom From Religion Foundation have generated our own flurry of activity recently.

Our local member of Congress, joined by several other representatives, nominated FFRF Co-President Dan Barker as a Guest Chaplain in the U.S. House of Representatives. Dan expressed his delight.

“We commend Rep. Mark Pocan for my nomination, which signifies a major step toward promoting inclusivity and religious diversity in our legislative process,” he said.

We ended pastor public school prayer
We ended unconstitutional pastor-led prayers in South Dakota. A pastor opened and closed a Veterans Day public school assembly with prayer. Due to our letter, the school district took action. “There will be no future violations of the constitutional principle of separation between state and church in the Miller School District,” the superintendent wrote back to us. Hooray!

The Fresno newspaper likes us
Another recent intervention of ours in California was approvingly cited by the Fresno Bee editorial page. Read here to see how the editorial board concedes that we have a valid point to make in our call to ban the bible wherever books are being banned.

Our Winter Solstice nationwide blizzard of activity
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With the generous help of you all, we engaged in a rush of action to get freethinking exhibits up all over the country. Our Winter Solstice sign is back in the Milwaukee County Courthouse (not too far from us) for the 13th year in a row. Our Metropolitan Chicago Chapter has ensured that secular seasonal displays are all over the Greater Chicago area. New Hampshire FFRF members returned to the state Capitol grounds with a freethinking Solstice display for the sixth year in a row. And the Reason Station has made a comeback to the Warren (Mich.) City Hall for the first time since 2020. Thank you, everyone!

An Iowa satanic fracas (with DeSantis’ involvement)
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Then there was Iowa, where the controversy over Capitol displays went to a whole other level. Our display returned to the Des Moines Statehouse without much ado. However, that wasn’t true for another dissenting religious display. A vigilante actually destroyed the Satanic Temple exhibit after the Iowa governor denounced it. Florida Gov. and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis jumped into the fray, offering to contribute to the vigilante’s legal fund — for which our lobbying arm excoriated him.

Our NY Times holiday ad
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As part of our commitment to spread the secular word, we ran a Winter Solstice advertisement on Thursday in the New York Times urging: “May reason prevail.” Let’s hope that people pay heed to this holiday message.

A global secular gathering in Paris
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Our dedication to secularism extends globally. As part of that, we helped organize a global gathering defending the French model of secularism (laicité) in Paris the past weekend — with our co-presidents in attendance. At the end of the conference, “The Paris Appeal” was launched, the text of which you can read here.

Folks worth denouncing
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There were a bunch of people who engaged in acts worthy of condemnation this week. Antisemitic white supremacist Nick Fuentes, a previous guest at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago and infamous proponent of Christian fascism, called for the death penalty for non-Christians. And for the first time in modern American history, the Speaker of the U.S. House had a direct affiliation with a hate group. A staffer from the Southern Poverty Law Center talked on our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature with FFRF Director of Governmental Affairs Mark Dann and FFRF attorney Ryan Jayne about the recent instance when this actually happened.

Bad and good judicial action
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There was judicial action that required our comment. We lambasted the Texas Supreme Court for ruling against a woman seeking a medically necessary abortion, noting that it should enrage everyone who cares about women and freedom. (Our lobbying arm chose the Lone Star State high court as its “theocrat of the week,” picking as its secular counterpart the president of a Pennsylvania school board who as an act of protest was sworn in on a bunch of banned books.) And we expressed hope about a recent U.S. Supreme Court announcement that it will hear an appeal over restrictions on medication abortion. “The Supreme Court needs to right this wrong,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Is there no free will?
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The guest on FFRF’s TV show this Sunday is a thinker who says we have no free will — and that this is a good thing. Robert Sapolsky, a professor of biology, neurological sciences and neurosurgery at Stanford University and a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, has received FFRF’s “Emperor Has No Clothes Award” for his public dissent from religion and is an honorary FFRF director. You can already watch the intriguingly intellectually stimulating interview on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you catch it on television Sunday.

We need more than Roe
Our blogs this week touched on important issues of concern.

FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez asserted that we need more than a return to Roe to truly safeguard abortion rights. “Let us not settle for a future of Roe,” she concluded.

How school prayer was forced upon children
Veteran writer and nonagenarian freethinker Barbara G. Walker remembers how during her childhood, school prayer was forced upon kids. “In thus brainwashing children by rote and repetition, we have forgotten how evil a dominant, domineering, legislated religion can be,” she writes.

Our recent trifecta of wins
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In her recent column, FFRF Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence focuses on a recent win of ours that provides a ray of hope. Sammi and FFRF attorney Chris Line came on our Freethought Radio show this week to discuss two of our victories. In fact, we have had three significant legal wins in recent months.

On the 232nd anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights, that is something to definitely crow about — all part of our flurry of activity in the recent past made possible, of course, only due to you.

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