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Weekly Wrap: School vouchers, religious revivals, good and bad officials, and a beloved columnist’s death

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Universal vouchers and charter school schemes allow religious schools to raid public coffers

It sometimes surprises us here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation that we are able to get so much done and obtain such significant media play pretty much every week.

This time, the attention bestowed on us extended far beyond the mainland United States — thousands of miles, in fact. When we denounced the Guam Legislature for approving a massive school voucher scheme, a reporter from that U.S. territory contacted our office to get more of our perspective.

“Chris Line is an attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which advocates for the separation of church and state,” the media outlet reported. “The group ‘religiously’ monitors, if you will, developments where it believes infringements arise. This now includes the recent Guam law to allow private, religious schools to become publicly funded charter schools.”

Click here for great quotes from Chris and an image of him in his office.

The National Review notices us
National Review, the flagship conservative publication, also noticed us this week. It marked a significant victory of ours in its “This Day in Liberal Judicial Activism” while, not surprisingly, disparaging our win. We’re flattered (I suppose).

An Ohio paper publishes us
FFRF Action Fund’s senior policy counsel Ryan Jayne wrote an op-ed for a leading Ohio newspaper cogently explaining why the Legislature should be ending voucher programs. Jayne’s piece was published in the Martins Ferry Times Leader in the wake of the Ohio Statehouse giving the go-ahead to a huge expansion of school voucher programs. Read the full article online here to take in Jayne’s astute analysis and share it on your social media.

The danger of voucher schemes
The FFRF Action Fund did a broader statement warning that a slew of newly enacted laws and policies all over the country will devastate public schools by siphoning off funds to private religious schools. The expansion of vouchers and the new assault via religious charter schools is now one of the gravest threats not only to our public educational system but to the separation of state and church, the statement emphasized.

Political rallies that are religious revivals
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The Fund also sounded the alarm over Christian nationalists merging political rallies with religious revivals, which appear to be in violation of the IRS tax code and an unwarranted encroachment into our secular political process. While it is shocking to see how openly religious extremists seek to intertwine religion and politics, the Fund is optimistic that the future of this county is in good hands with younger generations who are increasingly nonreligious.

Illinois member of Congress is ‘Secularist of the Week’
The FFRF Action Fund honored Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., as its “Secularist of the Week” in recognition of her becoming the newest member of the Congressional Freethought Caucus. Schakowsky has now achieved a perfect 100 rating on FFRF Action Fund’s Dynamic Scorecard.

A tribute to Jamie Raskin
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Another member of Congress who has a perfect rating is Rep. Jamie Raskin, and FFRF Governmental Affairs Fellow Caitlin Berray paid him tribute in an FFRF Action blog. “The preservation of secular values in the U.S. government has been significantly aided by Raskin’s commendable career, and we are thankful to have him on our side while fighting for the future of secular government and freedom of conscience,” she concluded.

A theocratic state superintendent of education
A public official we’ve had very different feelings about is the Oklahoma state superintendent of education. Ryan Walters is a committed theocrat, and we’ve called on him to resign. Our call has made a media splash in the Sooner State.

“The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) announced in a press release it was demanding the immediate resignation of Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters, accusing him of advancing his personal religious beliefs and misusing his office,” says a story in the Lawton Constitution.

And an Oklahoma TV station reported in a piece that extensively quotes FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, “The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling for Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters (R) to resign, ‘due to repeated misuse of his office to promote religion in public schools in disregard of his constitutional obligations.’”

Not surprisingly, Walters is FFRF Action Fund’s “Theocrat of the Week,” since he “is an example of the growing threat of Christian nationalism in the United States, and of public officials who openly espouse turning the United States into a ‘Christian nation,’” as the Fund states.

How ordinary citizens are pushing back against theocratic policies
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Ordinary freethinkers around the country are pushing back at theocratic officials, and this week on Freethought Radio, Colorado activist Rob Rogers tells co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor how he is protesting book banning by insisting that the bible should also be banned. He credits FFRF’s back-up letter of support with a victory — Colorado Springs school district has just agreed its criteria has to apply equally to the bible, so is putting the banned books back on the shelf, for now.

A roundup of what’s happening around the world
There’s so much happening around the country and the world regarding issues of interest to us that we did a special supplemental statement highlighting such developments as they pertain to religion and women’s rights. Read here for a roundup that touches on everyone from the Taliban and Iran to Sinead O’Connor.

The Cult of Fetus Worship
The anti-abortion movement has become a Cult of Fetus Worship, and in a two-part blog, Annie Laurie thoroughly demolishes it. Part 1 examines the lie that abortion is murder and that a zygote is a person. Part II “gets real” about the facts of pregnancy and fetal development, and explains why we need to “abort the Cult of Fetus Worship” and its campaign for fetal personhood. Read them here and here.

Go see “Barbie”
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We always have our finger on the cultural pulse, and FFRF Attorney Chris Line engages in a timely defense of the “Barbie” movie against right-wing criticism. Read his light-on-its-feet blog here.

FFRF columnist Jim Haught is no more
Unfortunately, we have some heavier news to leave you with: FFRF columnist James Haught is no more. Jim, 91, died on July 23 after a recurrence of cancer. In tribute, we reran this week a piece on mortality that he originally wrote for his 90th birthday. We’ve already received some lovely tributes to him from our members. We’ll miss him sorely — as, I’m sure, you will, too.

Jim greatly appreciated reaching out to all of you every week, since he knew (as we do) that you’re the reason that the freethought movement is alive and well in this country.

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