Our objection to a recent Auburn University baptism seems to have ruffled some big political feathers.
The Alabama governor and both of the state’s U.S. senators (as well as Ted Cruz) have felt compelled to respond to our disapproval of the ceremony and of a religiously coercive community college president.
“U.S. Sens. Katie Britt and Tommy Tuberville have recently spoken out against the unfolding drama between the state of Alabama and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF),” reports an Alabama news portal. “Gov. Kay Ivey responded with a lengthy condemnation of the FFRF’s efforts. Now, Alabama’s two senators have added their voices to the fray, voicing support for the colleges and condemning the FFRF for attempting to infringe on the faculty’s rights. In a statement to 1819 News, Britt outrightly condemned FFRF’s ‘concerted effort to get more Americans to turn away from God.’ Tuberville tersely tweeted that he was ‘Happy to be criticized for being overly prayerful.’”
Wowie! And Cruz added his unpleasant voice to the fray, even though the last time we checked, Auburn University and Snead State Community College weren’t located in Texas. We pulled no punches in our response.
We riled up the Murdochian media, too. The “flagship” print publication of the finally retiring media mogul got someone from the reprehensible Alliance Defending Freedom to dis us for our constitutional endeavors in Alabama. Oh, well — at least it got noticed.
Tulsa paper mentions us extensively
Regional media also made note of our efforts.
“Skiatook Public Schools recently removed Christian displays from its classrooms after the Freedom From Religion Foundation alerted officials to alleged constitutional violations,” the Tulsa World reports. “Skiatook Public Schools in an email to the Skiatook Journal said: ‘An attorney from the Freedom From Religion Foundation notified the district of religious displays in two classrooms. As required by law, the district takes a neutral stance in regard to the expression of religion and followed legal counsel’s advice in this matter.’ FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor in a news release added: ‘By taking this action, the district is showing respect not only for our secular constitution, but for the rights of students — particularly nonreligious and non-Christian members of the community — to be free from religious coercion in our public schools.’”
It’s nice to see our work being covered so thoroughly and fairly.
A Fla. publication notices our objection
Our objection to an official chaplain at five (no less!) police and fire departments in Florida drew some media attention. “After publication of an article in the Observer, about a volunteer chaplain who serves Oakland and Windermere’s police departments, Ocoee’s fire department and both the fire and police departments in Winter Garden, the chiefs of those agencies received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), stating that ‘police chaplain programs are unconstitutional,’” says a local publication. Read on to see how ably FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line defended our position (as well as how a University of Miami constitutional law professor so wonderfully supported us).
We’re creating ruckus in (a different) Peoria
And our message is playing in Peoria (not the one in Illinois, actually).
“A Peoria Unified School District Governing Board member is suing so she can quote bible verses during meetings,” reports an Arizona news service. “Rooks was elected in 2022 to the board, and at her first meeting in January, she recited Joshua 1:9. In March, Rooks recited another verse, which caused the Freedom From Religion Foundation to send a letter in May threatening legal action. The organization claimed Rooks and another member, Rebecca Hill, were ‘using government positions to promote religion’ and said the government can’t show favoritism toward any particular religion.”
We had every right to claim this. Don’t you think? We consider her litigation as abusing judicial resources to fight a culture war.
N.C. voucher program will do harm
Our lobbying arm was busily at it, too. The FFRF Action Fund excoriated a new N.C. universal voucher program that will violate religious freedom and harm students and taxpayers.
“No one should fall for the lie that private school vouchers primarily help disadvantaged students,” says FFRF Senior Policy Counsel Ryan Jayne. “The intent of universal vouchers is to force taxpayers to pick up the bill for private religious education, including for the state’s wealthiest families, while allowing those schools to legally discriminate against students they deem unworthy.”
Secularist/theocratic legislators of the week
The Fund named Rep. Jefferson Van Drew, R-N.J., as its “Theocrat of the Week” for his grandstanding at a House Judiciary Committee meeting during which he baselessly baited Attorney General Merrick Garland as anti-Catholic. The Action Fund was delighted, on the other hand, to applaud Wisconsin state Sen. Kelda Roys for standing up against bills that anti-abortion extremists have introduced in the Assembly. FFRF is thrilled that Sen. Roys will be part of our secular legislator panel during FFRF’s 46th annual convention the weekend of Oct. 13-15 in Madison, Wis.
A stalwart member of Congress
FFRF Governmental Affairs Fellow Caitlin Berray applauded another legislator in her new blog: Rep. Hank Johnson, who scored a perfect 100 on FFRF Action Fund’s Dynamic Scorecard (launched in July). “Johnson has proven himself to be a stalwart defender of the separation of church and state, and we are grateful that his years of service have ensured a lasting, commendable legacy in Congress,” Caitlin concluded.
An encouraging new poll
FFRF celebrated a new Gallup poll showing that the percentage of Americans identifying as “nonreligious” now exceeds those identifying as “religious.”
“This poll shows that religion is simply not for a majority of Americans,” Annie Laurie commented. “The next step is to start electing officials who represent the majority of Americans no longer finding religion relevant.”
Our essay and scholarship winners
We also proudly announced a number of essay contest and scholarship winners. We awarded $19,050 to the 2023 winners of our William Schulz High School Essay Contest. We also conferred our 2023 First in the Family Forward Freethought scholarships on seven students, totaling $30,000, thanks to FFRF benefactor Lance Bredvold. “We have a worthy initiative benefiting freethinking youth from disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Annie Laurie.
The theocratic Lone Star State
We have some thought-nourishing multimedia offerings for you.
On the latest episode of the “We Dissent” podcast, hosts FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert, FFRF Attorney Liz Cavell and American Atheists Legal Director Alison Gill take a deep dive into Texas for a case study in theocratic government. The show talks about recent Christian nationalist legislation advancing in the state, the takeover of state institutions by conservative Christian legal groups and the many state/church battles their organizations have fought in Texas. Listen to the riveting discussion here.
A political voice for the ‘Nones’
Our Sunday TV show guest has made it his lifelong goal to have the voices and opinions of the “Nones” be heard in the political arena. Ron Millar, political coordinator for the Center for Freethought Equality has worked for more than 40 years for nonprofit education and advocacy groups in the nation’s capital with the endeavor of increasing the representation of humanists, atheists, agnostics and freethinkers in political campaigns and among elected officials. You can already watch him discuss his invaluable work here. Or find out where you can catch it this Sunday.
The history of state-church separation
On our Freethought Radio show this week, co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor talked with the distinguished scholar Steven K. Green about his book Separating Church and State: A History. Listen to the edifying interview (and a Dan song on the subject) here.
Let’s honor International Safe Abortion Day
FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez’s column this week honored International Safe Abortion Day.
“This Sept. 28, let’s learn from activists in Latin America,” she concluded. “In the face of a heavily Catholic culture, they have championed for abortion, reduced stigma and resisted oppression; their impact is reverberating across the globe. We secular activists have a chance to turn the tide in the United States, too.”
Reflections on International Blasphemy Day
FFRF Digital Manager Rowan Hahn has a fun (really!) rumination tomorrow on the occasion of International Blasphemy Day. Read it here.
Muslim belief in Jesus as the Messiah
FFRF columnist Jim Haught died a couple of months ago but left us a bunch of columns. In the piece of his that we utilized this week, he talks about “an odd twist of religion: Multitudes of Muslims believe that Jesus will return to Earth soon — not to spread Christianity, but to abolish it in favor of Islam.”
There are a lot of bizarre beliefs out there — which is why, with your help, we aim to free the human mind bit by bit from such notions.