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Weekly Wrap: The Supreme Court, NYC Mayor Adams, William Shakespeare and narco pastors

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Supreme Court Weekly Wrap: The Supreme Court, NYC Mayor Adams, William Shakespeare and narco pastors

The Supreme Court was the focus of our attention this week at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, handing down a bunch of varied judgments on issues of concern to us.

Its ruling today in a case brought by an anti-gay business owner against the state of Colorado will embolden religious bigots to deny service to LGBTQ-plus Americans. FFRF had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case arguing that the challenge was manufactured from the outset. “In the years to come, businesses may begin discriminating against couples seeking to marry because of their religion or lack of religion,” warns FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert.

The high court also issued a narrow judgment “clarifying” the standard for evaluating religious accommodations in the workplace in a case (Groff v. DeJoy) involving a postal worker who refused to work Sundays, while refusing to overrule longstanding precedent. It could have been worse — much worse. FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor says, “FFRF is thankful that the court took a more restrained approach and did not overturn precedent.”

Just hours after the Supreme Court released its opinion, FFRF’s Liz Cavell and Patrick Elliott dissected the Groff decision in a bonus episode of FFRF’s “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature. Watch the scintillating discussion here.

In another ruling, the court thwarted a major threat to our democracy by rejecting the so-called “independent state legislature” theory. This notion is an extreme argument that would remove any checks on state legislative power over elections. “The Supreme Court has demonstrated that even in these partisan times, it can boost our secular democracy,” says Annie Laurie.

No chaplains in schools!
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There were a bunch of actions we undertook on the behalf of our secular Constitution this week — and the media paid attention.

Allowing chaplains in public schools would violate the state and U.S. constitutions, we insisted in a joint letter with other prominent national groups that was sent to Texas school boards and charter schools. A new Texas law allowing this “would create an unconstitutional, untenable situation,” FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover told a San Antonio TV station.

Ban the bible!
We demanded that a Colorado school district ban the bible due to its sexual and violent content after it banned several books at the behest of a local anti-LGBTQ organization.

“The bible should be removed from a school district’s libraries because of its explicit and inappropriate sexual and violent content, according to a parent in the Academy 20 district in Colorado Springs,” stated a major Colorado Public Radio story. “Backed by the national Freedom From Religion Foundation, parent Rob Rogers made the request after El Paso County’s largest school district banned several books at the request of a local conservative anti-LGBTQ group.”

A reminder to Mayor Adams
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We once again reminded New York City Mayor Eric Adams of his constitutional obligation to respect the principle of state/church separation.

“Mayor Adams’ hostility toward the Establishment Clause is deeply disturbing and troubling,” we wrote. “The mayor of New York is not chosen by God, but by We the People.”

We insisted that a college board stop prayers
We requested that the New College of Florida Board of Trustees (taken over by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis) end the practice of opening each meeting with Christian prayers. “Board members are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote in a letter to Board Chair Debra A. Jenks.

Our long-gestating victory
And we had a victory to show for our efforts. After complaints from us and a sustained campaign by local freethinking groups, a hilltop cross has been removed from public property in California — at least for now. The city of Albany got rid of the cross from Albany Hill Park on June 8. Yay!

Narco-pastors in Latin America
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On Freethought Radio this week, yours truly and regular co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor engaged in a fascinating interview with The Progressive journalist Jeff Abbott about how right-wing evangelicalism and narco-trafficking are affecting Latin America and about the ties between Christian nationalists there and here in the United States.

Drag show activism
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On Wednesday’s regularly scheduled episode of “Ask an Atheist,” FFRF Director of Governmental Affairs Mark Dann and FFRF Equal Justice Works Fellow Kat Grant talked with drag performer Naomi Dix about confronting the far right, how she rallied her community against organized bigotry, and the anti-drag performer bills advancing across the country.  As a bonus, Dix also gave fashion advice to some of America’s leading Christian nationalists.

An appeal to Southern Baptist women
Southern Baptist women: Please stay home next Sunday, advises Annie Laurie in a recent blog. The Southern Baptist Convention earlier this month shamefully purged women from church leadership, along with some churches with women pastors. “How disappointing to see these Southern Baptist women clinging to a religion that reviles and repudiates them,” she concludes.

How to advance women’s rights
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FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez has a concrete recommendation for advancing women’s rights. As many as 22 million individuals of reproductive age currently live in the 20 states where abortion is either completely illegal or largely inaccessible. The Abortion Justice Act, introduced a few days ago by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, would make abortion available without barriers throughout the country. “It can build a stronger future where people can make their own health care decisions that are based on reason — not religion,” writes Barbara.

A primer on LGBTQ rights
LGBTQ-plus rights are under attack, too, and Kat Grant’s blog provides a primer on the subject. “The fight for LGBTQIA+ rights is not only about civil, sexual and human autonomy but is also a state/church issue,” Kat explains.

Was Shakespeare a believer?
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Was Shakespeare a skeptic? Veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught’s new column explores this tantalizing subject. “Whether Shakespeare believed supernatural dogmas remains a topic of debate,” Haught writes in this fascinating little-attempted exploration of humankind’s most famous writer.

Donald Trump’s rapturous reception
FFRF’s lobbying arm, the FFRF Action Fund, was busy at work, too. It took note of the rapturous reception that Donald Trump received at a recent Faith & Freedom Coalition gathering in Washington, D.C. The ex-president boasted about his record on abortion, which seems to be the litmus test for GOP presidential candidates.

Lauding Colo. legislators and a diss to a member of Congress
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And for a change of pace, the Fund named the entire group of 24 nonreligious Colorado state legislators as its “Secularists of the Week” while censuring a member of Congress who is seeking to suppress actions to remedy state/church violations in the military.

“We applaud the growing numbers of state legislators who openly identify as having no religion and are ensuring that we ‘Nones’ finally have representation,” said Annie Laurie, FFRF Action Fund president. “But Rep. Mike Turner’s autocratic move to target a state/church group in the defense bill shows the alarming power of Christian nationalism in Congress.”

This is the immense amount of work we do within a week in the defense of secular ideals  — all due to your unrelenting support.

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