Freethought NOW!

Weekly Wrap: Thomas Paine, Coach Staley, Iowa Gov. Reynolds and Todd Starnes

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A tweet from dawn staley

We love to rock the boat here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation — and we have been doing that recently in quite a noticeable way.

When we complained about University of South Carolina head basketball coach and media star Dawn Staley’s denigration of nonbelievers, it caught the eye of a major website. The Daily Beast did a long piece on the issue, extensively quoting from an interview with FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor and from FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line’s letter to the public university complaining about Staley’s over-the-top religiosity. Read the article here.

Our Oklahoma efforts create a stir
We have been heavily involved, legally and otherwise, in opposing an attempt in Oklahoma to set up a public Catholic charter school. A TV station there recently interviewed Annie Laurie to get our perspective. “As far as I’m concerned, the vote to have public funding for a Catholic virtual charter school is the greatest threat to public education in our entire country,” Annie Laurie told the station. (The state’s leading newspaper, The Oklahoman, also mentions us in a report about the controversy but, alas, it is behind a paywall.)

We’ve been getting a rise from Christian entities and individuals in response to a recent constitutional victory of ours — also in Oklahoma. When we had a school district in the state take down a massive biblical quote from a school, a publication there had a long and wrongheaded analysis of our victory titled: “Freedom from Religion Foundation forces Putnam City School District to take down Bible scripture.

The same FFRF intervention drew the wrath of Todd Starnes, former Fox News personality and a Christian nationalist from central casting. His web post (interestingly with an extensive quote from FFRF Staff Attorney Chirs Line’s letter) is almost funny.

We protected Illinois schoolkids from religious indoctrination
A valentines day card that says llama just say, I think you're WOOLY cool! Happy Valentine's day. In sharpie the words "jesus loves you!!" are written and a large cross is drawn

A Christian group has been barred from targeting an Illinois school district’s children with religious propaganda, thanks to our efforts. A concerned parent informed us that Marion Community Unit School District #2 was regularly allowing outside adults from Gum Drop Kids, a southern Illinois nonprofit, to enter a school during the school day to give low-income students food and candy — along with overtly proselytizing messages. Students have the First Amendment right to be free from religious indoctrination in their public schools, we insisted.

“I received your letter and I have made contact with one of the Gum Drops organizers; I told her that we appreciate the Gum Drops bags but I ask that moving forward there are no messages promoting religion in any way,” the superintendent replied via email. “Separation of church and state must be upheld.”

Our back and forth with a religious Ky. county clerk
A screenshot of a post from the rowan's county clerk's office wishing a happy easter

Our complaint over a county clerk website posts that crossed the constitutional line is heating up in a Kentucky county. We contacted the Rowan County Clerk’s Office in Kentucky to complain about inappropriate religious messages with images of crosses and crucifixes on Good Friday and Easter. The county clerk is compounding the violations by his continuing comments on social media about FFRF’s legal letter. Let’s see how this unfolds.

Fla. Supreme Court decides terribly on abortion ban
We deplored the Florida Supreme Court’s approval of a far-reaching abortion ban in the state. “We are confident that Floridians who value freedom from church-and-state control of this most personal decision over when and whether to become a parent will vote to undo Florida’s pernicious ban,” said Annie Laurie, referring to a constitutional amendment on the ballot there in November to enshrine abortion rights.

Iowa governor’s theocratic move
Our lobbying arm, the FFRF Action Fund, is keeping a close eye on legislative shenanigans around the country.

It denounced Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ recent signing into law of a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act (commonly known as RFRA), a blatant theocratic move that was performed at a Christian nationalist private dinner, no less. The Fund engaged with our advocates in Iowa to actively oppose the measure.

A bad Ariz. Ten Commandments bill
a relief statue of a man holding the ten commandments

We decried the passage of an Arizona bill that will allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public schools. The bill would add the Ten Commandments to the list of American history items that teachers can read aloud, teach and display in classrooms. Thankfully, Gov. Katie Hobbs will almost certainly veto the bill, and our advocates are asking her to do so.

A Christian Heritage Month Tennessee showdown
images of the secularists and theocrats of the week.

In Tennessee, there was a Christian Heritage Month clash between the Fund’s “theocrat” and “secularists.” The two Tennessee state senators that are its “Secularists of the Week,” Sens. Raumesh Akbari and Jeff Yarbro, pointed out the constitutional problems in officially designating November as “Christian Heritage Month.” The bill was introduced by none other than the Fund’s “Theocrat of the Week,” state Rep. Rusty Grills.  “We’re grateful to have Akbari and Yarbro as advocates in Tennessee’s increasingly theocratic Legislature,” commented FFRF Action Fund President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

A memorial to Thomas Paine
An image of thomas paine

Our TV show focuses this week on the “Forgotten Founder” Thomas Paine — and a planned monument to him in the nation’s capital. A pair of leading experts, Thomas Paine Memorial Association President Margaret Downey and sculptor Zenos Frudakis, are interviewed on “Freethought Matters” about the revolutionary patriot and freethinker. The two talk about how they, FFRF and others have helped pass a law to authorize a long overdue national monument to Paine in Washington, D.C. — and about how you can help. You can already watch the show, with a sneak preview of the proposed statue, on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it on television Sunday.

Binary and the bible
A photo of a nonbinary flag in the shape of a bible and the words binary and the bible

On FFRF’s “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature this week, FFRF Co-President Dan Barker and FFRF Equal Justice Works Fellow Kat Grant spoke with Astrid Gramajo, an atheist, intersex advocate and psychologist with a specialty in neuropsychology about sex and gender, and how that plays into her views on religion. Watch the interesting discussion here.

A fascinating historical figure
A photo of the person being interviewed with a picture of the museum
The feature interview on our latest Freethought Radio show focuses on a fascinating historical figure, with co-hosts Dan and Annie Laurie talking to Danielle Nagle, director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Museum in upper New York state dedicated to the 19th-century feminist, abolitionist, author of the 1893 book Woman, Church and State, and advocate for secular government.

March Madness, the Kinsey Institute and IU
FFRF Equal Justice Works Fellow Kat Grant has a delightfully written blog linking March Madness, the Kinsey Institute and Indiana University, Kat’s alma mater. While March Madness is fun, what is happening to the institute can scarcely be described with that adjective. Read more about how all of this connects.

A justified ungodly rant
A photo of a jesus in red and black with the title a justified ungodly rant

FFRF Contributing Writer and Lifetime Member Barbara Walker unleashes a justified ungodly rant in her most recent column. “The word ‘god’ invokes centuries of inexcusable lies, hatreds and prejudices, and is inappropriate in an enlightened humanistic society,” she concludes.

We are in accord with Barbara, which is why we  persist in our ungodly activities — with your crucial support — week after week.

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