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Weekly Wrap: Thomas Paine, secular holiday displays, Supreme Court — and a sense of achievement

We at Freedom From Religion Foundation had quite a sense of accomplishment this week.

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We were delighted that a congressional committee unanimously approved a bill to authorize a Thomas Paine memorial in the nation’s capital. FFRF has long championed the bill and is optimistic about its chances on the House floor, given the unanimous committee vote.

“We would like to thank the bill’s sponsors, Reps. Jamie Raskin and Victoria Sparks, for their leadership in advancing the bill,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.

We made a Ga. school district take action
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A Georgia school district has promised corrective action against a proselytizing middle school teacher due to our efforts. We had demanded that the district haul up a reading enrichment teacher who openly bragged on Facebook about using her position to convert students to Christianity. “In response to your letter, my client investigated the allegations and took corrective action to ensure compliance with Gwinnett County Board of Education policy, applicable federal statutes, and constitutional principles,” the school district’s legal counsel recently responded.

Our holiday displays around the country
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With your enthusiastic help, we’ve put up secular holiday displays nationwide — often overcoming hurdles of various sorts. Our sign returned to San Diego after suffering unconscionable vandalism during its last stint. Our winter solstice display went up in an Illinois township for the first time despite opposition from local officials. Our solstice sign is back in the Milwaukee County Courthouse for the 12th year. And our secular exhibit can be seen at the New Hampshire Statehouse for the fifth consecutive year. Thanks to our members who enable our secular perspective to be seen around the country!

Our farewell tribute to Trevor Noah
We paid farewell tribute to Trevor Noah, the departing host of “The Daily Show,” by airing our iconic Ron Reagan commercial during his last week. “The ad has run on some truly landmark programs, including ‘The Daily Show’ during its final Trevor Noah days,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.

Follow us on Instagram (& join our legislative webinar)
We’re excited to announce that we have officially joined Instagram. Please follow us at @ffrf_official for weekly updates and content. And we hope you can join us for an interactive webinar as we prepare to advocate for secular legislation at the state level. On Thursday, Dec. 22, at noon Central (1 p.m. Eastern), we will break down trends that we expect to see across the states, talk about why state-level policies are important, and show how you can use your voice to influence those policies. Please sign up here.

No “corrective” Christian prayers!
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Put a stop to “corrective” prayer invocations in Lake County, we insisted to a Florida board of county commissioners. On Dec. 6, Central Florida Freethought Community Director Joseph Richardson delivered a secular and inclusive invocation before the board. Immediately afterward, the invocation was “corrected” by the delivery of a Christian prayer in response.

“This is the THIRD TIME over the years this has happened to me where a governmental body has decided that my invocation is insufficient and added a prayer,” says Richardson. “It is frustrating and disappointing that this continues to happen. But it is also why we continue to participate in the process and speak up about these discriminatory practices.”

A Supreme (Court) mess
We keep a close eye on the Supreme Court, and it disappointed us again this week. It heard oral arguments in a case brought by an anti-gay business owner against the state of Colorado — and the signs don’t look too promising. “The Supreme Court never should have taken this manufactured case, and the argument today underscores that this case is detached from reality,” said FFRF Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott. When Donald Trump last weekend called for the “termination” of constitutional provisions, we pointed out that many constitutional provisions are already being “terminated” . . . by the ultraextremist Supreme Court that he fashioned. That’s why we are working for court reform and expansion, before it is too late. Patrick, FFRF Associate Counsel Liz Cavell and FFRF Fellow Kat Grant, hosted a discussion on our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature about the Colorado case, breaking it down and talking about how the arguments went before the court. Watch it here.

Leading abortion rights activist on our TV show
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The guest on our “Freethought Matters” Sunday TV show is very familiar with the Supreme Court. Amy Hagstrom Miller won the lawsuit Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt before the court in 2016, in which she successfully challenged abortion regulations that create an undue burden on the patient. And in 2021, And she was the lead plaintiff in a challenge of the infamous Texas bill SB 8, the first abortion ban tied to a civil bounty law. She is the founder of Whole Woman’s Health, a series of clinics providing abortion and gynecological services in many parts of the country, and the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, which exists to remove the stigma around providing quality abortion care. You can already watch the riveting interview on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it Sunday.

We need to defend contraception access
FFRF Contributing Writer Barbara Alvarez deals with reproductive rights in her column, too, asserting that with the endangering of contraception access. We need secular advocacy now. “We must defend abortion AND contraception — not either/or,” she concludes.

A warning about religious threats to our democracy
On the main segment of our Freethought Radio show this week, we listen to Professor Anthea Butler, author of White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America and contributor to the 1619 Project, deliver her “Do Mess With Texas” speech at FFRF’s recent annual convention in San Antonio, which warned about religious threats to democracy.

The problem of religion
Religion is a planetary problem, Annie Laurie demonstrates in her global round-up of news items — from the United States to Iran and Indonesia — that you may have missed this week. There is a gleam of light, however. A just-released survey shows a dramatic decline of Christians in the United Kingdom. As a British science education lecturer remarks, critical thinking may be obtaining a foothold in the United Kingdom. Let’s hope that it extends to the rest of the world.

Why our columnist feels at peace near his end
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Veteran freethinker and nonagenarian writer Jim Haught has penned for us a poignant reflection on mortality. “Here’s a reason I feel inner peace about my approaching end: Our secular humanist cause has won hundreds of victories during my nine decades, and I have a wishful faith that it will continue to win after I’m gone,” he says.

We in the secular movement have been able to obtain these victories only due to the unstinting support of folks such as you.

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