Even in the aftermath of a disastrous Supreme Court confirmation, we had enough bandwidth to do a bunch of other things this week — including filing a lawsuit against the IRS.
Certainly, we deplored Brett Kavanaugh’s ascendancy to the court — and vowed to redouble our efforts. “If you’re wringing your hands, you can’t roll up your sleeves, as former U.S. Rep. Patricia Schroeder once wisely observed,” we said.
And FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor spotted a silver lining in the whole mess.
“We at the Freedom From Religion Foundation have been heart-warmed by support since Kavanaugh’s confirmation, from individuals and freethinkers who’ve sent emails, messages, new memberships and donations, telling us they know what a vital role FFRF has played and will need to play in the future,” she wrote in a blog. “Thank you. We cannot tell you how much your messages and your support mean.”
Kavanaugh is already having a deleterious effect. On the very day of his confirmation, the leader of an ultraconservative religious hate group filed a lawsuit claiming that Christian employers are entitled to a religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act, in the hope that Kavanaugh will give this argument a friendly hearing. Don’t worry, we’re there for you. “Americans are not interested in unraveling decades of progress, and FFRF will be there to fight for secular America even against a Supreme Court that will bend over backward to give religion favored status under the law,” FFRF Co-President Dan Barker remarked.
During the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, we had repeatedly implored you to contact your senators. We have an efficient mechanism in place for that. On our “Newsbite” segment, FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel explains how easy it is to become part of our Action Alert system. (Spoiler alert: Text FFRF to 52886.)
We sued the IRS!
Kavanaugh was just a fraction of it. On Thursday, we filed a lawsuit in D.C. District Court against the IRS on behalf of our charitable arm, Nonbelief Relief. The IRS refused a request by Nonbelief Relief to be excused from registering the annual Form 990 information return that churches are exempt from filing and instead revoked its tax-exempt status. “We’re just doing the same thing that churches do, and church-related groups, and they do not lose their tax exemption for not filing, so why should we?” Annie Laurie, who is also the administrator of Nonbelief Relief, told the Religion News Service.
Actually, the IRS occupied a lot of our spectrum this week. We urged it to approve a proposed rule change that would end a voucher boondoggle for private schools, the vast majority religiously affiliated. And we applauded a Treasury Department report that confirmed IRS laxness in in failing to investigate electioneering churches that violate a politicking ban applying to all 501 (c)(3) nonprofits.
Taking on Roy Moore and the Kentucky guv
You’d think that taking on Kavanaugh and IRS would have kept us from doing much else. No, siree. In fact, we had enough strength left to tussle with two old antagonists.
When disgraced former Alabama Supreme Court Justice (and failed Senate candidate) Roy Moore gave schools in his home state erroneous advice, we sent a letter to every school district there correcting him. And we rebuked Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin for attempting to impose the bible on his state. “The governor of Kentucky needs to heed the words of one of its most celebrated sons, Sen. Henry Clay: ‘All religions united with government are more or less inimical to liberty. All, separated from government, are compatible with liberty,’” we reminded him.
FFRF Legal Fellow Colin McNamara was on our radio show this week to talk about Bevin’s shenanigans. We also interviewed Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association and author of the book Creating Change Through Humanism.
Go back to the 1950s, John Birchers!
Colin received notice in a publication from another era: the New American, the mouthpiece of the John Birch Society. (Yes, the organization still exists.) The writer berated him (and us) for a constitutional victory we recently obtained in Massachusetts. Go back to the 1950s, guys!
Creating a ruckus — and installing a billboard
We had enough energy left over even after taking on these theocrats to cause an unprecedented ruckus in small-town Pennsylvania — and to put up a billboard in Denver.“Emotional outbursts, spontaneous applause, and shouts of ‘right on’ and ‘you said it, brother’ punctuated the Oct. 6 Honesdale Borough Council meeting,” reports a local paper. “All part of the public comment segment preceding the agenda, the palpable outrage was in response to a June letter from the nonprofit organization Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) to Honesdale mayor Sarah Canfield threatening legal action if the star and cross that light Irving Cliff during Christmas and Easter holiday seasons are not removed from borough property.”Our project in Denver was a more fun one: We arranged for a 14-by-48-foot billboard presenting a secular play on the national motto. “We need to place our trust not in some deity to rescue us, but in reason, compassion and humanity,” Annie Laurie remarked. Thank you to donor Monty Cleworth for underwriting these costs.
Here at home, we challenged a chaplaincy program that the Wisconsin attorney general recently announced — consisting only of Christian, white men. “Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said qualified secular therapists would be a better option for DOJ employees who need support,” the local paper reported.Wait! There’s more.We released the results of an online poll (of 8,500 individuals) that reveals how energized secular voters are. “Our survey shows that politicians can tap into this potent force with the right message, and leave the religious pandering behind.” Annie Laurie remarked.
Why is God so unpleasant?
Dan and I had fun on this week’s “Ask an Atheist.” We were dissecting the nature of God — or, rather, why his personality is so deficient. Riffing off of his book, ‘God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All of Fiction,’ Dan discussed God’s various nasty characteristics. Take a look!
Interviewing a brave survivor
This week, our TV show, “Freethought Matters,” features a brave survivor of an extremist attack whose husband was killed in the same melee. Rafida “Bonya” Ahmed, a humanist campaigner, author and moderator of the award-winning Bengali blog, Mukto-Mona, was grievously wounded in a 2015 attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that killed her husband Avijit Roy, a well-known Bangladeshi-American atheist activist and writer. Check out if the show, which broadcasts in eight major markets, plays in your area.And in Madison, Wis., on Channel 3 at 11 p.m. on Sunday, we have jazz great and freethinker Ben Sidran, who, in addition to talking about his (non)beliefs and life, performs two memorable songs.From Kavanaugh to music to the IRS to chaplains, we have it all covered — and only due to your backing and generosity.