Winter Solstice celebrations, secular outcomes, media play and must-read columns

We at the Freedom From Religion Foundation have been in a mixed mode this week — part celebratory and part cautionary.

We commemorated Bill of Rights Day with an urgent full-page ad in Wednesday’s New York Times. The text warns: “The scales of justice have been alarmingly tipped in favor of a privileged status for religion in our country.” Help us engage in such advertising by donating to our fund that we’ve established for just this purpose.

Installing secular displays (with your help)
To celebrate the Winter Solstice, as well as to counter religious displays in public spaces, we’ve been installing exhibits all over the country with the assistance of our members. With a controversial history of being challenged by the city of Shelton, Conn., and being vandalized, a Winter Solstice display to counter religious paraphernalia in a city park has once again been put up by FFRF members Jerry Bloom and John Levin. Our secular sign — placed next to a massive holiday tree — is back for the season (with the help of member Ted Shellhamer and his son) in the Milwaukee County Courthouse. And we’ve once more constructed a secular Winter Solstice display — consisting of two eye-catching portions — in San Diego this holiday season due to the initiative of a San Diego freethinker who prefers to remain anonymous. Further up the coast, FFRF member Lewis Foerster is unfurling a Winter Solstice banner this Saturday, Dec. 18, at the Washington state Capitol in Olympia. Thank you all!

Join us for a Winter Solstice celebration Sunday
We’re also having a Solstice celebration on our Sunday TV show, and we’d like you to join us. “Freethought Matters” co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor guide us on a warm personal and historical tour of the Solstice, which heralds the symbolic rebirth of the sun and the natural New Year. And FFRF Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott goes on the road to explain constitutional versus unconstitutional Christmas displays. Plus, there are musical treats. You can already watch the show on our YouTube channel. Or find where you can catch it Sunday.

Hurray for secular outcomes!
There were some positive secular outcomes recently. We applauded the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to allow abortion medication to be received by mail (even as we urged the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which codifies abortion rights). We commended the U.S. Supreme Court for denying a request from religious anti-vaxxers to block a Covid-19 vaccine mandate. And we complimented our home state Attorney General Josh Kaul for announcing that he would not prosecute anyone should a Supreme Court ruling activate Wisconsin’s law criminalizing abortion.

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Keeping constitutional vigilance
However, we registered our constitutional objections to a lot going wrong at the state and local levels. We submitted written testimony to the Ohio Senate in opposition to a bill mandating a public school moment of silence (part of an unfortunate national trend). We yet again called timeout on a Georgia school district for its multiple violations of the U.S. Constitution. We demanded that a North Carolina sheriff’s office take down a massive display of a devout New Testament slogan emblazoned on its wall. And we threw a penalty flag on a prayerful Indiana coach.

Some good cheer
We had a victory and some nice media play to cheer us up. We stopped an Iowa public school coach from propagating a Christian message to his football players. “Our tipoff had the desired effect,” Dan Barker remarked. And FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel was interviewed at length on North Dakota public radio about the U.S. Constitution. By the way, Andrew’s op-ed that we sent out last week on the Supreme Court presidential reform commission has done quite well, running in papers ranging from Newsday to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

A comprehensive farewell abortion rights column
FFRF Reproductive Rights Intern Barbara Alvarez is, alas, leaving us, and her farewell column gives us a comprehensive lesson on how reproductive health is a state/church issue in multiple ways. Barbara appeared on our radio show this week to talk with Freethought Radio co-hosts Dan and Annie Laurie about her column, and then we remembered Tom Flynn of the Council for Secular Humanism, who died this year, by hearing the 2006 interview he did for us about his book The Trouble With Christmas.

A couple of well-written pieces
We have a couple of engaging columns for you to read. FFRF Legal Fellow Dr. Karen Heineman draws on her expertise as a veterinarian to talk about the misbegotten “hair of the dog that bit you” notion, including how it relates to vaccines. And veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught pens a lovely piece about how the forest in his home state of West Virginia is his church.

Columns like these — along with your unremitting support — enhance the positive aspects, and diminish the negative, of weeks like the one that has just gone by.

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