A monumental week for FFRF

A monumental week for FFRF September 14, 2018

Bailey Nachreiner-Mackesey
Editorial Assistant
Freedom From Religion Foundation

Filling you in on some constitutional wins 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation scored some major victories this week both in and out of court. A 34-foot cross on public land was ruled unconstitutional by an appeals court, we brought the secular viewpoint to the Religious News Association conference, and Mike Huckabee is afraid of us — all good news.

First Amendment shines in Fla. cross case

FFRF, with American Humanists, scored a giant victory this week in the sunshine state when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s judgment that a 34-foot-tall cross in a Pensacola city park is unconstitutional and must come down.

The three-judge panel begrudgingly affirmed a district court decision citing a previous decision by that appeals court, ACLU v. Rabun (from 1983), with virtually identical facts, that had found a similar cross on public land unconstitutional. The panel cannot disregard that precedent without it being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, or without the full court of the 11th Circuit overruling itself.

However, the appeals court decision appeared to be at cross purposes. In fact it is unprecedented not only because the judges indicated they did not want to rule in the Constitution’s favor, but also because two of the judges on the panel wrote separately to urge the full court to rehear the case en banc. We welcome the judgment, though, regardless of the undercurrents!

“Reason and the Constitution have prevailed,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The court has affirmed that individuals of minority faiths or no faith at all are full citizens of this country and may not be excluded or proselytized by their government.”

Watch FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert, co-counsel on the Pensacola case, dive into the significance of this decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, in this very brief video.

News travels fast

Four of our staff members — Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, Director of Communications Amit Pal, Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel, and Constitutional Attorney Liz Cavell — took a quick trip to Columbus this week to bring the freethought viewpoint to the annual Religious News Association conference.

On Thursday, the four gave a panel presentation on “The Battle of Church and State in the Trump Era.” Amit, who usually writes the weekly wrap, will be at the national conference over the weekend to promote FFRF’s work to religion reporters.

Mike Huckabee: “I’m afraid” 

FFRF took Mike Huckabee and the Citizens United Foundation to task for scurrilously using our name as a fundraising gimmick.

FFRF recently obtained a recent letter that Huckabee wrote for the Citizens United Foundation (yes, that Citizens United). The undated letter entirely devoted to attacking FFRF runs to 10 pages and includes a request for a minimum donation of $22 and a petition that recipients are to sign and return to Citizens United. The letter states that it will be mailed to 2 million Americans. (For a fun point-by-point refutation, read the letter with FFRF’s annotations here.)

FFRF sent a letter formally requesting that Mike Huckabee and the Citizens United Foundation cease disseminating what is calls their smear letter and other lies about FFRF in an attempt to build a $44 million theocratic warchest.

If you’re like to help FFRF stick it to Mike Huckabee and Citizens United, you may make a donation (deductible for income-tax purposes) to FFRF’s Legal Fund here.

Write-on!

FFRF is proud to announce the 18 winners of the 2018 Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Contest.

College students were asked to write a personal persuasive essay about, “Why you are an unabashed freethinker, and not afraid of burning in hell.”

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979. This contest is named for the late Michael Hakeem, a sociology professor who was an FFRF board chair and active atheist known by generations of University of Wisconsin-Madison students for fine-tuning their reasoning skills.

“We firmly believe our scholarship program rewarding young freethinkers is one of FFRF’s most important activities,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.

The Constitution, looking pretty good for 231 years old

We partnered with our Portland chapter to place a full-page advertisement in the Sunday Portland Oregonian to celebrate “Our Godless Constitution” and the 231st anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution.

Cheryl Kolbe, director of FFRF Portland Area, notes that on July 4, Hobby Lobby ran a full-page ad in the Oregonian.

“Misleading sources and distortions were used to attempt to falsely imply that we are a Christian nation,” Kolbe says. “Our Portland chapter, with FFRF, is very pleased to set the record straight. A secular government gives all of us the freedom to believe or disbelieve as we like. This is true religious freedom for all.”

Get out the secular vote

In partnership with our Denver chapter, we brought a 14-by-48 feet billboard to Denver this week featuring the message “I’m an atheist and I vote” and the faces of freethinking Millennials (all FFRF staff or young supporters, by the way).

As anticipation mounts for November’s mid-term elections, these billboards serve as timely reminders of the importance of getting out the secular vote and holding elected officials accountable to making reason-based policy decisions.

“It’s high time candidates start wooing those of us – the nearly one-quarter of Americans who are nonreligious and that will only happen if we turn out at the polls,” says Claudette StPierre, president of the Denver Chapter of FFRF. “We care about improving this world and we need to be heard.”

Tune-In

This week on Freethought Radio, Dan Barker spoke with U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (of California) who founded the historial Freethought Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Huffman will be speaking at FFRF’s upcoming annual convention.

Additionally, FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert came into the Stephen Uhl Friendly Atheist Studio to report two state/church victories including the recent court victory in Pensacola and a our successful complaint to West Virginia school district prompting them to stop Christian prayers over the loudspeakers at high-school football games.

FFRF’s ‘Ask an Atheist’ Facebook Live! Tackles Kavanaugh

Dan, joined by FFRF Attorneys Patrick Elliot and Ryan Jayne, dissect Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s alarming views on the Establishment Clause and religious liberty. Ask an Atheist is lively, informal and gives you a chance to watch live via Faceebook and send comments and questions. Never fear — if you can’t watch, the videos are posted on FFRF’s YouTube Channel.

Watch ‘Freethought Matters’ . . . because freethought Matters.

If you live in one of the eight new cities now airing FFRF’s new TV talkshow, ‘Freethought Matters’ (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, Seattle, Washington, D.C.) look for an interview with scintillating science educator and journalist Cara Santa Maria on Sunday morning. (If you don’t, or miss the broadcast, view ‘Freethought Matters’ on FFRF’s YouTube Channel.

In Madison, Wis., a new episode will turn the tables on co-host Dan Barker, who is interviewed about his personal “losing faith in faith” story.

If you live in one of these viewing areas, find out time and channel to watch here.

Did we mention our annual convention?

Speaking of our Annual FFRF National Convention, have you snagged your spot yet?

Our convention in San Francisco is fast-approaching and rooms are going quickly!

Convention registration is only $60 per member, $65 per companion to member, $110 non-member (or join FFRF for $40 and save $10!). The convention opens at noon Friday and continues through Saturday night, with membership and State Representative meetings taking place Sunday morning, Nov. 5. Register or find out more.

And there you have it, folks, another bustling week at FFRF protecting our First Amendment rights. A big thank you to you, our members, who keep the secular fight alive!

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