By Amit Pal
Director of Communications
Freedom From Religion Foundation
We at the Freedom From Religion Foundation did a difficult counterbalancing act this very religious week.
Our Metropolitan Chicago chapter put up a secular display in downtown Daley Plaza for the fourth year in a row in response to an Easter shrine erected by a proselytizing group since 2011.
We also unveiled a very timely secular message in an even more famous downtown. “The only wall we need is between church and state,” reads our secular video message in lettering that is 56 feet wide and 29 feet high on a digital board in the heart of New York City’s Times Square.
It’s disappointing that members of the public need a reminder of such basic constitutional truths — but to remind them yet and again is what we’re here for.
We also laid bare the truth about another religious observance. FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel dug deep into the myth behind Passover, and what he uncovered wasn’t pretty. (Andrew amply refers to Christopher Hitchens in his piece. More on the freethinking bon vivant later.)
Gay marriage and Hitler
Andrew had thoughts to offer on a North Carolina legislator who wants to negate gay marriage — a guy, believe it or not, who recently compared Lincoln to Hitler. “Shame on Larry Pittman for abusing his secular power in this manner — and shame on the voters who have provided him a platform for his regressive views,” he writes.
Life lessons from our Ron Reagan ad
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor had a delightful blog of her own on the wildly differing reactions to our Ron Reagan ad, which had another run on national television this week. We were deluged with callers phoning our office. The nicer ones taught Annie Laurie a life lesson. “As I learn something about them, I feel not just a sense of affinity but also of affirmation that so many kind, intelligent strangers care enough to want to band together to fight for our secular government, for reason to prevail . . . really, for the Enlightenment,” she writes.
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that it happened during Easter week, but an outrageous bill that allows an Alabama church to have its own police force recently advanced in the state Legislature. Naturally, we politely but firmly let Alabama lawmakers know what we feel about the proposal.
At the national level, we don’t even have to seek the attention of our lawmakers. The folks on Capitol Hill seem to be noticing us anyway. More than a dozen members of Congress and senators wrote a letter opposing FFRF and supporting religious ceremonies at an Air National Guard base in New Hampshire. We responded to the base authorities — and to our elected representatives. Andrew also wrote a letter to New Hampshire’s main newspaper explaining why its editorial on the issue thoroughly misrepresented the situation.
Andrew notched up a wonderful victory for FFRF, too. An Oklahoma school district actually asked Andrew for help in modifying its policies after we alerted it to overly religious performances by the marching band. Sweet!
Letter after letter
Our Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne had his hands full sending out letters to as many as 15 school districts in Missouri to protest a faith-based organization being used in these districts for teaching abstinence-only sexual education. “It is inappropriate for a public school to allow an organization widely reputed for pushing a religious agenda to speak to a captive student audience, especially when coupled with inaccurate and potentially dangerous medical advice,” Ryan wrote. No kidding.
As you can see, with your help and backing, we were doing a whole lot of good this Good Friday week, though the faithful may not see it that way.
P.S. Our radio show this week focuses on freethinker extraordinaire Christopher Hitchens, whose birthday was yesterday. Listen to our interview from 10 years ago with the late British-American intellectual.
FFRF is a national nonprofit dedicated to keeping state and church separate and educating about nontheism. For more information and a copy of our paper, Freethought Today, please click here.