Weekly Report: We tackle the big guys

At the Freedom From Religion Foundation, we aren’t afraid to tackle the big guys.

What’s Ben Carson hiding?
That’s why this week, we co-filed a lawsuit against Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson (ex-neurosurgeon, continuing zealot) for repeatedly dodging records requests that CREW (a governmental watchdog group) and us have made regarding a White House bible study group. The pastor leading the bible study is an extremist with access to the highest levels of our government, and the sessions are attended by our nation’s top officials, including Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos and, of course, Ben himself.

“If this bible study is legal and aboveboard, as the Trump administration and Fox News have argued, what are they trying to hide?” asks FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.Watch Patrick Elliott, our lead counsel on the case, pithily explain the case and its significance on our bite-sized “Newsbite” segment.

Trump’s wrongheadedness
We rebuked Carson’s boss for misunderstanding the notion of religious freedom. On the anniversary of Religious Freedom Day, President Trump issued a wrongheaded proclamation inverting Thomas Jefferson’s intentions. FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel gleefully dissected it.If you want to be enlightened on what Religious Freedom Day is truly about, see our discussion on “FFRF’s Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature with Annie Laurie, Andrew and Staff Attorney Liz Cavell.
And read Andrew’s other blog, in which he connects the observance with the Masterpiece Cakeshop case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.Have you no sense of decency?
Trump gave us a lot to write about this week. After the president’s viciously disparaging comments about certain countries and their inhabitants, Annie Laurie chastised evangelicals for their mealy-mouthed response: “It’s high time to ask evangelicals the question an attorney famously once asked Sen. Joe McCarthy: Have you no sense of decency?”The Pope’s libel
When we’re going after bigwigs, why spare the pope — especially when he’s slandering child abuse victims? When Pope Francis did this during his visit to Chile, we let him have it.

Firing a shot at the Pentagon
We also faced off against Defense Secretary James Mattis, firing a missive (co-authored with American Atheists) at him about widespread unconstitutional coercion to pray in the Armed Forces. “We find rampant religious promotion within the armed services troubling,” we wrote. Mattis has yet to return our salvo.

Jeopardizing medical care
The list of federal departments being damaged by theocratic infestation is getting long. The Trump administration unveiled a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at the Department of Health and Human Services. Under the ruse of freedom of conscience, this will jeopardize health care and true freedom of conscience, we pointed out. “Health and Human Services should be urging medical professionals to adhere to the Hippocratic oath, not a bronze-age book of ignorance, superstition and bigotry,” FFRF Co-President Dan Barker asserted. We asked all of you to contact HHS and express your outrage.

In Science We Trust!
We found time in the midst of all this to help put up a secular billboard in the Atlanta area. Funded with the generosity of FFRF member Jack Egger, the sign proclaims, “In Science We Trust,” with the picture of an astronaut suspended in outer space to illustrate its slogan.

Catch our TV and radio shows
Our new television show is going strong. Feisty activist Marie Schaub, who had a Ten Commandments megalith removed from her daughter’s school, is the guest this Sunday at 11 p.m. on Madison’s CBS affiliate Channel 3 for the latest episode of “Freethought Matters,” co-hosted by Dan and Annie Laurie. It can be viewed Monday onward on FFRF’s YouTube channel. (You can also catch a sneak preview of sculptor Zenos Frudakis’ appearance next week to discuss the Clarence Darrow statue he made for FFRF.)

On this week’s radio show, we discuss timely issues and talk with Patrick about the Ben Carson lawsuit. Then, we interview an amazing father-daughter team (the daughter is 11!) that has written a unique science book for children.After confronting all the big shots and engaging in a media blitz, we still had energy left to do several other things. We thwarted officials in Des Moines from giving a church a break, we aimed to stop folks in Montgomery (what’s up with these state capitals?) from handing out tax money to a Christian school, we denounced a West Virginia bill that is intending to impose bible classes on ALL schools in the state, we protested preachers being allowed inside an Indiana public school and we warned a Tennessee school district to quit its religious social media postings.

Whew! All of this — the big kahunas, the media stuff and the relatively small ’uns — we were able to deal with only because of your backing and kindheartedness.

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