Weekly Wrap: A strong start to the year

We at the Freedom From Religion Foundation are having a strong start to the year.

Our TV show launches!
This Sunday, we’re debuting our television show.

“Freethought Matters” will be running on the “Lord’s Day” every week at 11 p.m. on Madison’s CBS-affiliated Channel 3 station and can be viewed in 13 counties in Wisconsin and Illinois. Non-Madisonians will be able to watch the interviews every Monday onward on FFRF’s YouTube channel. Our first guest is Chris Johnson, a photojournalist who produced the book, A Better Life: 100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy & Meaning in a World Without God, with a film version of the same name. Future guests include heavyweights such as Harvard evolutionary psychologist and best-selling author Steven Pinker, FFRF’s honorary president; the New York Times’ newest columnist Michelle Goldberg, comedian Julia Sweeney and Nation columnist Katha Pollitt.On our bite-sized “Newsbite” video segment this week, Co-President Dan Barker gives you the inside scoop.

Watch the show every week for uniquely freethinking programming, and spread the word!Our flag is flying high
And this week, for the first time ever, our “A” flag went up on an official flagpole.“A Somersworth atheist took his turn at Citizens Place on Tuesday, raising a blue flag with a red ‘A’ on it next to the Ten Commandments monument on city property,” reports New Hampshire’s biggest newspaper. “Richard Gagnon, a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, had asked that the flag be raised in December, but agreed to have it fly in January — Diversity and Tolerance Month in Somersworth.”

The flag will be flying proudly there through the end of this month. (The red “A” was adopted by Richard Dawkins as a symbol of atheism and agnosticism.)

“The town could have easily avoided the whole commotion,” Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said. “But since they insist on paying fealty to a religious monument, we have to present an alternative perspective, too. We hope ultimately the town will decide to do the right thing and move the bible edicts off public land.”

A big one in Alaska
We’ve also achieved a big victory. Our intervention persuaded an Alaska city to nix the idea of a giveaway to a local church for repairs.

“After deliberation that spanned several meetings, St. Michael’s Cathedral will not receive $5,000 from the city for exterior work,” a radio station recently reported. “At a short meeting on Tuesday, the Sitka Assembly voted 4-3 against donating the money for renovations to the historic building. The ordinance, originally presented to the assembly on Nov. 7, continued to stir up debate over the separation of church and state.”

Hear FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne explain on our radio show this week the ramifications of the victory (in addition to a discussion of our New Hampshire flag-hoisting and an interview with former Southern Baptist minister and Clergy Project member John Compere).

Glad we were able to enlighten some folks in Alaska, even in their season of darkness. If only we could have a similar effect on some residents of the lower 48.

A regressive FEMA directive
Some officials in D.C. seem determined to think with their blinders on. FEMA recently issued a directive permitting disaster relief money to be used for repairs to houses of worship. Naturally, we protested (and asked you to contact the agency, too). “The new policy is nothing more than an opportunistic attempt to siphon funds from taxpayers to churches,” Dan commented. Couldn’t be more true.

Warning again and again
Elsewhere, we notified three North Dakota school districts about an unconstitutional event this coming Tuesday. The Todd Becker Foundation organizes proselytizing occasions in public schools and is persisting in this egregious behavior even after we launched a massive campaign against them last year. We also warned a Pennsylvania school district about a recurring religious baccalaureate ceremony.

Some people never listen.

What’s happening in Iran?
But our gaze was not confined to the national horizon. When Iran erupted in protests against the clerical regime, we invited Iranian-born secular activist Maryam Namazie to explain (via Skype from London) what exactly is going on. Take a look at “FFRF’s Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature for a cogent and convincing explanation.

We will not fail
So, this is what we’re up against, dear members. A Knoxville, Tenn., columnist compared us to ISIS, the Chinese regime and King Herod, all because we asked a nativity scene to be removed from a local governmental building.“Under the guise of legal language, the Freedom from Religion Foundation still seeks to kill Jesus,” the guy writes. “Like ISIS, communists and Herod, they too shall fail.”With your help and support, we will not fail in our quest to defeat such hatred and ignorance this year — and in the years to come.

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