Winning, challenging, debunking and warning: a typical week

Amit Pal
Director of Communications
Freedom From Religion Foundation

Winning and challenging in the courts, debunking biblical and pseudo-constitutional arguments, and warning towns, states and universities to toe the constitutional line — it’s been a typical week for us at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

We messed with Texas — and won
​We won a big one this week: a court victory over the biggest state in the mainland United States. A judge ruled that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott violated our free speech rights when he peevishly ordered the removal of our winter solstice Bill of Rights “nativity” from the state Capitol. Hurray! Watch FFRF attorney Sam Grover, co-counsel on the case, discuss our triumph and its importance on our “Newsbite” video segment.

Stop giving an unfair break to clergy!
Our victory has made us doubly determined to prevail in another big case we’ve taken on: concluding our challenge of the discriminatory housing tax break that the IRS doles out to clergy. We filed our appeals brief this week, aiming a legal slingshot at the massive array of forces pitted against us, including pretty much every religious denomination in the country.

No biblical justification
You’d think that in this day and age an administration would not utilize the bible as justification for policy — but think again. We formally complained to Attorney General Jeff Sessions for citing Romans 13 to rationalize the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policies.

​“Sessions’ use of religion is an egregious violation of the spirit of the First Amendment,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote to the attorney general.

The AG employing the bible to explain away cruelty actually comes as no surprise to us. In a new blog, Annie Laurie reintroduced readers to Ruth Hurmence Green’s dissection of the “good book,” The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible, that lays bare the text’s repeated brutality toward children.

FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel, in a piece for the prestigious ThinkProgress website, reveals the fascinating saga of how the Trump administration came to rely on the bible for policy-making. His pathbreaking research traces it back to the White House Bible Study, a weekly religious huddle for members of the president’s cabinet organized by Ralph Drollinger of Capitol Ministries. “Jeff Sessions [will] go out the same day I teach him something and he’ll do it on camera,” Drollinger has boasted. Sadly, we’ve seen that proven true in recent days.

No date with the lord
In a prestigious constitutional journal, Andrew also debunks a ridiculous theocratic argument: that the Constitution isn’t godless because “In the Year of the Lord” is contained in the date. Talk about grasping at lordly straws.

A theocratic project to blitz us
Excitingly, Dan, Annie Laurie and I interview on Freethought Radio researcher Frederick Clarkson, who recently unearthed Project Blitz, an operation by theocratic organizations and their legislative allies to barrage statehouse with religious-minded bills. Sam and Andrew both are also on our radio show this week to talk about our Texas victory and the White House Bible Study, respectively.

Why do preachers leave the clergy?
We ask a broad question on our Facebook Live “Ask an Atheist” feature: Why are so many preachers leaving the clergy? Dan, a former minister himself and author of Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, interviews John Compere and Lon Ostrander of The Clergy Project for an engaging discussion on the subject.

The cops, a state and UConn
FFRF also focused in on specifics: We warned the Dallas police force not to entwine itself with a religious event the coming Sunday. We cautioned the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services about its use of religious material in a video for prospective parents. And we admonished the University of Connecticut for tolerating a faculty member’s forcing religious rituals and phrases upon students.

Protecting freethinkers
Sometimes, the local level is where the important action takes place. Our guest this week on our TV show, “Freethought Matters,” illustrates that. As an alder in Madison, Wis., Anita Weier was behind a unique and groundbreaking ordinance to recognize the nonreligious as a protected class. You can catch Annie Laurie and Dan interview her this Sunday at 11 p.m. in the Madison area and on our YouTube channel Monday onward. Our interview last week with irreverent Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Steve Benson is available there, along with past episodes.

Whether it’s typical, atypical or a combination — everything we do here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation we do to represent your commitment to freethought and the separation of religion from government.

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