Weekly Wrap: Steven Pinker, Irving Berlin, Ken Ham … and a Lone Star disturbance

Weekly Wrap: Steven Pinker, Irving Berlin, Ken Ham … and a Lone Star disturbance May 10, 2019

Amit Pal

Director of Communications

Freedom From Religion Foundation

Some weeks, the work we do here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation causes a major uproar, and this was one of those weeks.A letter we sent out to a Texas county asking for the removal of crosses (lit up during the holiday season) on a courthouse received quite a response from the local population. So many folks (hundreds, actually) showed up at a county board meeting that the venue had to be changed.

We laid out our case in clear constitutional language.“‘These crosses unabashedly create the perception of government endorsement of Christianity,’ an attorney for the national organization, based in Wisconsin, said in a letter to the local judge, Fritz Faulkner,” says the news report. “In its letter, FFRF said, ‘a concerned Coldspring resident’ reported the crosses, which the organization called ‘a blatant violation of the Establishment clause’ of the Constitution.”

We also mobilized those of you in the area to make your secular voices heard.

Alas, the county commissioners refused to heed common sense and the law and voted to retain the crosses. Not only that. The Texas AG office is backing them up and maligning us in the process. We sent out a befitting reply. “The Lone Star State deserves better — much better,” we concluded.

Not Really ‘God Bless America’
Another place we’ve generated a controversy is at a Pennsylvania school that we advised not to append “God Bless America” to the end of the Pledge of Allegiance. After the school complied with our advice, the story was covered by national media, including The Hill, a paper that usually covers Congress, and a slew of right-wing news sites.

Ironically, Irving Berlin, the legendary composer of “God Bless America,” was an agnostic and quite certainly wrote the song for commercial reasons, FFRF Co-President Dan Barker explains in an informative blog. Learn more about one of the greatest songwriters ever, whose birth anniversary is coming up this weekend.Do the right thing, Texas
We got more positive news coverage, too. FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel’s op-ed decrying a pending Texas Statehouse bill that aims to allow Ten Commandments displays in public school got published in both the San Antonio and the Austin newspapers.

“The Texas House should do the right thing and cast a vote for the Constitution by voting against HB 307,” Andrew wrote.

Steven Pinker ad endorsing us runs on ‘CBS This Morning’
We’re also creating ripples on television this weekend. The ad with renowned intellectual Steven Pinker endorsing us is running on “CBS This Morning” the rest of May. The distinguished Harvard professor and best-selling author, who serves as FFRF’s first honorary president, urges viewers in the 30-second advertisement to join FFRF in its fight to prevent religion from creeping into U.S. government. Sign up, folks!

Washington Post makes note of our case
The Washington Post took note this week of a case we filed against the Trump Administration for its non-enforcement of a ban on church electioneering, a legal move that forced it to admit that it was fibbing: “But in an August 2017 legal filing, the Justice Department said Trump’s executive order did not lift restrictions on religious organizations.” That was us who filed the case!Dan Barker — and his life journey
FFRF Co-President Dan Barker also knows how to create waves, and he doesn’t disappoint in his recent blog, “Is God a Rapist?”

“According to the bible, God not only commands and condones rape,” Dan starts his hard-hitting commentary. “He actually commits it himself.”

As some of you may know, Dan has made a fascinating journey from preacher to freethinker, and on this week’s “Freethought Matters” TV show he tells his tale. (Check out the listings nationwide.) You can also catch the show on ourYouTube channel.

Religiously avoiding vaccines
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor took on the anti-vaxxer movement — and its significant religious component — in her blog on the recurrence of measles in the United States and globally.

“Perhaps some good will come out of this situation,” she concludes. “Perhaps it will spur legislators to finally show some backbone and save the lives of innocent children by standing up to the Christian Science lobby and other religionists and eliminating in general religious exemptions for health care.”

We can only hope.

An extreme Georgia abortion law
Annie Laurie also decried the recently passed extreme Georgia abortion banlaw. “We need to be marching in the streets here, protesting in the state capitols and demanding that legislators and political candidates pledge to protect abortion rights,” she writes.

On our radio show this week, we listen to an impassioned debate in the Georgia Statehouse about the measure, and then talk with FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel about his hot-off-the-presses book The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American. Buy a copy here.

Ripples of a more encouraging sort
We created ripples of a more encouraging sort in North Carolina, where a charter school promised to remedy numerous constitutional violations. “Quality Education shall take all reasonable efforts to remain in compliance with federal and state legal laws.” We’ll try to make sure that the school sticks to its word.And we’re hoping that an Illinois township will refrain from officially sponsoring trips to boondoggles like Ken Ham’s ark park and the Creation Museum. Check out the township’s cheesy promotional flyer!

So, there you have it! We’re creating a stir all over the country, educating and agitating in so many different ways, and all only due to your support.

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