Easter, churches & the coronavirus — and distracting you from the pandemic

Easter, churches & the coronavirus — and distracting you from the pandemic April 10, 2020
Amit Pal
Director of Communications
Freedom From Religion Foundation

Religion and a pandemic can be an especially deadly combination. Just ask us folks at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Oblivious to the dangers of exempting churches from coronavirus-related prohibitory orders, officials around the country are granting waivers to houses of worship in the run-up to Easter. And we are fighting them tooth and nail. We vehemently protested a recent decision by the Kansas Legislative Coordinating Council, which, on bad advice from the state attorney general, overturned a gubernatorial order banning large religious assemblies. We told our home state governor that even the narrow exception he has granted for Easter services is bound to be abused. We collaborated with a member in Florida (a state with a glaring religious exemption) to put up a billboard advising area residents to stay at home. But above all, dear member, we’ve created a resource page to provide you with salient advice on what to do when an official disregards everybody’s health for the sake of religion. Read it, absorb it, and contact us if you need to!

The Florida governor has granted a blatant religious exemption, and FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel details in a heartfelt piece the many ways this is wrong. “If Governor [Ron] DeSantis doesn’t rescind the worship exemption in his ‘Safer at Home’ order, Floridians will die,” Andrew writes in a column for Religion Dispatches.Oh, Alabama!
You won’t believe how brazenly some state-level officials have been pandering to religion. Alabama (no surprise here) has been one of the worst offenders, and our denunciations of the top two in charge of the Yellowhammer State have caught the media’s eye.“The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey Monday, criticizing her Friday press conference and demanding that she stop using her office to promote Christianity,” reports a prominent Alabama news website. “FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.”

And that same website also paid attention when we objected to the Alabama lieutenant governor’s Easter-related shenanigans.

“The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which promotes the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state, wrote a letter today asking Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth to stop using his state office to promote Christianity,” the site reported. “The letter came in response to Ainsworth’s announcement today asking Alabamians to participate in a ‘Ring for the Resurrection’ campaign to recognize Easter.”

The “biggest news of the 21st century”
With the pandemic currently occupying everyone’s minds, it may seem odd to deem another phenomenon as the “biggest news of the 21st century.” But veteran freethinker and journalist James Haught defensibly asserts that the biggest news of this century is the collapse of religion in the West. “All I can say is: Hallelujah!” James concludes. We’re proud to initiate with this offering a series of his columns that we’ll be regularly posting and sharing with you.

We worked on other issues, too
There’s little debate that the coronavirus is currently the biggest challenge we face, but this hasn’t prevented us from working on other issues. We signed on to a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court contending that the Trump administration is breaching the First Amendment in allowing religion-based exemptions from required birth-control coverage. And we mobilized you all to oppose the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed changes that would allow faith-based groups to receive funding without complying with nondiscrimination laws. Please take action, if you haven’t done so already.

An array of distractions
There’s no denying that the pandemic is proving to be a mental burden for some. So, we have an array of offerings to distract you.

We bring you Ron Reagan!
First up is our interview on our Sunday TV show with none other than Ron Reagan. Ron, who so generously recorded our iconic 30-second TV commercial, is, of course, the son of Nancy and President Ronald Reagan. During the entertaining interview, Ron discusses being a near-lifelong atheist.

“At age 12, my father came into the bedroom one Sunday morning; we were going to pile into the car and head off to the Bel Air Presbyterian Church,” he recalls during the show. “I said, ‘I’m not going. I’m done with that.’ And he was wise enough to not try and strong-arm me into it.”

Find out where you can watch the interview this weekend. Or you can always catch it on our YouTube channel. Don’t miss it!

We bring you a world-renowned philosopher
We have for you on our radio show this week the world-renowned philosopher A.C. Grayling. After we hear comfort music — including Tom Lehrer’s “Vatican Rag” — FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor chat via phone from Great Britain with the eminent scholar about his new books, The History of Philosophy and The Good State.

The “Friendly Atheist” is a “Jeopardy” star!
Did you know “Friendly Atheist” blogger Hemant Mehta was recently on “Jeopardy”? On our “Ask An Atheist” Facebook Live feature, he chats with Andrew (remotely, of course) about his appearance, as well as current state-church issues.

Whether it is attempting to bring some sense into policymaking around the pandemic or trying to take your minds off it, we’re able to do what we do only due to your generosity and continued support.


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