A good victory, inspiring life stories, a bad decision and an ugly conference

A good victory, inspiring life stories, a bad decision and an ugly conference March 5, 2021

We at the Freedom From Religion Foundation were grappling with the good, the bad and the ugly this week.

First the good. We obtained a major victory for free speech and secularism in Alabama. An Alabama resident contacted us after being told that a request for a personalized “S8TAN” plate was “offensive to the peace and dignity of the state of Alabama” and would not be issued. We intervened and …

“FFRF announced yesterday that their efforts were finally successful,” Hemant Mehta writes on his popular Friendly Atheist blog. “The person in question (who asked to remain anonymous) finally got approval for the license plate.” Note: This license plate refers to the slightly tongue-in-cheek Satanic Temple, which exists in part to further state/church separation.

Mobilizing all of you
We mobilized you all early in the week for a Day of Action around an important bill. The Do No Harm Act, reintroduced Monday in the House by more than 100 co-sponsors, would make certain that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act is no longer used to privilege religionists and deny civil rights to the rest of us. Dozens of groups (including us) have endorsed the bill — and we asked you to join in helping get it passed.

There were several state-level bills that we also brought to your attention. The New Hampshire Legislature and the Illinois Statehouse are considering bills that would permit public schools in the state to display “In God We Trust” in every building. And the Florida Legislature is advancing a pro-voucher, anti-vaccine bill that would jeopardize secular public education. We asked those of you living in these states to contact your legislators and ask them to do the right thing.

A new state law to applaud
FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Intern Barbara Alvarez spotted a recently passed state law to cheer about. In “FFRF applauds New Mexico’s decision to uphold abortion rights,” Barbara spotlights a recent move by the New Mexico Legislature to annul a 1969 state statute criminalizing abortion.

Remembering secular women during Women’s History Month
Barbara has also been drawing inspiration during Women’s History Month from freethinking women who blazed a trail for women’s rights.

“As secular citizens, we can be inspired by our freethinking foremothers to continue the necessary fight for the separation of state and church,” she concludes her second blog of the week. “Women’s History Month is an important reminder of that duty.”

A reel & real-life hero on our TV show
We have a real and reel-life hero on our TV show Sunday. Sushant Singh is a well-known Indian movie and TV actor and presenter who identifies as an atheist and has been in the forefront of protests against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalism. At our next convention, Singh will be receiving our Avijit Roy Courage Award of $5,000 for his brave outspokenness. You can already watch our interview with him (with Sushant talking to us from his car parked on the side of a Mumbai street!) on our YouTube channel.  Or find out where you can catch it on Sunday.

Nine decades of progress in a single lifetime
On our radio show, we celebrated on a range of fronts: from Women’s History Month and the Do No Harm Act to our license plate victory in Alabama. Then, we spoke with James Haught, 89, our regular blogger and editor emeritus of the West Virginia Charleston Gazette, about the nine decades of incredible progress he has seen in his lifetime.

Why so many gods?
In his blog for us this week, Haught wonders: Why are there so many gods in religions around the world?

“If you’re mentally honest, you might see a simple answer: The number of gods and invisible spirits is zero,” he ripostes. “They’re all figments of the imagination.”

Black, gay and unafraid
We have an inspirational tale for you on our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature. Ben Needham from the Human Rights Campaign joins us to talk about the Equality Act but also about what it was like growing up gay and black in Mississippi — and how those experiences helped shape his lifelong fight for social justice.

A terrible Supreme decision
Unfortunately, we had to contend with the bad and ugly this week, too.
The U.S. Supreme Court engaged yet again in religiously preferential pandemic conduct by blocking local health regulations seeking to slow Covid-19’s spread via indoor worship services. “This decision is not based on the science, but on privileging churches,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor remarked.

An ugly canard
And then there was the ugly. Sen. Tommy Tuberville repeated an old canard on the Senate floor — and we took him to task for it.

“Two groups that promote religious secularism are taking aim at Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s inaugural Senate floor speech in which the former college football coach advocated bringing ‘God and prayer back into schools,’” reports a leading Alabama news site. “Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State issued statements Tuesday condemning the freshman senator for wrongly suggesting that prayer had been removed from U.S. public schools.”

But if you wanted to see truly ugly stuff, you had to witness the CPAC conference — a “horror show,” as we termed it, with Christian nationalism on full display. Read our dissection of what happened there over the past weekend.

Last, but not the least, we have a request: You’re invited to take the Secular Communities Survey, endorsed by the Secular Coalition for America, of which FFRF is a part, and put on by the University of California at Santa Barbara. This study is confidential, voluntary and will help researchers understand the perspectives of nonreligious people — taking only a few minutes of your time. (You will also be receiving an email inviting you to take this survey this weekend.)

Please fill out the survey if you can. Your input is important, and it’s only due to you that we can deal with the good, the bad and the ugly each week.


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