A Supreme disaster, a congressional agenda, a prayerful governor & a Hollywood legend

A Supreme disaster, a congressional agenda, a prayerful governor & a Hollywood legend December 4, 2020
Amit Pal
Director of Communications
Freedom From Religion Foundation

We at the Freedom From Religion Foundation hit the ground running when we came back to work from the Thanksgiving holiday.

We had to: The Supreme Court dramatically issued a decision minutes before midnight on the eve of Thanksgiving enjoining New York state’s pandemic policy that limited some church gatherings.“This ruling clearly signals that the new SCOTUS majority is ready to move full steam ahead to weaponize and redefine religious liberty at the expense of the protections of the Establishment Clause separating religion from government,” we emphasized in our response. “And the consequences, in this case, may be deadly.”

In a column for Religion Dispatches, FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel spells out the judgment’s worrisome implications.

“The shockwaves from this bomb will echo for a long time,” he concludes. “Americans will suffer, both from COVID and shutdowns. Essentially, the five justices have made it so that if governments want to stop the spread, they have to shut everything down. Not only will they suffer, but Americans will die because these five justices see religious freedom as a license to exempt believers from laws.”

Andrew got together with FFRF Litigation Counsel Sam Grover on FFRF’s “Ask An Atheist” Facebook Live feature to do a deep dive into the decision — and its consequences for the future of state/church litigation.

Advancing our agenda on Capitol Hill
Our point person on Capitol Hill, Director of Governmental Affairs Mark Dann, is trying to make sure that with the change of administration, the secular agenda is reflected in the new Congress.

“We need your dues, but more than that, we need members,” Mark urges. “We need numbers. Membership equals power. Politicians listen to their constituents. They might not do exactly what you want, but when citizens speak up, politicians prioritize. Members in the upcoming Congress and in statehouses across the country are trying to figure out what must be prioritized and what can wait. Let’s make some ‘good trouble’ together and get moving.”

With Mark’s help, we recently coordinated with like-minded groups and the Secular Coalition for America to release an agenda for the incoming Congress and administration. Find out what all it contains.

Repeal the proclamation, Gov. Stitt!
At the same time, we’re keeping a close watch on gubernatorial mansions and statehouses. That’s how, when the Oklahoma governor issued a prayerful proclamation as a response to the pandemic (!), we were able to swiftly demand that he withdraw it.

“Gov. Kevin Stitt is being asked to rescind his call for a day of prayer and fasting on Thursday for those impacted by COVID-19,” the Tulsa paper reports. “In a Tuesday letter to Stitt, the Freedom from Religion Foundation said the governor should not use his office and state resources to promote his personal religious beliefs.”

Hollywood star John Davidson on “Freethought Matters”
We have for you on our Sunday television show a legendary multitalented Hollywood personality who has also been a near lifelong atheist. Singer and actor John Davidson was the host of several fondly remembered TV shows, including “That’s Incredible,” “The $100,000 Pyramid” and, most famously, “The New Hollywood Squares.” He hosted his own variety show for a season, was one of the most frequent guest hosts on Johnny Carson’s show and has starred in several TV series, movies and theatrical productions.
“I had these discussions with my dad, but they wouldn’t go anywhere because my dad would say: ‘Well, look at the good that Christianity has done,’” Davidson, the son of two Baptist ministers, tells “Freethought Matters” co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. “And I would say: ‘Look at the harm that Christianity has done.’ I lived in Mexico, as I know Dan did for a while. And I would see these poor, poor Mexican people come in and light a candle and give their last couple of pesos to the church, which has billions of dollars in Rome, and be brainwashed into giving money so that they could be happy.”You can already watch the show on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it this Sunday.

An interview with a church music director turned atheist performer
On our radio show this week, after talking about the Supreme Court decision, the Oklahoma governor and Davidson, Annie Laurie and Dan chat with former church music director Steven Phelps, now an atheist songwriter and performer in Nashville.

Adventures in the Bible Belt
Veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught has some fun tales to recount from his days as an Appalachia newspaper reporter and editor.“Those were heady days in the Bible Belt, before evangelists created million-dollar TV empires and became the ayatollahs of the Republican Party,” he writes. “The holy rovers of yesteryear provided marvelous theater. Today’s mountain religion seems pale in comparison.”
Please consider a gift
“Giving Tuesday” was this week, and we appealed to you to make our work “go viral.” Please help FFRF ensure that reason and our secular Constitution will prevail through an end-of-the-year gift. It’s only because of you that we’re able to do all that we do.
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