College basketball, pro-natalists, folk songs and the Church — what a lineup

College basketball, pro-natalists, folk songs and the Church — what a lineup February 22, 2019

This week here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, we had to show our adeptness in a range of subjects and in a wide variety of media environments.

Remembering black freethinkers
In honor of Black History Month, we engaged in a unique compilation of African-American freethinkers, ranging from James Baldwin and Frederick Douglass to Scott Joplin and Thelonius Monk. Take a look here and educate yourself on a neglected aspect of our historical secular legacy.

Hey Coach Barnes, stick to basketball!
We took on University of Tennessee’s head basketball coach Rick Barnes — a coach who, unfortunately, adds big doses of religion into his playbook.

“Rick Barnes is misusing his power and prestige,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Students should not be pressured to pray to play. Some of his players are even having Christian tattoos carved in their bodies — and that is not in keeping with the role Barnes is supposed to play at a secular institution.”

Urging Catholics to leave the Church
Our Chicago-area billboard campaign urging Catholics to abandon the Church continued apace. Our new billboard, stating “Value children over dogma,” depicting a uniformed little girl with her hands in her face with the message, “It’s time to leave the Catholic Church,” can be seen on the Kennedy Expressway till mid-March. The forceful message is generously underwritten by an FFRF member using settlement money he received from his diocese after being molested by a priest at the age of 13.

Please don’t teach such ABCs
We also stepped into the realm of social media, asking a Tennessee public school district to stop posting messages, such as “In GOD East trusts!!!!!!” and “Now I know my ABCs…next time won’t you PRAY with me!!!” (with an accompanying picture captioned, “the ABC’s of Praying for Students”). We generally don’t object to cheesy gimmicks to get kids to learn their alphabet, but make an exception when this violates the Constitution.

Watch our spots!
We’re proudly multimedia here at FFRF, but have a special fondness for television. So, we were delighted when PBS stations nationwide this week started re-airing a short feature on us and freethought. The spot is guaranteed to broadcast 500 times in the next three months and reach 3 million people. Keep an eye out for it and please thank your local station when it runs the first-of-its-kind feature.

Folkishly musical television
Speaking of television, we have a scintillating guest on this week’s “Freethought Matters” who crosses over into yet another realm. Singer/songwriter Kristin Lems (composer of 300 songs) is a legend of the topical folksong movement. Kristin actually performs two songs on the show, including the freethought anthem, “Die Gedanken Sind Frei,” accompanied by FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. You can watch it Sunday morning in eight cities (listings here ) or catch it on YouTube.

What’s common between Trump and Viktor Orban?
Annie Laurie penned a blog on a subject she has expertise on: women’s reproductive rights. She expressed her alarm at the rise of pro-natalist religiously motivated leaders such as President Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. “The pro-natalist trend here and abroad, signaling a “Handmaid’s Tale”-esque nationalization of women’s uteruses, is grave cause for concern, for women and our rights, and for our troubled and overpopulated world increasingly dominated by religiously nationalist strongmen,” she wrote.

No state seals on bibles!
We even had to weigh in on a subject that we normally don’t tackle: state seals. When South Dakota state legislators recently received bibles (apparently produced by a North Carolina-based Christian ministry) emblazoned with the seal of South Dakota on the cover, we urged the state to revoke its authorization for this. “Giving permission for the state seal to be printed on bible covers sends a clear message that the state of South Dakota endorses the messages in the bible,” we wrote to South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett.

Going up to Capitol Hill
To defend the rights of freethinkers, we do a fair amount of traveling, including to Capitol Hill. FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert tells us more in our “Newsbite” video segment about her recent D.C. trip, along with Annie Laurie and FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel.

See Dan in the South (& Alaska and ….)
When it comes to traveling, no one can outdo Dan — and he seems to be topping himself in the coming weeks. You can see his schedule here; he’ll be everywhere from the South to Alaska. Go see him if you’re in the neighborhood!

Dan and Annie Laurie will actually be traveling abroad next month — all the way to Poland for a global freethought conference. On our radio show this week, they talk with Nina Sankari, the organizer of the get-together, after speaking with Mandisa Thomas, who chats with them about an October “Women of Color Beyond Belief” conference in Chicago that FFRF is co-sponsoring.

Boy, we have to be well versed in so much and express ourselves in so many ways — and we are able to do all of it only due to your support.

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