Eye-catching actions, a painful confirmation process, a distinguished guest & Black freethought

Eye-catching actions, a painful confirmation process, a distinguished guest & Black freethought October 16, 2020

We did our bit for freethought and secularism this week here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation — and got some attention while doing so.

“An investigation within Jasper School District follows a complaint alleging Head Football Coach Joey Ballard led players in prayer before games,” reported a Missouri paper. “The Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a letter to the school district on behalf of the parent of a player. The foundation argues that it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer, citing Supreme Court cases that have struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools.”

You bet it’s a constitutional violation — and we’re glad that we’ve prodded the school district to deal with the issue.

Take down that painting, cops!
Our request to the Shreveport, La., Police Department to take down a Jesus portrait is also drawing attention.

“The Freedom From Religion Foundation has written a letter to Chief Ben Raymond and Shreveport Police Department, requesting that they take down a painting depicting Jesus and remove a series of poems,” states an article on a prominent regional news portal. “According to an issued document, a concerned community member contacted the state/church watchdog to report that a portrait of Christianity’s messiah is ‘prominently’ displayed in a police department hallway where members of the public wait to be interviewed by police officers. FFRF says they have also been informed about a series of poems titled ‘My Story of Jesus’ that have been posted in common workspaces.”

We’re surveilling the cops to see how they respond.

We stopped a Christian group’s access to student-athletes
We persuaded a North Carolina school district to stop the unconstitutional access that it was granting a Christian organization to its athletes. The district’s legal counsel recently informed us: “I have discussed your concerns with the superintendent. He has, and will again, emphasize to principals and athletic directors that outside groups like the FCA [Fellowship of Christian Athletes] may not proselytize to students.”

Yipee-yay!

Escaping Barrett’s cult
Of course, we kept a close eye on Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett and her confirmation hearings. On our Facebook Live “Ask an Atheist” show, FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor and Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel were joined by Coral Theill, a former member of the group called “People of Praise” that Barrett and her family belong to. Theill is the author of a tell-all book about escaping this cult. She asked to testify at Barrett’s hearing and submitted testimony but Sen. Lindsey Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, refused her request. Theill told Annie Laurie about her grueling experience of subjugation, marital rape and losing custody of her many children due to the cult. Andrew, using clips from the hearing, provided a chilling look at Barrett’s testimony.

How you can help
We’ve asked you a number of times over the past some weeks for your help in thwarting Barrett’s confirmation. We have another option for you: Making patch-through calls by working with one of our allied partners. You’ll automatically be able to call favorable constituents in critical states, explain why Barrett must be stopped, then immediately and automatically connect the constituent with their senators’ offices. Please sign up! We also co-hosted a National State/Church Call-In Day on Friday requesting you to call your senators and insisting they oppose the confirmation.

Barrett’s threat to women’s rights
FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern Barbara Alvarez detailed the damage that Barrett could do to women’s rights — and outlined three congressional bills that could help mitigate some of that damage. “A secular nation should not allow the religious motivations of the few to dictate the reproductive care of women at home and across the globe,” she concluded.

A terrible congressional request
We kept an eye on Capitol Hill, too, denouncing an appeal by an assortment of church groups to Congress urging a drastic increase in the amount of taxpayer funds for church security costs. “Churches want all the benefits of state/church separation, but none of the burdens,” charged FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Blasphemy isn’t a crime!
We did some work internationally, as well, condemning the persecution of an Algerian freethinker, sentenced on Oct. 8 to 10 years imprisonment and a fine for reportedly “inciting atheism” and “offending Islam.” “Blasphemy is a victimless crime,” said Dan, “but unfortunately blasphemy laws are victimizing all too many freethinkers, atheists and religious minorities.”

An incredible public figure on our TV show
We have the privilege of presenting to you on our TV show Sunday an amazing public figure: legislative stalwart and civil rights and feminist pioneer U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton. See her lovely explanation about why she’s always full of optimism. You can already catch the show on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can watch it Sunday.

A history of Black freethinkers
Freethought among people of color is a relatively neglected scholarly field, and this week on our radio show we have as our guest someone who has helped remedy that. Dan and Annie Laurie talked with professor Christopher Cameron about his invaluable new book Black Freethinkers: A History of African American Secularism. They also provide a rundown on Barrett’s testimony with the help of telling audio clips.

We need to trust in our science
Our regular blogger Jim Haught is asking us to trust in science — even when the answers are complicated.

“Findings by science can seem nearly as absurd as the miracle claims of religion — but there’s a crucial difference: Science is honest,” the veteran freethinker and writer is reminding us. “Nothing is accepted by blind faith. Every claim is challenged, tested, double-tested and triple-tested until it fails or survives as true. Often, new evidence alters former conclusions.”

With your help and generosity, we’re trying to make sure that science, secularism and freethought prevail in this country — bit by bit.


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