Happy spring: Victories, denunciations, court cases and multimedia treats

Happy spring: Victories, denunciations, court cases and multimedia treats March 19, 2021

The Freedom From Religion Foundation achieved a great deal in this week before the official start of spring.

We started out by having FFRF Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott quoted in USA Today on a pending U.S. Supreme Court regarding a Catholic foster care agency that is claiming a right to discriminate in public contracts. Way to go, Patrick!

What a prayerful pandemic failure!
We also pointed out the complete failure of Trump’s call for a pandemic Day of Prayer one year ago. More than 540,000 Americans have died in the interval. Trump’s proclamation proves correct FFRF principal founder Anne Gaylor’s adage that “Nothing fails like prayer,” we commented.

Biblically justifying gun rights
We called out a Louisiana congressman for his religious rhetoric delivered on the floor of the House in opposition to gun control. “This argument is not only at odds with reality and reason,” we wrote to Rep. Clay Higgins, “but is also inappropriate because we are a secular nation whose laws are not based on the religious whims of our elected representatives.”

The Ga. killer’s religiosity
The inappropriateness of Higgins’ arguments were made grimly clear with the horrific mass murder spree targeting Asian-American women in Georgia on Tuesday. We perceived the religiosity of the assailant very early on, and focused on that in our condemnation. “Let’s follow the facts and not whitewash any possible religious motivation any more than we would for racism or misogyny,” we concluded.

Yay, Scotland!

In contrast, we applauded Scotland for voting to repeal its blasphemy law. “Blasphemy is a victimless crime,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, “but laws against blasphemy can become a life-and-death matter.”

So many wins!
We obtained a number of constitutional victories. An Indiana school district won’t have a prayer now. The local newspaper gave us full credit for that (as did the school board president).

“As a reaction to court opinions and a letter from that watchdog group [i.e., yours truly!] , the board unanimously eliminated the prayer in favor of being neutral with a moment of silence so people can contemplate whatever they wish,” the paper reported. “The letter was written by FFRF representative Joseph McDonald.”

A Pennsylvania public school district, too, discontinued injecting religion into each school board meeting after FFRF Attorney Maddy Ziegler contacted it. The superintendent informed us via email that “this practice has ceased and will no longer continue.” Yipee!

The state of Michigan also corrected an unconstitutional entanglement following our intervention. Official required study materials for Michigan’s Department of Insurance and Financial Services for those who wish to become licensed insurance agents were promoting religiosity. The director of the department informed us that after our letter of protest, the conflation of religion and ethics has been removed from these materials.

Read how we “sprang into action”
Our denunciation of a proselytizing, hateful West Virginia teacher got attention in a popular freethought blog. Hemant Mehta in his Friendly Atheist blog explains how we “sprang into action” after a concerned parent contacted us. Read the whole story.

Condemning the Catholic Church and religious schools
We urged yet again that Catholics leave the Church after the Vatican recurrently displayed bigotry against LGBTQ folks. And we decried once more the diversion of billions of taxpayer dollars to private, mostly religious schools, this time in the recently passed $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

FDA should end religiously motivated restrictions
FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern Barbara Alvarez wrote an incisive blog this week on the FDA’s unnecessary religiously motivated restriction on abortion medication.

“We must put the pressure on our legislators and presidential administration,” she concluded. “Let’s demand that they stand up for science by protecting abortion care.”

Einstein was a brilliant skeptic

Veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught focused on Einstein this week — his brilliance and his skepticism. You’ll learn a lot from this piece.

Celebrating Thomas Paine
We have a multimedia bonanza for you. On our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature, Tom Paine was the focus. U.K. cartoonist Paul Fitzgerald, renowned sculptor Zenos Frudakis and Margaret Downey, the founder and president of the Freethought Society, joined Dan and Annie Laurie to discuss how they are memorializing the forgotten Founding Father, an ardent freethinker, with graphic books and statues.

Rep. Jerry McNerney on our TV show Sunday
A public figure helping to advance freethought in our day and age is the guest on our TV show Sunday. Rep. Jerry McNerney, a co-founder of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, has represented the 9th district in California (the Stockton area) since 2006. He explains to Dan and Annie Laurie the purposes of the caucus. You can already watch the show on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it Sunday.

What is the connection between atheism and health?
On our radio show, after we hear of our recent legal victories from FFRF Attorney Maddy Ziegler, we speak with Professor David Speed of the University of New Brunswick, author of a new study about religion and health with some surprising findings.

We involved you
And, of course, we couldn’t have a week where we weren’t directly involving you. We asked for your help in ending child marriage in New York and ensuring equitable access to menstrual products in Oregon, both problems exacerbated by religion. And we’re appealing for help from those of you in Arizona to help thwart a bill that would declare religious services “an essential service” and make it virtually impossible for the state to impose health, safety or occupancy requirements on church services due to an emergency.

We always have you in mind, since everything we achieve — week in and week out — is all due to you.

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