Hometown vindication, essay prize money, blatant electioneering, and some hopeful news

Hometown vindication, essay prize money, blatant electioneering, and some hopeful news September 11, 2020

Even in a short workweek, we got a lot done here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation. After a long weekend (which we hope was restful for all of you), we charged full steam ahead as soon as we got back to work.

We felt vindicated when a Catholic order in a town adjacent to FFRF’s headquarters sold off an unused friary it had been forced to pay property taxes on, due to the efforts of FFRF Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott. The lakefront property will now be owned by and benefit the public, and ensure preservation of green space.

“The property lost its exemption from paying property taxes this year after the Freedom From Religion Foundation questioned the property’s tax status in December because it was not being used by the abbey,” a local media story reports. “The home has been vacant for several years, and the last priest from the abbey moved out in 2015.”

We had an op-ed published in our hometown paper on an issue that’s been central for us since our founding: abortion rights.

“The battle for women’s bodily autonomy is far from over,” FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Intern Barbara Alvarez wrote in the Madison, Wis., Capital Times, urging support for a congressional bill that would safeguard reproductive rights. “It is time to stop religiously motivated, medically unnecessary attempts at abortion restriction. The Women’s Health Protection Act is a big step in that direction.”

Congratulations to freethinking college students!
We proudly announced the disbursement of $23,650 to the 13 major winners and 16 honorable mentions of our 2020 Michael Hakeem Memorial Essay Contest for Ongoing College Students, one of FFRF’s five ongoing student essay competitions “There are many scholarships that reward orthodoxy of thought, so we’re delighted to offer a contest that instead rewards freethinking, and helps students with some college costs,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said.

What a Supremely alarming Trumpian shortlist
President Trump came out with an alarming shortlist of future U.S. Supreme Court appointees, and we quickly denounced it as a “nightmare of Christian Nationalism.” FFRF Co-President Dan Barker warned, “We are concerned at FFRF that our Supreme Court may be lost for a generation if any of these nominees reaches the high court.”

Please support this bill
A bill in Congress that has piqued our interest and that we’re asking you all to back is the Stop Female Genital Act, which would expand the scope of current anti-female genital mutilation laws in the United States. Please contact your U.S. representative and urge them to co-sponsor this bill against a particularly horrendous form of religious-based mutilation.

Stop all this politicking! 
Another matter that’s occupied our attention is blatant church electioneering. We’re asking the IRS to investigate a number of instances during this election season. We’re requesting the tax authorities to look into a politically partisan video rant by a Catholic priest (who warned Catholics they’ll go to hell if they vote wrong) and to initiate  a probe into unlawful politicking by a Catholic bishop who endorsed the screed. In a separate instance, we’re calling the IRS’ attention to potentially illegal political campaigning on part of the Denver Archdiocese.

“It is despicable spiritual blackmail to tell parishioners they’ll go to hell if they don’t vote the way their priest or bishop wants them to,” says Annie Laurie.

A religious disregard for pandemic science
Events surrounding us have been riling us up. The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an upsetting injunction halting some COVID-19-related school closure orders in our home county in response to a petition by a number of religious schools and parents. Chaos will reign and the coronavirus will spread as a result, FFRF warns.

A nostalgic showbiz journey
We have a fun, nostalgic radio interview for you this week. You must remember actor, singer, game-show host and TV personality John Davidson, whose fame earned him a People magazine cover profile. Dan and Annie Laurie chat with him about his long career in show business and about why he is an outspoken atheist.

An expert on Christian privilege
Our “Freethought Matters” TV show has begun its fall season in earnest. For the second episode, we have as the guest Khyati Joshi, a professor of education at Fairleigh Dickinson University who studies the intersection of race and religion with ethnicity and immigration and who is the author of the new book White Christian Privilege: The Illusion of Religious Equality in America. Find out where you can watch the show on Sunday.

“Imagine two cars going around a racetrack, and the whiteness car and the Christian car kind of side by side,” she tells Dan and Annie Laurie on the show, already available on YouTube. “But what has happened is that because we have freedom of religion enshrined in the First Amendment, the Christian car, if you will, has kind of faded to invisible, but it’s right there. And my goal in this book is to make what has been invisible, visible.”

Some hopeful news

We leave you with some hopeful news: America is functionally atheist, as our regular blogger asserts. “For most of society, daily life proceeds in a manner generally called ‘functional atheism’ (acting as if God doesn’t exist),” veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught contends in his column this week.

Although that’s great news, we still have a lot to achieve, and will accomplish all the more thanks to  your generosity and support.


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