Justice Ginsburg, a court filing, a legal symposium and a multimedia cultural treat

Justice Ginsburg, a court filing, a legal symposium and a multimedia cultural treat September 25, 2020
Amit Pal
Director of Communications
Freedom From Religion Foundation
As you would expect, the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg late on Sept. 18 preoccupied us here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation this week.

We started formulating our response the moment we got back into the office. “To repeat and second the dying words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it is the most fervent wish of the Freedom From Religion Foundation that she will not be replaced until 2021,” we stated. We urged you, our members, to call your senators to demand that a new justice not be nominated and confirmed until after the inauguration in 2021. And we insisted that senators should ask judicial nominees about their religion.

“Senators are required by the Constitution to advise and consent on judicial nominees,” we said. “If senators refuse to ask such questions, they are not practicing tolerance and pluralism, they are abandoning their duty and their oath of office.”

Not surprisingly, we dedicated our “Ask An Atheist” Facebook Live feature this week to the late Supreme Court justice. Watch FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert, Nick Little from the Center For Inquiry and Alison Gill from American Atheists discuss the life and legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

And now we’re busy drafting multiple press releases, one each for all the likely candidates from which Trump will pick the nominee on Saturday! Look for FFRF’s reaction to the Trump nomination tomorrow shortly after it is scheduled to be announced about 5 p.m. Eastern, at ffrf.org/news. And look for follow-up analysis and action alerts from FFRF throughout this process.

But despite the Supreme Court battle weighing heavily on our minds, we got a lot else accomplished, too.

Our filing against a Nativity scene
We filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Indiana asking an appeals court to rule that a Nativity display at an Indiana county courthouse is unconstitutional, attracting media attention.

“The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a brief asking the court to uphold the original ruling,” a local newspaper reported. “The group’s filing, drafted by attorneys Chris Line, Patrick Elliott and Legal Director Rebecca Markert, argues the display is nonsecular and dismissive of other religions county residents may practice.”Any doubt about that?

A symposium on state & church
We were very excited to support a virtual symposium this Friday at the Roger Williams University School of Law in which some of the best minds in the country spoke on the separation between state and church. The symposium was previously scheduled on  March 27 at the main Roger Williams University campus in Bristol, R.I., but had to be rescheduled with a virtual format due to the pandemic. “An examination of the claims by some that the United States is a ‘Christian nation’ is needed now more than ever,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Objecting to Pompeo and the FEC chairman
We had enough bandwidth remaining to take on two top U.S. officials. We denounced Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s use of his office — yet again — to advance his personal religious beliefs in a recent speech. And we asked the Federal Election Commission chairman to withdraw a series of deeply misleading statements made during an interview with a deeply problematic media outlet. “This interview deliberately misled churches and encouraged them to violate the law,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote to FEC Chairman James Trainor III.Alerting the IRS
We also alerted the IRS to potential electioneering violations related to a Kansas state Senate candidate’s campaign. The media took note here, too.

“The case has garnered the attention of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group that advocates for the separation of church and state,” the local paper reported. “The group lodged a complaint Thursday with the IRS, according to Madeline Ziegler, a staff attorney with FFRF. The letter argued that the tax-exempt status of the organizations involved should be reviewed.”

A “Star Trek” celebrity on our TV show
We have a multimedia cultural treat for you this week. Actor and FFRF After-Life Member John de Lancie of “Star Trek” “Q” fame is the celebrity guest on “Freethought Matters” this Sunday. Dan and Annie Laurie first talk to de Lancie about a new play he’s written on the attempt to sneak in creationism into public schools. The show then airs de Lancie’s inspiring COVID-era graduation address for the Secular Student Alliance the past spring. You can watch the show anytime on our YouTube channel. Or find out where and when you can catch it on Sunday.

Lots of culture on our radio show, too
We also have a culturally infused radio show. After a briefing by FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel about what you can do to protest the hasty decision to hold Supreme Court confirmation hearings, we talk with the director of Black Nonbelievers of DC, Rogiérs, and play some of his music. He explains why he went from worship leader to atheist activist and discusses the speaker series “Legacy: The Story of Dissent Through the Years,” which acknowledges the contribution of black freethinkers. Then Margaret Downey, founder and president of the Freethought Society, announces the “Secular Day of the Dead” celebration to be held on Nov. 1.
A freethinker’s testimony
Our weekly blogger provides us in his new column a wonderful account of how he was a freethinker in West Virginia — even when he was the editor of the state’s most prominent newspaper.“As you may guess, it was a bit precarious for a crusading agnostic to run a newspaper in the heart of the Bible Belt,” Jim Haught writes. “I didn’t hide my beliefs; my books were reviewed in the paper. There was no fundamentalist outcry. But I tried not to flaunt my skepticism before churchgoing readers. Endlessly in editorials, I attacked religious attempts to ban abortion, to censor movies and magazines, to halt sex education, to outlaw stripper clubs, to distribute bibles in schools, to restore the death penalty, to teach children creationism, to provide tax-paid vouchers for church schools — but I did it in purely secular language.”

Please register and vote!

We want to leave you with a message to vote — and instructions on how to do so during these uncertain times. Register and vote like your secular rights depend on it . . . because they do.
You know we’re looking out for you. Our members are our foundation, after all, week in and week out.

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