National prominence, local activity, a multimedia treat and big ideas

National prominence, local activity, a multimedia treat and big ideas February 19, 2021

We at the Freedom From Religion Foundation made our mark this week at the national level and in small-town America.

We’re on ‘Morning Joe’
Our iconic “unabashed atheist” Ron Reagan ad aired for the first time on “Morning Joe” for a run of two weeks. “We’re delighted to be taking our message to MSNBC’s early-bird viewers now, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our member Jim Zerwick,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. (To make possible such ad appearances, you can earmark a donation to FFRF’s advertising fund.)

Don’t resuscitate a bad White House office
We pilloried the Biden administration’s resurrection of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Our lawsuit over the creation of a faith-based office in the White House went all the way in 2007 to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the court basically ruled that FFRF (and, in fact, no one) has the right to challenge the creation of the White House faith-based office, it did not rule on the merits of our case. That office is indeed unconstitutional — and misused for political purposes.

Our law student essay contest is open!
We announced our third annual essay competition for law school students attending a North American law school, with thousands of dollars in scholarships. This year’s topic explores a change in Supreme Court interpretation that has become central to state/church litigation. The deadline is June 15. Please spread the word!

Our attempts to stop a million-dollar-plus boondoggle
Then there was all our activity at the local level. We first created ripples by trying to get to the bottom of a church-building project in Kentucky using public funds. The Lexington newspaper published a piece on our efforts that’s one of its most read recent articles. “Taxpayer dollars going to a church is inappropriate and not how we do certain things in America,” FFRF Attorney Chris Line told a local TV station. We followed up by demanding that FEMA rescind a proposed $1.2 million handout for the church/shelter construction.

Fostering activism
We’ve also been fostering state- and local-level activism around the country. We alerted Kentuckians about a bill that would allow religion-based discrimination. We cautioned Tennesseeans about extremely dangerous bills that would expand religious vaccine exemptions. We warned Nebraskans about a bill that would require all schools to display “In God We Trust.” We asked South Dakota members to help combat two extremist anti-abortion bills. We raised a red flag over a proposed expansion of Florida’s school voucher system. And we spotlighted several bad Covid-related Missouri Legislature bills jeopardizing public health. If you live in one of these affected states and want more information, you can access the alerts here.

A member of America’s most disreputable family
We have a fascinating multimedia package for you this week.

A freethinker who escaped America’s possibly most notorious fundamentalist family cult — the Westboro Baptist Church — is interviewed on our TV show this Sunday. Nate Phelps talks about what it was like to grow up in this church and his abusive family. He tells some pretty shocking stories — and the poignant moment when he  came to embrace freethought. You can already watch the new episode of “Freethought Matters” on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch the show Sunday.

An actress’ transition from Christianity to atheism
On our “Ask an Atheist,” Facebook Live feature, FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel talked to actress Alice Greczyn (“Lincoln Heights”) about her new book, Wayward: A Memoir of Spiritual Warfare and Sexual Purity. It tells the story of her transition from belief to atheism — and how it inspired her to set up a resource to help others in similar situations.

The Big Oil-religion nexus
Our radio show this week went from Black History to Black Gold. We first listened to the voice of the freethinking NAACP founder W.E.B. Du Bois and the music of nonreligious African-American composers. Then, FFRF Co-President Dan Barker and I interviewed Professor Darren Dochuk, author of Anointed with Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America, a globe-traversing book with a fascinating cast of characters, including the Rockefellers and Billy Graham.

The shunning of a Congressman
Our bloggers are dealing with big themes. FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern Barbara Alvarez writes about the phenomenon of shunning, using as an example the bizarre public letter relatives of an Illinois member of Congress sent him as condemnation for his vote to impeach Donald Trump.

“Perhaps one of the most painful experiences recounted by those who leave religion is being shunned by their family, friends and community,” she writes. “Shunning, a social control mechanism that is used to punish those who violate a group’s rules, practices and norms, may include exile and banishment, as well as cutting off communication and relationships.”

Blasphemy through the ages
And veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught charts how the notion of blasphemy has developed through the ages.

“As prehistoric tribes evolved into early civilizations, tribal shamans were succeeded by elaborate priesthoods claiming to represent hundreds of magical gods,” he begins. “Priestcraft became a complex profession and gained enormous power over societies. One way to guarantee the high status of priests was to inflict severe punishment on anyone who might question their supernatural connections. Thus blasphemy laws were born.”

Dealing with big ideas, unearthing religious boondoggles, making a national splash and nurturing local activism — we’re able to do so much only due to you.


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