From puppy abusers and school boards to clergy giveaways and college football, we at the Freedom From Religion Foundation tackled an amazing range of things recently.
We took a Texas sheriff to task after he arranged a prayer gathering as punishment for a person charged with leaving puppies at a dumpster.
“Newton County Sheriff Billy Rowles came under fire this week by a national atheist organization for allegedly having a ‘prayer meeting’ with a woman accused of abandoning puppies,” reports AP. “After the Freedom From Religion Foundation received at least one complaint from a resident about the so-called prayer meeting, the Wisconsin-based foundation sent a letter to Rowles objecting to his use of religious language, calling it ‘alarming and unacceptable.’”
Rowles claims that he used the phrase “prayer meeting” figuratively in his official report describing the incident. Yeah, right.
Tackling football religiosity
It’s football season, and so our warning to Auburn University to put a halt to a prayerful chaplaincy created a media splash.
“The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) said in a press release that it sent Auburn an open records request in 2014, asking for information related to football Chaplain Chette Williams,” the local paper reported. “The church-and-state watchdog decided to continue its efforts ‘to stop the unconstitutionally excessive piety in Auburn University’s football program’ after a video surfaced of Williams leading the team in prayer before Auburn’s Homecoming game against Southern Mississippi on Sept. 29.”
A media spotlight on a clergy freebie
Our more hardcore legal work this week also received press attention — in fact, lots of it. The Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, Politico and a bunch of other outlets reported on our oral arguments before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals as part of our case against a massively unfair clergy housing tax handout.
“Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor calls it the foundation’s ‘David vs. Goliath fight,’ because the housing allowance is supported by virtually every organized religion,” the Chicago Tribune Reported.
On our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature, FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel actually interviewed FFRF Co-President Dan Barker and FFRF Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott via Skype at the Chicago courthouse where the case was being heard. The wonders of technology. Watch me chat on our “Newsbite” segment with Andrew and Patrick (this time in the studio) about this case and another important challenge that FFRF is litigating: to open up the U.S. Congress to freethinkers.
We obtained a number of victories this week for the First Amendment without having to go to court. In a major triumph for science-based education (thanks to you), the Arizona Department of Education abandoned its plans to de-emphasize evolution and pander to creationists in its public schools. And an Alabama high school football coach will cease the unconstitutional practice of leading his team in prayer prior to games after a letter from us.
Another state’s board of education proved yet again its regressive worldview recently.“The Texas State Board of Education is rewriting history,” Andrew stated in a blog. “The Board’s proposals to cut out Helen Keller and Hillary Clinton have stoked the culture war, but they’ve also overshadowed a more alarming historical revision: the Board’s claim that Moses and the Ten Commandments were a crucial influence on the Founders.”
Before we let you go, a reminder of our coming star-studded convention in San Francisco the first weekend of November. Registration is now closed, but we’ll be having major coverage of all the happenings in our paper, Freethought Today. And in a sneak preview especially for you, we have an interview on our radio show this week with feminist icon Cecile Richards, who’ll be illuminating the gathering.
This Sunday on the national edition of our TV show, “Freethought Matters,” Dan and Annie Laurie interview the San Francisco-based atheist author and blogger Greta Christina. (Check out the timings for your area.) Others can watch the show on FFRF’s YouTube Channel. And for those folks living at our home base of Madison, Wis., we offer for your edification Mandisa Thomas, founder and president of Black Nonbelievers, this Sunday 11 p.m. on Channel 3 (and available soon on YouTube).