Religion, presidents, Inauguration ceremonies and the Capitol attack

Religion, presidents, Inauguration ceremonies and the Capitol attack January 22, 2021

The new president has been sworn in, the previous president has left the stage — and we at the Freedom From Religion Foundation have been on the ball during the transition.

As our final response to outgoing President Trump, we excoriated his last-minute Christian Nationalist vanity projects: a 1776 Commission report seeking to rewrite American history through the lens of Christian identity, and a National Garden of American Heroes, a statuary park to “reflect the awesome splendor of our country’s timeless exceptionalism” (to quote the departing Trumpians). We’re delighted to see that the Biden administration has already revoked the racist, revisionist 1776 Commission and we’ll be urging it to undo other Trump administration damage to the Establishment Clause.


In legal developments, FFRF is  one of several groups that filed suit on Tuesday against the Trump administration for rolling back civil rights protections on its final day in office (!) for beneficiaries of federal programs.

“The Trump administration’s perversion of religious freedom continued till, literally, its last day,” remarked FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’re determined to ensure that individuals not believing in the majority creed know their rights and are empowered to protect themselves against discrimination and marginalization while receiving vital social services.”


We had words of wisdom for our new president. FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel wrote a column for The Progressive magazine ahead of the Inaugural urging Joe Biden to stick to the Constitution and drop God from the presidential oath. Andrew explained that the Constitution doesn’t contain the language “so help me God” for the swearing-in ceremony, and that the first 26 presidents adhered faithfully to the prescribed text. Biden ought to return to our secular roots and the oath as it is written, Andrew concluded.

Alas, Biden didn’t heed our advice — and we took him to task for it. During the much-anticipated Inauguration ceremony, we wrote, it’s unfortunate that President Biden, while trumpeting a message of unity, remained tone deaf about the divisiveness of religious rhetoric. We “Nones” have work to do!

Annie Laurie penned a blog decrying the significant religious component of the Inaugural observances.

“One aspect of the Tuesday [memorial event for Covid-19 victims] was not at all lovely to me: the decision to single out Cardinal Wilton Gregory to join this elite group of four, to deliver an invocation to a nation tuned in to witness a civic event,” she stated. “Gregory’s liturgical presence and his Christian invocation turned it from a civil ceremony into a religious service.”


And Andrew wrote another piece, this time for Religion Dispatches, on how religion undermined the Inaugural’s call for unity.

“There’s a reason religion and politics are forbidden topics in polite conversation: they’re divisive,” he began. “Mixing the two is doubly so.”

Christian Nationalism and the Capitol insurrection
While the Trump administration has gone, the after-effects of its coddling of Christian Nationalism linger on — most starkly in the attack on the Capitol.


“New photos, videos and reportage are continually emerging that illuminate the links between this attack and Christian Nationalism,” Annie Laurie remarked. “Bibles, shirts, flags, placards, patches, crucifixes, crosses and prayers were omnipresent during the attack.”

We have no illusions: Christian Nationalism is not going away, even though its champion is no longer president. FFRF will continue to work to expose the insidious, anti-democratic nature of Christian Nationalism and its role in the attempted overthrow of our government.

An interview with Congressional Freethought Caucus chair
For our radio show this week, we started off, not surprisingly, by talking about the three “I” words in the news: insurrection, impeachment and inauguration. We concluded by having U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, co-founder of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, join us to provide his first-hand perspective on these three “I’s.”


Our ad was all over television
We were busy on other broadcast media, too, thanks to your support. We dominated the television landscape Wednesday night, with our ads airing on  major comedy news programs on three separate networks. Our iconic endorsement by Ron Reagan made its debut on Samantha Bee’s show, in addition to running on Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert’s late-night programs. “These ads over national networks are raising consciousness about the growing numbers of Americans, even the son of a conservative president, who are making known their dissent from religion,” said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.


If you missed seeing the ad, you’ll have more chances next week, where it will continue to play on CBS, Comedy Central and TBS. And, by the way, this week marks the first time CBS agreed to run the “unabashed atheist” spot nationally, after refusing for six years. Progress!

An Islamist attack survivor on “Freethought Matters”
On our own TV show, we interviewed the survivor of a horrific Islamist attack who has redoubled her secular work. Bonya Ahmed is a Bangladeshi-American activist and co-founder of Think, which specializes in short educational videos. Ahmed was nearly killed and her husband, Avijit Roy, a well-known atheist and author, was brutally murdered in a 2015 ambush in Bangladesh. You can watch the interview on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it Sunday.

The state of abortion rights on Roe v. Wade anniversary
FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Intern Barbara Alvarez has a really timely blog out: on the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade today.

Roe v. Wade was an important step in guaranteeing abortion as a constitutional right and it is worth celebrating its 48th anniversary,” Barbara concludes. “We must apply fact-based measures that will guarantee abortion as not only a constitutional right, but as a procedure that is affordable and accessible to all women — not just the privileged few.”

Does God exist?
On the other hand, veteran writer and freethinker Jim Haught grapples with that most timeless of questions: Does God exist?

“Are the profound forces of the universe God?” he ends. “I don’t know. Is human love God? I don’t know. Is there a personal God waiting to reward me in a heaven or punish me in a hell? I don’t know — but I doubt it.”

From the supertimely to the timeless, the outgoing to the incoming administrations, we’re able to address it all — only due to your unflinching support.


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