Saying farewell to a pandemic year — and wishing for a better year ahead

Saying farewell to a pandemic year — and wishing for a better year ahead December 30, 2020

What a year! In spite of all that was different, one thing remained constant: our dedication to freethought and separation of state and church.

This is why FFRF Constitutional Attorney Liz Cavell wrote an op-ed published in prominent national newspapers (including the Miami Herald and Cleveland Plain Dealer) warning about the dire legacy of the outgoing president’s judicial appointments. The column, based on an FFRF report that Liz was the lead author on, was prepared for the Progressive Media Project and sent out to hundreds of daily newspapers through the Tribune News Service. Way to go, Liz!

Our commitment to our mission is also the reason we’ve recently taken to task a preachy Texas justice of the peace, filing a motion for summary judgment in our federal case against him. What a guy!

And we alerted the IRS to potentially illegal electioneering by the supposedly nonprofit Liberty University — of Falwell family infamy. “If the IRS finds that Liberty University has indeed broken the law, it should revoke the university’s tax-exempt status,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor remarked.

We’re the proud recipients of two awards
We received two awards, one from an organization that likes us and one from a group that doesn’t, but we happily accepted both. The country’s premier nonprofit charity rating organization yet again affirmed that we belong to an extremely select club. “We are proud to announce Freedom From Religion Foundation has earned our 11th consecutive four-star rating” (and a perfect score!), Charity Navigator informed us, putting us in the top 2 percent of all evaluated nonprofits.

And we gladly accepted the 2020 Ebenezer Award, annually bestowed by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Roman Catholic ultraconservative outfit. Since we received the honor for doing our job, we told Becket that this is an “award” we’ll cherish.

Let’s celebrate the real reason for the season!
We’re always painfully aware this time of the year how a certain religion has co-opted the Holidays. That’s why we dedicated our “Freethought Matter” TV show last week to a celebration of the Winter Solstice — the real reason for the season and signaling the natural new year. Co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor guided us on a warm personal and historical tour. And there was a bonus musical treat.

Our radio show last week was in the same vein, with a musical medley of irreverent and celebratory secular holiday songs by a bunch of freethinking performers.

And we had a Winter Solstice party especially for you. We couldn’t meet in person this year but we still commemorated the real reason for the season remotely. Join our celebration after the fact.

Religion is loosening its grip even over Christmas, as veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught points out in his column this week. “Christmas has been losing its supernatural component in recent times,” he writes, providing interesting details both about the increasing secularization of the celebration and how the Christians stole it from the pagans.

How not to respond to COVID
Of course, this year has been defined by COVID-19, and FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern Barbara Alvarez skewers the response of two entities to the pandemic.

“There’s something pretty tone-deaf about hosting a ‘Life is Winning’ event when you have presided over 310,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States,” she writes. “And yet that is just what the Trump administration did. Vice President Mike Pence hosted a ‘Life is Winning’ event on Wednesday, Dec. 16, an anti-abortion rally to ‘celebrate the accomplishments’ of supposedly defending life.”

And the Catholic Church revealed its unique brand of two-facedness in its approach toward the vaccine, as Barbara reveals: “Its hypocrisy was on full display on Dec. 21 when the Vatican issued a statement that it is ‘morally acceptable’ for Roman Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines derived from cell lines from aborted fetuses. At the same time, the Vatican stated that this was not a ‘moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from fetuses.’”

Challenging an African-American stereotype
Our first episode in the new year of our TV talk show challenges the stereotype of African-American religiosity. Professor Christopher Cameron, who teaches history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has done groundbreaking research showing that there have been many Black skeptics, doubters, agnostics and atheists in America since the early years of our country. You can watch the show right now on our YouTube channel or find out where to catch it Sunday. San Franciscans: Reminder that “Freethought Matters” is now broadcasting in your city on Sunday mornings along with 12 other cities.

Marking the Bill of Rights – and the new year
We placed a pair of eye-catching ads in our hometown newspaper that highlighted a secular Holiday celebration — and showed the way to, hopefully, a better year ahead. Our first advertisement, which sent greetings of “the Winter Solstice Season — the real reason for the season” — also wished a happy birthday to the Bill of Rights, which was adopted on Dec. 15, 1791. And we’re starting 2021 with a message urging Americans to “Stay safe in the New Year” by basing actions on science. The ad advises: “We’re all in this together — that’s why we need actions based on science, evidence and compassion, not ‘alternate facts’ or prayer. Science works.”

Happy New Year!
We celebrate the new year on our radio show this week by saying farewell to the disastrous 2020 with some pandemic puns and “inside” jokes. We play some comfort music and protest music by well-known songwriters performed (mostly) by freethinking singers (think Elton John, James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, plus Cher, a self-described “lazy Buddhist”). You’ll be surprised, entertained and comforted. Listen in!

Happy New Year! Please stay safe and healthy. We’ll get through this together, trusting in science  — and looking forward to a science-believing administration in charge.

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