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Starting and ending the week dramatically

Starting and ending the week dramatically May 21, 2021
Amit Pal
Director of Communications
Freedom From Religion Foundation
Even our comparatively light weeks here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation often begin and end with a bang.
We finished the week triumphantly with success in our lawsuit to stop a Texas judge from conducting courtroom prayer. FFRF welcomes today’s judgment declaring at long last that Judge Wayne Mack cannot continue abusing his authority to coerce attorneys, litigants and other citizens into participating in his courtroom prayers. “A courtroom is not a church, and a judge’s bench is not a pulpit,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. Absolutely!A Supremely bad move

The week had gotten off to an ominous start with the announcement that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a Mississippi statute that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Health Organization, will be the first significant abortion case heard by the high court since extremist Amy Coney Barrett replaced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The future of abortion rights in the United States hangs in the balance and our secular activism is needed more than ever, we noted.

In a column for Religion Dispatches, FFRF’s Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel explored an aspect of this alarming development that hasn’t quite made the mainstream media narrative: Christian Nationalist preacher, Fox News contributor and Trump bootlicker Robert Jeffress was explicit on Fox the other night when discussing this case: “We’re gonna see now what the justices do and if they uphold their part of the deal.” This was “the deal.” Trump and McConnell put you on the court, you end Roe.The point is to have a woman author the opinion that takes away all women’s reproductive rights. This gives Jeffress and white evangelicals — the only religious demographic in which a majority supports outlawing abortion — a simple counterargument that their audience will eat up: “How can the decision be anti-woman if it was written by a woman?!”

An un-American N.D. decalogue law
Andrew was busily getting published this week. His succinct, punchy letter in the Grand Forks Herald castigated the North Dakota Legislature and governor for a recently passed law that attempts to impose the Ten Commandments on the state’s public schools. “A new North Dakota law is sneaking into public schools’ divine command that is, to be blunt, un-American,” it begins.

A historic White House meeting
Last Friday, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships held a historic meeting with folks from secular groups, and our presence there got noted in this major Religion News Service story:

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the FFRF, welcomed the first meeting with the new administration.

“With more than a quarter of the population identifying as a ‘None’ (no religion), it’s vital that our community, our voices be heard in favor of reason in social policy and upholding our secular government,” she said in a statement.

Gaylor, who attended the meeting with two other staffers of her organization [FFRF Co-President Dan Barker and Andrew], said FFRF also has listened to faith-based office calls in the current and past administrations. She also attended the State Department’s 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.

 

Catholic League blowhard Bill Donohue was in conniptions about the meeting, ironically calling for the Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Office to be scuttled — a stance we took when it was first set up under the Bush Jr. administration. (We actually went to court to get the office disbanded.) All we can say about Donohue’s pronouncement is that religion, not just politics, certainly makes strange bedfellows, we commented.Pushing back against governmental prayer

Our media offerings this week deal with a variety of subjects. On our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature, Andrew and FFRF Associate Counsel Elizabeth Cavell delved into one of our most common complaints here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation: legislative prayer. They were joined from Florida by two prominent freethought activists, Sarah Ray and David Williamson, who shared their stories about pushing back against sectarian prayer at government meetings.

A Mexican-born author, actor & freethinker
A multifaceted personality is the guest on the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s “Freethought Matters” TV show this Sunday. Indra Zuno has appeared in movies and telenovelas, authored an award-winning debut book and hosts the Facebook page La Morena Esceptica — The Dark-Haired Skeptic. The granddaughter of the progressive atheist and artist Jose Guadalupe Zuno, who served as governor of the state of Jalisco, she grew up in Mexico but now lives in California. You can watch the show anytime on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it Sunday.

An FFRF-funded Secular Studies program
On our radio show this week, we first touched on the good news (secular groups meeting with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships) and the bad (the Supreme Court abortion case). Then, Dan and Annie Laurie interviewed Pitzer College Professor Phil Zuckerman about the Secular Studies program (which has recently received a $300,000 endowment from  FFRF!) at his institution and his LA Times article claiming: “There is no reason to fear a secular nation.”

No comparison between science and religion
Veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught rightly asserts in his latest column that there’s no comparison between science and religion.“Presumably, science will continue transforming civilization in decades ahead, as it has in the past,” he concludes. “In contrast, does magical religion give anything positive to the world? It’s difficult to think of any benefit.”
India’s Hindu nationalist govt is responsible for pandemic calamity
The scourge of religious majoritarianism is not confined to the United States. I wrote a recent nationally distributed op-ed on how India’s Hindu nationalist government is primarily responsible for the apocalyptic pandemic wave currently slamming the country. Read more here of my dissection of the regime’s complacency and ineptitude.Wherever religious nationalism is present — domestically or internationally — we’ll combat it with your support and generosity.

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