Tackling POTUS, Capitol Hill and a death threat in an average week

Tackling POTUS, Capitol Hill and a death threat in an average week February 8, 2019

It’s amazing how much we’re able to accomplish in an average week here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

We strongly objected to two pet obsessions of the Religious Right on national display in recent days.

After leading GOP lawmakers reintroduced legislation to repeal the ban on religious electioneering (known as the Johnson Amendment), we let everyone know what a bad idea it was — and how we’ve repulsed similar assaults before. And we asked you all to back us, too.

“The danger to the Johnson Amendment is not over, but FFRF is ready to defend it with all its might,” we stated. “The secular foundation of this country is too important to be left unguarded.”

A bipartisan constitutional insult
Another fixation of the religious crowd has been the annual National Prayer Breakfast, organized so that everyone from the President of the United States on down can proclaim deference to God and religion. To add a further twist to the tale, the occasion has been used in recent years by confessed Russian spies to hobnob with the high and mighty.

“Our nation’s top lawmakers should stop endorsing such a shady affair by their presence,” we warned. “The National Prayer Breakfast makes a mockery of our secular Constitution and serves to undermine our political system, as well.”

Questioning his/her religion
On another national issue, FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel had some choice thoughts about the hoary, misplaced taboo of inquiring about an individual’s religion during Senate confirmation hearings.

“Questions of religion are fair game the moment nominees argue that their duty to their god is superior to their duty to this country,” he wrote for Religion Dispatches. “The issue is not the religious belief itself, but the ability of that nominee to honor their oath of office. If they cannot, We the People have a right to know. And the Senate has a duty to ask.”

A death threat taken too lightly
Alas, another staff attorney of ours had to write about a much grimmer subject: a death threat directed at him that was unfortunately taken too lightly by a local newspaper just because it was couched in the form of a bible verse.

“It’s another example of the corrupting power of religion — transforming what would normally be an easy ‘we can’t publish that’ decision into the editor defending a death threat as innocuous hyperbole because it’s quoting the New Testament,” Ryan Jayne pointed out. “Christopher Hitchens was right: Religion poisons everything.”

Thank you, Michigan!
Thankfully, there was some cheerful news, too. Michigan’s new attorney general decided to remove the state from its adversarial role in not one, not two, but three of our major cases.

“Attorney General Dana Nessel has announced she is withdrawing Michigan as a party to eight federal lawsuits related to limiting reproductive rights, discrimination based on sexual orientation and violations of the separation of church and state,” reports a Michigan news site. “‘As Michigan’s attorney general, I will not use this office to undermine some of the most important values in our state, including those involving reproductive rights and the separation of church and state,’ Nessel said in a statement about the decision.”

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor applauded the move: “The new AG has demonstrated commendable leadership by choosing to honor the values of Michigan citizens over religious interest groups.”

Although the cases will still proceed, at least FFRF will have not have to contend with the firepower of an entire state.

How much do you know about Diderot?
We celebrated Nessel’s decision on our radio show this week and then interviewed Wesleyan University Professor Andrew Curran, the author of a fascinating new biography of Diderot (of the encyclopedia fame), the most famous freethinker of his time. Learn more about this amazing personality — and why he matters even today.

The dramatic story of an escaped freethinker
On our national TV show, “Freethought Matters,” Jordanian freethinker Mohammed al Khadra tells me the dramatic story about the perils he faced in his home country and his decision to flee to the United States. Tune in Sunday morning nationwide (check listings here) or catch his account on YouTube.

See Dan Barker debate in Phoenix
Talking about “catching” someone, those of our members in the Phoenix area can see FFRF Co-President Dan Barker participate in a debate on Saturday at Arizona State University. Some of our other staff members (including Annie Laurie and Andrew) are on the Hill the next couple of days, meeting members of Congress and making sure that the interests of freethinkers and the constitutional separation of state and church are protected.

The fact that we get ALL of this done in an average week is only possible due to you and your warm and generous support.

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