What a week! But we at the Freedom From Religion Foundation know our work will transcend this situation with your support.
As you have possibly surmised (or perhaps you’ve seen our announcement on social media), we have had to close our headquarters at Freethought Hall — for now — and are all working remotely. We believe in doing our best to stem the coronavirus pandemic. But this doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped toiling on behalf of the First Amendment and freethought. You can still contact us by email. (Our online shop is shut for now, so you’ll have to defer your freethinking purchases.) Our staff is keeping tabs from home on happenings nationwide — especially when they are topical.
Trump’s worthless plea to pray
And what can be more topical than the coronavirus pandemic? Much of our workload has been dealing with the futile attempts of officials to invoke God or religion in dealing with the scourge — starting from the very top. President Trump made a worthless plea to the nation to “pray for God’s healing hand to be placed on the people of our nation” last Sunday. This appeal for supernatural assistance was useless at best, we pointed out. Worse, it gives a veneer of governmental legitimacy and support to those churches that have urged believers to trust in prayer alone to prevent the spread of the virus. A more worthwhile plea by the president would have been for people to skip church on Sunday.
Paula White event (featuring coronavirus “supernatural protections”) cancelled
We’re happy to report that a mid-April Phoenix religious event, in which Trump’s spiritual adviser was a slated headliner, has been cancelled. We rushed out a letter last Friday to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich warning him about a “Decade of Awakening” gala (slated to feature megapreacher Paula White) for which organizers had sent out a fresh advertisement for nonrefundable tickets, along with assurances that the event would include “supernatural protections” against the coronavirus, as well as a “cure for every virus and plague.” Fortunately, the organizers were forced to cancel when the state of Arizona issued a directive forbidding gatherings of 50 or more people.
“We’re glad that the Arizona AG realized the public health perils of permitting a large number of individuals to converge,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor remarked. “It’s outrageous that Paula White and company could have even conceived of such an irresponsible event.”
Stop a Kentucky teacher’s religious misinformation
We asked a Kentucky school system to halt the spread of religious misinformation regarding the coronavirus pandemic. A concerned student contacted FFRF to report that a Bell County High School teacher recently preached to his students about God and the coronavirus. The teacher reportedly told his class that “coronavirus is in God’s hands,” that students would have to pray if they want the virus to go away, and that if students have a problem with him telling them to pray they could go to the school board because he does not care. (The school district is shut down at this time.) “Thanks to this teacher, a number of students have gone home with information that’s encouraging them to engage in unhealthy and potentially dangerous behavior,” commented Annie Laurie.
Jeff Sharlet speaks about The Family (the book & the Netflix series)
FFRF Attorney Ryan Jayne appeared on our radio show this week to fill us in on our various efforts to counter these absurd official responses to the coronavirus. Then, we featured journalist and author Jeff Sharlet speaking about his classic book that is now a Netflix series: The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. We ended the show on an apt note for these trying times. Taking the cue of cellist Yo-Yo Ma, we concluded with some “comfort music”: “Love Walked In,” by George and Ira Gershwin.
The ridiculous religious responses to the coronavirus
Our “Ask An Atheist” Facebook Live feature was, not surprisingly, dedicated to coronavirus and religion. In keeping with best practices during this moment, we had just Ryan in our studio chatting remotely with “Friendly Atheist” blogger Hemant Mehta about the ridiculous ways some religious figures are dealing with the virus. Take a look.
Trump’s attempt to remake the judiciary
You may be taken aback, but even this week we found the energy to weigh in on other important matters. And it’s certainly of import that Trump is perhaps irreversibly changing the nature of the federal judiciary. We condemned the president for remaking the federal judiciary in the image of the archconservative Federalist Society, basing our statement on a chilling analysis that the New York Times recently published of the more than 185 federal judgeships filled so far during the Trump administration. “Trump’s highly problematic judges, often fast-tracked from an ideologically charged group to the federal bench, are threatening the future of the nation for decades to come,” Annie Laurie remarked.
A bit of good news
We have a bit of good news to dispel the gloom. The Christian Nationalist project has recently been stalled on the East Coast — in part due to the efforts of folks like you. FFRF members and supporters in New Hampshire and Florida sent hundreds of messages to their lawmakers urging them to oppose Project Blitz bills and defend the secular institutions in their state. Hurray!
Debunking God as an “Intelligent Designer”
We have an interesting interview on our “Freethought Matters” TV show to divert your mind this weekend. Annie Laurie and FFRF Co-President Dan Barker interview a leading biologist who has discredited the notion of God as an “Intelligent Designer.” Abby Hafer, a senior lecturer on human anatomy and physiology at Curry College in Massachusetts, is the author of The Not-So-Intelligent Designer: Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not. Find out where you can watch the show this Sunday. Or you can always catch it on our YouTube channel.
Stay at home watching this show and our other offerings on YouTube. Above all, stay safe and healthy! You are our backbone, and it’s only with your support that we’ll pull through this unscathed.