The pope, Bladensburg, Planned Parenthood — & so much more — kept our hands full

The pope, Bladensburg, Planned Parenthood — & so much more — kept our hands full March 1, 2019

Amit Pal

Director of Communications

Freedom From Religion Foundation

 

Sometimes people ask us how we at the Freedom From Religion Foundation manage to get so much done within a single week.

Three of our staffers were on the road in the service of freethought and state/church separation. FFRF Co-President Dan Barker is currently touring Alaska. His last event is this evening in Anchorage, and from that corner of North America, he’ll travel to Spokane, Wash., to speak there on Sunday and then to Idaho on Tuesday. Catch him if you’re in the Northwest or the far, far Northwest.

At the Supreme Court for a supremely important case
Our Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel was actually at the Supreme Court to observe the oral argument and participate in a rally pertaining to the most important state/church separation case of recent times: the Bladensburg cross lawsuit. Watch Andrew speak at the rally. Andrew wrote a column about the most important takeaways that he gleaned from observing the proceedings. “The Supreme Court’s first big state-church separation case in years had a distinct David and Goliath feel — impossible to miss while sitting in the courtroom for the oral argument,” he remarked.

Institutionally, we weighed in on Bladensburg, too, asserting that the “Establishment Clause and its precious wall of separation is in the court majority’s crosshairs.” FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert and Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott talked on our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature and Skyped with Andrew in D.C. — about the case’s significance and how the Supreme Court’s decision could have a tremendous impact.
Memphis newspaper provides us space to reason
Andrew also had an op-ed in the Memphis newspaper decrying a pious state legislator’s attempt to inject God into the Tennessee Constitution.

“God-given rights are not sacred, self-evident or inherent: They are fragile, exclusive — and used to favor the chosen few,” Andrew stated. “Tennesseans deserve better.”

They sure do.

Testifying before the Missouri Statehouse
Another FFRF attorney, Ryan Jayne, was at the Missouri Capitol this week to testify against an awful bill that would forbid plaintiffs specifically in state/church separation cases from remaining anonymous. Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta covered Ryan’s testimony nicely on his blog. Watch Ryan himself explain why he felt compelled to drive down more than six hours from our hometown of Madison, Wis., to Jefferson City.

Way to go, Portlandia!
It was a week to celebrate in good measure. Portland, Ore., became the second city in the country to give nonbelievers equal status, primarily thanks to our efforts and that of our local chapter. Cheryl Kolbe, director of the Portland chapter, the driving force behind the ordinance, discussed the landmark move on our radio show with FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. Also featured on the show was Ibn Warraq, author of the classic, Why I’m Not a Muslim, who tells us why so many people are leaving Islam.

Are you eligible?
And we proudly unveiled our four 2019 student essay contests, this year offering more than $61,000 in total prize money. Are you or anyone in your circle of family and friends a student? If so, pass on this link.

So many victories
We obtained a couple of victories, too. A Georgia school district will not continue religiously pressuring its high school football team after Legal Fellow Chris Line interceded on FFRF’s behalf. And a New Hampshire VA Medical Center removed a bible from a public display after FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover contacted the institution.

On this week’s “Freethought Matters” TV show on Sunday, Andrew and Patrick speak with a winner: FFRF’s Freethinker of the Year honoree David Steketee, who has successfully challenged the state of New Jersey’s funding of churches. Yay, David!

We intervened on the behalf of another triumphant side. Nonbelievers in Pennsylvania took on the state House for its discriminatory invocation policy — and won at the district court level. We filed on Friday an amicus brief before the appellate court to support these freethinkers. Our best wishes to them for another resounding victory!

Honoring a murdered freethinker
Alas, it was also a week of a grim commemoration. Four years ago, Bangladeshi-American atheist and activist Avijit Roy was hacked to death by fundamentalists, and FFRF honored him and his work on this anniversary. You can read more about him here.

There were some other reasons for glumness. The Trump administration has decided to essentially defund Planned Parenthood, “an unconscionable capitulation to theocrats,” as we wrote. And, as Annie Laurie made clear in a blog, the pope’s assertion that the devil made the priests molest children was beyond depressing.

The national, the local, the happy, the not-so-happy — we were engaged in so much this week, and we were able to do it all only due to you.
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