The Supreme Court, the White House, Capitol Hill and state legislatures

The Supreme Court, the White House, Capitol Hill and state legislatures April 16, 2021

The judiciary, the legislature and the executive — at the national and the state levels — kept us engaged at the Freedom From Religion Foundation this week.

The high court needs reform
We warned at the start of the week that the U.S. Supreme Court’s series of rulings in favor of science-denying religious litigants signals serious trouble ahead. We asked: Why the drama? Where’s the emergency requiring a late night ruling at the start of the weekend in favor of religious congregations in California?

That’s why we’re welcoming a significant congressional proposal to add four seats to the U.S. Supreme Court. “We applaud Rep. Mondaire Jones for his vision and initiative in introducing a proposal to rebalance and expand a court that has been politicized, homogenized and captured by special interests,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor was quoted in Rep. Jerry Nadler’s press release.

Our inside skinny on Capitol Hill
Our point person keeping tabs on Capitol Hill is FFRF Governmental Affairs Director Mark Dann, and in his latest dispatch he gives a fascinating rundown of the changing dynamics around the Equality Act — and what they reveal about the U.S. Congress. He writes, “These are not normal times. Opposition members are seeing benefits in vocally opposing pieces of legislation such as the Equality Act. The new calculus is to keep the Christian nationalist base engaged and enraged.”

All the shenanigans in statehouses
Then there were all the shenanigans in state legislatures. Annie Laurie has penned a blog about the demonization of the transgendered in statehouses — and in countries such as Poland.  “Alarmingly, the introduction or enactment of laws that demonize or discriminate against LGBTQ, especially transgendered people, is reaching a fever pitch in the United States, as well as in some other nations,” she writes.

FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel spotlighted bizarre happenings in one statehouse.

“The average American might not realize that the prejudices and superstitions that underlie the push to teach creationism in public schools also undergird anti-LGBTQ bigotry,” Andrew begins his hard-hitting piece. “But the Arkansas Legislature has worked hard recently to showcase this link.”

Cheering White House’s policy changes
The national executive branch gave us reason to cheer. We applauded the Biden administration’s policy changes on abortion. “Simply put, abortion is health care,” we emphasized.

The Iowa governor’s unconstitutional fundraising

The state-level chief executives occupying governor mansions gave us less reason to clap, however. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds transgressed the Constitution by recently raising funds for a Christian school, we charged. “The governor seems to have a very poor understanding of constitutional principles,” Annie Laurie remarked.

Remove the biblical verses!
And county courthouses didn’t earn our approval, either. Thou shalt remove unconstitutional biblical verses, we demanded of a Tennessee courthouse. “The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages,” FFRF Legal Fellow Joseph McDonald wrote to the county mayor.

The media noticed us
Our letter (from FFRF Attorney Chris Line) asking a Virginia sheriff’s department to desist from overtly Christian public messages got media attention.

“A Wisconsin-based organization is urging the Bland County Sheriff’s Office to stop a ‘pattern’ of posting religious messages on its official social media account,” the local paper reported. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to Sheriff Jason Ramsey regarding ‘bible verses, prayer requests and other religious messages’ Ramsey posts on the official Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.”

Watch our discussion about our winning Alabama voter registration case

Our “Ask an Atheist” Facebook Live feature dealt with a state-level triumph we had last week (which got written about in the Washington Post). Joining FFRF Attorneys Patrick Elliott and Liz Cavell, lead counsels in our successful lawsuit that ended religious oaths for voter registration in Alabama, was Randall Cragan, a plaintiff in the case.

Mobilizing your help
Obviously, we mobilized you — both at the state and the national levels. We urged you to ask your member of Congress to vote for the Supreme Court expansion bill and for your assistance in styming attempts to foist Christianity upon public school students in Florida and New Hampshire.

A freethinking novelist
On our radio show this week, first Andrew discussed the new congressional Supreme Court expansion bill and then Freethought Radio co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor interviewed Mexican-American actor, author, activist and atheist Indra Zuno on her new book about white indentured servitude in early colonial America, Freedom Dues: A Novel.

Atheist legal crusader Jessica Ahlquist on our TV show Sunday
Our guest on our TV show Sunday is a person who became the target of national opprobrium when she stood up in court for her secular rights as a teenager. “Someone audibly gasped when I said I was an atheist; I was called a witch,” Jessica Ahlquist tells Dan and Annie Laurie. You can already see the show on our YouTube channel. Or find out where you can catch it Sunday.

Evolution cannot be denied
Veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught focuses on the wonders of evolution this week. “Honest, intelligent people must accept scientific evidence that evolution produced all living things, because no other trustworthy explanation exists,” he writes.

Some folks in this country disagree. Don’t worry. With your support, we’re taking them on and making sure that the forces of science and rationalism prevail.

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