The Taliban, homegrown extremism, vaccine mandates and religion’s silliness

The Taliban, homegrown extremism, vaccine mandates and religion’s silliness August 20, 2021

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has recently had its hands full grappling with urgent issues — from the local to the international.

We’re worried about Afghanistan
Of course, the impact of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan — especially on women and skeptics — is of great concern to us. We called on the Biden administration to ensure that refugees from the country are given quick and safe passage.

“The Taliban has a proven history of human rights abuses of women, freethinkers, and anyone who is not seen as a hardline fundamentalist,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “America cannot turn its back on so many Afghans who have fought for years to live their authentic lives.”

Shedding light on the Taliban
On our radio show this week, Freethought Radio co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor (with yours truly joining in) interviewed University of Michigan Professor and author Juan Cole, an expert on the Middle East and South Asia. Listen to his erudite analysis about the Taliban’s fundamentalism, the group’s genesis, U.S. policy — and more.

A homegrown religious extremist (and his congressional apologist)
We focused on homegrown religious extremism, too. We exposed the fact that the recent attempted bombing at the U.S. Capitol was conducted by an apparent white Christian nationalist — and that a member of Congress (Rep. Mo Brooks) empathized with him. FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel explained that the religious militant “thinks of himself as chosen by the nation, chosen by his god, as an ‘American patriot.’”

Stand up for secular values, Sen. Ossoff!

We keep close tabs on what’s happening inside the U.S. Capitol and that’s why we noticed when one of the recently elected senators from Georgia strayed from the Constitution. We admonished Sen. Jon Ossoff after he presided over the Senate’s adoption by unanimous consent Senate Resolution 309, which praised the inclusion of the addition of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Let’s start taxing the churches!
We’ve been long trying to persuade Congress to start taxing churches, and our “Ask An Atheist” Facebook Live feature this week deals with that issue. Annie Laurie and FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne discuss with University of Tampa Professor Ryan T. Cragun how tax-exempt churches benefit from financial privilege.

No sectarian messages, Gov. Lee!
We keep track of gubernatorial misdeeds, too. Stop excluding nonreligious citizens by posting sectarian religious messages on your social media, we told Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. “Social media should be a venue for officials to communicate with all their constituents and not to communion with a believing subset,” Annie Laurie remarked.

We’re warning Missourians about new voucher scheme

As part of our initiative to engage with pertinent issues at the national and the state levels, FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne published an op-ed in one of Missouri’s most prominent newspapers about the dangers of a new statewide school voucher scheme.

“Starting next year, state tax money will begin to pay for tuition at private religious schools, mostly for students who would have gone to those schools anyway, thanks to a voucher scheme that Gov. Mike Parson recently signed into law,” Jayne explained in the Springfield News-Leader. “Public funds will now flow into the coffers of church-owned private schools, an arrangement several U.S. Founders vehemently opposed.”

Vaccines should be mandated

On top of our missives to national authorities to follow the science and mandate vaccinations, we’ve also been urging our local authorities to do so, because it affects us personally and because it is the right thing to do. We asked Madison and Dane County officials to enforce vaccination for social gatherings before the influx of students onto the UW-Madison campus. Then, we pushed our hometown school district to follow the lead of progressive districts around the country and make compulsory staff Covid-19 vaccinations.

$21,000+ to our high school essay winners
On a cheerier note, we proudly announced this week the winners of the 2021 William Schulz High School Essay Contest; we’re awarding $21,350 in scholarship money for this year’s contest! Check out the list.

Religion is silly
In his inimitable style, veteran freethinker and writer Jim Haught gets to the heart of the matter: Religion is silly. “The next time you pass a church, remind yourself that it represents a goofy streak of humanity,” he begins.

We all agree, and that’s why we’re here — to counter this silliness at all levels.

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