Trump, governors, football coaches and religious journalists

Trump, governors, football coaches and religious journalists September 27, 2019

It was a typically eventful week here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Our complaint about the overly pious South Carolina governor is getting a lot of play in the Palmetto State.

“A national organization says South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is violating the Constitution by holding prayers before press conferences,” a TV station narrates. “News outlets report the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the governor’s office concerning two prayers earlier this month before press conferences regarding Hurricane Dorian. Foundation attorney Ryan Jayne says the practice violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits government from favoring one religion over others.”

It certainly does.

Focus on the game, coach!
And our memo to a school district about a prayerful football coach is causing quite a stir, including this coverage in USA Today.

“After Rockvale High School football coach Rick Rice led the team in a postgame prayer last month, a national nonprofit has filed a complaint with the Rutherford County Board of Education,” says a Tennessee newspaper article republished on the USA Today website. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a complaint on Sept. 20 to education board attorney Sara Page about Rice’s involvement with the prayer, calling it ‘a constitutional violation.’ According to its website, FFRF’s mission is to protect the separation of church and state.”

You have that right.

What’s the matter with Kansas?
And what is the matter with Kansas? We’ve had to intervene there yet again.

“Tipped off by a parent, the national watchdog group Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Oak Grove Superintendent Bryan Thomsen earlier this month accusing the district of forcing prayer and religious materials on students and teachers,” reports the Kansas City paper. “‘It is well-settled law that public schools may not advance or endorse religion,’ Sam Grover, the group’s associate counsel, said in the letter. The group, based in Madison, Wisconsin, is a nonprofit established to protect the constitutional principal of the separation of church and state.”

Trump’s bogus concern
Although the highest officeholder in the land has been in the news this week due to political troubles, FFRF took him to task for another reason. President Trump on Monday gave an address at the United Nations on “religious persecution” (as payback to his evangelical base). “Instead of participating in a world summit on climate change, today President Donald Trump convened a session on worldwide religious persecution at the United Nations, in which he demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding of religious liberty,” we responded.

Working it on Capitol Hill
We’ve been also busy working the other branches of government with our new Director of Governmental Affairs Mark Dann, who’s based in Washington, D.C. In his most recent dispatch, Mark draws lessons for the secular movement from LGBTQ lobbying around a recent bill. We asked you to lend your voice to turn that bill into law, as well as to support a bill that would overturn the Trump administration’s Muslim-majority travel ban.

Exciting winners and speakers
We made some major announcements this week. We proudly awarded more than $17,000 to the winners of Brian Bolton Essay Contest for Graduate/“Older” Students in which the contestants were asked to write a persuasive essay that uses at least one biblical passage to show how its influence causes harm today to individuals, civil liberties or society in general. This is our generous member Brian Bolton’s 10th annual sponsorship of this scholarship.

And we revealed the exciting news that a best-selling author whose exposé of a secretive megapowerful Christian fundamentalist group is now a Netflix series has been added as a speaker at the Freedom From Religion Foundation convention. Jeff Sharlet, whose The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power laid bare the workings of the titular organization, will be addressing the FFRF audience Saturday, Oct. 19, morning. Be there!

Cartoonishly incorrect
After announcing the student essay winners and discussing Trump’s U.N. remarks on our radio show this week, FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor interview cartoonist Graham Sale, whose new book is called Crazy Little Thing Called Love: 100% Politically Incorrect God Cartoons.

Debating debates
Our staff has been busy traveling the country. FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel has been on a successful tour for his new book, The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American, and recently debated a Christian apologist. The debate at the University of Louisville was broadcast last week on C-SPAN. On our Facebook Live “Ask An Atheist” feature this week, Andrew and Dan discuss “Are Debates Important?”

Working with religious journalists in Vegas
Andrew and I made the freethought presence felt at the annual Religion News Association conference in Las Vegas last week (alas, it was all work!). I talk on our “Newsbite” segment about what we were doing and why it was important to be there.

Freethought evangelizing in pretty Colorado
Dan will actually be in pretty Boulder, Colo., this coming Wednesday, Oct. 2, to speak at the university about “Losing Faith in Faith.” Catch him if you’re in the area! And later next week, we’re co-sponsoring a major freethinking women of color conference in Chicago that’s a “must attend,” especially if you live anywhere in the Midwest.

Hispanic freethinking on television
We tape our “Freethought Matters” TV show at our home base here in Madison, Wis., and on this week’s episode, we have two guests offering a minority perspective on freethought. Dan interviews Hypatia Alexandria and David Tamayo, the founders of Hispanic American Freethinkers, a national organization dedicated to advancing Latino culture through science and reason. You can watch it Sunday in a dozen major cities around the country (check the schedule here) or any time on our YouTube channel.

It’s amazing how hectic a typical week is for us. The theocrats and Christian Nationalists certainly provide “job security.” We’re able to handle all of that only due to your warmth and support.


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