Weekly Wrap: Constitution Day, correcting school violations and a CSPAN appearance

Weekly Wrap: Constitution Day, correcting school violations and a CSPAN appearance September 20, 2019

We were busy this week correcting a plethora of major school violations, sharing our favorite memories involving the Constitution and commenting on a few pieces of national news. Let’s jump right into what we have been up to.

Our Constitutional Moments
On Tuesday, we celebrated Constitution Day, the 232nd anniversary of the adoption of our godless Constitution. We at FFRF used the opportunity to recount some memorable legal victories as part of the Constitutional Accountability Project’s #ConstitutionalMoment event. You can watch all of those videos on our YouTube channel.

Maryland U.S. Rep. on Freethought Matters
Speaking on the Constitution, U.S. Rep Jamie Raskin lends his unique perspective as both an elected official and constitutional scholar to this week’s episode of our weekly TV show, Freethought Matters. Raskin, who is co-founder of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, represents Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, has authored several books, and was a professor of constitutional law for more than 25 years.

If you don’t live in one of the 12 cities airing Freethought Matters, you can watch on our YouTube Channel.

FFRF staffers on the road
FFRF Communications Director Amit Pal and Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel are in Las Vegas this week presenting at the Religion News Association annual conference. Andrew and Amit both spoke yesterday on FFRF’s sponsored a panel — ‘Christian Nationalism in the Age of Trump,’ joined by journalist and author Katherine Stewart.

On Saturday, Amit will speak on a breakout panel — ‘Challenging Secularism: Hindu Fundamentalism in India and Diaspora’ and Andrew is heading to Kentucky to discuss his new book, The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-Amerian at the Kentucky Freethought Convention.

CSPAN airs Andrew’s debate tomorrow
Speaking of Andrew’s new book, CSPAN-2 BookTV, all members will have the opportunity to watch his recent debate, “Did America Have a Christian Founding,” this Saturday, Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. E.T.

Defending our secular schools
We secured two significant legal victories this week, the first in our home state of Wisconsin. Last spring, many irate parents, students and district employees contacted FFRF to report that the 2019 Appleton North High School graduation included inappropriate religious content by school board member Alvin Dupree. The district followed FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne’s advice and adopted strict guidelines to ensure Dupree or future speakers cannot similarly abuse the platform to proselytize to students. Jayne delves into the details of this case on this week’s Newsbite.

Our second victory comes out of North Carolina, where a school district has removed a large religious sign from Wallace-Rose Hill High School property. The sign, located near the track, displayed a list of religious-themed action statements entitled “The Bulldog Resolution.” Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott had written to the district, urging it to immediately remove the inappropriate religious display. We received a welcome response from the district’s legal representation informing us the district obliged and took down the sign.

In related news, we urged a Colorado public school district to cancel an upcoming assembly with the infamous Todd Becker Foundation, a Christian ministry that travels throughout the Midwest with the explicit aim of converting students to its brand of Christianity. The group’s evangelical mission is laid out in no uncertain terms on the foundation’s website: “The foundation’s purpose is to motivate high school students to discover their potentials and ultimately discover themselves by placing their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”

Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to Brush School District RE-2J Superintendent Bill Wilson, urging the district to refrain from offering religious groups unique access to its students, signaling an endorsement of religion.

Ariz. Supreme Court codifies religious privilege
On Monday, we issued a statement condemning the Arizona Supreme Court’s dismaying ruling granting businesses a right to discriminate if they claim a “sincerely held religious belief.” This provides Christians and other believers a favored legal status, while impairing the civil rights of minorities or disfavored classes.

While this case involved discrimination against LGBTQ citizens, “This will not be limited to discrimination against LGTBQ Americans,” says FFRF’s Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel. “We’ve already seen racists and religious bigots around the country employing this same legal rationale for what the courts might view as more insidious discrimination against racial and religious minorities. The Arizona Supreme Court just gave such discrimination its stamp of approval.”

Climate crisis is a state-church issue
Today, Friday, Sept. 20, a national coalition of youth groups and climate activists are striking for rational, science-based policy to combat the existential crisis that is climate change. The climate crisis, as we noted in a statement this week, is a critical state-church issue. Unfortunately, the religion that is currently dictating U.S. public policy — Christian Nationalism — is hindering the chance to take meaningful action before it’s too late.

First step to secular recovery funding
A congressional development this week is the vital first step to help remedy a major problem, which is that most mutual support recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotic Anonymous are religious in nature.

Thanks to advocacy by the Freedom From Religion Foundation on this issue on Capitol Hill, a recently released federal budget includes a request that federal tax dollars can be awarded to secular, evidence-based recovery programs. Although this is a major victory, the measure must still be passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president. Stay tuned — we’ll be asking for your help.

Tune in to Freethought Radio for some diversity
This week on Freethought Radio, the shows creators and hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor speak with Mandisa Thomas, founder and president of Black Nonbelievers, about the historic “Women of Color Beyond Belief” conference FFRF is helping sponsor and she is organizing in Chicago on October 4-6. Next they chat with David Tamayo, founder and president of Hispanic American Freethinkers about this group serving a vital sector of U.S. freethinkers. They also discuss his public debate on biblical morality in Puerto Rico against an evangelical minister. Listen to this week’s episode here.

Sign up now for FFRF’s national convention Oct. 18-20!
It’s less than a month to go until FFRF’s 42nd annual convention in Madison, Wis. Don’t miss the impressive array of speakers, including Sarah Vowell, Trae Crowder, Mandisa Thomas, Hemant Mehta, Amber Scorah, Rachel Laser, Andrew L. Seidel, Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore and “America’s Best Christian” (not!). Sign up now!!

As you can tell, it was another busy week here at FFRF tackling state-church issues across the country, which we can only do because of your generous support. If you’re new to FFRF because you contacted us after seeing Ron Reagan’s endorsement ad about FFRF on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” this week or last week, welcome!


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