Weekly Wrap: Taking on Congress, the Saudis, Ireland — and others

Weekly Wrap: Taking on Congress, the Saudis, Ireland — and others October 19, 2018

Now that the Kavanaugh confirmation battle is in the past, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is back to concentrating on what it does regularly — taking on the big, as well as the (relatively) small, ’uns.

That’s why we were busy combating the U.S. Congress in court this week. FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel presented oral arguments before the D.C. circuit court as part of our efforts to open up the nation’s legislative chambers to atheists and freethinkers. FFRF Co-President Dan Barker was invited by his member of Congress, Rep. Mark Pocan, to give an invocation but was barred as an atheist by House Chaplain Patrick Conroy. Barker is suing Conroy and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who oversees the chaplain. Wish us luck!


Bye-bye Saudi regime!

And we directed some of our ire at the odious Saudi regime this week, urging the United States to end diplomatic relations with the kingdom in the aftermath of the torture and murder of dissident Jamal Khashoggi. “The problem with the country is far more fundamental: It is an absolute theocracy,” we wrote. Watch me make the case on our “Newsbite” segment.

The victimless crime

We mull over problems in global terms — and that’s why we used an upcoming vote in Ireland on blasphemy laws there as an occasion to talk about this issue. FFRF Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell and Legal Fellow Colin McNamara discussed the “victimless crime” on our “Ask An Atheist” Facebook Live feature. On our radio show this week, we interviewed two Irish activists, Michael Nugent and Jane Donnelly, to further shed light on the referendum.

You are our electoral army

Who better to mobilize on our behalf than you when we take on the big guns? FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote an op-ed on the power of the secular voting bloc — and how it could determine the results of the upcoming midterm elections. The piece, sent out to hundreds of newspapers through the Tribune News Service, has already been published all over the country, including in the Chicago Tribune and New York Newsday.
The Justice Department listened to us
Due to our numbers, we have the power — at least on occasion. The Justice Department seems to have heeded our advice; it has launched a probe of the Roman Catholic clergy’s horrific sex abuse scandal.“We have been urging the federal government for a long time to firmly act and end the Church’s abuses,” Barker and Gaylor remarked. “At long last, it seems that the DOJ is engaging in concrete action.”Important local victories
We obtained victories at more local levels, too. We ensured that coach-led prayer will not continue in a Georgia public school system. (The length and brazen sectarianism of the prayer is astonishing.) And a Christian sign in a Maryland public elementary school lunchroom came down after we complained.

Stop that judge

It’s important to have judges who understand the U.S. Constitution if we’re able to continue obtaining these constitutional victories. That’s why we joined other secular groups in opposing the confirmation of an unworthy judge to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It is clear, our joint letter contended, that Allison Rushing cannot be trusted to give secularists a fair hearing in any Establishment Clause case.
Congratulations, essay winners!
Even in the midst of all this, we were busy spotlighting freethought. We announced the awarding of $10,450 to our 2018 graduate students essay contest winners. Graduate students were asked to write a personal persuasive essay about “The dangers of bibliolatry in the United States,” generously and singlehandedly endowed by Life Member Brian Bolton, a retired psychologist, humanist minister and professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas. Congratulations to all the winners!
Interviewing unique personalities on our TV show
We had fun on our TV show, “Freethought Matters,” highlighting two quite different personalities. On our national version, Dan and Annie Laurie interviewed acclaimed philosopher, author and UW Professor Stephen Nadler. (Check for timings in your neighborhood.) And in the Madison, Wis., viewing area, pastor-turned-atheist Carter Warden tells his life story on Sunday at 11 p.m. on Channel 3.
Legal battles, essay contests, constitutional victories, secular voter mobilization  and TV shows — all such different endeavors and all achievable only due to your patronage.
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