Welcome to the secular jungle!

Welcome to the secular jungle! August 10, 2018

It’s been another productive and news-filled week here at FFRF as we continue to pile up victories in the fight to keep state and church separate.

Let’s just jump right in, shall we?

Put your hands together!
The city of North Miami Beach, Fla., recently alerted us that it has ceased its sponsorship of National Day of Prayer events after FFRF complained. The city had been promoting the event on its official social media pages and website, which directed citizens to RSVP to the event through the city’s Division of Public Affairs.

Stop, in the name of the law!
We’ve stopped an Indiana elementary school from conducting a teacher-led religious club after school. An elementary school in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) was sponsoring the Fellowship of Christian Students, a clear violation of the Establishment Clause.

The legal counsel representing EVSC informed FFRF that “no school in Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation will have a teacher-led Christian students club in the academic year 2018-19 or thereafter.”

As always, we also continued our ever-important watchdog work.

Honoring Activist Ensaf Haidar
The Canadian Ambassador was expelled from Saudi Arabia this week after Canada’s foreign minister called for the release of political prisoners Samar and Raif Badawi. Canada’s admirable interest in ending the illegal and inhumane treatment of the Badawis is due in large part to the advocacy of Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar. FFRF is thrilled to be honoring Haidar as the upcoming recipient of the $10,000 Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award for her courageous advocacy.

Put down the proselytizing
After receiving complaints that Shelby County deputies were wearing “For God and Country” patches on their uniforms, we sent a letter asking them to remove the patches immediately. “It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office to promote or endorse religion,” reads FFRF’s letter. “Anyone viewing these patches would understand the Sheriff’s Office to be endorsing religion and belief in a god.”

In God We (Don’t) Trust
FFRF is warning that at least nine state legislatures are promoting or even forcing display of “In God We Trust” in public schools. This is thanks to the National Prayer Caucus Foundation and Wallbuilders (a propaganda outfit run by the notorious David Barton) who have banded together to push for a number of state bills promoting religion under the ominous name “Project Blitz.”

Putting the heat on school prayer
We are putting the heat on Mobile County Public Schools after a mandatory staff event turned into a mandatory religious service. Pastor Vint Norris from the Alabama District of the Assembly of God was invited to deliver what our complainant described as a “fire and brimstone invocation” at a beginning of the year staff assembly.

The Alt-Right is All Wrong
FFRF strongly denounces the upcoming Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” rally in Washington, D.C. and encourages members and supporters in the area to attend a peaceful counter-protest. We must send a message to hate-mongering white supremacists that their racist ideology will never unite the United States of America.

Write on!
In our David Hudak Students of Color Essay Contest, FFRF awarded $10,550 to the seven winners and eight honorable mentions. College students of color were asked to write a personal, persuasive essay about the “Challenges of being a student of color who rejects religion.”

This is the third year FFRF has offered a contest geared specifically to acknowledge and reward freethinking students of color, and the challenges they face as a minority within the nonreligious minority.

You’ll be able to read the winners’ full essays (and excerpts of the honorable mentions) in the September issue of Freethought Today. All 15 of the full essays will be posted on freethoughttoday.com once the newspaper is published.

Viewing session
This week on FFRF’s Ask an Atheist Facebook Live! show, Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell joined Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel and Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne to discuss Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent announcement of a “Religious Liberty Task Force.” Let’s just say we’re not big fans. Our newsbite this week features Staff Attorney Sam Grover discussing our recent complaint against a police department that couldn’t figure out how to participate in a lip sync challenge without also promoting Christianity in their official capacity.

Listening session
You may think tax talk is boring and uneventful, but if you tune in to this week’s episode of Freethought Radio, you will learn otherwise. We chat with Adam Chodorow, professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, about the powerful friend-of-the-court brief he wrote, with 21 other tax law profs, supporting FFRF’s challenge to the IRS clergy housing allowance. Believe me, it’s actually very entertaining and informative!

Last week, a rather more chilling interview features Arctic explorer and well-known author Lawrence Millman discussing the senseless 1941 religiously-motivated murders among the Inuit in Hudson Bay, described in his new book, At The End Of The World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic. FFRF attorney Patrick Elliott also talks about our newest federal lawsuit, challenging the “Lord’s Prayer” at Parkersburg, W.Va., council meetings.

A new face in the office
After losing Molly Hanson to grad school, FFRF welcomed our new editorial assistant to her first week on the job. Bailey Nachreiner-Mackesey got thrown into the fray, but helped us immensely right off the bat by writing several press releases. Welcome to the jungle, Bailey!

Join us in the City by the Bay
And, hey, don’t forget to sign up for our convention in San Francisco the weekend of Nov. 2-4. It’ll be a great convention in a great city where you’ll get to meet and mingle with great people! Did I mention it’ll be great?! And most important, did I mention that rooms are selling out? Make your reservations now to ensure you are not disappointed.

Well, that’s what we’ve been up to this week at FFRF. Our thanks, as always, to you, our members, for being the driving force behind what we do and what we accomplish.

Now get out there and enjoy your weekend!

PJ Slinger
Freethought Today editor

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