Christian privilege is an insidious cancer prevalent in this country. This time the victim is a 14-year-old prankster with an irreverent sense of humor. The unidentified teen posted pictures of himself and a Jesus statue in which it appears the Lord is fellating the teen.
Sure, the photo is tasteless. But poor taste is not a crime (and Christians should be thankful for that). Neither is desecration of a venerated object. Yet the boy has been charged in juvenile court with that crime.
First, there was no damage done, the kid took some photos. Second, desecration is not a crime. FFRF's litigation attorney, Bob Tiernan, won a nearly identical criminal case in Colorado in 2000. Rodney Scott was charged with "desecrat[ing] an object venerated by the public" for removing illegal and unlicensed roadside memorial crosses. The court found that the roadside crosses were "litter" so they could not be venerated.
But so what if they were? "Desecration" and "venerated" are clearly terms meant to protect religious sensibilities—and religious objects—from harm. But we already have laws in place that do just that—laws that prohibit vandalism, property destruction, and theft. Why do we need a separate law for religious property?
Obviously, we don't. But these laws, which exist in other states, are a codification of Christian privilege. Other examples abound. Christian privilege is also codified in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Hobby Lobby recently used to impose its anti-scientific, anti-woman religion on employees.
Christian privilege abounds in laws and symbolism:
Christians think our nation trusts in their god. We do not.
Christians think our nation is united under their god. We are not.
Christians think America is great because their god ordained it so. Those who behead journalists and fly airplanes into skyscrapers believe something similar. They're both wrong. Freedom makes a country great. Equality makes a country even greater. And privileging one class of people because they all believe the same 2,000-year-old myth is not freedom or equality.
And, perhaps most of all, Christians think that their god cannot to be mocked (something else they have in common with cartoon-hating Muslims). Both are wrong. According to their own book, god is a genocidal tyrant and a blackmailing scapegoat. Even if such a god did exist, he would not be worthy of worship—he would be worthy only of mockery.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, other like-minded groups, and the burgeoning ranks of godless Americans are working tirelessly to end this unjustified Christian privilege. Soon, Christians will no longer be able to call the police when somebody makes fun of their imaginary friend.
[Note: if the attorney or public defender wishes to consult FFRF's legal staff on the unconstitutional nature of the desecration statute, he or she may get in touch with us by filling out this form: http://ffrf.org/legal/report]
FFRF sent a letter to the Rowlett City Council in June, asking it to end its discriminatory practice of scheduling exclusively Christian prayers before its governmental meetings. In the alternative, FFRF called on the Council to permit atheist and nonbelieving citizens to be given the opportunity to occasionally open meetings. It is now clear that Rowlett plans to hide behind the murky legal landscape resulting from the Supreme Court's unfortunate decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway rather than altering their discriminatory policy. Now its time for grassroots action!
Below follows a press release from Metroplex Atheists, which FFRF has been assisting, announcing plans to hold a protest at Rowlett's Tuesday Sept. 16th City Council meeting at 7PM at the City Hall Municipal Building (4000 Main Street
The City of Rowlett, following consultation with Liberty Institute, a farright Christian legal entity, has chosen to reject Metroplex Atheists Rowlett members' requests to give an invocation before the City Council meeting, in violation of the recent Town of Greece v. Galloway Supreme Court decision. This decision legalized sectarian prayer before government meetings, at least in circumstances where there was no discrimination regarding who can give the invocation.
Metroplex Atheists Rowlett is calling for a protest at the city hall on 9/16 at 7PM, which is 30 minutes before the council meeting officially begins. The intent of the protest is to bring attention to the discrimination against atheists giving the opening invocation and not the fact that the meetings are opened with an invocation. Resident Rowlett atheists will then speak to the council during the citizens input portion of the meeting.
On June 24, 2014, Freedom From Religion Foundation staff attorney Sam Grover sent a letter to the mayor of Rowlett requesting that the city update its policies to reflect the recent Town of Greece v. Galloway decision by the Supreme Court. The decision allowed the Town of Greece, NY to have sectarian invocations before its meetings while noting that the town "at no point excluded or denied an opportunity to a would-be prayer giver," including a "layperson of any persuasion" or even an atheist! Metroplex Atheists Rowlett followed with a formal request that two of its own members be added to its list of approved celebrants.
"The City of Rowlett's policy regarding invocations is pretty clear," said Randy Word, president of Metroplex Atheists. "Despite the Supreme Court's decision, Rowlett intends to continue with policies that discriminate against any religious tradition other than Christianity."
Metroplex Atheists Rowlett is a division of Metroplex Atheists, a state/church separation advocacy group based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
For more information on the protest please contact:
Randy Word, President of Metroplex Atheists
Phone: (972) 3427958
Chad Aldridge, Metroplex Atheists Rowlett press contact
Phone: (241) 5667299
If you can't make the protest but want to lend your support, you can contact the Rowlett City Council directly:
Todd W. Gottel, Mayor —
City Secretary’s Office
Michael Gallops, Mayor Pro Tem, City Councilmember Place 6 —
Robbert van Bloemendaal — City Councilmember Place 1 —
Tammy Dana-Bashian — City Councilmember Place 2 —
Carl Pankratz, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem, City Councilmember Place 3 —
Debby Bobbitt, City Councilmember Place 4 —
Rick Sheffield, City Councilmember Place 5 —
Rowlett City Council
4000 Main Street
Rowlett, TX 75088
Arkansas State University is removing a Christian cross decal from its football helmets due to a complaint it received Sept. 6 from Jonesboro attorney Louis Nisenbaum. FFRF was also looking into the issue, but the university resolved the matter before it could file a formal complaint.
FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker sent a letter Sept. 10 to ASU Chancellor Tim Hudson and Athletics Director Terry Mohajir, thanking them "for making the correct decision to remove Latin cross with the Red Wolves' football helmets."
Mohajir told USA Today the decal was meant to honor former player Markel Owens and equipment manager Barry Weyer, who died this year. Mohajir said he was disappointed in the decision but had to follow advice from legal counsel to remove or modify the symbol.
FFRF's letter suggested using mourning symbols such as black arm bands or displaying the player's number instead of Christian religious imagery.
Here is the contact information to thank university officials for abiding by the constitutional mandate to remain neutral toward religion:
Chancellor Tim Hudson
Last night the Allegheny County Council voted against displaying "In God We Trust" in council chambers at their meeting this week. The vote needed eight votes in favor to pass, but failed in an 8-6 vote against it.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald pledged to veto the measure and spoke out against it. Fitzgerald called the efforts to display this phrase on government property "a movement by the right-wing evangelical Christians across the count basically to impose Christianity in courthouses and school buildings across the country."
"Allegheny County and this region have become an accepting and inviting region in which we invite all people," Fitzgerald said.
Several council members spoke against the injection of a religious statement at the seat of government. "Whenever we start mixing them, there's going to be some problems," said councilman Michael Finnerty, D-Scott.
"Putting it on that wall does nothing to make us a better council," said Councilman Jim Ellenbogen, D-Banksville.
Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square, said the council had better things it could be doing. "We shouldn't do this," she said.
Councilman John Palmiere of Baldwin, a sponsor of the bill, did not attend the meeting. Councilman Charles Martoni of Swissvale, a sponsor of the bill, changed his mind and voted against it.
Emblazoning the seat of government with "in god we trust" excludes nonreligious citizens and turns them into outsiders.
PLEASE THANK COUNTY
Thanks to many Pennsylvania FFRF'ers who contacted the Council before the vote. Now it's time to thank the Council for keeping religion out of government and for ensuring Allegheny County is a welcoming place for all citizens, including nonbelievers.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald
Phone: (412) 350-6500
Office of the County Council
Phone: (412) 350-6490
DAN BARKER and ANNIE LAURIE GAYLOR are co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and co-hosts of Freethought Radio. A former minister and evangelist, Dan became a freethinker in 1983. His books, Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children and Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher To Atheist (1992) are published by the Foundation. His newest book, The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God, was published by Ullysses Press in January, 2011. His previous book, the autobiographical Godless: How An Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists, was published in 2008. A graduate of Azusa Pacific University with a degree in Religion, Dan now puts his knowledge of Christianity to effective freethought use. A professional pianist and composer, Dan performs freethought concerts and is featured in the Foundation's musical cassettes, "My Thoughts Are Free," "Reason's Greetings," "Dan Barker Salutes Freethought Then And Now," a 2-CD album "Friendly Neighborhood Atheist," and the CD "Beware of Dogma." He joined the Foundation staff in 1987 and served as public relations director. He was first elected co-president in November 2004.
Annie Laurie was also editor of Freethought Today from 1984 to 2009, when she became executive editor. The paper is published 10 times a year. Her book, Woe To The Women: The Bible Tells Me So, first published in 1981, is now in its 4th printing. In 1988, the Foundation published her book, Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children, the first book documenting widespread sexual abuse by clergy. Her 1997 book, Women Without Superstition: 'No Gods, No Masters'is the first collection of the writings of historic and contemporary women freethinkers. A 1980 graduate of the UW-Madison Journalism School, she was an award-winning student reporter and recipient of the Ken Purdy scholarship. After graduation, she founded, edited and published the Feminist Connection,a monthly advocacy newspaper, from 1980-1985. She joined the Foundation staff in 1985. She has been co-president since 2004. She co-founded the original FFRF with Anne Gaylor (see below) as a college student. Photo: Timothy Hughes
FFRF President emerita
ANNE NICOL GAYLOR is a founder and president emerita of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She served as executive director from 1978 to 2005, and is now working as a consultant to the Foundation. Born in rural Wisconsin, she is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She owned and managed successful small businesses and was co-owner and editor of an award-winning suburban weekly newspaper. A feminist author, she has done substantial volunteer work for women's rights (including serving as volunteer director of the Women's Medical Fund). Under her leadership the Freedom From Religion Foundation has grown from its initial three Wisconsin members to a national group with representation in every state and Canada.
Director of Operations
LISA STRAND is director of operations of FFRF. She has more than 25 years of experience in nonprofit (primarily association) management, including 15 years as executive director of the Wisconsin Library Association. She is married with a daughter, as well as three cats, a guinea pig and an untended garden that will someday be beautiful.
REBECCA S. MARKERT attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received her B.A. in political science, international relations and German in 1998. After graduating from UW–Madison, Rebecca spent one year working as a legislative fellow at the German Parliament in Bonn, Germany. In the fall 1999, she returned to the United States and began working as a legislative correspondent and assistant to the chief of staff for United States Senator Russ Feingold in Washington, D.C. In 2002, she returned to Madison, Wisconsin, to work on Senator Feingold’s 2004 re-election campaign. After the campaign, Rebecca attended Roger Williams University School of Law and received her Juris Doctor in 2008. She joined the Foundation staff in October 2008.
Rebecca is the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s first staff attorney and primarily works on Establishment Clause cases. She is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, Dane County Bar Association, and is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin.
PATRICK ELLIOTT, the Foundation's second staff attorney, hails from St. Paul, Minn. Patrick received a degree in legal studies and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005. He attended the University of Wisconsin Law School and received his Juris Doctor in 2009. While in school, Patrick took an interest in the First Amendment and constitutional law. He joined FFRF as a staff attorney in July 2010, after working part-time for the Foundation since February. Patrick is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Western and Eastern Districts of Wisconsin.
ANDREW SEIDEL graduated cum laude from Tulane University with a B.S. in neuroscience and environmental science and magna cum laude from Tulane University Law School, where he was awarded the Haber J. McCarthy Award for excellence in environmental law. He studied human rights and international law at the University of Amsterdam and traveled the world on Semester at Sea. In May of 2011, Andrew completed his Master of Laws at Denver University Sturm College of Law with a 4.0 GPA and was awarded the Outstanding L.L.M. Award. He has written a book on International Human Rights Law and his essay on the role of religion in government and the founding of our nation placed second in the FFRF's 2010 graduate student essay contest. Andrew is a former Grand Canyon tour guide and accomplished nature photographer; his work has been displayed in galleries in Colorado, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Maryland. He joined the FFRF staff as a constitutional consultant in November 2011.
ELIZABETH CAVELL received her B.A in English from the University of Florida in 2005. After college, Elizabeth spent a year as a full-time volunteer in AmeriCorps*NCCC. She attended Tulane University Law School and received her Juris Doctor in 2009. After law school, she worked as a deputy public defender in southern Colorado. She joined the Foundation as a staff attorney in January 2013, after working for the Foundation part-time since September 2012.
SAM GROVER received his B.A. in philosophy and government from Wesleyan University in 2008. He first worked for FFRF in 2010 as a legal intern while attending Boston University School of Law. In 2011, his article on the religious exemptions in the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance mandate was published in the American Journal of Law and Medicine. After receiving his J.D. from Boston University in 2012, Sam worked as a law clerk for the Vermont Office of Legislative Council where he drafted legislation on health care, human services, and tax issues. He returned to work as a constitutional consultant for FFRF in the fall of 2013. Sam has written a paper on counterterrorism and the law that was published by the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City and has traveled to southern Africa to work under Justice Unity Dow of Botswana’s High Court.
KATIE DANIEL is the bookkeeper/executive assistant/staff baker at FFRF. She was born in California and has lived in Pennsylvania, Alabama and Missouri. She moved to Madison in 2005 to attend UW-Madison and graduated in 2009 with a BA in Gender & Women's Studies and a Certificate in LGBT Studies. She joined the foundation staff as a student clerical employee in September 2008 and started as the full-time bookkeeper in 2009. Unlike many of the Foundation's staff members, Katie is religious and considers herself a practicing Wiivangelical.
BILL DUNN is the editor of Freethought Today. He has a degree in history and mass communications (journalism emphasis) from the University of South Dakota and has worked as a reporter, copy editor and editor in South Dakota and Wisconsin since 1980. Bill joined the Foundation staff in July 2009. He has two daughters, Kaitlin Marie and Jamie Lee.
LAURYN is the publicist & assistant editor at FFRF. She was born in Wausau, Wisconsin and has also lived in Nagasaki, Japan. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 2012 with her B.S. in Professional Communications and Emerging Media, concentrating in Technical Communication and International Studies. She also received a double minor in Journalism and English. Lauryn moved to Madison in January 2013 and enjoys reading about astrophysics, basking in the sun like a turtle and creating art at coffee shops. Lauryn is a practicing Pastafarian.
DAYNA LONG is an administrative assistant at FFRF. Originally from Illinois, she attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received a degree in English. She has been with FFRF since July 2013. She spends her free time volunteering for the Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for Women. She also enjoys reading, cooking, and admiring her beautiful cats.
PHYLLIS ROSE is a retired library administrator from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has been volunteering 3 afternoons a week at the FFRF office since 2000. A Lifetime Member, Phyllis provides oversight, clerical and editorial support. Phyllis serves as an officer on the Foundation's governing body.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is delighted to announce the formation of a new FFRF Honorary Board of distinguished achievers who have made known their dissent from religion.
The FFRF Honorary Board includes Jerry Coyne, Robin Morgan, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Ernie Harburg, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Christopher Hitchens, Susan Jacoby, Mike Newdow, Katha Pollitt, Steven Pinker, Ron Reagan, Oliver Sacks, M.D., Robert Sapolsky, Edward Sorel and Julia Sweeney.
“We are so pleased that these outstanding thinkers and freethinkers have agreed to publicly lend their endorsement to the Foundation, and its two purposes of promoting freethought and the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause,” said Dan Barker, Foundation co-president.
- Jerry Coyne, Ph.D., professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, is author of the popular book 'Why Evolution is True' and the blog of the same name.
- Richard Dawkins, probably the world’s most famous contemporary atheist and a distinguished evolutionary biologist, is Oxford professor emeritus. In his blockbuster book, The God Delusion, Dawkins writes: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.”
- Daniel C. Dennett is Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Tufts, and author of the bestselling book about religion, Breaking the Spell. In a newspaper article about his nonbelief, Dennett once wrote: “I’ve come to realize it’s time to sound the alarm.”
- Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments For the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction and a research associate in Harvard’s psychology department, is FFRF Freethought Heroine of 2011. Goldstein is a 1996 MacArthur Fellow (the “genius” award). She has taught at Barnard and in the Columbia MFA writing program and the Rutgers philosophy department. She’s been a visiting scholar at Brandeis and at Trinity College in Hartford.
- Ernie Harburg, a retired research scientist, is president of Yip Harburg Foundation and co-author of Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz? Ernie has dedicated his retirement to furthering the lyrics, music, memory and progressive views of his freethinking father, the lyricist Yip Harburg, author of classic songs such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and of Rhymes for the Irreverent, recently republished by FFRF.
- Jennifer Michael Hecht, poet, historian and author of the acclaimed Doubt: A History and The End of the Soul, told the FFRF 2009 convention audience: “If there is no god — and there isn't — then we [humans] made up morality. And I'm very impressed.”
- Susan Jacoby, bestselling author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, and program director of the Center for Inquiry-New York City, told FFRF convention-goers in 2004: "[President] Kennedy had to speak about his religion because he was suspected of insufficient dedication to the Constitution's separation of church and state. Today's candidates are suspect if they display too much dedication to secular government."
- Robin Morgan, feminist pioneer, global activist, author of the groundbreaking "Sisterhood is Powerful" and more than 20 books, was formerly Ms. Magazine editor and consulting editor. She is the co-founder of the Feminist Women's Health Network and Women's Media Center and currently hosts "Women's Media Center Live" the radio "talk-show with a brain."
- Mike Newdow is working pro bono to challenge such violations as the addition of “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. He told the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments: “I am an atheist. I don't believe in God. And every school morning my child is asked to stand up, face that flag, put her hand over her heart, and say that her father is wrong.”
- Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard, is author of The Blank Slate: “I never outgrew my conversion to atheist at 13.”
- Katha Pollitt, “Subject to Debate” columnist for The Nation, author and poet, has spoken out regularly and energetically as a freethinker, in such columns as “Freedom From Religion, Sí!”
- Ron Reagan, media commentator, describes himself in a radio ad he taped for FFRF as: “Unabashed atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.”
- Oliver Sacks, M.D., the compassionate neurologist and bestselling author, describes himself as “an old Jewish atheist.”
- Robert Sapolsky, a neurologist, Stanford professor and bestselling author, once suggested FFRF put up a sign at its conventions: “Welcome, hellbound atheists.”
- Edward Sorel, satiric cartoonist and irreverent illustrator who is a regular contributor to The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and whose caricatures have been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, has been a Foundation member since the 1980s.
- Julia Sweeney, comedian and actress, is writer/performer of the play, “Letting Go of God”: “How dare the religious use the term 'born again.' That truly describes freethinkers who've thrown off the shackles of religion so much better!”
- Christopher Hitchens, the iconoclastic journalist, is author of the bestselling God Is Not Great: “Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong.”