Washington's Clark County Board of County Councilors will hold a second public hearing on a proposal to post "In God We Trust" in the county's main public hearing room, despite already hearing two hours of public testimony and discussing the issue at several meetings.
Councilor Tom Mielke originally proposed the display, but his motion at the Feb. 10 board meeting failed to receive a second from either of the other two councilors, David Madore and Jeanne Stewart. However, Madore is dragging the matter out by calling for the second hearing. "We could hear something we didn't consider before," he said. "We could hear compelling arguments."
Councilor Stewart said that while she would not be offended by the motto, it was clear from the protests that some would feel uncomfortable coming to public meetings if it were posted, so she would oppose the display. However, she seemed more sympathetic towards the posting at a different meeting, saying, "It's simply our national motto."
If you live in the area, please attend the second public hearing and give Madore some compelling arguments! Remind him that this proposal is divisive and exclusionary.
When: Tuesday, Feb. 24, 10:00 a.m.
Where: Clark County Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St., Vancouver
If you can't attend or live outside the area, please immediately contact Mielke and Madore and urge them to vote against the proposal. In addition, please contact Stewart and urge her to continue opposing the proposal.
Chair David Madore
Jeanne E. Stewart
Board phone: (360) 397-2232
Write your own message or feel free to cut and paste wording below. If you live in Clark County, please be sure to indicate you're a local citizen.
As someone who does not "trust in a god," but who believes in the separation between church and government, I strongly oppose the proposal to post a public display of the words "In God We Trust" in the Clark County public hearing room. The phrase is exclusionary and does not represent all Clark County residents. County Councilors are elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Please reject this divisive and religiously exclusionary proposal.
After the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter after receiving a local complaint about a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn in Dallas, N.C., we succeeded in getting the display moved to private ground late last year. John Beaty, owner of a local auto shop, has offered to permanently take possession of the display.
However, the Dallas Board of Aldermen still owns the display, and is now debating whether or not to officially give it to Beaty. Some in the community are calling for the nativity scene to return to government property.
Government sponsorship of a crèche indicates preference of religion over nonreligion, and Christianity over all other faiths. A government vote to return a nativity scene to public ownership for display on public land would be a blatant signal that the Dallas Board of Alderman endorses Christianity.
Contact the Dallas alders and Town Manager Jim Palenick today and tell them to officially hand over the nativity to Beaty! (Direct emails to Palenick; most of the alders do not have email addresses listed.)
Interim Town Manager
Read FFRF's letter (linked above) for additional talking points. Personalize your statement if possible, or feel free to cut and paste the wording below.
As a nonreligious person, I urge you to donate the nativity scene, which the city improperly owns and has displayed in the past, to John Beaty, so it may be displayed where it belongs: on private grounds. Owning and erecting this nativity scene indicates government endorsement of Christianity, which is unconstitutional. It sends a message of exclusion to citizens who are not religious or who belong to non-Christian religions, and a corresponding message to believers that they are political insiders. This is divisive. Please stay neutral on matters of religion. Do the right thing and donate the nativity scene to the willing private owner, who will ensure the nativity scene is annually erected. Everyone wins, including the U.S. Constitution.
Rather than focusing on real issues facing your state, some Tennessee legislators are instead opting to turn the machinery of government into a sounding board for their personal religious beliefs. State Representative Jerry Sexton and State Senator Steve Southerland have introduced companion bills to declare the bible the “state book.” House Bill 615 and Senate Bill 1108 would designate “The Holy Bible” as the “official state book.”
This proposal is a highly troubling attempt by zealous legislators to force Christian ideology upon all Tennesseans, regardless of their religious — or nonreligious — preferences.
The "good book," as FFRF often notes, is a misnomer, as the bible is rife with violence, misogyny, homophobia, genocide, slavery and intolerance of nonbelievers. Ruth Hurmence Green, author of FFRF’s bestseller, “The Born Again Skeptic’s to the Bible,” wrote: “I had always been told the bible was a book about love, but I couldn’t find enough love in it to fill a salt shaker.”
The state that was home to Pulitzer Prize winners Robert Penn Warren and Cormac McCarthy, not to mention Alex Haley and playwright Tennessee Williams, should have no trouble choosing a more appropriate state book.
In another brazen act of disregard for the separation of church and state, Rep. James Van Huss introduced House Joint Resolution 71, another piece of legislation designed to pander to the Christian majority. The resolution would amend the state’s constitution, adding a section that reads: “We recognize that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God, our Creator and Savior.”
In addition to being a wholly inappropriate endorsement of the Christian religion, HJR 71 also smacks of juvenile denialism. It’s as if Rep. Van Huss had been in a barroom argument over where Tennesseans get their liberties, and rather than addressing the volumes of political philosophy on how democratic government derives its power from the people, he decided to just write “God did it” across an official document.
It's hard to credit this degree of zealotry, insensitivity and ignorance among the state legislators who are sponsoring these bills. Surveys and polls show an ever-growing percentage of the American population (at least one in five) identifies as nonreligious. Legislators who take an oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution in all its godlessness apparently have never bothered to examine it.
Tell the sponsors of these bills and your legislators that Tennesseans want their government to stop pandering to the religious and to get to work on real issues!
Representative Jerry Sexton
Senator Steve Southerland
Please also make a public fuss by sending a timely letter to your favorite editor and making use of social networks to protest these offensive proposals. Watch the news so you can also take action on further developments.
Personalize your statement if possible, or feel free to cut and paste the wording below.
As a Tennessee citizen who is nonreligious, who rejects the concept of “holy books,” and specifically objects to the Christian bible and its creationist, misogynistic, homophobic teachings, I am outraged that any legislator would contemplate adopting a state law endorsing the bible, much less declaring it the official state book of Tennessee. I strongly oppose HB 615 and SB 1008, which would declare the “Holy bible” the official state book.
I also urge you to oppose HJR 71, which would amend our constitution to declare that Tennesseans get their liberties not from the consent of the governed, but from “Almighty God, our Creator and Savior.” This proposal is a shameless attempt to force Christian ideology upon all Tennesseans, regardless of their religious — or nonreligious – preferences.
We live in a secular republic, not a Christian nation or state. It is not the business of the State of Tennessee to dictate what religion citizens should conform to. Please oppose these unconstitutional, unnecessary proposals.
For additional talking points, read Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel's blog post about a similar bible-as-state-book proposal in Louisiana last year.
You may also enjoy reading Ruth Green’s online “ABC’s of the Bible” (objectionable bible verses).
If you’re interested in ammunition about what’s wrong with the bible, visit FFRF’s online shop and look for such titles as Ruth Green’s “Born Again Skeptic,” Thomas Paine’s classic “The Age of Reason,” or Annie Laurie Gaylor’s “Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So.”More »
You’re undoubtedly aware that the Texas State Legislature is busy churning out bills left and right to entangle religion and government. This is a heads up on some of that legislation, and what you can do about it. We are asking for action from you on the first two bills summarized below.
Bill to legalize religious discrimination
Do you remember the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision that allowed for-profit corporations to exercise their so-called “religious conscience” in order to restrict employees’ access to contraceptives? Have you been watching the legal battles over cake decorators and municipal clerks who want to be able to discriminate against gay couples in the name of “religious freedom?” Now a bill has been introduced in your state that would afford legal protection to any person (or corporation) who chooses to discriminate or otherwise break the law in the name of their personal religion. This is one of many Texas bills introduced this legislative session that would disproportionately privilege the religious.
House Joint Resolution 55 would add language to the state constitution similar to the problematic federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Texas’ proposed bill essentially would tie the state’s hands, nullifying any neutral, generally applicable law that conflicts with a person’s or corporation’s religious beliefs. The only exception would be where it could be shown that law is “necessary to further a compelling governmental interest” and is “the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.” This is an extremely high bar for a law to meet, especially as religious groups increasingly use the cry of “religious persecution” to further their political agendas.
The bill was introduced in December and thankfully hasn’t received further attention from the House. But given that similar RFRA bills have seen movement in Arkansas, Michigan, South Dakota, and Wyoming, this bill could be taken up at any time. Please take prompt action and watch for developments.
Bill to create In God We Trust license plates
House Bill 315 would require the Department of Transportation to issue specially made “In God We Trust” license plates. The bill requires the proceeds from plate sales to go to the Texas Veterans Commission, because obviously they’ve never heard of “atheists in foxholes” and all veterans must trust in God. This bill was referred to the Committee on Transportation on Feb, 11. If you currently or formerly served in the military, please be sure to contact the members of the Committee to voice your opposition to this bill!
Bill introduced to put Ten Commandments in classrooms
House Bill 138 would prevent a school board from prohibiting the posting of the Ten Commandments “in a prominent location in a district classroom.” This bill would place school districts in an impossible position where they would have to choose between violating the new state law, or violating well-established constitutional principles. The Supreme Court has spoken on this issue, and ruled that the Ten Commandments cannot be posted in public schools. Costly litigation is likely to follow, siphoning away precious school district money that should be used to educate (not proselytize) students. HB 138 has been assigned to the Committee on Public Education, where hopefully it will die, if legislators can collectively ignore the cries of Christian persecution. (Read more on “What’s Wrong with the Ten Commandments.”)
Bills to let churches politick, etc.
House Joint Resolution 65 would amend the Texas State Constitution to declare that state government cannot interfere with political speech made by a religious leader in a church. State law, of course, cannot override federal law, which prohibits any political activity by tax-exempt religious organizations and churches. The bill would also prevent schools from interfering with students’ voluntary religious expressions at school events, such as graduations. This provision would muddy already ample protections afforded to student speech under the federal Constitution.
Similarly, HJR 32 would add a completely redundant provision to the Texas Constitution, telling courts that they cannot engage in religious doctrinal interpretation. Since this is already a well-established legal principal, this entire bill is nothing more than shameless pandering to religious constituents.
Pro-prayer, God resolution
When it comes to religious pandering, House Concurrent Resolution 30 is far and away the worst. This proposed resolution, which would have no legal effect but would set injurious tone and precedent, declares the legislature’s support for prayers that reference “God” at public gatherings and for the posting of the Ten Commandments in schools and other government buildings. The resolution begins by declaring that the Ten Commandments had a significant impact “on the development of the legal principles of western civilization,” a claim which is thoroughly untrue. It also makes the ahistorical claim that the “founding fathers believed devoutly that there was a God.” Revealingly, the bill suggests that Republicans have a mandate to fuse religion and politics, thanks to the overwhelming support for the “public acknowledgement of God” by Republican primary voters.
FFRF is singling out the first two proposals summarized above for action now, as they are most likely to move forward. Please watch the news so you can respond quickly to developments on other proposals as needed.
Contact your state legislators today to voice your strong opposition to these religious bills.
Personalize your statement if possible, or feel free to cut and paste the wording below.
I am writing as your constituent, a Texas taxpayer, and as one of the roughly 20% of state citizens who is atheist, agnostic, or identifies as nonreligious.
I strongly oppose House Joint Resolution 55, which would exempt any person or corporation from all generally applicable laws if they claim a religious objection. When the legislature designs a law to apply to everyone, it does so for good reasons. HJR 55 applies a blanket exemption to all laws, rather than requiring the legislature to deliberate over the merits of a specific religious exemption. This bill would create a legal loophole for any person or corporation who wishes to discriminate in the name of religion.
The Constitution already protects the free exercise of religion. This bill is simply a tool to legalize discrimination. The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, on which HJR 55 is based, has already damaged the rights of women to obtain contraceptive coverage. I would hate to see Texas businesses use this law to discriminate against gay people, atheists and religious minorities, or any other minority group.
Last year, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed Arizona’s version of this bill after high profile protests from citizens and corporations opposed to discrimination, including the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee and Apple. These bills are bad for business, true religious liberty, women, and LGBT rights. Codifying this law in Texas is simply bad policy.
If you are in the military or a veteran, or related to a veteran or active military member, please identify yourself as such.
[I am an “atheist in a foxhole” now serving in the military/I am a veteran who was an “atheist in a foxhole.”/My husband/wife/son/daughter, etc., has served our country.]
I am writing as your constituent, a Texas taxpayer, and as one of the roughly 20% of state citizens who is atheist, agnostic, or identifies as nonreligious. Military records indicate that nearly a quarter of active duty military members are now nonreligious. It is inappropriate for the government to promote an exclusionary religious motto on license plates with proceeds going to a veterans group. HB 315 wrongly assumes that all Texans “trust” in a god, and that all veterans believe in a god. It excludes 20-25% of Texas citizens and dishonors the contributions of the many Texans who are nonreligious and have served their country with valor.
A bill establishing a room "solely as a place for prayer and meditation" is currently working its way through the Kansas legislature. On Feb. 2, the Committee on Federal and State Affairs recommended the House pass the bill, HB 2075, meaning it will come up for a floor vote soon.
In 2012, a similar bill to establish a chapel in the statehouse passed the House but died in the Senate. In reaction, Gov. Sam Brownback made available a room that had been designated for his office staff to serve as an informal state prayer/meditation room. The bill would codify the prayer room in Kansas law.
Supporters of the H.R. 2075 claim it is nondenominational and open to anyone. But the governor's informal prayer room belies this claim. Although several pictures of Jesus were reportedly removed recently, other Judeo-Christian imagery remains on the walls. A recent visitor to the Capitol told FFRF that a bookcase in the room includes America's War on Christianity: In God We Trust by Brad O'Leary, The Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon, Freedom Manifesto by Steve Forbes, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save American from Washington by Rick Perry, A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington (and a Trillion That We Don't) by Mike Huckabee, and a book on Tea Party Catholics, among others.
Speaking in favor of the bill, House Federal and State Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, said it would be the "easiest" bill the committee would consider this year.
Contact your legislators today!
No one spoke in opposition to this bill — show Rep. Brunk that this bill shouldn't be so easy to pass! Contact your state legislators today and express your vigorous opposition to this proposal. It's helpful if you send both write and phone your legislator directly. (Answering the phone takes up office time, and involves direct contact. Someone who phones really cares. Always identify yourself as a constituent in phone conversations. Sending something in writing ensures it's there for the record, and gets counted.)
Write a letter to the editor
Send a letter today or soon spelling out your objections to this governmental establishment of religion in the seat of state government. It's also helpful to use social media to protest this bill.
Personalize your statement if possible, or feel free to cut and paste the wording below.
I am writing as a nonreligious constituent who strongly opposes HB 2075, which seeks to formally establish a "prayer and meditation" room in the Kansas Capitol. It is clear the prayer and meditation room will cater to Christians, and ignore minority religions and the nonreligious. Legislators, capitol staff, and capitol visitors are free to worship in their own way by themselves, in their homes or places of worship. They do not need the state to furnish a Christian prayer room for them.
This proposal to inject theology into our secular government also violates the Kansas Constitution, which expressly guarantees that no "preference be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship." Please vote against this unnecessary establishment of religion.
Do you remember the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision that allowed for-profit corporations to exercise their so-called “religious conscience” in order to restrict employees’ access to contraceptives? Have you been watching the legal battles over cake decorators and municipal clerks who want to be able to discriminate against gay couples in the name of “religious freedom"? Now bills are making their way through the Wyoming, South Dakota, and Arkansas legislatures that would afford legal protection to any person (or any corporation) who chooses to discriminate or otherwise break the law in the name of their personal religion.
Wyoming's House Bill 83, South Dakota's House Bill 1220, Arkansas's House Bill 1228, Michigan’s Senate Bill 04, Indiana’s Senate Bill 101, and Texas’s House Joint Resolution 55 would add provisions to state law similar to the problematic federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Supreme Court relied on the federal RFRA when deciding that contraception provisions in the Affordable Care Act created a “significant burden” on a corporation’s free exercise of religion. Additional legal challenges coming in the wake of Hobby Lobby make it clear that there’s no burden too small to trigger a religious objection (including having to complete the incredibly brief EBSA 700 form to notify the IRS of a religious objection to contraception).
Essentially, these bills will tie the states' hands, nullifying any neutral, generally applicable law that conflicts with a person’s or corporation’s religious beliefs — unless that law is “[e]ssential to further a compelling government interest” and is “[t]he least restrictive means” of furthering that interest. This is an extremely high bar for a law to meet, especially as religious groups increasingly use the cry of “religious persecution” to further their political agendas.
While the Third Circuit has just ruled that filling out a simple form doesn’t amount to a substantial burden on religious exercise, there’s no telling how other courts will rule. States should stick to the tried-and-true default where everyone is required to follow the law, regardless of their personal objections.
Contact your state legislators today to voice your strong opposition to these bills! Personalize your statement if possible, or feel free to cut and paste the wording below.
I am writing as your constituent and a STATE taxpayer, and I oppose BILL. It would exempt any person or corporation from all generally applicable laws if they claim a religious objection. When the legislature designs a law to apply to everyone, it does so for good reasons. This bill applies a blanket exemption to all laws, rather than requiring the legislature to deliberate over the merits of a specific religious exemption. It would create a legal loophole for any person or corporation who wishes to discriminate in the name of religion.
The Constitution already protects the free exercise of religion. This is simply a tool to legalize discrimination. The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, on which this bill is based, has already damaged the rights of women to obtain contraceptive coverage. I would hate to see businesses use this law to discriminate against gay people, atheists and religious minorities, or any other minority group.
Last year, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed Arizona’s version of RFRA after high profile protests from citizens and corporations opposed to discrimination, including the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee and Apple. These bills are bad for business, true religious liberty, women, and LGBT rights. Codifying this law is simply bad policy.
A Klamath County Commissioner is proposing to display "In God We Trust" inside the county's public hearing room.
"I am really tired of the majority in this country being forced to bend to the minority. When it comes to religion, those who believe in God are definitely in the majority," said Carol Warren, a local resident who is raising money for the display. "It doesn't matter to me who your God is, but I would like to see it there where the commissioners can see it."
Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams, who is bringing the proposal before the Board of Commissioners this month, agreed: "We [Christians] have been little by little getting watered down in our beliefs," he said. "I think we need to be more vocal."
Mallams and the other commissioners could use a reminder of one of the values listed on the Klamath County website: "Leadership—the mark of true leadership is not power and privilege, but humble service that puts the needs of our community first." Posting "In God We Trust" at the seat of government is nothing more than an exercise in power and privilege, a declaration by those in power that the county is a religious place that does not care about its nonreligious citizens.
The phrase falsely equates piety with patriotism. Our country was founded on entirely secular principles, and government has no business endorsing trust in a god. County commissioners are elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Both supporters and opponents of the proposal recognize that "In God We Trust" is a religious statement, as Commissioner Mallams' statements invoking Christianity demonstrate.
The history of the motto shows no secular purpose. The motto was first adopted in 1956 during the Cold War, as a reaction to the purported "godlessness" of communism. "E Pluribus Unum" [out of many, one] is the entirely secular original motto selected by a distinguished committee of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.
Commissioner Mallams may bring the proposal to a vote "as early as Feb. 17," according to media coverage. If you live in the area, please attend the Feb. 17 meeting, or the Feb. 10 meeting, and voice your opposition!
When: Tuesday, Feb. 10 and Feb. 17, 9:00 a.m.
Where: Government Center, 305 Main St., Klamath Falls, Rm. 219
If you can't attend or live outside the area, please immediately contact the Klamath County Board of Commissioners:
Phone: (541) 883-5100
305 Main St.
Klamath Falls, OR 97601
Write your own message or feel free to cut and paste wording below. If you live in Klamath County, please be sure to indicate you're a local citizen.
As someone who does not "trust in a god," but who believes in the separation between church and government, I strongly oppose the proposal to post the words "In God We Trust" in the Klamath County public hearing room. The phrase is exclusionary and does not represent all Klamath County residents. County commissioners are elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Please reject this divisive and religiously exclusionary proposal.
Last Tuesday, Republican State Senator Frank Nicely invited Pastor June Griffin to give a prayer to open the Tennessee State Senate session. During her prayer, she unleashed a politically charged assault on federal and judicial overreaching, complete with citations to the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Declaration of Rights.
Rather than the typical Christian prayer asking Jesus to keep everyone safe and healthy, Pastor Griffin asked Jesus to give the senators the "backbone" to resist "edicts from Washington, D.C." The prayer was scheduled when the Senate began hearings for Insure Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam's plan to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. It was obviously Pastor Griffin's intent to persuade senators to vote against this plan. She was successful; the plan was defeated on Wednesday.
"This controversy should be a learning experience for the Senate," said FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor in a letter sent to Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey protesting the Senate's prayer practices. "When the government orchestrates legislative prayer, it is no wonder that guests delivering the prayer use this unique platform to inform the audience how their god wants them to legislate."
It is wildly inappropriate for an invited guest speaker to weave political arguments into a prayer. Future prayer-givers will likely also want to chime in on how their god would like senators to legislate. To avoid this, the Tennessee State Senate should remove its practice of opening sessions with a prayer altogether.
Of course, sectarian prayers are exclusionary and divisive even when political arguments are not included. Even though the Supreme Court recently held that sectarian legislative prayers are constitutionally permissible in the unfortunate decision Greece v. Galloway, legislative bodies are not required to schedule opening prayers. Pastor Griffin's outlandish prayer demonstrates another reason that legislative prayers are a bad idea; even Christians should be outraged that the senate permits visiting speakers to preach politics in the midst of their prayer.
"Government prayer is unnecessary, inappropriate, and divisive," wrote Barker and Gaylor. "Calling upon representatives and citizens watching in the gallery or online to rise and pray (even silently) is coercive, embarassing, and beyond the scope of secular government."
Please call and email Speaker of the Senate Ron Ramsey and your local legislator to encourage them to abandon the practice of opening their sessions with a prayer.
Speaker Ron Ramsey
Phone: (615) 741-4524
Write your own message or feel free to cut and paste the wording below. Be sure to mention if you are a Tennessee resident!
[I am a Tennessee resident.] As a nonbeliever and a supporter of the separation between state and church, I urge you to reconsider the State Senate's practice of opening each session with a prayer. Recently, Pastor June Griffin inappropriately mixed politics into a prayer, leveraging her invitation to speak to tell senators how they should legislate. I am concerned that this will become a trend. Dropping legislative prayer is the only way to ensure that religious prejudices do not contaminate the legislative function of Senate sessions.
For maximum effectiveness, be succinct and polite in messages, and identify yourself as a constituent when relevant (not as a member of FFRF responding to this action alert). For obvious reasons, do not forward this action alert to the targeted officials. You may wish to send blind copies (using bcc: in your email) to FFRF at: .More »
The Indiana Senate passed Senate Bill 127 on Feb. 3, which seeks to allow religious-affiliated organizations like hospitals and universities to discriminate in hiring based on religion, even if those organizations receive state contracts.
Not only does the bill allow religious organizations receiving state funds to give preference to people of their chosen religion, it permits them to require employees and applicants to "conform to the religious tenets of the organization."
"This is outrageous," said Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, who voted against the bill. "How many tenets must you conform to? Do you have to go to church every Sunday? Can you eat meat on a Friday?" The answer to those rhetorical questions is that it depends on what the religious employer demands. If taken to its logical conclusion, the bill could allow a Muslim employer receiving state funding to require female employees to wear headscarves, or a Jewish employer to require all employees to keep kosher.
Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, said he wrote the bill to help Indiana Wesleyan University obtain state workforce training grants after the Attorney General's office determined the university's religious lifestyle mandate violated state employment discrimination laws.
Indiana Wesleyan University states that it seeks to employ people "whose personal and professional lives reflect a belief in and commitment to Jesus Christ and the Christian Faith." Among things prohibited in its "Community Lifestyle Statement" are "homosexual behavior," premarital sex, immodesty, occult practices, gambling, tobacco use, and all alcoholic beverages. It also notes that "dancing is an issue about which committed Christians disagree, and that discretion and maturity are required if dancing is to be an edifying activity."
The bill would allow Indiana Wesleyan and organizations like it to discriminate against atheists, gay people, and even people who dare to dance without discretion, all while receiving public funds.
The bill now goes to the Indiana General Assembly. Contact your legislator and tell them to vote against this discriminatory bill! In addition, contact Governor Mike Pence and tell him to veto the bill should it pass the Assembly.
Governor Mike Pence
Email contact form.
200 W. Washington St., Rm. 206
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Use your own words if possible, or cut and paste wording below.
I am an Indiana citizen. As a nonreligious person, I oppose SB127, which would legalize discrimination in the name of religious liberty. Religious organizations that receive public funds should not be permitted to discriminate against non-believers and those who practice a different religion. Please vote against this harmful and unnecessary measure.
Please act today to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian government from continuing to punish Saudi freethinker, Raif Badawi. Take action to prevent the Saudi Arabian government from continuing to flog Badwai, a freethinking blogger and activist, who started the website, "Free Saudi Liberal Network." Badawi often criticized his country's religious establishment.
After charging Raif with participating in online discussions that were critical of Islam, the Saudi government convicted Raif of “insulting Islam” in 2014 and sentenced Raif to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashings, to be exacted 50 lashes at a time every Friday. The first set of lashes was administered publicly in front of a mosque in Jeddah on Jan. 9, 2015, as a crowd applauded and yelled “God is great!” The second set, due to be administered last Friday, was delayed after an international outcry, following a medical examination that found Badawi hadn’t yet healed.
Join many U.S. senators, the State Department and the United Nations, who have called upon Saudi Arabia to stop the caning. Those who criticize religion, especially in a country where it is used to oppress women and stifle human rights, should be celebrated – not publicly caned. Although Saudi Arabia is a U.S. ally and condemned the attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, it rules according to Shariah (Islamist law).
Join the international protests condemning this barbaric punishment and imprisonment for “insulting Islam.” Contact the following offices to urge the Saudi Arabian government to halt the public lashings of Raif Badawi and release him.
- Contact the office of Joseph Westphal, U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia (office in Riyadh):
- Contact the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia:
If you have time, please also contact the State Department to thank them for its Jan. 8 statement calling for an end to the lashings and urging Saudi Arabia to uphold freedom of speech and religion.
- Contact the State Department:
Make your own points or feel free to copy or paraphrase the wording below:
As an atheist (or agnostic/freethinker), I join the international outcry against Saudi Arabia’s abusive treatment of Raif Badawi. Please stop the floggings and release him. Uphold freedom of conscience. Your treatment of Badawi will tarnish your nation’s reputation globally.
For maximum effectiveness, be succinct and polite in messages, and identify yourself as a constituent when relevant (not as a member of FFRF responding to this action alert). For obvious reasons, do not forward this action alert to the targeted official. You may wish to send blind copies (using bcc: in your email) to FFRF at:
- "Senators call on Saudi Arabia to cancel public flogging of blogger," Al Jazeera America
- "An Islamic Reformer, Lashed," New York Times Op-Ed
- "Caning of Saudi Blogger is Delayed Amid Protests," New York Times
Statement by Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation
Let's hear it for Alderperson Anita Weier of Madison, Wis., who just introduced an intriguing resolution to add not only the homeless, but atheists, to a long list of protected classes under the city's Equal Opportunity Ordinance. The proposal would prohibit discrimination against the homeless in employment and housing, and against atheists in employment, housing and public places — including civic space and places of business and recreation.
Weier has noted that religion is already a protected class, so lack of religion should have the same protection. It warms my heart that she specifically invoked the Freedom From Religion Foundation, whose offices are in Madison, and concerns FFRF has raised. Violations of the ordinance could result in civil fines paid to the aggrieved parties.
Given the recent targeting of blasphemers — the shocking massacre of irreverent cartoonists for Charlie Hebdo, which bills itself as an "atheist magazine" — it's high time nonbelievers become a protected class.
It made me smile a bit that the proposal lumps "the homeless" with "atheists," although I'm pleased "the homeless" are also being remembered. But it does reveal how low on the totem pole atheists (and the homeless!) are in this country. Nonbelievers are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to social acceptance. A major study, "Atheists as 'Other,' " published by the University of Minnesota in 2006, revealed that "atheists are less likely to be accepted, publicly and privately, than any others" from a long list of marginalized groups.
The study looked at attitudes toward groups such as Muslims, immigrants, racial minorities, gays and Jews — from the 1960s to present, and found that every group had made great strides in social acceptance — except atheists. Absurd stereotypes include widespread belief that atheists make up the ranks of prisoners and prostitutes! More Americans disapprove of their children marrying atheists than any other "outre" class.
The researchers found that many Americans believe "affirming a religious identity is an important way of 'being American,' a basis for citizenship and a source of a common American identity." FFRF can second that conclusion. We lay the blame in part on many 1950s church/state entanglements, such as adoption of "In God We Trust" as a motto and currency requirement, the Congressional establishment of a National Day of Prayer, and insertion of "under God" in the previously secular pledge. Piety became conflated with good citizenship.
The Civil Rights Act and most of its state, county and city offshoots name religion as a protected class, which, we would hold, also prohibits discriminating against the nonreligious. But clearly that's not the way it's typically interpreted, given the fact that "church bulletin discounts" rate in FFRF's "top ten" complaints received. Last year, FFRF sent out 20 letters of complaint over such discounts, in which, typically, a restaurant or ballgame arena, which are places of public accommodation, will offer a discount on Sundays to anyone showing a church bulletin, thus proving they went to church that day. FFRF's complaint over a diner in North Carolina, which stopped awarding a 15% discount for "praying in public," was in the national news for several weeks late last summer.
The most typical discrimination FFRF has faced, locally and nationally, is refusal by companies to make our T-shirts, print our brochures or post our billboards. We don't just have problems with free speech — we have problems with "paid speech." Whether this ordinance would affect such discrimination remains to be seen. But the public has no idea how often freethought views are censored. This includes a decision by CBS last year to refuse to nationally air a TV ad made for us by well-known public figure Ron Reagan.
The only improvement I might suggest would be to broaden the protection not just to named "atheists," but also to "nonbelievers" or "nontheists." (We wouldn't want the ordinance to inadvertently imply it's OK to discriminate against agnostics.) Many nonreligious Madisonians may prefer other appellations to that of atheist. I like to joke that our members may call themselves by many an appellation — atheist, agnostic, skeptic, secular humanist, rationalist, nonreligious, etc. — but whatever we call ourselves, we all disbelieve in the same gods.
Thank you, Anita, for introducing an ordinance that will set a significant tone of inclusion and respect for the 20% to 30% of Madisonians who are not religious.
Thank Anita Weier for standing up for the rights of atheists and nonbelievers in Madison.
You can cc or separately contact the rest of the Madison Common Council:
Email Alder Anita Weier, District 18
Please be sure to identify yourself as a Madison resident and atheist or nonbeliever and indicate you support the inclusion of nonbelievers to the city’s Equal Opportunity Ordinance.More »
The Clark County Board of County Councilors is considering a proposal to post "In God We Trust" in the county's main public hearing room.
"A lot of times we drift away from it," said Councilor Tom Mielke, who suggested the display.
The proposal falsely equates piety with patriotism. Our country was founded on entirely secular principles, and government has no business endorsing trust in a god. County councilors are elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Both supporters and opponents of the proposal recognize that "In God We Trust" is a religious statement. The history of the motto shows no secular purpose. The motto was first adopted in 1956 during the Cold War, as a reaction to the purported "godlessness" of communism. "E Pluribus Unum" [out of many, one] is the entirely secular original motto selected by a distinguished committee of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.
Mielke said he does not expect a strong backlash to his proposal, saying, "It's on all your money, too." If you live in the area, please attend the next commission meeting and prove Mielke wrong! Voice your opposition against the proposal to add a religious display to the commission chambers.
When: Tuesday, Feb. 10, 10:00 a.m.
Where: Clark County Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St., Vancouver
If you can't attend or live outside the area, please immediately contact members of the Clark County Board of County Councilors:
Chair David Madore
Jeanne E. Stewart
Board phone: (360) 397-2232
Write your own message or feel free to cut and paste wording below. If you live in Clark County, please be sure to indicate you're a local citizen.
As someone who does not "trust in a god," but who believes in the separation between church and government, I strongly oppose the proposal to post a public display of the words "In God We Trust" in the Clark County public hearing room. The phrase is exclusionary and does not represent all Clark County residents. In fact, the Pew Research Center reports that nearly one in five adult Americans and one in three young adults is now nonreligious. County Councilors are elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Please reject this divisive and religiously exclusionary proposal.
Mayor Lupe Ramos Watson of Indio, Calif., decided to end the Indio City Council's practice of opening meetings with a prayer. "We need to respect all beliefs and absence of beliefs," she said, reported in The Desert Sun.
Councilman Mike Wilson has strenuously opposed the change because, he claimed, the vast majority of Indio residents "are of Judeo-Christian beliefs." Wilson is seeking advice from the city attorney on the matter, apparently questioning the mayor's authority to remove the invocation.
Ramos Watson is a Republican who has served on the Indio City Council since 2004. The council rotates the position of mayor among councilmembers. Ramos Watson also eliminated prayer when she was mayor in 2011.
Please phone or email Mayor Ramos Watson and thank her for standing up for the separation of church and state!
Mayor Lupe Ramos Watson
Write your own message or feel free to cut and paste wording below. If you are a local resident or live in California, please be sure to indicate that.
[I am an Indio citizen and nonbeliever./I am a California resident and nonbeliever.] Thank you for honoring the Constitution by keeping religious ritual out of public meetings. Calling upon council members and citizens to rise and pray is exclusionary and divisive, turning nonbelievers and religious minorities into political outsiders in our own community. Removing prayer from meetings and keeping the government neutral on matters of religion is the wisest option. Thank you for standing up for the rights of all your constituents, and concentrating on the civic and secular duties of the City Council.
For maximum effectiveness, be succinct and polite in messages, and identify yourself as a constituent when relevant (not as a member of FFRF responding to this action alert). For obvious reasons, do not forward this action alert to the targeted official. You may wish to send blind copies (using bcc: in your email) to FFRF at:More »
Two Mississippi state representatives, Tom Miles and Michael Evans, are proposing to make the bible the state book. Miles said that since Mississippi has a state bird, a state flower and even a state toy, it should have a state book, reported The Clarion-Ledger. Miles "sees the Bible as a good guide for promoting kindness and compassion."
This proposal is nothing more than another attempt to use the machinery of government to force Christian ideology onto all Mississippians, regardless of their religious or nonreligious preference.
The "good book," as FFRF often notes, is rife with violence, misogyny, homophobia, genocide, slavery, and intolerance of nonbelievers, which certainly counteracts any promotion of "kindness and compassion."
It's hard to credit this degree of zealotry, insensitivity and ignorance among state legislators in a nation where surveys and polls show that an ever-growing percentage of the American population identifies as nonreligious. Legislators who took an oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution in all its godlessness apparently have never bothered to examine it.
The state that produced Eudora Welty and William Faulkner should have no trouble choosing a more appropriate state book.
Tell the bill's sponsors and your legislator that making the bible the state book of Mississippi is unconstitutional and exclusionary!
Representative Tom Miles
Representative Michael Evans
Write your own message or feel free to cut and paste wording below.
As a Mississippi citizen and nonreligious person, I am outraged that any legislator would contemplate adopting a state law endorsing the bible, much less declaring it the official state book of Mississippi. We live in a secular republic, not a Christian nation or state. It is not the business of the State of Mississippi to dictate what religion citizens should conform to. Please drop this unconstitutional, unnecessary proposal.
For additional talking points, read Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel's blog post about a similar proposal in Louisiana last year.More »
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stopped by a Sunday service at Mt. Vernon's Grace Baptist Church Jan. 18 to announce the creation of the Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services. The office's first effort will be a $50-million grant program.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the governor a letter today protesting the creation of the proposal, and asks that you, as a New York State citizen, make known your strong objections as soon as you can. (Scroll down for contact information.)
FFRF's Legal Fellow Katherine Paige transcribed Cuomo's speech at the church, which was highly religious (emphasis added):
One of the ways to invest in communities is you look for the stable institution to build on. When Jesus was going to build this church, he said 'I'm going to build it on Simon Peter on the rock.' You look for the rock in the community to build on. Very often the rock is the church, is the temple, is the mosque, is the faith-based institution in that community. You look at a community and you see alcohol sales, pawn brokers, check cashers, and the church. And build on the church and we want to invest in building on the capacity of the church.
Governor Cuomo's focus on the church as the "rock in the community" excludes people and organizations of no faith, FFRF contends. "There are some people for whom faith communities are oppressive, exclusionary or alienating. . . . These citizens are made to feel like political outsiders when the government has such close partnerships with sectarian religious organizations." Cuomo is also tapping a Christian minister to run the program.
The governor's office released a press statement saying: "The purpose of the office is to assist and leverage community and faith-based organizations in the delivery of education, health, workforce training, food programs and social services to communities, particularly those most in need." The office will grant funds to religious organizations and "help build the capacity of faith-based organizations to provide community services."
Courts have allowed the government to partner with religious organizations to provide secular charity activities in some circumstances, but "acting as a contractor with the government to provide for public welfare is not 'faith-based,' nor is it permissible to promote religion or discriminate based on religion, when on public time and dime," wrote FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker in FFRF's letter.
"The office is unnecessary because New York already allows religious organizations to compete in state-funded grant programs providing secular social services," FFRF wrote. "Because religious organizations are already on equal footing with secular non-profits, there is no need for the office, which is clearly designed to advance religious organizations or, as [Cuomo] put it, to 'build on the church.' "
"While the goal of bettering the community is laudable, that idea is not exclusive to faith communities and does not require such entanglement of religion to accomplish," the letter concludes.
CONTACT GOV. CUOMO
Tell Governor Cuomo that this new program excludes nonbelievers, shows preference for funding religious groups, and is unnecessary and exclusionary! Call, email, or write today.
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
WRITE TIMELY LETTER TO EDITOR
Send a succinct letter to your favorite editor, and/or use social media to educate the public on the dangers of church/state entanglements.
CONTACT YOUR STATE LEGISLATOR
The program's $50 million grant is in the governor's budget and will be voted on by legislators. Give your state senator and assemblyperson a heads up now to your vigorous objections to Cuomo's faith-based office.
Please watch the news for ongoing developments and contact your legislators or key committees as needed.
Read FFRF's letter (linked above) for additional talking points.
Write your own message or feel free to cut and paste wording below. If you live in New York, please be sure to indicate you're a citizen.
[I am a New York citizen.] As a nonreligious person, I strenuously object to the creation of the Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services and its $50 million grant. Creating an office only for community organizations that are faith-based, and appointing a Christian minister to be its executive director, confers special status on those groups while minimizing the contributions of secular organizations and citizens of no faith. Religious organizations are already on equal footing with secular organizations in competing for state-funded grants to provide secular social services. The office elevates religious groups above other groups. Please discontinue coordination of this discriminatory office and make its funds available to all community organizations.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation and two of its courageous Franklin County members, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, are suing Franklin County over a 50-year violation involving a life-sized manger scene on the courthouse lawn every December.
Since 2010, FFRF’s requests to the county to remove the devotional display have been met with hysteria, including annual rallies by locals to “save the manger scene.” The manger scene display is not endangered, by the way. Religion flourishes in this nation, and churches, private entities and individuals are free to put nativity scenes up on private property.
Now, State Sen. Jim Smith (R-Charlestown) opportunistically has announced his plan to re-introduce his “Merry Christmas bill” to retaliate against FFRF’s federal lawsuit.
In announcing his bill, Smith made a number of erroneous and inflammatory comments, such as: “We are certainly stealing Christmas from our children and from our culture” and “We are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles."
1. Email your local Indiana daily or weekly a short letter to the editor about why Smith is wrong. Please be sure to follow their word limits, and include your name, address and phone number as required. You may also wish to send a letter to the editor in Franklin County, or Indianapolis Star.
Please cc your local senator, if you are not represented by Smith. Find your senator here.
Sample email to Senator Smith below, or use your own words. Please be sure to identify yourself as an Indiana citizen or his constituent if applicable:
Senator Smith: I am an Indiana citizen who is not religious and is offended when religious displays take over the seat of our government every December. You took an oath of office to uphold our godless Constitution, whose only references to religion are exclusionary. All citizens, regardless of their views on religion, are equal under the law. Government must be neutral, not take sides and stay out of the religious fray. We were first among nations to separate religion from government, thereby ensuring the United States would avoid religious warfare, bloodshed and acrimony.
See news articles for more background:More »
Ohio recently unveiled plans for Community Connectors, a program that provides funds for local networks of volunteers and organizations to mentor students in disadvantaged schools. Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Richard A. Ross, whose department is charged with administering the program, added an unnecessary requirement: any organization that wants to participate must partner with "a faith-based organization."
According to the authorizing legislation, school districts can partner with business, civic organizations, or faith-based organizations to provide career advising and mentoring services.
But according to the grant application for the program, "If the lead applicant is a community nonprofit or nonprofit associated with a for-profit business, a faith-based organization or house of worship must be included as a partner." Nonprofit groups need to partner with three other entities: a school district, a business, and a faith-based organization or house of worship. If a faith-based organization wants to apply, it only needs two additional partners: a business and a school district.
"Conditioning an organization's eligibility to receive state grants on the basis of religion is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment," wrote FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor in a letter sent to Superintendent Ross today. "This grant program explicitly raises faith-based organizations above all others. The government is required to treat religious groups the same as other similarly situated groups, not prop them up."
Gaylor quoted Benjamin Franklin: "When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
"Rather than allowing religious organizations to compete for grants with secular organizations on a level playing field, this proposal buttresses religious organizations and gives them preferential treatment by requiring their inclusion in the project. Furthermore, non-religious or secular organizations face a greater burden than religious organizations, as they must partner with three entities . . . while religious organizations are only required to find two additional partners," Gaylor pointed out.
The Ohio constitution provides, "no preference shall be given, by law, to any religious society," noted Gaylor. And although officials working on the project claimed proselytization was not the purpose of the requirement, "our extensive experience in this area leads us to conclude otherwise," she said.
Contact Superintendent Ross today to voice opposition to this religious favoritism!
Dr. Richard A. Ross
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Ohio Department of Education
25 South Front Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215-4138
Read FFRF's letter (linked above) for additional talking points.
Write your own message or feel free to cut and paste wording below. If you live in Ohio, please be sure to indicate you're a citizen.
[I am an Ohio citizen.] As a nonreligious person, I object to the Department of Education's mandate that religious organizations must be included in the Community Connectors program. It is unconstitutional to require secular groups to partner with religious organizations in order to receive a government grant. It demonstrates the state of Ohio's inappropriate endorsement of religion over nonreligion. Please remove the faith-based partner requirement from applications for Community Connectors to end this unconstitutional preferential treatment of religious groups. A proposal to mentor students should not be used as a pretext to promote religious groups.More »
The Freedom From Religion Foundation applauds Governor Steve Beshear and members of the Kentucky Tourism Development Authority (KTDA) for their wise decision not to subsidize Ark Encounter, LLC, a biblical-themed park currently under construction in northern Kentucky, via state tax incentives.
Please take a moment to contact the KTDA to thank it for ensuring that reason — and the constitutional separation between state and church — will prevail. It's expected that the Religious Right will be indignant and mount a backlash against Kentucky officials, so it's important that they hear from you. Scroll to the end for contact information.
The Ark Encounter is a project of Answers in Genesis, the "Christian apologetics ministry" that operates the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky. Ark Encounter had demanded more than $18 million in state tax incentives to support the park, which is to feature a "full-scale replica" of Noah's Ark.
In a Dec. 10 letter, the KTDA officially rejected Ark Encounter's grant application, citing constitutional and discrimination concerns. Regarding the park's evangelical mission, KTDA Secretary Robert Stewart wrote that "state tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion. The use of state incentives in this way violates the Separation of Church and State provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible." Additionally, "the Commonwealth will not grant incentives to a company that intends to discriminate in hiring its employees based on religion[.]"
FFRF is gratified to finally hear the State of Kentucky agree with its concerns from the start.
Despite assurances by Ark Encounter early in the application process that it would abide by all state and federal employment anti-discrimination laws, an August job posting on the Answers in Genesis website for a Computer-Assisted Design Technician Designer for Ark Encounter required job applicants to fulfill several religious criteria. For one, applicants were required to profess agreement with Answers in Genesis' Statement of Faith which, among other things, requires applicants to believe that the Earth was created in six consecutive 24-hour days and is barely 6,000 years old, and that "homosexuality, lesbian, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography, or any attempt change one's gender, or disagreement with one's biological gender, is sinful and offensive to God."
"The Commonwealth [of Kentucky] has not and does not provide incentives to any company that discriminates on the basis of religion and will not make an exception for Ark Encounter, LLC," read the KTDA's letter. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear issued a separate statement the same day supporting the KTDA's decision: "We expect any entity that accepts state incentives not to discriminate on any basis in hiring." According to Gov. Beshear, the KTDA will no longer proceed with Ark Encounter's tourism incentive application because Ark Encounter intends "to use religious beliefs as a litmus test for hiring decisions."
FFRF applauds the Commonwealth's decision. One major purpose of the Kentucky Tourism Development Act Tax Credit Program is to promote projects that will create jobs in the state. Those jobs need to be available to all, regardless of faith, and not simply to those who conform to Answers in Genesis' pseudo-scientific and homophobic Statement of Faith.
In denying tax incentives to Ark Encounter, the KTDA has not only helped safeguard the separation of church and state by ensuring government funds are not used to advance religion, but has affirmed a commitment to the people of Kentucky that those funds are used to create jobs for which anyone can apply, regardless of religious preference.
Use your own words or cut and paste the wording below. If you are a Kentucky citizen or resident, please be sure to mention that.
"As a nonreligious citizen, I am writing in support of your decision not to subsidize Ark Encounter. Thank you for respecting the U.S. and Kentucky Constitutions, for standing up in defense of employment anti-discrimination law, and for demonstrating respect for the rights of Kentucky's non-Christian citizens."
Governor Steve Beshear
Office of the Governor
700 Capitol Avenue, Suite 100
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
Phone: (502) 564-2611
Kentucky Tourism Development Authority
Secretary Bob Stewart
Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet
2400 Capital Plaza Tower
500 Mero Street
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
Phone: (502) 564-4270
The 43-foot cross atop Mount Soledad, a prominent public park in San Diego, has long been ruled unconstitutional, but political maneuvering has kept the government from dismantling or moving the cross. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to transfer the public land on which the Latin cross sits to the Mount Soledad Memorial Association. This is just the latest maneuver by the government to circumvent the Constitution.
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the measure any time this week. Please take action immediately! Scroll for contact information or read more about the case below.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the cross unconstitutional in 2011, and the Supreme Court declined to review the decision in 2012, letting the appellate opinion stand. The lawsuit actually began in 1989 when Philip Paulson, a Vietnam vet and atheist, first sued. Paulson, who became FFRF's first Atheist in Foxhole awardee, originally won his case in federal court in 1991. FFRF State Representative Steve Trunk, a Lifetime FFRF Member and also a Vietnam vet, atheist and FFRF Atheist in Foxhole awardee, joined the case when Paulson was dying, ensuring the continuation of one of the longest-running Establishment Clause cases in U.S. history.
The current cross was put up in the 1950s, but earlier permutations were erected at least by the 1920s. Actor Gregory Peck recalled in a memoir how the KKK set fire to a wooden cross on Mount Soledad in 1923 after a black family rented a house in the town's outskirts. After litigation began, the government conveniently dubbed the cross a veterans memorial in a post hoc attempt to justify the cross. For decades, sunrise Easter services have been held there.
The federal government currently owns the land after taking it over in 2006 from the city of San Diego, which faced fines of $5,000 a day if it did not remove the cross. The city made two previous attempts to transfer the cross to the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, neither of which passed muster in the courts.
Please immediately call, email, or fax your two senators and ask them to vote against this measure. Contact information for senators may be found here.
Use your own words or cut and feel free to paste any wording below. If you are an "atheist in a foxhole" (ongoing military or veteran), please be sure to add that.
As a nonbeliever/atheist/agnostic, I oppose the scheme to circumvent the courts and the Constitution by transferring historic and valuable federal land to a private entity in order to "save" the Mount Soledad cross. Federal courts have repeatedly held the 43-foot-tall Latin cross on public land to be unconstitutional.
The government's continued machinations to preserve this cross on the most prominent spot overlooking San Diego demonstrates endorsement of the Christian religion. Belatedly dubbing a Christian cross display to be a veterans memorial sends the exclusionary message that the government only cares about the service or deaths of Christian soldiers — not Jewish, Muslim, other non-Christian and nonreligious soldiers. The nonreligious is the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, today at one in five Americans. Nearly a quarter of the current military identifies as nonreligious. That's a lot of veterans and U.S. citizens to exclude. The Senate represents and serves all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a god. Please demonstrate neutrality for religion and respect for those of no faith and minority faiths by voting against this inappropriate land transfer.More »
A Miami-Dade County Commission committee passed a resolution Nov. 13 to install “In God We Trust” behind the dais where the commissioners sit at meetings. The full commission will vote on the resolution on Tuesday, Dec. 2.
The motto “symbolizes the historical role of religion in our society, fosters patriotism, and expresses confidence in the future of our Nation, our State, and our County and its people,” according to the resolution.
“We need all the help we can get,” said Commissioner Juan C. Zapata in support of the resolution at the economic development committee’s meeting, the Miami Herald reported. Commissioner Lynda Bell added, “Amen, brother.”
The resolution falsely equates piety with patriotism. Our country was founded on entirely secular principles, and government has no business endorsing trust in a god. County commissioners are elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Both supporters and opponents of the proposal recognize that “In God We Trust” is a religious statement. The history of the motto shows no secular purpose. The motto was first adopted in 1956 during the Cold War, as a reaction to the purported "godlessness" of communism. "E Pluribus Unum" [out of many, one] is the entirely secular original motto selected by a distinguished committee of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote the commission a letter today protesting the resolution.
If you live in the area, please attend the next commission meeting and voice your opposition against the proposal to add a religious display to the commission chambers.
When: Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014
Where: Stephen P. Clark Center, 2nd floor, 111 N.W. 1st Street, Miami.
Contact your commissioner and request to be placed on an agenda as a citizen’s presentation, or speak during the Public Hearings section of the meeting.
If you can’t attend or live outside the area, please immediately contact members of the Miami-Dade County Commission:
Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa
Read FFRF’s letter (linked above) for additional talking points.
Write your own message or feel free to cut and paste wording below. If you live in Miami-Dade County, please be sure to indicate you're a local citizen.
As someone who does not "trust in a god," but who believes in the separation between church and governemnt, I strongly oppose the proposal to post a public display of the words “In God We Trust” in the Miami-Dade County Commission chambers. The phrase is exclusionary and does not represent all of Miami-Dade County residents. In fact, the Pew Research Center reports that nearly one in five adult Americans and one in three young adults is now nonreligious. County Commissioners are elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Please reject this divisive and religiously exclusionary proposal.More »
Members of the Pickens County School Board of Trustees in Easley, S.C., usually open their meetings by praying. They’re considering a change in policy—to bring in local clergy to pray instead. Please contact them now and let them know the only policy change they need is to remove prayer altogether as an official school board function.
The current policy provides for board members to give nonsectarian prayers to start the meeting. Under the new policy, the board would send invitations to give an invocation to clergy members listed in a database of local religious communities. This would allow for sectarian, presumably mostly Christian, prayers.
FFRF has sent the board several letters. An attorney for the board responded only to say the board believed it was in compliance with the law, referencing cases pertaining to prayer at meetings of legislative bodies (not school boards).
Prayer at public school board meetings is different from other government meetings because it takes place in the school context. Two federal appellate courts have ruled that school board prayer is unconstitutional. School board members should be modeling respect for more than 65 years of Supreme Court precedent removing proselytizing and religious ritual from public school functions. Religion in our public schools and on our public school boards is divisive. School board members can pray privately, on their own time and dime.
FFRF filed suit against a praying school board in California last week. It is also challenging school board prayer in another South Carolina district, School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties.
The Pickens County board discussed the issue extensively at its Oct. 27 meeting, but took no action.
If you live in the area, please try to attend a board meeting and give input. The next meeting is Nov. 24. Please also contact your board member, identifying yourself as a constituent.
Others outside Pickens County, please contact members of the Pickens County School Board of Trustees via mail, phone, or email today to voice your opposition to the board’s prayer practice.
School District of Pickens County Board of Trustees
1348 Griffin Mill Road
Easley, SC 29640
Board Chairman Brian Swords
Send your own message, or cut and paste wording below. If you live in Pickens County and/or have children in the school district, please be sure to include that information.
As a nonbeliever/atheist, I oppose the Pickens County School Board of Trustee’s practice of beginning its meetings with prayers. Prayer at public school board meetings is unnecessary, inappropriate, and divisive. It excludes students and community members who are not religious, telling them that they are second-class citizens. The board should focus on educating students, rather than promoting personal religious views. Please take action to honor the First Amendment and student rights of conscience by dropping divisive prayers altogether from school board meetings.More »
The Fayette County Commission in La Grange, Texas, will hold a public hearing at their Monday, Nov. 10 meeting to consider whether to continue closing county offices on Good Friday.
FFRF sent letters to County Judge Ed Janecka and County Clerk Julie Karstedt in April after a local complainant alerted FFRF that the Fayette County Courthouse and Clerk's Office both posted signs saying they would be closed "in observance of Good Friday."
"Good Friday is neither a federal holiday nor a mandatory Texas state holiday," wrote Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert in the letters. "By closing its government office, the County violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because it not only promotes religion over non-religion, but also impermissibly favors Christianity over all other faiths."
FFRF sent another letter to the commission today in light of the announced hearing. Federal courts have struck down official Good Friday holidays, Markert noted in the letter, and the clearly religious motivation behind Fayette County's holiday makes this situation unlike cases where courts have upheld holidays as having a secular justification. In addition to being explicitly closed "in observance of Good Friday," one of the signs pictured Christian crosses, and the Schulenburg Sticker quotes Assistant County Attorney Harold Streicher as saying, "This is the culture that we live in, and most of our people would like to be off on that day."
Streicher also reportedly said, "Anyone who has an issue with the county holidays should come forward. That way they can say their piece at a public hearing." Take him up on his offer!
The Monday, Nov. 7 meeting will be held in Room 303 at the Fayette County Courthouse in La Grange at 9 a.m. FFRF's local complainant plans to give a statement at the hearing, and needs backup! If you live in the area, please try to attend this meeting and give your own testimony. Please also phone, fax or email your commissioner, identifying yourself as a constituent.
Others outside Fayette County, please contact members of the Fayette County Commissioners Court via phone, fax or email today or before Monday to voice your opposition to the county's favoritism of Christianity.
Read Markert's letter (linked above) for additional talking points.
Use your own words or cut and paste wording below. If you live in Fayette County, please be sure to indicate you're a local citizen.
[I am a citizen of Fayette County.] As a nonbeliever/atheist, I oppose the county's practice of closing its offices for Good Friday. Good Friday is a Christian holy day that has significance to no one but Christians. It is discriminatory to favor Christians by observing an entirely religious holiday as a government holiday, denying access to county services to all citizens in the process.
The Fayette County Commissioners Court should not include Good Friday as a county holiday in the future. Fayette County exists to represent and serve all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a god. Please vote to keep county offices open on Good Friday.
County Judge Ed Janecka
151 North Washington St., Room 301
La Grange, TX 78945
Office Phone: (979) 968-6469
Fax Number: (979) 968-8621
Precinct 1 Commissioner
265 Ellinger Road
La Grange, TX 78945
Office Phone: (979) 968-3358
Fax Number: (979) 968-8621
Precinct 2 Commissioner
2339 S. State Highway 237
Round Top, TX 78954
Office Phone: (979) 249-3166
Fax Number: (979) 249-3906
Precinct 3 Commissioner
P.O. Box 393
Flatonia, TX 78941
Office Phone: (361) 865-3524
Fax Number: (979) 968-8621
Precinct 4 Commissioner
P.O. Box 423
Schulenburg, TX 78956
Office Phone: (979) 743-3250
Fax Number: (979) 968-8621
On Nov. 4 voters in Hawaii will decide whether the state should use public money to fund private preschool programs, including religious preschools. The proposed amendment—CON AMEND: Relating to Early Childhood Education—would amend Section 1 of Article X of the Constitution of Hawaii to allow the appropriation of public funds “for the support or benefit of private early childhood education programs,” including religious programs. The state constitution currently prohibits the use of public tax dollars to benefit private schools.
Many Hawaiian preschools are faith-based, housed in places of worship, and include sectarian curricula, teaching, and instruction. In funding these preschool programs, the state, in essence, would be paying private religious institutions to indoctrinate children far too young to decide religious issues for themselves.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) reportedly objects to the Early Childhood Education amendment because it views the change as a voucher program that will take money from public schools to benefit private schools. Nothing in the language of the proposed amendment limits the use of these funds. In other words, there are no safeguards in place to ensure that public funds are used only for secular purposes. “Such privatization also would allow public funds to be used for religious education and other religious purposes, weakening the wall between church and state,” said Alan Isbell, Waikuku Elementary School Teacher and HSTA representative.
To prevent your taxpayer money from funding private religious schools, spread the word that the Early Childhood Education amendment is bad for Hawaii’s public schools and undermines state/church separation. Please VOTE NO on Nov. 4.More »
The Baldwin County Commission in Bay Minette, Ala., will hold a work session on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 8:30 a.m. to consider a proposed monument to atheists in foxholes at the Baldwin County Courthouse.
FFRF sent a letter to the commission on Aug. 20, 2014, to protest an eternal flame monument displayed in front of the courthouse that ostensibly honors veterans, but is foremost dedicated to "the glory of God." The four-sided statue repeatedly says, "Dedicated to the glory of God and in honor of the veterans of all wars." FFRF asked the commission to modify or remove the monument, or alternately, place FFRF's "Atheists in Foxholes" monument alongside the religious one.
FFRF member and local student activist Amanda Scott has been invited to the Oct. 14 meeting to speak to the commission about the proposed display, and needs backup!
FFRF erected a monument to atheists in foxholes in Lake Hypatia, Ala., in 1999. The proposed Baldwin County monument would be similar to the Lake Hypatia statue (pictured above). This statue is tended by our chapter, Alabama Freethought Association.
See contact information following Talking Points.
The Tuesday, Oct. 14 work session will be at 8:30 a.m. in the Large Meeting Hall at the Baldwin County Foley Satellite Courthouse, 201 East Section Avenue, Foley, Ala. If you live in the area, please try to attend this meeting to testify. Please also phone or email your commissioner, identifying yourself as a constituent.
Others outside Baldwin County: Please contact members of the Baldwin County Commission via phone or email today or before Oct. 14 to voice your opposition to the county's exclusionary monument and to voice your support for FFRF's Atheists in Foxholes monument.
Read FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel's letter (linked above) to the Baldwin County Commission for additional talking points.
Use your own words or cut and paste wording below. If you live in Baldwin County, please be sure to indicate you're a local citizen.
[I am a citizen of Baldwin County.] As a nonbeliever/atheist who does not believe in "the glory of God," I strongly oppose the current veteran's memorial at the Baldwin County Courthouse. The dedication to "the glory of God" offensively excludes the many nonreligious veterans, who were "atheists in foxholes," as well as the 20% of Baldwin County residents (and one in three young adults) who, according to Pew Research Center, now identify as nonreligious.
The Baldwin County Commission should remove this exclusionary monument, or alternately erect a monument honoring nonreligious veterans. The Baldwin County Commission is elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a god. Please vote to accept the "Atheists in Foxholes" monument so you truly honor all of America's veterans.
Baldwin County Commission Administration Office
ATTN: County Commission Office
312 Courthouse Square, Suite 12
Bay Minette, Alabama 36507
Commissioner Charles Gruber
(251) 943-5061, Ext. 2804
Commissioner Frank Burt
Commissioner Chris Elliott
(251) 990-4606, Ext. 2306
Commissioner Tucker Dorsey
This Sunday, Oct. 5, is the annual so-called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday." This event, organized and promoted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian Right legal group based in Arizona, encourages pastors to abuse their tax-exempt status and openly endorse or oppose candidates for office from the pulpit.
FFRF wants to take the opportunity to remind the public about the IRS regulations with respect to political activities by 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations and encourage its members to report any illegal activity.
As you may know, FFRF sued the Internal Revenue Service in late 2012 to compel it to enforce its own regulations barring tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofits from engaging in partisan political activity. Earlier this year, this case was resolved because the IRS agreed to resume doing its job by investigating tax-exempt churches that engage in illegal electioneering.
So long as Pulpit Freedom Sunday, and any other electioneering by churches during this election season occurs, FFRF remains committed to seeking IRS investigations into this illegal activity. Members who become aware of this activity should send FFRF a violation report with information, including the church's name, the pastor's name and any other information that documents illegal campaign activity. This would include transcripts of sermons, pictures of political signs on church property and copies of church publications announcing endorsements of particular candidates for public office.
IRS regulations specify that 501(c)(3) organizations, which include churches and other religious organizations, are prohibited from "[participating in or intervening in] . . . any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office." Revenue Rul. 2007-41, 2007-25 I.R.B. (June 28, 2007). While leaders of churches or religious organizations may express their opinions on political matters as individuals, they are precluded from making "partisan comments in official organization publications or at official functions of the organization."
This means churches:
• Cannot endorse or oppose candidates for public office.
• Cannot make any communication — either from the pulpit, in a newsletter, or church bulletin — which expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a candidate for public office.
• Cannot make expenditures on behalf of a candidate for public office or allow any resources to be used indirectly for political purposes (e.g., phones for a phone bank).
• Cannot ask a candidate for public office to sign a pledge or other promise to support a particular issue.
• Cannot distribute partisan campaign literature.
• Cannot display political campaign signs favoring a candidate or a party on church property.
Churches and other 501(c)(3) organizations may engage in nonpartisan campaign activities, primarily consisting of voter education. Thus, they may organize and coordinate nonpartisan get-out-the-vote and voter registration drives; sponsor nonpartisan candidate debates or forums, so long as all legally qualified candidates are invited to appear and wide spectrum of issues are covered; educate all candidates on issues of public interest; and create legislative scorecards or voter guides. All of these permissible activities must be done on a nonpartisan basis. A 501(c)(3) entity should not even tacitly express favor or disfavor of a particular candidate.
FFRF also often receives queries from its members about referendum or ballot initiatives occurring in their states. One such current measure is Amendment 1 in Tennessee, which is an anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution. Churches have been active all across the state lobbying and urging their congregants to vote "yes." While they have a right to do so under current IRS regulations, this activity can cross the line when certain factors exist.
IRS regulations only allow 501(c)(3)s to engage in issue advocacy or lobbying so long as it does not function as political campaign intervention. The line is crossed when the lobbying becomes an indirect way to support or oppose a candidate for public office. Permissible lobbying can become illegal political campaign intervention when:
• The statement expresses approval or disapproval for one or more candidates' positions and/or actions.
• The statement is delivered close to the election (which is now).
• The statement makes reference to voting or the upcoming November election.
• The issue addressed has been raised as an issue distinguishing candidates for a given office.
Tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofits are afforded a special privilege in our country. If an organization chooses to be tax-exempt under 501(c)(3), it forfeits the right to engage in political campaigns. Churches and other religious organizations are free to give up tax-exempt privileges in order to engage in electioneering if they so choose, but they cannot abuse their tax-exempt privilege and remain tax-exempt.
During Pulpit Freedom Sunday and the rest of the midterm election season, keep an eye out for illegal campaign activity by churches and other religious organizations. FFRF has a detailed FAQ on churches and political activity, which provides information on reporting violations.More »
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
Metroplex Atheists plan protest against Rowlett, Texas City Council, demand equal access for atheist invocations
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
The Allegheny County Council in Pittsburgh, Pa., will vote on Sept. 9 on whether to post a plaque declaring “In God We Trust” in the Gold Room of the County Courthouse.
This proposal is the brainchild of State Rep. Rick Saccone, who wants the motto to appear in public buildings, including schools, throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. FFRF filed a previous suit challenging Saccone when he declared to the Pennsylvania House that 2012 was “The Year of the Bible.”
The proposal is sponsored by Councilwoman Sue Means, who insists that the motto is “patriotic,” thereby inappropriately suggesting a religious litmus test for good citizenship. However, two committee members, Michael Finnerty and Barbara Daly Danko, have raised objections about this overtly religious phrase.
“Most people in the United States are Christian, but the other people are American, too, and we need to watch what we’re doing here,” Councilman Finnerty told the Post Gazette.
Councilwoman Danko added that she feared the message isn’t inclusive and that: “It’s religion disguised as history.”
The proposal also suggests adding “E Pluribus Unum” (the original secular motto, “From many [come] one”) and Pennsylvania’s secular state motto, “Virtue, Liberty, and Independence.” Although FFRF has no objection to the latter two mottos, they appear to be red herrings to disguise the real objective of Saccone: to post the exclusionary and religious “In God We Trust” motto on as many municipal, city and county buildings as possible.
(Please notify FFRF immediately if this campaign to add “In God We Trust” on public buildings comes to your town or city. You can email or report a state/church violation using our form here.)
See contact information following Talking Points.
The proposal will be voted on at the next county meeting on Tuesday, September 9th. The meeting starts at 5 p.m. at the County Courthouse (436 Grant St., Room 119). If you live in the Pittsburgh area, plan to attend this meeting if possible to voice your opinion. Please also phone or email your councilperson if you live in Allegheny County, identifying yourself as a constituent.
Others: Please contact members of the Allegheny County Council via phone or email today or as soon as possible, to voice your opposition to adding “In God We Trust” in the County Courthouse. Please thank Councilman Finnerty and Councilwoman Danko for raising objections to this unnecessary and divisive proposal.
Read FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor’s letter to President John DeFazio for additional talking points.
Use your own words or cut and paste wording below. If you live in Allegheny County, please be sure to indicate you’re a local citizen.
[I am a citizen of Allegheny County.] As someone who does not believe in or “trust” in a deity, I strongly oppose the proposal to post a public display of the words “In God We Trust” on the Allegheny County Courthouse. The phrase is not representative of myself and the approximately 20% of all Allegheny County residents (and one in three young adults) who, according to Pew Research Center, now identify as nonreligious.
To be truly accurate, the phrase should say "In God SOME of Us Trust," and wouldn't that be silly? “In God We Trust” is a johnny-come-lately motto that was not adopted until 1956 during the Cold War.
The Allegheny County Council is elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Please reject this divisive and religiously exclusionary proposal.
To email all County Council members:
Heather S. Heidelbaugh
Michael J. Finnerty
John F. Palmiere
Dr. Charles Martoni
Robert J. Macey
William Russell Robinson
Barbara Daly Danko
Amanda Green Hawkins
The Ballwin Board of Alderman are considering putting up “In God We Trust” displays on city-owned buildings. The project already has a $750 pledge from the Knights of Columbus.
According to News Magazine Network:
The Board unanimously approved the motion to consider the design, locations, and cost of these displays.
As Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of FFRF, has stated in an interview with The Christian Post: “Statements about a god have no place in government buildings. Elected officials should not use their government position and government buildings as a place for promoting their religious views."
She continued, "More than 638,000 Missouri adults identify as non-religious (American Religious Identification Survey 2008). Aldermen are elected to represent all residents… including those that do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods."
The Board will take final action on a proposed display at a future meeting. The Board meets the second and fourth Monday of each month at 7 p.m in the Board Room of the Ballwin Police Department, 300 Park Drive. If you live in the area, please attend an upcoming meeting.
Please contact members of the Board of Alderman via phone or email today and voice your opposition to adding “In God We Trust” on city-owned buildings:
Mayor of the City of Ballwin
Mayor Tim Pogue
Phone Number: (636) 207-2386
Ward 1 Aldermen
Alderman James M Terbrock
Phone Number: (636) 207-2386
Alderman Michael Finley
Phone Number: (636) 207-2386
Ward 2 Aldermen
Alderman Mark Harder
Phone Number: (636) 207-2386
Alderman Shamed Dogan
Phone Number: (636) 207-2386
Ward 3 Aldermen
Alderman Frank Fleming
Phone Number: (636) 207-2386
Alderman Jim Leahy
Phone Number: (636) 207-2386
Ward 4 Aldermen
Alderman Mike Boland
Phone Number: (636) 207-2386
Alderman Kathy Kerlagon
Phone Number: (636) 207-2386
Use your own words if possible, or cut and paste wording below. If you live in the City of Ballwin, please be sure to indicate you’re a local citizen.
I strongly oppose the proposal to post a public display of the words “In God We Trust” on city-owned buildings in Ballwin, Missouri. The phrase is not representative of all Ballwin residents. In fact, the Pew Research Center reports that nearly 20% of adult Americans and one in three young adults are now nonreligious.
The phrase "In God We Trust" is not representative of all Missourians. To be truly accurate, it should say "In God SOME of Us Trust," and wouldn't that be silly?
“In God We Trust” is a johnny-come-lately motto that was not adopted until 1956 during the Cold War. Our nation’s first and original motto, “E Pluribus Unum” (From many, [come] one) was chosen by a distinguished committee of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, celebrates diversity, and excludes no citizen. Why not display this historic motto instead?
Ballwin Aldermen are elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Please reject this divisive and religiously exclusionary proposal.More »
The Freedom From Religion Foundation needs your help to keep the Ten Commandments out of a county courthouse in Jackson County, Ala.
Although the Ten Commandments represent an unmistakably religious message, the Jackson County Commission is considering a proposal to display the Ten Commandments alongside the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence at its county courthouse. The sponsor of the resolution argues that all are important historic documents serving to remind the public of our nation’s “divine” founding. (Clearly, including the secular Constitution and the revolutionary Declaration of Independent is a ruse to promote biblical edicts on governmental property.)
On August 15, FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott sent a letter to Jackson County Commission Chairman Matthew Hodges, objecting to the unconstitutional proposal:
“The First Amendment mandates that the government can't promote or favor or advance religion. By placing a Ten Commandments monument in front of this building, the county is signaling they have a religious purpose.” Furthermore, “The fact that the Commission would seek to fund this display through private donations indicates that the Commission recognizes that the display poses a great risk of public perception of endorsement of religion.”
U.S. law isn’t remotely based on the Ten Commandments or the bible, and neither was the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. In fact, the United States has a godless Constitution, with no mentions of “God,” “the Ten Commandments” or “Christianity.” Its only references to religion are exclusionary, such as “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” and that there shall be no religious test for public office. Likewise, the Declaration of Independence is a product of the Deistic Enlightenment, declaring that government derives its power from the consent of the governed—a profoundly antibiblical notion rejecting divine authority.
Contrary to Jackson County Commissioner Tim Guffey’s claims, the “Ten Commandments have no relation to the foundation of the United States. Our entirely secular Constitution makes no reference to them, nor does the Declaration. Our leaders wisely shaped the laws of the United States on fundamental principles of democracy and not on religious dogma,” as FFRF noted in its letter.
Please help send the message to the Jackson County Commission that the Ten Commandments has no place at a government building. (Scroll to end to read a news story and watch TV coverage of this controversy.)
Please contact the Jackson County Commission now to voice your opposition!
Commission meetings are held the 2nd and 4th Monday of every month at the Jackson County Courthouse in Courtroom 1. Meetings are open to the public.
Use your own language or feel free to use the language below. If you live in Alabama or in Jackson County please be sure to identify yourself as a state citizen or county resident. Also get talking points from: FFRF’s “Is America a Christian Nation?” and “What’s Wrong with the Ten Commandments?”
[As a Jackson County citizen,] I am writing to urge you to refrain from displaying religious messages at the Jackson County Courthouse. Installing the Ten Commandments at a government building would send the message to nonbelievers and religious minorities that we are second class citizens. Biblical edicts have no place alongside the Constitution and the Declaration of the Independence. The Ten Commandments run contrary to the Declaration of Independence, a work of the Enlightenment declaring that “all men are created equal” and that government is instituted by the consent of the governed. The First Commandment also violates the First Amendment of the Constitution. Jackson County has no business telling citizens which gods to have, how many gods to have, or whether to have any gods at all! If the Jackson County Courthouse would like to post a list of ten items, it should post our Bill of Rights.
Thank you for immediately discontinuing the misguided plan to place a Ten Commandments display at the Jackson County Courthouse!
Navy wavers on bible removal — act now to retain FFRF victory, remove bibles from naval accommodations
The Freedom From Religion Foundation needs your help to keep pressure on the Navy not to renege on its decision to remove Christian bibles from Navy-run lodges.
The Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) issued a quiet directive on June 19 in response to a complaint by FFRF, ordering removal of religious material from Navy-run lodges by Sept. 1.
The American Family Association learned of the action and recently issued a noisy alert calling on the Navy to reverse course. Hysteria spread quickly.
By early this week, FFRF was inundated with requests for interviews on why the Navy’s preferential treatment of bibles is unconstitutional. In response, Staff Attorney Sam Grover went toe-to-toe with hostile religious news anchors and fanatical guests (including debating former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt yesterday — jump to 2:04:17 of the America’s Forum newscast).
Yesterday (Aug. 14), it was reported that the Navy had temporarily caved and ordered the return of the bibles to hotel rooms while it reviewed its policy. Theocrats are loudly declaring victory in an effort to silence the objections of the nonreligious.
The Religious Right has orchestrated a media frenzy to intimidate the Navy into maintaining its illegal policy of providing bibles in all Navy-run hotel rooms. FFRF needs your help now to give the Navy some backbone. The Navy needs to hear from the one in five who are nonreligious and those who honor the constitutional wall of separation between state and church. (Read more about the background or scroll down for contact information and talking points.)
Two concerned service members separately contacted FFRF earlier this year to report finding Christian bibles in every Navy-operated hotel room in which they had stayed during decades of service. Over 24% of FFRF’s members are active duty military or veterans and over 23% of military personnel identify as atheists, agnostics, or have no religious affiliation. FFRF sent a letter on March 12, 2014 to NEXCOM noting that placement of bibles in all such lodging shows unlawful favoritism to Christianity over all other religions and to religion over nonreligion.
The Navy has a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion. By countenancing the placement of bibles in Navy-run lodges, the Navy is sending the impermissible message that military personnel are expected to be Christian, thus turning atheists and agnostics into outsiders.
FFRF has long advocated that nonreligious consumers ask for “bible-free rooms” at private motels and hotels because we shouldn’t have to pay high prices to be proselytized in the privacy of our own hotel or motel room. FFRF’s bible warning labels remain popular with freethinking travelers who so frequently encounter in their bedside table a so-called "holy book" which glorifies violence and discrimination against nonbelievers, women, gays and children. While private hotels may choose to succumb to the lobbying of The Gideon Society, the U.S. government has an obligation to ensure secular accommodations that do not give the appearance of governmental endorsement of religion.
Please immediately voice your support for the Navy’s decision, to counter action alerts by the Christian Right against this decision:
Be sure to identify any relationship you may have with the Navy or military. Use your own words or feel free to copy any part of the message text below:
Dear Director Bockelman,
[I am an active member/veteran of the U.S. military / a family member of a U.S. military service member and] I am writing to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms. As an atheist/nonbeliever, I’m part of the one in five U.S. adult citizens who is nonreligious — the fastest growing segment of the population by religious identification. I’m deeply offended when I go into a hotel room and find a bible there, which sends a message that I need to be converted or am somehow the “wrong” religion. Today nonbelievers make up about a quarter of active military personnel. So I know how “atheists in foxholes” would feel in encountering someone else’s “holy book” in what should be secular military accommodations. Military service is, in part, about defending the secular constitutional principles on which this country was founded. The separation between government and religion is one of those key principles that has allowed our country to thrive. Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations, which guarantees that some military personnel are not made to feel like “outsiders” because they are non-Christians or nonbelievers. Thank you for showing me that the Navy is willing to stand by that principle, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, but because it is the only appropriate course of action.More »
FFRF had a substantive victory last week, when the owner of a North Carolina diner that offered a 15% “praying in public” discount to diners dropped the discriminatory offer.
News stories went viral, prompting many complaints about the discount to FFRF. Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell sent Mary Haglund a letter explaining the meaning of the Civil Rights Act and noting, “Mary’s Gourmet Diner may not lawfully offer a discount only to customers who pray. Any promotions must be available to all customers regardless of religious preference or practice on a non-discriminatory basis.”
Since the owner announced she was dropping the promotion last week, the Christian Right noise machine went into full gear. Several online news stories are irresponsibly claiming without documentation that there were “threats” of violence, and are trying to smear FFRF and atheists.
Haglund had defended the discount saying she approves of people being “thankful . . . It’s just an attitude of gratitude.” So please let her know how grateful you are that she is honoring the Civil Rights Act! The Civil Rights Act, which is enjoying its 50th anniversary this year, requires “the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation . . . without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, or national origin.” Without the Civil Rights Act, a black person could be denied the right to buy groceries or a house. An ill atheist could be turned away by a pharmacist. The Civil Rights Act does not allow a restaurant to offer believers a 15% discount at the expense of nonbelievers and is an integral part of America’s guaranteed equality under the law.
Mainstream media is also getting into the act, such as this column by Fayette Observer writer Myron Pitts, “What’s wrong with prayer,” which tries to frame this as “atheists just don’t like to see people pray.” FFRF’s complaint isn’t about diners praying; it’s about a category of diners receiving a financial reward from the restaurant for their religious beliefs, which is a violation of the Civil Rights Act. By the way, you might like to politely email Myron Pitts, after reading his column, to respond at .
Many blog posts, online comments, etc. have pointed to other discounts at restaurants and other places of public accommodation, as proof that restaurant owners can discriminate between customers in any way they like. Popular examples of such discounts include senior citizen discounts, veterans/military discounts, 'kids eat free' deals, and 'ladies' nights' promotions. If these discounts are OK, why isn't a discount given to religious customers?
FFRF’s Liz Cavell explains why: It’s simple. These discounts do not violate Title II of the Civil Rights Act because they do not distinguish between customers on the basis of religion, race, color, or national origin. (Although in the case of ladies' nights, discounts may violate certain states' civil rights statutes, if those statutes include sex or gender as a protected class. The federal Civil Rights Act does not.) Title II of the Civil Rights Act clearly explains what types of establishments it regulates, and what is prohibited.
While they enjoy freedom to run their business as they see fit, private restaurant owners are no stranger to government regulations — they must comply with a myriad of regulations of everything from food storage and cleanliness to employee safety and liquor licensing.
Please go to Mary’s Gourmet Diner Facebook page and post a grateful message, identifying yourself as an atheist or nonbeliever. Thank her for honoring the Civil Rights Act and for stopping a discriminatory promotion that rewards believers as opposed to nonbelievers. It is important that this message truly be friendly, grateful and openly “thankful” (no lectures!) — so that the Christian Right cannot continue to baselessly smear atheists as “threatening” the restaurant.
Using social network is preferred. If you do not use Facebook, the restaurant owner includes her email address at the restaurant’s website. If you email a message, please sign your name and address so your message is not perceived as anonymous. Use a clear subject heading, such as “'Praise Mary' for dropping illegal prayer promotion” or “Thank you for obeying the law and honoring all diners,” etc.
Mary Haglund's email:
sample talking points
(You can cut and paste or vary the language to put it in your own words.)
Dear Ms. Haglund,
Thank you so much for doing the right thing and dropping the “praying in public” promotion, which discriminates against me and the one in five U.S. adults who is nonreligious. Atheists and nonbelievers also feel gratitude. As a minority, we are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to social acceptance and are often unfairly stereotyped and stigmatized. So I’m thankful for your decision to honor the Civil Rights Act and to treat all customers, regardless of their religion or lack of religion, the same. When I’m next in your area, I will plan to drop by and give you some business!More »
Two concerned service members separately contacted FFRF earlier this year to report finding Christian bibles in every Navy-operated hotel room in which they had stayed during decades of service. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the country’s largest association of atheists and agnostics, with over 21,000 members nationwide. FFRF works to defend the constitutional principle of separation between the government and religion and to represent the views of nonbelievers.
Because over 24% of FFRF’s members are active duty military or veterans — and because over 23% of military personnel identify as atheists, agnostics, or have no religious affiliation — FFRF sent a letter on March 12, 2014 to the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM). FFRF noted that Navy-run lodges are showing favoritism to Christianity over all other religions and non-religion by placing bibles in hotel rooms.
On June 19, 2014, NEXCOM issued a directive stating that the “Navy Lodge General Manager should advise the Installation Commanding Officer of our intention to work through the chaplain’s office to determine what installation policy is and the method to remove religious material currently in guest rooms.” The directive indicated that the action “is to be completed by 1 September 2014.”
”We’re pleased that NEXCOM has taken seriously its constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion as a representative of our federal government. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment requires the government not to play favorites when it comes to religious or nonreligious beliefs. By removing bibles from Navy-run lodges, the Navy has taken a step to ensure that it is not sending the impermissible message that Christians are favored over guests with other religious beliefs or over those guests with no religion,” noted FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover, who worked on the violation.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has long advocated that nonreligious consumers ask for “bible-free rooms” at private motels and hotels as a consumer request.
“We shouldn’t have to pay high prices to be proselytized in the privacy of our own hotel or motel room. We shouldn’t have to open our bedside table to find in it a so-called ‘holy book’ which glorifies violence and discrimination against nonbelievers, women, gays and children,” said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. While private hotels may choose to succumb to the lobbying of The Gideon Society, the U.S. government has an obligation to ensure secular accommodations that do not give the appearance of governmental endorsement of religion, Barker added.
Please voice your support for the Navy’s decision, to counter action alerts by the Christian Right against this decision:
Be sure to identify any relationship you may have to the Navy or military. Use your own words or feel free to copy any part of the the message text below:
Dear Director Bockelman,
[I am an active member/veteran of the U.S. military / a family member of a U.S. military service member and] I am writing to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms. As an atheist/nonbeliever, I’m part of the one in five U.S. adult citizens who is nonreligious — the fastest growing segment of the population by religious identification. I’m deeply offended when I go into a hotel room and find a bible there, which sends a message that I need to be converted or am somehow the “wrong” religion. Today nonbelievers make up about a quarter of active military personnel. So I know how “atheists in foxholes” would feel in encountering someone else’s “holy book” in what should be secular military accommodations. Military service is, in part, about defending the secular constitutional principles on which this country was founded. The separation between government and religion is one of those key principles that has allowed our country to thrive. Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations, which guarantees that some military personnel are not made to feel like “outsiders” because they are non-Christians or non-believers. Thank you for showing me that the Navy is willing to stand by that principle, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, but because it is the only appropriate course of action.More »
Despite efforts by the local chapter of Metroplex Atheists to deliver secular invocations, the Rowlett City Council in Texas has censored its request for equal time, maintaining that only eligible clergy members may host governmental prayer.
The May 5 Supreme Court ruling in Greece v. Galloway, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, permitted religious invocations at government provided “that a minister or layperson of any persuasion, including an atheist, could give the invocation” 134 S. Ct. at 1816.
Thus far, the Town of Greece, N.Y., site of the ruling, has adopted a more inclusive policy, inviting a Jewish layperson, a Wiccan priestess, and on July 15, an atheist, FFRF Life Member Dan Courtney, to deliver the opening invocation at its town meetings. Conversely — despite a joint letter to the Rowlett City Council on July 24 (following a June 24 letter) from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State — the Town of Rowlett caters to its Christian majority, excluding non-Christians and nonbelievers from the equal opportunity required by law.
As Justice Elena Kagan noted in her dissent, "When citizens of all faiths come to speak to each other and their elected representatives in a legislative session, the government must take especial care to ensure that the prayers they hear will seek to include, rather than serve to divide."
We would rather see the pernicious influence of religion in the governmental sphere end entirely. But as long as divisive religious speech continues to be inserted into otherwise inclusive and secular community meetings, nonreligious invocations must be accorded equal time. Please help us send the message to Rowlett City Council that there are community members — family, coworkers, friends — who are among the 20% of the U.S. population today that identifies as nonreligious. Let them know we have voices, and that we plan to use them.
Please phone or email the Rowlett City Council now!
If you have time, cc the City Council members below:
- 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 —
If you live in the Rowlett area, you may wish to attend or speak out during the public comment period. Rowlett City Council meetings are on the first and third Tuesdays of every month; the next is Tuesday August 5, at the City Hall Municipal Building, located at 4000 Main St., Rowlett, TX 75088.
If you live in another community in which there is governmental prayer, consider fighting back by entering FFRF’s Nothing Fails Like Prayer contest.
It’s also helpful to write a letter to your local newspaper on why prayer in government is inappropriate.
Use your own language or feel free to use any of the language below. If you live in Rowlett, please be sure to identify yourself as a Rowlett resident.
As a Texas citizen, I demand that government officials make room for religious diversity, including opportunities for secular voices to be heard. Since Rowlett City Council meetings currently open with religious invocations, it’s improper and discriminatory to muzzle nonreligious individuals who seek the opportunity to give opening remarks. Rowlett city council has indicated that you intend “to adopt a policy that does not proselytize or advance any faith, or show any purposeful preference of one religious view to the exclusion of others,” yet you only permit members of the clergy to deliver invocations. Featuring only prayers that invoke “Jesus” and Christian values shows a “purposeful preference” and makes those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods feel like second-class citizens in our own community.
We stand with Metroplex Atheists and affirm its right to deliver a secular invocation during an upcoming council meeting. Please grant its request, and please revise your policy so as not to exclude the non-Christian and nonreligious members of your community.
Thank you for taking action now!More »
Take action now! The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority is expected to give approval tomorrow (Tuesday, July 29) of major tax incentives for a proposed $172.5 million Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County.
Ark Encounter is a project of Answers in Genesis, which describes itself as an “apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ,” and which created the Creation Museum in Boone County about 40 miles away. The museum’s founder, Ken Ham, famously debated Bill Nye earlier this year. “God has burdened AiG to rebuild a full-size Noah’s Ark,” Ham wrote on his website.
The plan calls for a 510-foot wooden ark , reportedly to cost $24.5 million alone, as part of the 800-acre Ark Encounter park to open partially constructed in summer 2016. As of February, the group had only raised $14.4 million. The park is also to include a “pre-flood themed area,” live animal shows and a “Tower of Babel” featuring a theatre and “first-century village.”
A Kentucky program allows eligible tourism attractions a 25% rebate on sales tax collected for such items as admission tickets, food, souvenirs, etc., over a ten-year period. The rebate might total as much as $18.25 million.
If the tourism board votes yes Tuesday, as expected, final approval would be sought within two months. The state first granted preliminary approval in 2011 for up to $43.1 million in sales tax rebates over 10 years, with Gov. Steve Beshear’s very open blessings. Answers in Genesis withdrew the appication after funding delays and has had to reapply.
Public help has already included a $62 million municipal bond offered from the city of Williamstown, where the park is to be located. Bloomberg News reported that tourist attractions have defaulted on such bonds as Williamstown offered, with the added risk of legal challenges based on the state/church entanglement.
Please phone or email the tourism department now!
If you wish, use any of the language below. If you live in Kentucky, please be sure to identify yourself as a Kentucky taxpayer:
As a Kentucky taxpayer and resident, I strongly oppose granting public tax incentives for the pervasively sectarian (and financially overblown) Noah’s Ark Encounter, whose purposes are avowedly fundamentalist. Please vote against preliminary approval of tax incentives for Answer in Genesis’ religious proposal. It is deeply offensive to me as a Kentucky citizen to read Answer in Genesis’ rationale for this theme park: that “the Ark is a reminder of God’s judgment upon a sinful world. It can also serve as a picture of salvation.” The State of Kentucky has a duty under and secular Constitution not to aid and abet religious ministries, and should stay above the fray, ensuring that it does not appear to be granting preference for bible literalism at the expense of its citizens.
Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize an avowedly Christian fundamentalist project based on a wacky literal interpretation of Genesis. A “yes” vote will open the state up to protracted litigation. Please safeguard taxpayer dollars by keeping state and church separate.
Thank you for taking action now!
The Pierce County Council (Tacoma area) is considering displaying "In God We Trust" in its council chambers at the County-City Government Building. The resolution proposed by councilman Jim McCune will be considered tonight by a subcommittee. It’s on the agenda for final vote at the public meeting on Tuesday, July 29. (Please show up before 3:00 P.M. to speak against this proposal, if you live in the area. See information below.)
According to KIRO 7, when asked whether citizens who believe in another religion would still feel included in a place where this motto is displayed, Councilman McCune said, “I don’t see why not. If I go to another country, they have their statement, or their particular deity.”
Our country was founded on entirely secular principles, and government has no business endorsing any “particular deity.” County council members are elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Both supporters and opponents of the proposal recognize that "In God We Trust" is a religious statement. The history of the motto "In God We Trust" evidences no secular purpose; on the contrary, the motto was first adopted in 1956 during the Cold War, as a reaction to the purported "godlessness" of communism. "E Pluribus Unum" [out of many, one] is the entirely secular original motto selected by a distinguished committee of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
Please attend the public meeting and voice your opposition against the proposal to add a religious public display to the County Council Chambers.
When: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 3:00 PM
Where: County-City Building, Council Chambers - Room 1045 (930 Tacoma Ave. S. Tacoma, WA 98402)
If you can’t attend or live outside the area, please immediately contact members of the Pierce County Council via phone or email:
If you live in Pierce County, please be sure to indicate you’re a local citizen.
(Use your own words or feel free to copy the language below.)
I strongly oppose the proposal to post a public display of the words “In God We Trust” in the Pierce County Council Chambers. The phrase is not representative of all Pierce County residents. In fact, the Pew Research Center reports that nearly 20% of adult Americans and one in three young adults are now nonreligious. According to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, 25% of Washington adults are nonbelievers. To be accurate, the phrase would have to say, ‘In God Some of Us Trust,’ and wouldn’t that be silly? “In God We Trust” is a johnny-come-lately motto that was not adopted until 1956 during the Cold War. Our nation’s first and original motto, “E Pluribus Unum” (From many, [come] one) was chosen by a distinguished committee of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, celebrates diversity, and excludes no citizen. Why not display this historic motto instead?
County Council members are elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Please reject this divisive and religiously exclusionary proposal.More »
Today, in a heated 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that for-profit corporations can exercise their so-called religious conscience in order to restrict employees' access to contraceptives. The ruling in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., absurdly holds that the contraceptive coverage granted by the Affordable Care Act creates a "significant burden" on a corporation's free exercise of religion.
How could this be? This Alice in Wonderland ruling is based not on the Constitution, but on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a statute. This statute was adopted by Congress and must be repealed by Congress.
The main justification for this decision is the Supreme Court's holding that RFRA protects Hobby Lobby from the generally applicable rules of the Affordable Care Act.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation's amicus brief by noted state-church attorney Marci A. Hamilton (joined by groups advocating for the rights of victims of religious abuse), was the only brief before the Supreme Court that argued that RFRA is unconstitutional. Our important brief points out that RFRA "accords religious believers extreme religious liberty rights that yield a political and fiscal windfall in violation of the clearest commands of the Establishment Clause."
A public outcry is in order. FFRF needs your help to tell Congress that RFRA is a bad law that must be repealed.
Today's decision is both dangerous and unprecedented. During oral arguments, counsel for the government, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, noted that a decision in favor of Hobby Lobby would be "the first time under the Free Exercise Clause or under RFRA in which [the Supreme Court] or any court has held that an employer . . . may be granted an exemption that extinguishes statutorily guaranteed benefits of fundamental importance."
Today's ruling ignored the rights and needs of thousands of female Hobby Lobby employees, and millions of women nationwide who work at for-profit corporations. Women workers must not be at the mercy of employers who happen to be religious fanatics who want to intrude into private reproductive decisions that are none of their business. Rather than protecting women workers' right to health care and women's freedom of conscience, the Court has turned its back on them in the name of "religious liberty." This is untenable.
This damaging decision opens the floodgates for corporations, interested only in increasing their bottom line, to claim religious objections to a variety of generally applicable laws. The Court arbitrarily claims its decision would not necessarily allow a corporation to claim a similar religious objection to blood transfusions, vaccines, or mental health services, or create a religious right to discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or race. But very obviously, the ruling creates mischievous precedent that will haunt the next generation of litigation.
Please immediately call, email and write:
Demand that your representatives in Congress uphold women's rights over religious wrongs, and restore some semblance of fairness to our corporate system, by repealing RFRA now.
Use your own words if possible, or cut and paste any of the wording below. Always identify yourself as a constituent. (Also see FFRF's statement on the Hobby Lobby ruling for more arguments.)
I am writing as your constituent to urge you to take action in the wake of the Supreme Court's unprecedented decision in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Please take action to repeal the misguided Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which has been used to decide that a corporation trumps the civil and reproductive rights of women workers to choose their own form of contraception.
I'm dismayed and frightened by the implications of this decision, which puts the personal religious views of corporate executives above the rights of tens of thousands of employees. Corporations are not people and a corporation cannot practice religion. Yet the Supreme Court has ruled that the access to contraceptive coverage granted by the Affordable Care Act creates a significant burden on a corporation's free exercise of religion. The decision is completely divorced from reality!
The main justification for this outlandish decision is the Supreme Court's holding that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protects Hobby Lobby from the generally applicable rules of the Affordable Care Act. Regardless of Congress's original intent, RFRA has become an untenable law. It carves out vast exceptions to neutral laws that only certain religious sects can claim. In the corporate context, this provides an unfair competitive advantage to any corporation willing to claim that it has a religious objection to a regulation.
Employers should not have a right to deny fundamental rights to employees in the name of "religious liberty." Please introduce or sign onto a bill to repeal RFRA immediately.More »
This Monday, the House of Representatives passed S. 1044, a bill adding a religious inscription to the existing World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. If not vetoed by President Obama, the bill will add a plaque to the memorial containing the long prayer that President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave on June 6, 1944, the morning of D-Day.
President Roosevelt’s D-Day prayer began, “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity” and is replete with religious references.
The D.C. World War II memorial, authorized in 1993, opened to the public over a decade ago, in April 2004. It took three separate public comment periods with the Commission of Fine Arts in 2002 and 2003 before the inscriptions currently on the memorial were approved. Now, Congress is attempting to bypass a similar public approval process by authorizing this controversial new inscription to the memorial.
FFRF needs your help to preserve the existing memorial and ensure that all World War II veterans, not just those who believe in a god, are honored for their service!
Please click here to send a message directly to the White House urging President Obama to veto S. 1044.
Or phone the President at the White House comment line now: 202-456-1111
Use your own words to voice your opposition to S. 1044, or cut and paste the wording below, after editing the opening line to reflect your status.
Also, please thank the dozen members of the House who stood firm and voted against S. 1044: Mike Honda (CA 17th), Judy Chu (CA 27th), Hank Johnson (GA 4th), Tammy Duckworth (IL 8th), Niki Tsongas (MA 3rd), Katherine Clark (MA 5th), Keith Ellison (MN 5th), Jerrold Nadler (NY 10th), Suzanne Bonamici (OR 1st), Beto O’Rourke (TX 16th), Bobby Scott (VA 3rd), and Mark Pocan (WI 2nd). It’s particularly important to thank your representative if he or she is on the list above.
Use your own words if possible, or cut and paste wording below.
I am a United States citizen and [taxpayer / veteran / active military service member]. I am also a nonbeliever, like one in five other adult Americans. Please veto S. 1044, which would add a divisive religious message to the World War II Memorial Plaza and Rainbow Pool in D.C., bypassing the extensive public comment period and years of debate over its design.
For more than ten years, the memorial has served as a symbol of remembrance and solidarity in honoring all who defended the U.S. in World War II. The World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2013 (S. 1044) would alter the inclusive meaning of this iconic memorial. The bill sends a message to all of the many atheists in foxholes that their service to their country is less appreciated than that of their religious counterparts. Atheists and service members with no religious preference make up over 23% of the military. S. 1044 marginalizes nonreligious service members and belittles their service.
On November 3, 2011, Robert Abbey, the director of the Bureau of Land Management, told a congressional subcommittee: “The Department [of the Interior] strongly believes that the World War II Memorial, as designed, accomplishes its legislated purpose to honor the members of the Armed Forces who served in World War II and to commemorate the participation of the United States in that conflict. It should not be altered in the manner suggested by [S. 1044].” S. 1044 is an unnecessary and divisive bill intended to inject religious rhetoric into what is otherwise an inclusive, powerful memorial to those who fought and died for our country.More »
Legislation is moving through Pennsylvania that would allow and encourage the display of the phrase "In God We Trust" in every public school building. This is a blatant attempt to favor religion with a public statement of faith in every school, and to expose a captive audience of school children to religious ideology.
Rep. Mike O’Brien of Philadelphia, one of 23 Democrats to vote against it, said he did not believe God needed the legislature’s help.
“Our role is not to create a theocracy, but to create a commonwealth that represents all people of all beliefs, and I think that this piece of legislation is nothing but an exercise in silliness,” O’Brien said.
State legislators are elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Both supporters and opponents of the bill recognize that "In God We Trust" is a religious statement. The history of the motto "In God We Trust" evidences no secular purpose; on the contrary, the motto was first adopted in 1956 during the Cold War, as a reaction to the purported "godlessness" of communism. "E Pluribus Unum" [out of many, one] is the entirely secular original motto selected by a distinguished committee of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
This is not Saccone's first theocratic overture. You may recall that with the help of many Pennsylvania members, FFRF filed suit challenging a resolution sponsored by Saccone that declared 2012 "The Year of the Bible." Although U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner dismissed the case, ruling House officials had legislative immunity, he chastened House officials for "premeditated pandering" and expressed alarm that the resolution passed unanimously.
Saccone claims that the measure would promote patriotism through the display of the national motto and "educate" students on Pennsylvanian heritage. A Senate Republican spokesperson said the bill will be reviewed, but there is currently no timetable for it to be considered.
Contact your senator and tell them to oppose HB 1728, which would encourage posting the phrase “In God We Trust” in public schools.
Use your own words if possible, or cut and paste wording below.
Please oppose HB 1728 which encourages the phrase “In God We Trust” be posted in public schools. The Pew Research Center reports that nearly 20% of adult Americans, and one in three young adults, is now nonreligious.
The phrase "In God We Trust" is not representative of all Pennsylvanians, including me. To be truly accurate, it should say "In God SOME of Us Trust," and wouldn't that be silly? HB 1728 proposes holding student contests to create artwork for the motto; this creates the impression of school-sponsored endorsement of religion. With bullying rampant it schools, the Pennsylvania legislature should not be proposing legislation that will divide students rather than unify them.
In a nation predicated on a godless constitution, which bars a religious test for public office, there should also be no religious test for “patriotism,” nor should a captive audience of school children be exposed to a proselytizing message.
- PA House Approves in God We Trust Posting Bill
- PA Lawmaker Wants National Motto Displayed In Schools
- Bills Wants in God We Trust Posted in PA Schools
By Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker
Freedom From Religion Foundation
It's hard to believe that in 2014 a bill to declare “the Holy Bible the official state book of Louisiana” would gain traction in the Louisiana legislature. Yesterday, a House committee voted 8-5 to approve House Bill 503, which does precisely that, and now heads to the full House of Representatives for a vote.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shrevepoint, originally declared a specific 16th century copy of the bible in the Louisiana State Museum system as the “official state book.” Then Carmody changed the language to make the “generic” King James Version the “official state book.”
It’s an understatement to point out there are a lot of problems with this bill. First, the King James Version ain’t “generic” — it’s Protestant. There were riots in the streets, arsons of churches, deaths in Philadelphia in 1843, over precisely this kind of show of government preference for the King James Version over the Catholic version in public schools.
Ironically, aware that the bill endorses Protestantism over Catholicism, Rep. Stephen Oretego, D-Carencro, argued: “Let’s make this more inclusive of other Christian faiths, more than just the ones that use the King James Version.” This, of course, misses the point: Government preference of all “Christian faiths” is equally inappropriate and unconstitutional, being intrinsically exclusionary of all non-Christians and all non-believers. Same problem when Rep. Ebony Woodruff, D-New Harvey, suggested amending the bill to declare “all books of faith” the official state books of Louisiana! (Imagine the consternation had the legislators actually voted to make the Koran an “official state book.”)
It’s hard to credit this degree of zealotry, insensitivity and ignorance among state legislators in a nation where surveys and polls show that as many as 30% of the U.S. population now identifies as nonreligious. The “Christian Nation” Big Lie, repeated over and over, apparently has done its damage. Legislators who took an oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution in all its glorious godlessness apparently have never bothered to examine it.
The taboo against criticizing the bible has also taken a toll. Ruth Hurmence Green, author of "The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible" (the first book FFRF published and still a bestseller), put it this way: “There is no other book between whose cover life is so cheap.” The bible is a handbook for superstition, despotism, bigotry, oppression of women, homophobia, child abuse and the substitution of blind obedience and faith for reason.
Here’s a thought — how about making Richard Dawkins’ blockbuster, “The God Delusion,” Louisiana’s official state book? These legislators are clearly under the delusion they live in a theocracy.
Contact your legislator today! To find out who your legislator is, type in your zip code here.
You can also voice your opinion by utilizing social media and commenting on online news sites.
Submit a letter to the editor to the Times-Picayune in Baton Rouge here.
You can also submit a letter-to-the-editor at the Advocate here.
Use your own words if possible, or cut and paste wording below. (Read Andrew Seidel’s letters for more background.)
As a Louisiana citizen, I am outraged that any legislator would even contemplate adopting a state law endorsing the bible, much less declaring one version of it the “official state book of Louisiana.” We live in a secular republic, not a Christian nation or state. This outrageous bill is unconstitutional. It is not the business of the State of Louisiana to dictate what religion citizens must conform to, much less to endorse one particular so-called “holy book” over another. Kill HB 503, get off your knees and get to work!
Read more:More »
Brandeis University in Massachusetts has taken the deplorable action of rescinding an honorary degree offered to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a campaigner for women’s rights and fierce critic of Islam. Brandeis announced the award to Hirsi Ali, along with four others, on March 31. The Massachusetts university was immediately inundated with protests against her selection by Islamic groups, such as The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which compared Hirsi Ali to white supremacists and anti-Semites.
Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. In 1992, she escaped an impending arranged marriage to a relative, immigrating to the Netherlands, where she not only learned the language, earned a master’s degree but was elected to the Dutch Parliament in 2003, and wrote two books criticizing Islamic treatment of women, including “The Caged Virgin.” In 2004, her friend and collaborator Theo Van Gogh was brutally murdered for a film Hirsi Ali wrote, “Submission,” about Islamic oppression of women. Hirsi Ali was forced to go into hiding. But she has refused to be silent in speaking about the dangers of faith. Hirsi Ali, the author of the bestselling books “Infidel” and “Nomad,” identifies as an atheist and has written in detail about the harm Islam causes including female genital mutilation, martyrdom and honor killings.
The Justice, Brandeis University’s student newspaper, raged against the decision to honor Hirsi Ali for her contribution to women’s rights by claiming:
“In her 2010 memoir Nomad: From Islam to America, Hirsi Ali states that Islam is ‘not compatible with the modern Westernised way of living,’ that ‘violence is an integral part [of Islam],’ and that ‘Muhammad’s example is terrible, don’t follow it.’ These comments ignore the fact that there are multiple views of Islam, insist that violence is inherent in Islam and that one culture is fundamentally better than another . . . By presenting Hirsi Ali with an honorary degree, the University applauds all aspects of her work.”
Brandeis University bowed to pressure and rescinded her honorary degree, releasing this statement: “We cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”
Please contact Brandeis University to ask it to apologize for its shoddy treatment of a freethinking feminist, and to re-offer its honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Office of the President
415 South Street
Waltham, MA 02453-2728
781- 736-8699 fax
Use your own words or feel free to paste the statement below or borrow from it:
“I am appalled at Brandeis University’s bad manners and worse logic in offering, then rescinding an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who stands for women’s rights in the face of religious oppression, and secularism in the face of the rise of Islamism (Muslim theocracy). Shame on Brandeis!”
-Compiled by Lauryn SeeringMore »
Dear Wisconsin FFRF Member,
Please call and email your state senator immediately asking him or her to vote against AB 244, creating a special “In God We Trust” license plate. The bill is on the agenda for a floor vote tomorrow, (Tuesday, March 18). Read the bill here.
It’s vital to act — the bill already passed the State Assembly. See bill history here.
FFRF has taken issue with the 'In God We Trust' license plates since September. FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott noted in his testimony:
"The phrase 'In God We Trust' is not representative of all Wisconsinites. To be accurate, it would have to say, 'In god some of us trust.' The Pew Research Center reports that nearly 20% of adult Americans, and one in three young adults, is now non-religious. According to Department of Defense data from 2012, 23% of military personnel identified as non-religious. A survey of FFRF’s membership also demonstrated that 24% of its members are veterans.
"State legislators are elected to represent all citizens, including those who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Both supporters and opponents of the bill recognize that 'In God We Trust' is a religious statement. The fact that a portion of the plate fees would go to the state’s Veterans Trust Fund does not mitigate the problems with a religious plate."
The state already offers the secular "Wisconsin Salutes Veterans" license plates, which finances the Veterans Trust Fund. This religious plate is unnecessary and divisive.
“It sends an exclusionary message,” adds FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “First of all, if a non-believer wanted to help out veterans they are going to be precluded from buying this plate. This is obviously an attempt to push religion.”
Call and email your senator to vote "NO" on AB 244.More »
On Wednesday, March 12, the Georgia Senate passed H.B. 702, a bill designed to place a Ten Commandments monument within the state capitol building or on its grounds. The bill previously passed the Georgia House. In addition to the Ten Commandments, the proposed granite monument will also contain the preamble to the Georgia Constitution (which states in part that the people of Georgia rely “upon the protection and guidance of Almighty God”) and the “part of the Declaration of Independence which states that ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’”
Note: the monument will not include the entirely secular preamble to the U.S. Constitution, as described in the bill’s summary on first reading and as reported incorrectly by numerous news sources. The original version of the bill did call for inclusion of the preamble of the U.S. Constitution, but that was swapped for the portion of the Declaration of Independence that refers to “a Creator.” Yet the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia), denied, with a straight face, any religious intent behind his proposed monument.
If enacted into law, this bill would be a clear and egregious violation of the separation between state and church. In reaction to the passage of H.B. 702, Erwin Chemerinsky, First Amendment legal scholar and distinguished attorney in the landmark Supreme Court decision Van Orden v. Perry, noted, “the Supreme Court has . . . made clear that putting up new Ten Commandments monuments, when the purpose is so clearly to advance religion, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
The Georgia legislature needs to stop wasting time imagining new, creative ways to memorialize the Christian god and get back to work!
CONTACT GOV. DEAL TODAY!
Please take a moment to contact the governor to voice your opposition to H.B. 702.
For maximum effectiveness, be succinct and polite in messages, and identify yourself as a constituent when relevant (not as a member of FFRF responding to this action alert). For obvious reasons, do not forward this action alert to the governor. Feel free to let friends and colleagues know about this threat. You may wish to send blind copies (using bc in your email) to FFRF at:More »
Next Tuesday (March 11), Christian Scientists are holding a “national call-in” lobbying day in Congress to demand a special exemption for Christian Scientists from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all U.S. citizens carry medical health insurance.
The so-called “Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH) Act” (H.R. 1814 and S.862) would exempt people who claim “sincerely held religious beliefs” from insurance signup requirements. The bill is sponsored by 216 members of the House of Representatives and 30 senators — thanks to the power of the Christian Science lobby and politicians’ cowardly pandering to religionists.
Please take a moment now or by March 11 to contact your U.S. representative and senators to oppose HR 1814 /S.862. More background follows the contact information and brief talking points below.
Please email or phone your member of Congress today! Find your congressperson. http://beta.congress.gov/members
Use any of the information in the background following these talking points. Or simply note that you are phoning or emailing to register opposition to H.R. 1814/S.862, “Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH).” Or feel free to copy and paste this text in a message to your representative or senators:
I strongly oppose HR 1814/S.862, introduced on behalf of the Christian Science lobby, seeking special exemption from the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It would increase insurance costs for the rest of us and be a costly nightmare for states to track. Most significantly, every year children needlessly suffer and die because parents decide to rely only on prayer and fail to seek medical care.
The ACA will save children’s lives. My costs as a taxpayer should not increase because Christian Scientists and others citing “sincerely held beliefs” want to be exempted from purchasing health insurance coverage designed to control costs and make universal coverage affordable. Christian Scientists shouldn’t be exempt from this tax, any more than parents who send children to parochial schools are exempt from supporting our public schools. Many Christian Scientists routinely seek emergency or pregnancy health care, and if they are not covered by insurance, the rest of us will pay more. Most importantly, children’s health should not be put at risk. Kill this bill!
What’s wrong with this bill? As Rita Swan of Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD) notes, the exemption bill has many serious consequences. Besides setting reckless legal precedent, it would increase insurance costs for the rest of us and endanger children.
More than 170 children are buried in the Followers of Christ Peaceful Valley Cemetery in Idaho, many of whom might have survived had their parents been required to obtain health insurance for them.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in upholding the Affordable Care Act, ruled that the universal mandate, enacted to control costs, is a form of taxation, which everyone needs to pay, just as all taxpayers must support our public schools.
Christian Scientists complain they shouldn’t have to pay for care they won’t use, yet Christian Scientists usually seek medical care for fractures, prenatal care, delivery of babies and going to the eye doctor for glasses.
Insurance works on the assumption that many in the pool of policyholders won’t draw from it. For instance, most people with fire insurance will never need to make use of such coverage.
Equally unworkable would be tracking those who are exempt to ensure they haven’t sought medical care. HR1814 is modeled on the Massachusetts religious exemption. CHILD notes that in 2007, about 9,700 Massachusetts residents claimed a religious exemption. A data match done that year showed that 745 of them had nevertheless received free medical care during the year.
Massachusetts has failed since to track exemptions or enforce its penalty for individuals who seek exemption from medical care but then obtain it. If a state relies on an honor system of self-reporting, there will be widespread abuses of the law. Many individuals will find it convenient to claim an exemption yet continue to get care at the public’s expense. This is grossly unfair and will lower the public’s respect for the law.
Swan notes, “Our organization has information on hundreds of American children who have died because of their family’s religious objections to medical care. Many others get to the emergency room at the last minute, and their medical care is much more expensive than it would have been if the children had a medical home and routine basic care. HR 1814 increases the risk to children in faith-healing sects and the cost to the state if the children do get medical care.”More »
Dear Alabama FFRF Member:
A bill mandating that public schools begin each morning with prayer was approved by voice vote in the House Education Policy Committee in late February.
House Bill 318, sponsored by Rep. Steve Hurst, would require teachers and public school students to spend up to 15 minutes “studying the formal procedures of the United States Congress including the verbatim reading of a congressional opening prayer.”
The bill is clearly a bald attempt to introduce prayer and religion into the classroom under the guise of studying Congress.
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, “This controversial bill emerged from the committee despite the fact that a majority of legislators present stated that they opposed the measure.”
Three representatives voted against the bill: Reps. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, Elaine Beech, D-Chatom, and Phil Williams, R-Huntsville. Another three did not vote at all: Reps. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, Mac Buttram, R-Cullman, and Kerry Rich, R-Albertville.
The only two to vote in favor of the bill were Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, and Rep. Lesley Vance, R-Phenix City. Nevertheless, McClurkin, Chair of the Committee, claimed she heard more votes in favor of the bill.
Contact your state representative today to say why you think this bill is unconstitutional and divisive in the public school system. (It’s unclear when the bill will come to the floor for a vote, so please also watch the news for developments and chime in.)
You can also send a letter to the editor to the Montgomery Advertiser here or to your local newspaper. You can also influence public opinion through social media networks and by commenting online at news websites.
(Use your own words or feel free to copy the language below)
I strongly oppose HB 318. To avoid the constitutional concerns and the divisiveness school-led prayers create, the solution is simple: don’t permit them.
This bill violates more than half a century of firm Supreme Court precedent against prayer, ritual, bible-reading and religious devotion in our public schools.
Prayer sends an inappropriate proselytizing message to all students, and excludes the nonreligious — the second-largest segment today in America by religious identification.
Calling upon faculty and students to pray is coercive, embarrassing and beyond the scope of a secular public school district. Nonbelieving students and religious minorities should not be made to feel like political outsiders by their own school district. Nor should any school district send a message to students that they ought to believe in a deity or show obeisance to one.
Committee Passes School Prayer Bill on Voice Vote
The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama)
Alabama Passes Law that Requires School Prayer Every Morning
Have you contacted Gov. Jan Brewer yet asking her to veto SB 1026? Phone her office now: (602) 542-4331
Statement by Dan Barker & Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation
The newest threat to religious liberty is the campaign to pass legislation permitting individuals or businesses to impose their religious beliefs on unwilling others.
The Arizona Legislature last Thursday passed SB 1062, to allow business owners to invoke personal religious beliefs as an excuse to deny gays service. This prompted one witty Tucson pizzeria owner to put up a sign giving tit for tat, saying: "We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators."
It's kind of a warped version of the Golden Rule, which, phrased in the positive, has always had a dangerous "escape clause." "Do unto others as you would have them do onto you" could be a license to preach at others (if you like being preached at), to hurt others (if you're a sadomasochist) or, in this case, to exhibit bigotry toward others (if you're a bigot). The superior rule far predating Christianity is expressed in the negative: "Do not do to others what you don't want done to you."
According to The New York Times, similar "religious protection legislation" has been introduced in Idaho, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee, with efforts stalled in Idaho, Kansas and Ohio.
The bill, while couched as antigay, is so broad it allows any person, business or church to cite religion as a defense if the government or an individual claims they're being discriminated against. Think about all those floral shops in Rhode Island that refused to take FFRF's order for a bouquet of roses to atheist student plaintiff Jessica Ahlquist. FFRF is pursuing redress under the Civil Rights Act, but if Gov. Jan Brewer signs the Arizona bill into law, such discrimination would be lawful — indeed, encouraged. The bill could permit individuals to break nearly any law and cite religious freedom as a defense, as Arizona Democrats pointed out.
The Civil Rights Act came into being to ensure that basic services (such as food, accommodations, medical care) couldn't be denied because of the customer's or patient's race, ethnic heritage, religion or gender. The Arizona bill and the religious bigotry fueling other such bills pose a serious threat to the Civil Rights Act, equal protection under the law and harmony and good will in our nation.
The chain store Hobby Lobby, which is suing Kathleen Sebelius, is likewise invoking "religious beliefs" to defy the guarantees of the Affordable Care Act, because its fundamentalist founder wants veto power over which forms of contraception his women employees may use.
Brewer vetoed a bill similar to SB1062 last session. It's encouraging that the outcry against this bigoted bill prompted three Arizona Republican senators, including the senate majority whip, came forward yesterday with a change of heart on their vote.
To protect true religious liberty it's crucial for these mischief-making pieces of legislation to be vetoed, voted down and ridiculed out of existence.
Please make a fuss and protest the action of the Alabama House, which, by a 77-19 vote today, passed an absurd constitutional amendment to permit the display of the biblical ten commandments on state and public school property. The amendment would insert into a section of the state constitution that currently prohibits religion in government:
"Property belonging to the state may be used to display the Ten Commandments, and the right of a public school and public body to display the Ten Commandments on property owned or administrated by a public school or public body in this state is not restrained or abridged.”
According to WAFF News, Rep. Duwayne Bridges (R), who filed this legislation, says
“Alabama should celebrate the country's religious roots.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Stone v. Graham (1980) that it is improper to display Ten Commandments posters in public schools, noting:
“The preeminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature. The Ten Commandments are undeniably a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths, and no legislative recitation of a supposed secular purpose can blind us to that fact. The Commandments do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters, such as honoring one's parents, killing or murder, adultery, stealing, false witness, and covetousness. See Exodus 20:12-17; Deuteronomy 5:16-21. Rather, the first part of the Commandments concerns the religious duties of believers: worshipping the Lord God alone, avoiding idolatry, not using the Lord's name in vain, and observing the Sabbath Day. See Exodus 20:1-11; Deuteronomy 5:6-15.
. . . Posting of religious texts on the wall serves no such educational function. If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments. However desirable this might be as a matter of private devotion, it is not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause.
It does not matter that the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are financed by voluntary private contributions, for the mere posting of the copies under the auspices of the legislature provides the "official support of the State . . . Government" that the Establishment Clause prohibits.”
Write a letter to your editor, comment on news and social network websites, and most importantly, contact your state representative urging that this mischievous bill be killed.
Use your own words or feel free to cut and paste any of this statement below:
It is an exercise in pandering for the Alabama Senate to pass this blatantly unconstitutional bill to alter Alabama’s State Constitution to permit diplays of Ten Commandments on public property, particularly in public schools. Haven’t Alabama politicians learned anything from the Judge Roy Moore saga? As chief justice, Moore was so bent on misusing his office to promote his personal religious views that he was under court order to remove his Ten Commandments marker from the Alabama State Supreme Court. Ultimately, Moore lost his position due to his insistence on entangling religion and government.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1980 Stone v. Graham decision, has definitively barred postings of the Ten Commandments in public schools. The Alabama State Constitution’s strong prohibitions against religion in government must not be tampered with, and the rights of conscience of young and impressionable students, who are a captive audience, must be protected.
Religionists are free to place bible edicts on church and private property, but our precious principle of separation between religion and government prohibits the use of the machinery of the state to promote one religion’s teachings over others, or religion over nonreligion.
Thank you for your help!More »
Darwin Day is celebrated around the world on February 12, the 205th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) has been working valiantly to designate that date as a national holiday. Last week Holt once again introduced H.R. 467.
The resolution "recogniz[es] the importance of science in the betterment of humanity."
Holt's resolution touts "the validity of Darwin's theory of evolution," "the monumental amount of scientific evidence" that supports the theory, and notes that evolution's "validity ... is further strongly supported by the modern understanding of the science of genetics."
The resolution chastises science-deniers: "the advancement of science must be protected from those unconcerned with the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change" and "the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States education systems."
As science educator Bill Nye stated during his debate with creationist Ken Ham this week, “If we abandon all that we’ve learned. . . if we abandon the process by which we know it. . . if we stop looking for the next answer, we in the United States will be out-competed by other countries, other economies. . . We have to keep science education in science.”
If resolved, H.R.467 will ensure that the House of Representatives:
(1) supports the designation of Darwin Day; and
(2) recognizes Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge.
The voices of science and secularism must be heard. Ask the U.S. House to hold Darwin Day and pass H.R.467!
TAKE ACTION TODAY!
Please help us honor Charles Darwin’s enormous contributions to progress and science, contact your U.S. Representative to support H.R.467.
To find out who your representative is, type in your zip code on this website to find your representative. Click on their name to contact them.
Call, email, fax, write, tweet or Facebook them. Do whatever it takes to be heard!
THANK DARWIN DAY SPONSORS
Take a moment to thank Rep. Holt. Rep. Holt, a nuclear physicist by training, who self-identifies as a Quaker and deserves our gratitude for his efforts. Do feel free to identify yourself as a nonbeliever, atheist, etc., so he knows the secular bloc has clout (and good manners)!
Letters: 1214 Longworth HOB
Washington DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-5801
Fax: (202) 225-6025
(Representative Holt will only accept email from residents in New Jersey.)
CONTACT YOUR SENATOR
Ask your Senators to support Darwin Day while you're at it!
WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Supporting Darwin Day would make an excellent and timely topic of a letter to the editor to your local or favorite publication. Don't forget social media and online news comment sections to help spread the word.
Thank you for your activism. Freedom depends on freethinkers, and Darwin Day deserves your support!
Freedom From Religion Foundation
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has contacted Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Bradbury to insist that a bible be removed from a dais in the city council chamber, among other complaints.
On behalf of local FFRF Members, FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent several letters, the first on June 12, outlining why the bible display is divisive and unconstitutional. "Not only is the city council sending a message of endorsement for Christianity over other religions and non religion," Seidel states, "but display of this King James Bible sends a message of endorsement of one particular Christian sect over all others.”
Former Fire Chief of Pinellas Park, Doug Lewis, told FOX 13, "The Bible was given to the city by the Kiwanis Club, I believe when the building was dedicated. They feel it's part of City Hall, as being part of the dedication ceremony, and it's become part of the history of the building.
This is one of several violations FFRF has requested the city to stop, including: prayers opening city council meetings, literature about a Catholic Church's upcoming events being advertised in local water bills and concerns over whether or not a Christian school that is renting from the city is receiving preferential treatment.
Seidel sent another letter on January 13, requesting the city promptly address these ongoing violations. We need your help to educate this Florida city.
Please email or phone city council members to explain why the government ought to remove the bible and stay out of the business of religious endorsement altogether. You may simply email or phone the mayor or, if you wish, cc the others listed below. If you live in the area please consider addressing the city council.
Mayor: Sandra L. Bradbury
City of Pinellas Park
5141 78th Avenue N.
Pinella Park, FL 33781
Vice-Mayor: Jerry Mullins
Councilman: Rick Butler
Councilman: William E. "Ed" Taylor
Councilwoman: Patricia F. Johnson
The City Council meets Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7:30PM: The city council meets every two weeks.
First Floor of the Council Chambers
5141 78th Avenue N.
Pinella Park, FL 33781
For more information on city council meetings contact City Clerk: Diane Corna
Your own words are best. But feel free to copy this paragraph:
Please remove the bible from the city council dais, which sends an unconstitutional message of endorsement of religion by the city government. It excludes nonbelievers and non-Christians, such as myself, who now comprise more than 20% of the population. The bible display belongs in a church, not at the seat of city government. Pinellas Park is not a theocracy, and its government is predicated on our secular constitution.
Compiled by Lauryn SeeringMore »