After months of downplaying COVID-19 and refusing to implement a mask mandate to curb its spread, Gov. Kevin Stitt is now calling on citizens to “fast and pray” for victims of the pandemic.

Tell Gov. Stitt that establishing an “Oklahoma Day of Fasting and Prayer” is an unacceptable religious use of his public office and to instead embrace science and reason-based policy to combat the pandemic.

Not only is it an abuse of power for Stitt to use his public office to promote his personal religion, it is unnecessary and divisive at a time when we need to come together to combat this public health crisis.

Read FFRF’s full letter here.

Click on the red “Take Action” link below to use our automated system to call or email Stitt’s office to oppose his prayer proclamation. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided. Personalized messages are always the most effective. For best results, be concise and polite.

TAKE ACTION!

Andrew L. Seidel, FFRF’s director of strategic response, has written an op-ed for Religion Dispatches about the Supreme’s latest attempt to weaponize religious freedom. The article, “With this Thanksgiving bombshell SCOTUS began implementation of an ultraconservative agenda,” begins:

The unsigned, midnight opinion dropped like a bombshell on Thanksgiving. Five ultraconservative members of the Supreme Court, including Amy Coney Barrett, issued an emergency opinion in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo blocking New York’s health order as it applied to some churches.

The metaphorical bombardment is particularly apt here because this opinion weaponized religious freedom and came as something of a surprise to the country — though of course it shouldn’t have been.

Just a few weeks ago, I warned that Barrett would “flip the high court on an issue that is crucial for America to fight the coronavirus, just as the pandemic is flaring up. Barrett telegraphed a willingness to overturn public health measures in the name of God.” If RBG had been alive and on the court it would have been a 5-4 decision the other way.

The short, unsigned opinion, joined by Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett, stated that churches’ right to religious freedom includes the right to risk the health, safety, and lives of everyone in the community. The justices took a hallowed constitutional protection and made it into a tool to afflict and wound — beating a plowshare into a sword. To do this, the justices made this into a case of religious discrimination. That is simply not the case. The justices had to torture the facts and sought to create an impression of discrimination where there was none. ...

Seidel gets into the divide on the court between Roberts and the other conservatives and explains that no, this was not really a case about religious discrimination. In fact, the churches were actually given favorable treatment under the public health orders in ways that FFRF has been protesting for some time. Read the whole article on Religion Dispatches.

Judicial Doomsday

Dear Friend of Freethought:

You might say the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s work went viral this year! Despite this “annus horribilis,” it’s actually been a terrific year for FFRF in the courts, in the court of public opinion and for our growth and accomplishments. (Please see attached annual year in review.)

But we’ve seen how the infection of religion — and political deference to religion — continues to sabotage rational response to the pandemic in the United States. Just last week, a majority of ultraconservatives on the Supreme Court, emboldened by the addition of Amy Coney Barrett, enjoined a New York state pandemic policy limiting church gatherings during a COVID-19 spike. Dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor properly warned: “Justices in this court play a deadly game in second guessing the expert judgment of health officials.”

Although our nation and FFRF have just dodged a bullet with the national election, last week’s decision shows how endangered the principle of state/church separation is. Religious zealots and judicial lightweights, hand-selected by the Federalist Society for their Religious-Right credentials, have not just seized control of our high court, but now also comprise a quarter-plus of our federal judiciary. The shameless packing of the courts with Christian Nationalist ideologues by the Trump presidency imperils many civil liberties.

FFRF is dedicated to unpacking, correcting and rebalancing the courts — those lifetime appointments that will haunt us for more than one generation, and which will certainly endanger our secular government and FFRF’s future legal work if left unchecked. As a state/church watchdog and the nation’s largest association of freethinkers, atheists and seculars, FFRF is in a prime position to fight back. Our team of 10 attorneys, our full-time governmental affairs director in D.C., and our strategic response team are working with many allies including the Congressional Freethought Caucus.

Help FFRF ensure that reason and our secular Constitution will prevail. Please consider an end-of-the-year gift on this Giving Tuesday to FFRF.

Thank you and stay safe,

ALG Dan

Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor
Co-Presidents
Freedom From Religion Foundation

FFRF, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has received Charity Navigator’s four-star rating for 10 years in a row. Additional ways to help include naming FFRF in your estate planning, giving through the Combined Federal Campaign or your company’s matching gifts. Those who are 70 1/2 or older may deduct from taxable income direct donations of up to $100,000 given to FFRF from your IRA account under the IRS’ charitable rollover provision.

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The Secular Coalition for America, in partnership with its 19 member organizations (including the Freedom From Religion Foundation), has issued a blueprint for the new administration and Congress.

The “Secular Agenda for the 117th Congress & Biden Administration” includes strengthening and supporting the Congressional Freethought Caucus, repealing harmful executive orders, supporting the nomination and appointments of judges and other government officials who adhere to and actively promote and prioritize the separation of religion and government, and a slew of legislative priorities. These include the Do No Harm Act, the Scientific Integrity Act and the CORE Act.

“We are excited to put forth this ambitious plan for the new administration and Congress,” states Casey Brinck, director of policy and government affairs for the Secular Coalition for America. “As we move forward into the first session of the 117th Congress, we can expect a flurry of legislative actions to be undertaken, and want not only our community to understand what we are working for on their behalf, but also for Congress and the new administration to have a better understanding of what our very large and quickly growing constituency expects of them.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation fully concurs.

“Our partnership with the Congressional Freethought Caucus has allowed us to advance the secular agenda in ways once unimaginable,” says FFRF Director of Governmental Affairs Mark Dann. “By coordinating with members of the caucus and their staff, we have been able to fight back against the erosion of the wall that separates religion and government and elevate the discussion of our common secular values in Congress. The entire coalition is thankful for the work the Congressional Freethought Caucus does, and we are excited to continue to work with it in the 117th Congress.”

Other secular groups agree.

“We have made significant progress during the past few Congresses on many of our legislative priorities, and we look forward to seeing them pass the finish line in the 117th,” Rachel Deitch, director of policy and social justice for the American Humanist Association, remarks. “While there still will be a difficult fight in Congress, bills like the Do No Harm Act have consistently gained support over the past few years, and we believe now is the time to see them on President-elect Biden’s desk.”

The coalition will also be working to strengthen and aid the Congressional Freethought Caucus in its mission to promote public policy formed on the basis of reason, science, and moral values, while opposing discrimination against atheists, agnostics, humanists, seekers, religious and nonreligious persons.

The 19 member organizations that make up the Secular Coalition for America will, in addition, be working to repeal the numerous harmful executive orders issued over the past four years. Listed in the agenda, too, are Trump administration commissions that have been utilized to blur the lines between religion and government and advance the Christian Nationalist agenda. These include the Religious Liberty Task Force, which is dedicated to allowing religious institutions and individuals to continue to receive special treatment under the law, and the Commission on Unalienable Rights, led by well-known Christian Nationalist ally and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“The Trump Administration has used constitutionally suspect regulations and flagrant misinterpretations of U.S. Supreme Court decisions to promote religion, attack civil rights, and undermine the separation of religion and government,” says Alison Gill, vice president for legal and policy at American Atheists. “We look forward to working with the new administration to reverse these dangerous policies and to restore religious freedom for every American.”

The Center for Inquiry emphasizes the importance of the joint secular agenda.

“The assault on secular values reached an unprecedented level during the Trump administration,” says Jason Lemieux, director of government affairs at the organization. “Trump and his religious extremist allies used every trick in the book to impose Christian nationalism upon every aspect of public life. The secular agenda we’ve presented here is the first step toward true separation of church and state, where the rights of nonbelievers receive equal weight and consideration.”

The Secular Coalition for America and its 19 member organizations look forward to continuing to advance the agenda of restoring the secular nature of our government as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution — and working with the members of the 117th Congress and the Biden administration to restore true religious freedom for all Americans.

Additional Info

  • videolink https://onenewsnow.com/missions/2020/11/29/atheist-group-gets-school-to-drop-operation-christmas-child

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  • videolink https://www.pantagraph.com/news/state-and-regional/cancellation-of-holiday-displays-at-the-illinois-capitol-disappointing/article_00a47abd-71d3-56fc-aaf8-cad2a624aca6.html

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  • videolink https://wordandway.org/2020/11/28/deck-the-halls-not-at-the-illinois-capitol-due-to-coronavirus/

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  • videolink https://www.noticiacristiana.com/sociedad/2020/11/franklin-graham-contesta-donar-organizacion.html

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  • videolink https://vision.org.au/radio/news/atheist-group-moves-to-stop-prayer-in-public-schools/

Additional Info

  • videolink https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2020/11/26/montana-man-who-tore-down-ten-commandments-monument-near-courthouse-found-guilty/

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