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statechurchdistancing

The Texas Legislature is considering a bill that would strip state and local leaders of their ability to enact policies shown to save lives during this pandemic and future emergencies. This is in response to the unwarranted and dangerous pattern of churches insisting that they must be exempt from public health orders during emergencies.

Please urge Texas lawmakers to oppose this dangerous measure and prioritize public health and safety over well-connected special interest groups.

The bill, HB 3046, is designed to interfere with local governments’ ability to cooperate with the federal government on emergency response policies, including on policies that limit worship services. Governments already regularly limit worship gatherings that jeopardize public health. For instance, the government prohibits churches from cramming too many people into a building in violation of fire codes and also requires that church buildings comply with necessary building codes. Preventing large gatherings due to a pandemic is even more crucial. Limiting the size and scope of religious gatherings is not a ban on worship any more than speed limits are a ban on driving.

Read FFRF’s Covid state/church resources guide for more information.

The Texas House State Affairs Committee has a hearing on HB 3046 next Tuesday, April 20, at 8 a.m. local time. Please click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact all members of this committee and urge them to vote no on HB 3046. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

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1OuchVouchers

The Missouri Legislature is considering two bad neo-voucher bills that would divert money from public school to private, almost exclusively religious, education. Please take a few moments to tell Missouri lawmakers to oppose these damaging proposals.

These bills, HB 496 and HB 528, grant tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools. If passed, these bills mean Missouri taxpayers would be footing the bill for private school expenses. Private schools, in turn, operate without government oversight, so taxpayers will have no mechanism for holding schools accountable. Where public money goes, public accountability must follow.

Voucher schemes like the one under consideration in Missouri financially devastate public schools and would force Missouri taxpayers to fund private religious education. Lacking oversight and accountability, voucher schemes in states across the country also invariably lead to widespread fraud and mismanagement. 

Read FFRF’s “The Case Against Vouchers.”

The Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee has a hearing on these bills next Tuesday, April 20, at 8 a.m. Please use our automated system to contact all members of the subcommittee and urge them to vote no on this proposal. Click on the red “Take Action” button and feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

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The Florida Department of Education is proposing new curriculum standards that would indoctrinate children into the Christian nationalist view of American history. There is still time to oppose the changes.

It is crucial that Floridians oppose these new rules. The Florida Department of Education is accepting input on these proposed changes through April 23. Please tell the department to eliminate these two benchmarks from the final rules: SS.7.C.1.12 (7th grade) and SS.912.C.1.5 (9th grade). Contact information listed below.

MORE INFORMATION:
The standards would force students to recognize a fallacious, revisionist history of the United States, that “Judeo-Christian values influenced America’s founding ideals and documents.”

The problematic new proposal for 7th grade reads:

  • Recognize how Judeo-Christian values influenced America’s founding ideals and documents.
  • Students will analyze the degree of civic participation inherent in these civilizations.
  • Students will identify Judeo-Christian values (e.g., rule of law, God-given rights, equality of mankind, limited government, separation of powers, consent of the governed) in founding documents.
  • Students will recognize the influence of the Protestant work ethic on economic freedom and personal responsibility.
  • Students will recognize the influence of the Ten Commandments on establishing the rule of law in America.
  • Students will explain what is meant by “All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The proposal for the 9th grade curriculum is more compact, but basically identical: SS.912.C.1.5 Analyze the influence of Judeo-Christian values on America’s founding ideals and documents.

  • Students will recognize Judeo-Christian principles of law and government in primary sources (e.g., rule of law, God-given rights, equality of mankind, limited government, separation of powers, consent of the governed) in primary sources.

CONTACT INFORMATION:
Michael DiPierro, Bureau of Standards and
Instructional Support, Florida Dept. of Education
850-245-9773
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Suggested talking points:

  • As a Florida voter, I urge you to eliminate SS.7.C.1.12 (7th grade) and SS.912.C.1.5 (9th grade) from the final civics and government curriculum standards.

  • This is an attempt to smuggle Christian nationalism into public schools. History simply does not support this benchmark.

  • “Judeo-Christian” is a contradiction in terms.

  • Judeo-Christian values often opposed the values and principles that founded the United States. 

  • Much of this benchmark is simply wrong. For instance, separation of powers is not a Judeo-Christian value, but came from Montesquieu. We know this because the Founders said so.

  • The Ten Commandments did not influence our founding documents. Which ten commandments will be taught? There are four different sets in any bible and different bibles interpret them differently. The set in Exodus 20 contain rules that thoroughly conflict with American ideals of liberty and justice. 

  • This claim is simply not supported by history. Instead, it is an attempt to justify an exclusionary movement in pursuit of power today, right now. That movement is called Christian nationalism. 

  • The desire to teach the impact of so-called “Protestant work ethic” is really a Trojan horse to propagandize Christian nationalism and economic individualism, which fuel systems of oppression, including white supremacy and unregulated capitalism. 

  • Christianity has been used to defend the evils of slavery, genocide, segregation and systemic inequality of all stripes. Claiming our economic systems originate in rugged individualism and “divine guidance” is a well-worn Christian propaganda device, but is not true to the secular founding of our country. This serves those attempting to hoard social and political capital very well, while brainwashing public school children about the origins of our economic system.

More information on the Florida revisions of student standards can be found here.

SCOTUSClock

After decades of becoming increasingly politicized, homogenized and captured by special interests, our federal courts are in urgent need of reform.

The Judiciary Act of 2021, a bill introduced in the House of Representatives just this week, would add four seats to the Supreme Court, a critical step in the movement to rebalance our courts and preserve our democracy.

Please call on your member of Congress to co-sponsor the Judiciary Act of 2021.

Court expansion and reform are in order for many reasons. The court’s current makeup is dramatically ideologically imbalanced and not reflective of the American electorate. The nation’s highest court should better represent the U.S. population, not only by sex and race, but by diversity of legal background and other life experiences. This conservative majority has proven hostile to state/church separation, reproductive and LGBTQ rights and voting rights in favor of corporations and special interests.

Historically, the number of seats on the Supreme Court has been tied to the number of circuit courts in the country, of which there are now 13. Expanding the size of the bench, which has been done seven times before and does not require a constitutional amendment, is a necessary part of modernizing the court.

In order to restore balance, public legitimacy and impartiality to the Supreme Court, adding justices is an urgent starting point. Please contact your lawmakers today and urge them to support this bill and prioritize court reform at all levels. Click on the red “Take Action” link below to get connected with your members of Congress. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

Read FFRF’s full statement in support of court reform and expansion and of the Judiciary Act of 2021.

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging a Virginia sheriff’s department to discontinue its pattern of posting discriminatory religious messages on its official social media account.

A local resident alerted FFRF about the bible verses, prayer requests and other religious messages that Bland County Sheriff Jason Ramsey regularly posts on the office’s Facebook page. These posts range from regularly asking for “thoughts and prayers,” ending messages with “God bless” to direct Christian proselytizing.

For example, an April 3 post featured a photo of a Latin cross with the message, “He is risen — celebrate the resurrection,” along with the caption:

The tomb was empty! Hallelujah! WE thank God that we serve a risen savior! Christ concurred [sic] death ! We Thank you Jesus for giving us eternal life. We praise you Lord!! Our savior lives!! We pray that everyone has a blessed and safe Easter Sunday worshiping a risen savior!

God Bless, Sheriff Jason Ramsey

FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line’s complaint letter to Ramsey points out that it is inappropriate, exclusionary and indeed illegal for the sheriff’s office to promote religion on social media. Government employees, FFRF explains, can worship, pray or quote any religious text they wish when acting in their personal capacities, but are not permitted to lend the power and prestige of their government office to their personal religion.

“Citizens interact with and rely on law enforcement officers during some of the more urgent and vulnerable times in their lives," writes FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line. “Religious endorsements coming from the sheriff’s office needlessly alienate the non-Christian and nonreligious citizens in Bland County, turning them into political outsiders in their own community.”

FFRF also emphasized that the department’s promotion of Christianity needlessly exposes Bland County taxpayers to costly legal liability. Not long ago, the sheriff’s office in Bradley County, Tenn., paid more than $40,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees after promoting religion on social media and ignoring objections to the practice.

“Law enforcement officers take an oath to protect and serve all citizens,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Displaying a preference for religion so clearly right on county property is a betrayal of that oath.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members across the country, including more than 800 in Virginia. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

FootinDoor

A few weeks ago, we asked you to tell New Hampshire representatives to oppose a dangerous bill that would permit public schools in the state to display “In God We Trust” in every building.

Despite opposition, this bill has passed the House and will now be considered by the state Senate. This is our last chance to stop this exclusionary bill before it heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

This bill, HB 69, is part of the nationwide legislative push known as Project Blitz. Project Blitz seeks to inject state legislatures with a whole host of religious bills, imposing the theocratic version of a powerful few on We The People. It is an unvarnished attack on American secularism and civil liberties — those things we cherish most about our democracy and now must tirelessly defend.

While politicians claim that these laws are intended to showcase the national motto or inspire patriotism, it is clear that their true purpose is to peddle religiosity to a captive audience. These laws are about advancing the Big Lie that the United States was “founded on God” or Christianity, dismantling the wall of separation between religion and government. The motto “In God We Trust” is inaccurate, exclusionary and aimed at brainwashing American schoolchildren into believing that our nation is a theocracy.

Finally, HB 69 states that schools and school boards “shall be held harmless for complying with this section.” This will embolden schools to violate the Establishment Clause, and the state legislature cannot hold public schools “harmless” when they are brought to federal court for violating the U.S. Constitution.

Click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact the members of the New Hampshire Senate Education Committee and urge them to oppose HB 69. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

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1ACOVIDchurch

The California Legislature is considering a bill, SB 397, that would force the governor to define churches as “an essential service” and makes it virtually impossible for the state to impose health, safety or occupancy requirements on church services due to an emergency.

Please join FFRF in calling on state lawmakers to reject this dangerous bill and instead prioritize the public safety of all California residents.

Governments already regularly limit worship gatherings that jeopardize public health. For instance, the government prohibits churches from cramming too many people into a building in violation of fire codes and also requires that church buildings comply with necessary building codes. Preventing large gatherings due to a pandemic is even more crucial.

Read FFRF’s Covid state/church resources guide for more information.

This bill will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee next Tuesday, April 13, at 1:30 p.m. local time. Please click on the red “Take Action!” link below to contact all members of this committee and urge them to oppose SB 397. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

TAKE ACTION!

FootinDoor

The Arkansas Legislature is considering two extremely dangerous bills that would inject religion into public schools in your state. Please take a few moments to contact lawmakers and urge them to vote no on these proposed measures.

The first, SB 662, would designate the last Wednesday in September as a “Day of Prayer for Arkansas Students” and requires the governor to call on citizens to pray. Public schools exist to educate, not to proselytize. Children in public schools are a captive audience. Making prayer an official part of the school day is coercive and invasive.

The second, HB 1701, would “allow creationism to be taught as a theory of how the Earth came to be” in public schools. Evolution, like gravity, is a scientific fact. Teaching creationism as scientific fact in public schools is unconstitutional, as many courts have held. Passing this bill would cost taxpayers extensively when inevitable lawsuits are filed. Teaching that there is a scientific controversy about the validity of evolution or the Big Bang is akin to teaching astrology with astronomy or alchemy beside chemistry.

If you are a parent of an Arkansas public school student and are interested in being a part of a legal challenge in the event that this unconstitutional law permitting the teaching of creationism is passed, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to discuss the possibility with our legal team.

Each of these bills will soon be heard by the Arkansas Senate Education Committee, including a hearing on Monday, April 12, that will include SB 662. Please use our simple, automated system to contact all members of this committee and urge them to oppose these theocratic bills.

 TAKE ACTION! 

Protect Abortion rights

Anti-choice politicians have introduced an onslaught of legislation intended to outlaw abortion in your state. Please take a few moments to oppose these extremist bills and tell Rhode Island lawmakers to stop their attacks on reproductive rights.

HR 5996 establishes legal personhood once a “fetal heartbeat” is detected. Such bills are a favorite of the anti-choice Religious Right, intended to outlaw abortion after an embryonic pulse (not heartbeat) can be detected (as early as five weeks). Most women do not even know they are pregnant that early, which is, of course, the point.

HB 5865 could make abortion illegal as early as eight weeks gestation based on anti-choice pseudoscientific evidence.

HB 5582 and HB 5037 would hinder access to abortion later in pregnancy. These bills are categorically unnecessary. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, late-term abortions (those after 20 weeks) accounted for just over 1 percent of abortions in 2016. Medical experts say there is no evidence that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks, and fetuses “surviving abortion” is an event that is exceedingly rare and typically occurs when a doctor must induce labor to terminate a nonviable pregnancy.

The Rhode Island House Committee on Judiciary will consider these bills on Friday, April 9, at 2 p.m. local time. Click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact all members of this committee and urge them to oppose these bills. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

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theologybiology

The Vermont Legislature is advancing a positive bill (S. 115) that would, among other things, require all public schools to make menstrual products available to students at no cost. Please take a few moments to urge lawmakers to support this measure.

Much of the cultural stigma still attached to menstruation is deeply rooted in the fact that nearly all major religions have shamed this natural, life-giving function. This continues to have tangible consequences for women and girls worldwide, even in developed nations like the United States.

Read more about the religious roots of menstruation stigma.

Lack of access to menstrual products, especially for low-income women and girls, can result in lost education and lost employment and earning opportunities, which fuels inequality in countless ways. The work of undoing the harm caused by these archaic religious customs is a secular issue. Equalizing access to menstrual products is a key first step.

This bill has already passed the state Senate and has a hearing tomorrow, April 7, at 8:30 a.m. local time in front of the Vermont House Committee on Education. Click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact all members of this committee and urge them to support this important bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

TAKE ACTION!

Protect Abortion rights

Anti-choice politicians have introduced an onslaught of legislation intended to outlaw abortion in your state. Please take a few moments to oppose these extremist bills and tell Texas lawmakers to stop their attacks on reproductive rights.

  • HB 1280 would make abortion a criminal offense.
  • HB 1515 outlaws abortion after a so-called “fetal heartbeat” is detected, before most women know they are pregnant.
  • HB 2313 requires anti-abortion resources to be shared with the patient.
  • HB 2337 adds more restrictions to medication abortion and prohibits abortion medication from being provided via telehealth.
  • HB 3218 adds additional unnecessary provisions to abortion care.
  • HB 3760 incorporates more anti-abortion measures and includes faux civil rights information.

The House Committee on Public Health has a hearing on these six bills on Wednesday, April 7, at 8 a.m. local time. Click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact all members of this committee and urge them to oppose these dangerous anti-choice measures. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

TAKE ACTION!

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