By now, you’ve likely seen or heard about Jeep’s Super Bowl ad that, under the guise of unity and patriotism, promoted the idea that the United States is a Christian nation. Watch the ad here.
Please join FFRF in telling Jeep that, while the message of unity and common ground is laudable, assuming that all Americans are Christian is divisive, exclusionary and counterproductive.
Only 65 percent of Americans today identify as Christian, with religiously unaffiliated “Nones” standing at 26 percent. And even if 100 percent of Americans identified as Christian, that still would not make the United States a “Christian nation,” since our godless and secular Constitution ensures our government may not promulgate religion.
Note: This action alert is a consumer complaint, not a state/church violation.
WAYS TO TAKE ACTION:
As a nonreligious American, I was profoundly offended by the exclusionary message and repeated Christian imagery tied to patriotism that was portrayed in your Super Bowl ad.
More than one-third of good American citizens do not identify as Christian, do not kneel in front of the cross, and do not pray to a Christian god. To suggest that all Americans are united behind the cross is divisive, and ironically promotes the Christian Nationalist ideology that led in part to the Jan. 6 insurrection your ad presumably sought to address.
While the message of national unity is laudable, please refrain from promoting Christian Nationalism in the future. Thank you for your time.
The Arizona Legislature is considering a bad Covid-related bill that would declare religious services to be “an essential service deemed necessary and vital to the health and welfare of the public.” If passed, HB 2648 would make 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 Arizona 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.
The Arizona House Judiciary Committee has a hearing scheduled on this bill on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 9 a.m. Please click on the red “Take Action” link below to use our automated system to contact all members of this committee and urge them to vote no on this bill.
The Jeep Super Bowl Sunday ad with Bruce Springsteen ostensibly encouraging Americans to find common ground has generated a lot of buzz. But, ironically, it flagrantly undercuts unity by assuming that Americans must all be Christians united under the repeatedly depicted cross.
That message is more than insulting. It actually perpetuates the Christian Nationalist narrative underpinning the Jan. 6 insurrection that this ad presumably was created to counter. Only 65 percent of Americans today identify as Christian, with religiously unaffiliated “Nones” standing at 26 percent. And even if 100 percent of Americans identified as Christian, that still would not make the United States a “Christian nation,” since our godless and secular Constitution ensures our government may not promulgate religion.
However, this point was evidently lost to the international corporation that owns Jeep and sought to religiously pander in a message on unity that actually further divides us. More than one-third of Americans do not bow down to a cross, and it’s impossible for us non-Christians to do anything other than take away from this ad that we aren’t true Americans.
The spot opens with a chapel and Springsteen’s narration: “There’s a chapel in Kansas standing on the exact center of the lower 48. It never closes. All are more than welcome to come and meet here in the middle.” The ad then shows the interior of the chapel with a wooden cross attached to the center of a red-white-and-blue plaque of the map of the lower 48 United States.
Springsteen’s narration continues: “Freedom is not the property of just the fortunate few. It belongs to us all. … It’s what connects us. … We need the middle.” Laudable words until the camera comes to rest on a large roadside cross.
The ad concludes with a shot of Springsteen outside the chapel, a cross in the background and then a shot of the chapel at sunset. Finally, there’s an image of the outline of the lower 48 United States, saying “To the ReUnited States of America.”
That geographical center of the United States is meaningless. It’s like saying that a word beginning with M is in the center of the dictionary. That Kansas “center” excludes Alaska and Hawaii. If you take all 50 states, then the center would be in South Dakota, close to the Montana border.
FFRF Co-President Dan Barker remarks: “The Pawnee tribe was originally in north-central Kansas. My tribe, the Delaware (Lenape) nation, had a reservation in Kansas in the 1830s-1860s. Before that, there were other tribes in the area. Why is there even a white Christian chapel at that spot? Why not a sweat lodge or longhouse?”
The Kansas Historical Society explains:
“In 1829, the Delawares were the first Indians to sign a treaty giving them land in what was to become Kansas. After 1830, nearly 30 tribes were given land in the areas. Among these tribes were the Cherokee, Chippewa, Delaware, Iowa, Iroquois, Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Munsee, Ottawa, Peoria, Piankashaw, Potawatomi, Quapaw, Sac and Fox, Shawnee, Stockbridge, Wea and Wyandot. Although these emigrant tribes were assured by the federal government that they would not be moved again, Kansas Territory opened for settlement in 1854 and once again forced the removal of native peoples. Many settlers moved into Kansas Territory after the Civil War, accelerating the movement of Indians off the land.”
This was displacement by white Christians citing “Manifest Destiny” — Christian Nationalism. Placing a Christian chapel there has no purpose other than staking a territorial claim to religious (white) supremacy.
Our nation does need to find common ground — that we live under a secular Constitution and in a country predicated on the aspirational motto of “liberty and justice for all.” There can be no “middle ground” with those who cannot and will not accept that. White supremacists and Christian nationalists pose a clear and continuing danger to our nation’s future.
Shame on Jeep for an ad that makes it appear that the United States is indeed a “Christian nation.”
A religious display has been promptly removed from a South Carolina school following a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
A Palmetto High School community member informed FFRF that a framed prayer was prominently displayed on a table in the school’s front office near the spot tardy students are required to stand and wait for their temperature to be checked before attending class.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Anderson School District One Superintendent Robbie Binnicker, urging the district to immediately get rid of the religious display, since it constituted an inappropriate government endorsement of religion.
“Religion is a divisive force in public schools,” FFRF Legal Fellow Brendan Johnson wrote. “This display alienated nonreligious students, families, teachers and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school.”
The school district admirably remedied this issue immediately by taking out the framed prayer from the school office the same day as it received the letter of complaint.
“The sign was removed and the principal dealt with the issue at the school level,” Binnicker informed FFRF via email.
FFRF commends the district for taking swift action to address these complaints and taking a critical step to ensure all students’ views are honored. Given that almost two-fifths of younger Americans — those born after 1987 — are nonreligious, the presence of this sort of religious iconography in schools is not only unconstitutional, but particularly exclusionary.
“We applaud the district for taking action to remedy this violation,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Students in our public schools are free to practice any religion they choose — or none at all.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 33,500 members across the country, including members in South Carolina. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.
Another new bombshell report by the Associated Press shows once again that churches are stealing from the American taxpayer:
“As the pandemic began to unfold, AP reveals today, “scores of Catholic dioceses across the U.S. received aid through the Paycheck Protection Program while sitting on well over $10 billion in cash, short-term investments or other available funds, an Associated Press investigation has found. And despite the broad economic downturn, these assets have grown in many dioceses.”
AP reports that “[t]he 112 dioceses that shared their financial statements collected at least $1.5 billion in taxpayer-backed aid. A majority of these dioceses reported enough money on hand to cover at least six months of operating expenses, even without any new income.”
The PPP is not even a year old and already the grift and abuse by church has been enormous. And unfortunately we’ll see more: The Paycheck Protection Program was reopened on January 11, 2021.
Remember all the state/church problems with PPP that FFRF has fought and brought to light in the past year?
First, the Small Business Administration violated the Constitution and trampled longstanding agency rules to extend these loans to churches. This was clearly unconstitutional, as FFRF explained to the SBA at the time.
Second, this rule change was not authorized by the COVID relief act that created PPP. The CARES Act extended eligibility for loans from the SBAn to nonprofits, which was new. But the law did not give the SBA the power to extend this eligibility to churches, nor could it—the Constitution prohibits government funding of religion. The CARES Act only mentions religion once, to prevent universities from using taxpayer funds for “capital outlays associated with facilities related to athletics, sectarian instruction, or religious worship.”
However, the SBA ignored that language, and the centuries-old bar on taxpayer-funded religious worship, and issued rules and guidance declaring that your taxpayer funds “can be used to pay the salaries of ministers and other staff engaged in the religious mission of institutions.” To do this, SBA had to suspend numerous rules that, correctly, prevented taxpayer funds from flowing to churches.
SBA was spurred to do this because a few congressmen, like Christian Nationalist Josh Hawley who has since incited an insurrection, declared after the fact and against the language of the law and the Constitution, that churches were beneficiaries. Again, FFRF was there to explain why this was wrong.
Third, the Trump administration was using the program to reward his closest political allies. FFRF broke the story of secretive White House calls between SBA officials and religious leaders that supported Trump politically. The preachers were encouraged to apply for the PPP funds and promised help. Trump-allied faith leaders were assured by the federal government that even a discriminatory fly-by-night “church” that provides absolutely no secular social services, and of which the owner is the sole employee, could have its wages covered by taxpayers during the PPP time period. On one call, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, a member of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Council, explained that the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, which took in $350,000–$1 million, “has literally been kept solvent . . . by the Paycheck Protection Plan (sic)” and explained that in 43 years of leading two faith-based ministries, he has “never asked for, nor received, one cent from the federal government” expressing his surprise that taxpayer funds could now flow to his ministry.
Finally, there’s the well-documented but still emerging abuse, including by FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel, who wrote, “American churches took in as much as $10 billion in taxpayer funds through PPP loans. More than 400 evangelical churches received loans of at least $1 million. The Catholic Church might have taken in as much as $3.5 billion.” He explained that Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church took in nearly $5 million in taxpayer funds. Other mega-churches purchased private jets, returning the taxpayer money when they were caught.
And this is only the tip of the corruption as the latest AP report shows.
Religious institutions seem to be always seeking favorable official treatment.
The Indiana Legislature is considering a bill that would allow unscrupulous churches to more easily dodge property taxes. Under current Indiana law, when churches acquire property, they have to certify that they are using this property “for religious worship” in order to secure a tax exemption. If this bill becomes law, the burden would shift to the Indiana government, opening the door to widespread fraud, since it’s virtually impossible for the government to affirmatively prove that a property is not being used for religious worship.
This new rule would only apply to church-owned property and only applies to religious worship, meaning secular nonprofits and non-worship exempted use of the property (charity, feeding the homeless, etc.) would not be able to take advantage of this exemption. This bill (HB 1353) thus favors religious worship and favors churches over secular nonprofits.
The Indiana House Ways and Means Committee has a hearing scheduled on this bill this Wednesday, Feb. 3, at noon. Please use our simple, automated system to contact all members of the House Ways and Means Committee and urge them to oppose this bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided or write your own!
The New Hampshire Legislature is currently considering what has been dubbed “the most expansive voucher program in the country” — and we need you to urge lawmakers to oppose this dangerous proposal.
If passed, HB 20 would entitle parents who pull their children out of the public school system to have the state pay into an educational savings account an amount equal to 95 percent of the statewide average basic support per pupil, plus “differential aid” that the student may qualify for. Legislators estimate that at least 85 percent of these funds would be used to fund private religious education.
Voucher schemes like the one under consideration in New Hampshire will financially devastate public schools and would force New Hampshire taxpayers to fund private religious education. Further, the program would have virtually no accountability — a problem that has plagued voucher schemes around the country.
Read FFRF’s “The Case Against Vouchers.”
The New Hampshire House of Representatives has a hearing scheduled on this bill on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 1:15 p.m. Eastern. Please take action and urge N.H. legislators to oppose HB 20.
WAYS TO TAKE ACTION:
As a New Hampshire voter, it is critical to me that you oppose HB 20, the voucher scheme proposal currently under consideration.
If passed, this bill would decimate our public schools, including in already underfunded rural districts. Further, this program, like other voucher schemes across the country, lacks oversight and accountability that invariably leads to widespread fraud and mismanagement. New Hampshire taxpayers will cut the checks, yet they will have virtually no mechanism overseeing how that money is used. Where public money goes, public accountability must follow.
Please vote no on HB 20 and recommit to supporting all our students by funding secular public education.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation and its Chicago chapter are unveiling a timely secular advertising campaign promoting science and pandemic safety in the Windy City.
The artwork features a striking image of Charles Darwin wearing FFRF’s “In Science I Trust” face mask next to the message: “In Science We Trust. Please Stay Safe.” It combines FFRF's pro-science thrust with a celebration of Darwin Day (Feb. 12 is the birth anniversary of the scientific giant).
The 14-by-48-foot display is located on Lincoln Avenue near Foster Avenue in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood and will remain up through the end of February.
“Our important message — that science works and to trust in science — was a natural selection given the continuing pushback by the Christian Right against masking and social distancing mandates,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.
FFRF warmly thanks its FFRF Metropolitan Chicago Chapter Executive Director Tom Cara for his leadership in coordinating the project.
“This new billboard is timely in two ways,” comments Cara. “First, to encourage everyone to help keep us all safe by trusting in science, not superstition, and to mask up! Second, to give science the respect it deserves by honoring the birthday of Charles Darwin. During this critical time in our history, it is very important we recognize the outstanding contributions of those in the science and medical fields.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Madison, Wis.-based national nonprofit organization with more than 33,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 1,000 members and the Metropolitan Chicago chapter in Illinois. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.
The Montana Legislature is considering an anti-science sex education bill that will invite the instruction of faith-based medical providers into our public schools. Please take a few moments to ask lawmakers to stop this bill.
The bill, SB 99, would require parents to opt their children into sex education (rather than requiring religious parents to opt out), and would prohibit any entity or person that provides abortion from contributing to the instruction in any way. This means that any medical professional affiliated with a hospital or clinic that provides abortion services would be barred from teaching the course, providing materials on STD and pregnancy prevention, etc. Perhaps most troubling is that so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers, many of them faith-based, would be able to fill the gap and offer “educational” services and materials, as they objectionably do in many school systems across the country.
This proposal structures education policy to favor those with religious objections to comprehensive sex education, instead of requiring those with religious exemptions to opt out of the curriculum to which they object. We need to stand up for secular education that centers on science-based medical information.
The Montana Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee has a hearing on this bill this Wednesday, Feb. 3. Please click on the red “Take Action” button to use our simple, automated system to contact the members of this committee and urge them to squash this bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.
The Iowa Legislature is advancing a dangerous bill, Senate Resolution 2, to amend the state Constitution to say that there is no constitutional right to an abortion. Please take a few moments to urge your lawmakers to oppose this bill.
If passed, this joint resolution would place a constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot that would overturn a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision declaring abortion a fundamental right under the state Constitution. This bill would ultimately make it easier for more abortion restrictions and for the state to ban abortion outright if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, which many fear may be in the near future. Read more.
The bill codifies into law beliefs not based on science or morality, but on religion and so-called holy books. The Christian Right has been and remains the primary opponent to women’s reproductive rights.
The Iowa House of Representatives just passed this resolution. It is now headed to the Senate for a vote next Monday, Feb. 1, at noon. Please use our simple, automated system to contact your state senator and urge them to oppose this dangerous bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided. Personalized messages are always the most effective!