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A school district in your area is considering a proposal to require each of its schools to display the Ten Commandments. Please take a few moments to contact the school board to oppose this unconstitutional consideration.

A member of the Cleveland County School Board in Shelby, N.C., recently introduced the proposal, which would mandate that schools display the Ten Commandments in a prominent location near the school’s entrance. FFRF immediately sent a letter informing the district of the impermissibility of such displays and highlighting the significant legal liability the district may incur by violating students’ rights. Read FFRF’s full statement.

As an area resident, your voice is powerful. Please contact the district and urge it to ditch this proposal and leave religious coercion out of its schools. Feel free to use or adapt our talking points below. Personalized messages are always the most effective!

Cleveland County School Board Members Contact Information:

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SUGGESTED TALKING POINTS
As an area resident, I urge the school board to drop its proposal to require Cleveland County schools to prominently display the Ten Commandments. Please do not put the district at risk of legal action, an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars, when this proposal is plainly unconstitutional and will only serve to divide students and families. Leave religious education to students and their families. Thank you for your time.

Is America finally waking up to the threat Christian Nationalism poses? The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has been educating about the dangers of theocratic extremism for decades, is hopeful the attack on the Capitol has opened the nation’s eyes.

“New photos, videos and reportage are continually emerging that illuminate the links between this attack and Christian Nationalism,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Bibles, shirts, flags, placards, patches, crucifixes, crosses and prayers were omnipresent during the attack.”

Over the weekend, The New Yorker published striking video of insurrectionists praying to Jesus on the floor of the Senate. The prayer comes about 8 minutes into the 12 and a half minutes of footage from the assault. Luke Mogelson, a veteran war correspondent and a contributing writer at The New Yorker who has been reporting on the violent edges of the Trump movement and was at the Capitol, captured the moment.

Jacob Chansely, aka “Jacob Angel” and “QShaman,” who — bare-chested, face-painted, adorned in furs and a horned Viking hat — figures prominently in footage from the Capitol insurrection, led the Christian prayer. Following the prayer, he scratched out and left a threatening note on Vice President Mike Pence’s desk. Chansely removed his horned hat and started to pray as the demonstrators in the chambers threw up their arms in supplication:

Jesus Christ, we invoke your name. Amen! [Cheers of Amen!]

Let’s all say a prayer! . . . Thank you, Heavenly Father, for gracing us with this opportunity. . . Thanks to our Heavenly Father for this opportunity to stand up for our God-given unalienable rights. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for being the inspiration needed to these police officers to allow us into the building, to allow us to exercise our rights, to allow us to send a message to all the tyrants, the communists and the globalists that this is our nation, not theirs, that we will not allow the America — the American way of the United States of America to go down.

Thank you, divine, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent Creator God, for filling this chamber with your white light and love, your white light of harmony. Thank you for filling this chamber with patriots that love you and that love Christ.

Thank you, divine, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent Creator God, for blessing each and every one of us here and now.

Thank you, divine Creator God, for surrounding and filling us with the divine omnipresent white light of love and protection, peace and harmony.

Thank you for allowing the United States of America to be reborn.

Thank you for allowing us to get rid of the communists, the globalists and the traitors within our government.

We love you and we thank you. In Christ’s holy name we pray. [Cheers of Amen!]

Chansely was indicted on Jan. 11 for his role in the putsch. A photo of Chansely shaking hands with Rudy Giuliani in November has since surfaced. (Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, called for “trial by combat” at the Save America rally preceding the raid on the Capitol.) 

Peter Manseau, the curator of American Religious History at the National Museum of American History for the Smithsonian, has crowdsourced a project on social media with scholars, religion journalists, activists, writers and others, including FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel. They have been cataloging the connections with the hashtag #CapitolSiegeReligion. (Manseau recently published The Jefferson Bible: A Biography.) You can add to this growing catalog. 

Christian Nationalism is not going away even though its champion is no longer president. FFRF will continue to work to expose the insidious, anti-democratic nature of Christian Nationalism and its role in the attempted overthrow of our government. Join us.

 

Religious institutions seem to be always seeking favorable official treatment.

Churches are again lobbying the Wisconsin Legislature to create a special property tax exemption that removes more property from the tax rolls. Assembly Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2 would allow churches to become commercial landlords. Last year FFRF opposed the bill, while churches like the Archdiocese of Milwaukee registered in support of it. Please use our automated system below to contact your legislators today and tell them to oppose these bills.

The bills single out property owned by a “church or religious association or institution” for tax exemption, even if the church profits off of the rental. Other nonprofit entities in Wisconsin are excluded from receiving the same benefit. This bill would allow churches and religious nonprofits, but not secular nonprofits, to operate tax-exempt rental properties for the purpose of generating income. As the city of Milwaukee has pointed out, the current law ensures that tax-exempt organizations do not become “real estate investors.”

More importantly, the bills are unconstitutional. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from giving preferential tax treatment to religious entities. Because only churches would benefit from the law (and not all nonprofits), the bill would fail scrutiny under both the U.S. and Wisconsin Constitutions.

The city of Milwaukee estimates that it would lose an additional $6.7 million to its tax base, which would result in more than $175,000 reduction in tax revenue each year. Of course, if the exemption is added, many more churches may seek to become commercial landlords.

The impact on taxation of other communities is not known. With the expansion of voucher schools across Wisconsin, churches may seek to take advantage and acquire new properties for the purpose of renting them to pop-up voucher schools.

These bills were scheduled for public hearings today, Jan. 19, but those hearings have been postponed. We must voice opposition before the bills are rammed through the Legislature.

Tell your legislators to oppose these unconstitutional bills! Click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact your state legislators and ask them to oppose these bills. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided. Personalized messages are always the most effective way to reach your lawmakers!

TAKE ACTION!

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Anti-choice politicians in South Carolina are hitting the ground running in the new year and we need to fight back.

An extremely strict so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill that would outlaw abortion after six weeks of pregnancy has been introduced. Please take a few moments to express your disapproval of this measure.

The bill, SB 1, was introduced yesterday, Jan. 12, and is scheduled for a hearing in front of the Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee TOMORROW, Thursday morning, at 10 a.m. Please don’t delay. Contact the members of the subcommittee right away.

Six-week abortion bans, also commonly misrepresented as “heartbeat 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.

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. Indeed the “architect” of the “fetal heartbeat” bill runs an organization called “Faith2Action,” which seeks to impose a particular religious viewpoint on all citizens.

Click on the red “TAKE ACTION” link below to use our automated system to send a message to the subcommittee members urging them to stop this bill in its tracks. Feel free to use or adapt our suggested talking points or add your own message.

TAKE ACTION!

The Freedom From Religion Foundation celebrates the signing into law of a measure that prohibits female genital mutilation on minors across the entire nation.

The STOP FGM Act of 2020 (HR 6100) was a key priority for the Congressional Freethought Caucus, and FFRF worked closely with the office of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, to advance its passage.

“We thank Rep. Jackson Lee and the members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus who championed this critical legislation,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The barbaric act of female genital mutilation has no place in a modern, free society.”

Approximately 513,000 women and girls have experienced the inhumane procedure and its consequences in this country. Worldwide, more than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk annually.

A federal court ruled in 2018 that the existing statute banning female genital mutilation was unconstitutional because Congress lacked the authority to enact it. While states have been scrambling to ban the practice on a state-by-state basis, this new federal legislation cures the previous law’s defect by explicitly stating a constitutional basis for banning the procedure nationwide under the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress broad powers. The bill establishes a statutory maximum term of imprisonment for a violation at 10 years.

Female genital mutilation has no medical benefit and causes lasting medical harm. Regardless of religion or tradition, this is a violent, anti-woman assault and a horrific human rights violation.
The bill was signed into law last week.

FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 33,000 members and several chapters across the country. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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Among the many shocking, sickening images captured during the attempted takeover of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday was a selfie tweeted by former Pennsylvania State Representative Rick Saccone, a man the Freedom From Religion Foundation once sued to rein in his extremism.

Saccone not only tweeted his photo in front of the Capitol during the melee saying “We are storming the Capitol,” but posted video (now taken down but confirmed by media) saying:

“I’m telling you we have hundreds of thousands of people here to support our president and save our nation. Are you with me? They broke down the gates. They’re macing them up there. We’re trying to run out all the evil people in there and all the RINOs who have betrayed our president. We’re going to run them out of their offices.”

Saccone later excused himself by saying he hadn’t joined the mobs going inside and that his rhetoric was a “figure of speech.” But he has since resigned his position at Vincent College in Pennsylvania and may be under FBI investigation.

FFRF knew Saccone was a loose cannon when we encountered the proclamation he sponsored in the Pennsylvania House declaring 2012 as “The Year of the Bible.” So did our indignant Pennsylvania membership, who begged FFRF to file suit on behalf of our then-599 state members, including 41 named members and our chapter at the time, Nittany Freethought. The resolution claimed the bible was the “word of God” and falsely asserted that “biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government.”

Our legal complaint noted: “FFRF's membership includes individuals residing in Pennsylvania who have had direct and unwanted exposure to the Year of the Bible Resolution and the hostile environment created thereby as a result of the official declaration of a state religion by the Pennsylvania Legislature.” Members included “individuals [who] oppose governmental speech endorsing religion because they are made to feel as if they are political outsiders.”

We knew it would be hard to stay in court over the challenge of the resolution, having cut our legal teeth on a highly-publicized suit against President Ronald Reagan when he declared 1983 “The Year of the Bible.”

But we knew it was essential to complain and make a fuss, because we also know that any Establishment Clause violation that goes unchallenged creates precedent for more, often worse entanglements. We knew Saccone was a zealot who should not be sitting in a Capitol making decisions on citizens’ lives.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner ultimately dismissed the case, as expected, ruling House officials had legislative immunity. But we knew we had won a moral and educational victory when the judge soundly chastised House officials for "premeditated pandering" and expressed alarm that the resolution passed unanimously.

Conner wrote: "At worst, it is premeditated pandering designed to provide a reelection sound bite for use by members of the General Assembly. But regardless of the motivation . . . its express language is proselytizing and exclusionary. . . . The court is compelled to shine a clear, bright light on this resolution because it pushes the Establishment Clause envelope behind the safety glass of legislative immunity."

There can’t be a better way to get kicked out of court on standing than by winning such a deserved reprimand against the defendant.

But our lawsuit was thrown out, so Saccone felt secure in using his civil office to force his bigoted and extremist views on all state citizens. Backed by Christian reconstructionist author David Barton, he fortunately lost his bid in 2018 to become a member of Congress.

Should anyone be surprised that Rick Saccone, with his fanatical and un-American views, turned up at a Proud Boy riot smirking as he documented an attempted coup of our secular republic?

FFRF’s Pennsylvania legal complaint had recycled the striking wording of FFRF founder Anne Gaylor in the 1983 Reagan challenge saying: The bible “contains violent, sexist and racist models of behavior that FFRF members find personally repugnant, and which potentially could encourage persons who rely on them to act in a manner harmful to them and others.” The unchecked Year of the Bible resolution did indeed encourage Saccone “to act in a manner harmful to others.”

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is informing a North Carolina district that a new proposal mandating religious displays in its schools is unconstitutional.

Multiple local residents have alerted FFRF, a national state/church watchdog, that the Cleveland County School Board is considering requiring all of its schools to display the Ten Commandments in a prominent location at or near their main entrances. The board member who proposed this is doing it under the supposed cover of a state law, stating that he believes the district “cannot be sued for following the law of the state of North Carolina.”

FFRF has sent a letter of complaint to the school district’s attorney, pointing out the impermissibility of such displays and highlighting the significant legal liability the district may incur by violating students’ rights.

“The district can be sued for violating the Establishment Clause even if it is following North Carolina law,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes. “It would be a flagrant violation for the school board to require all of its schools to display the Ten Commandments.”

The Supreme Court has clearly instructed public schools, “Thou shalt not display the Ten Commandments.” “The pre-eminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature,” the high court ruled in 1980 and reaffirmed in 2005.

FFRF has successfully sued in the past to remove similar displays. FFRF and several families filed and won federal lawsuits against two Pennsylvania school districts, New Kensington-Arnold and Connellsville, over Ten Commandment monuments on school property. It also successfully sued a Virginia school that posted the biblical edicts.

“School districts have no business injecting religion into their schools, thus interfering with the rights of conscience of students and their parents,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Students in our public schools are free to have any god they like, as many gods as they like — or none at all! In America, we live under the First Amendment, not the First Commandment."

FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 33,000 members and several chapters across the country, including nearly 800 members and a chapter in North Carolina. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Insurrection

 

In the wake of the ongoing armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a direct consequence of President Trump’s encouragement, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling on Congress (once its members are safely out of lockdown) to take immediate action against him.

Our republic has never faced a greater threat from within, and there are two more weeks for Trump to continue the attacks.

We are seeing unfold before our eyes in real time an armed uprising to halt the ceremonial counting of the electoral vote that will declare Joe Biden our next president. The mobs breaching the Capitol, rushing onto the floor, even invading Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, are a result of Trump’s ominous order to the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

This terrorism is a consequence of Trump promising “wild” protests today as Congress was to finalize the election results. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Guiliani even called for “trial by combat” at a “Save America” rally in front of the White House today. At this rally preceding the insurrection, Trump’s son Donald Jr. told members of Congress, “We’re coming for you.” Trump himself egged on his MAGA supporters by castigating the election results and urging: "So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I want to thank you all. God bless you and God bless America."

The invasion occurred as returns confirmed that two Democrats have won the Georgia senatorial elections — turning the Senate Democratic.

A second impeachment was already overdue, given Trump’s disgraceful hour-long phone call seeking to threaten or cajole Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to commit election fraud — and his brazen request to Vice President Mike Pence to throw out electoral votes.

When Trump belatedly told the mob to “go home,” he prefaced his remarks not only with  more grievances and his Big Lie that the election has been stolen from him, but assurances to the terrorists that “We love you. You’re very special.”

It behooves FFRF to point out the Christian Nationalist connection. A huge banner saying “Jesus 2020” can be seen in the riot shots. Trump’s base is white evangelicals, 81 percent of whom voted him into office, with the majority of Protestants and Catholics voting for him in his re-election bid. We cannot understand what is happening now without understanding the growing threat of Christian Nationalism. Protesters in Michigan today erected a highly-symbolic 10-foot-tall cross outside the state Capitol.

“Stay safe” is taking on a new meaning as we hear from locked-down members of Congress. U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, co-founder of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, has tweeted:

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And his colleague Rep. Jamie Raskin provides steadying and true words:

 

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There must be consequences for any U.S. president who behaves like a strongman dictator and who continually voices his refusal to honor election results and our nation’s unbroken history of peaceful succession.

Congress needs to take action now.

 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to award $17,750 in prize money to the 10 winners and nine honorable mentions of the 2020 Brian Bolton Essay Contest for Graduate/“Older” Students.

Graduate students up to age 30 or undergrad students ages 25-30 were asked to write a persuasive essay on “Why God has no place in political debate.” Students were asked to make the case for keeping “God” and religion out of the political debates, and the dangers posed when public officials pander and mix religion with government.

This contest is generously and singlehandedly endowed by Lifetime Member Brian Bolton, a retired psychologist, humanist minister and professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas. Bolton is also underwriting FFRF’s Bible Accountability Project to call attention to the continuing harm of the bible to society.

Winners, their ages, the colleges or universities they are attending and the award amounts are listed below. The winning essays are reprinted in the upcoming January/February issue of Freethought Today, FFRF’s newspaper, available online and as a hard copy.

First place
Miriam Barnicle, 23, Alverno College, $3,500
Second place
Kelsey Kane-Ritsch, 26, Columbia University, $3,000
Third place
Sydni Myers, 29, Virginia Commonwealth University, $2,500
Fourth place
Nicolle Dirksen, South Dakota State University, $2,000.
Fifth place
Rebecca Barrett, 25, Emory University, $1,500
Sixth place
Parker Schwartz, 27, Capital University, $1,000.
Seventh place
Ipsha Banerjee, 22, Arizona State University, $750.
Eighth place
Sonia Bajaj, 28, Benedictine University, $500.
Ninth place
Paula Canales, University of Texas-San Antonio, $400
10th place
Michelle Krauser, 30, Coastal Carolina University, $300.
Honorable mentions ($200 each)
Emella Canlas, 25, California State University, East Bay
John Carroll, 25, SUNY Fredonia
Selina Chan, 29, University of Pennsylvania
Ruth Dickey-Chasins, 26, George Washington University
Kavitha Kannanunny, 25, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Brionna McCumber, 23, Colorado State University
Yarrow Mead, 25, Hamline University
Yamiset Trujillo, 28, University of Central Florida
Andrew Young, 22, University of Denver

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994, grad and older students since 2010, one geared specifically for students of color since 2016 and one for law school students since 2019.

FFRF thanks Dean and Dorea Schramm of Florida for providing a $100 bonus to students who are members of a secular group, student club or Secular Student Alliance. The total of $17,750 reflects those bonuses.

FFRF also thanks “Director of First Impressions” Lisa Treu for managing the details of the essay contests. And we couldn’t judge these competitions without help from our “faithful faithless” volunteers and staff members, including Don Ardell, Dan Barker, Darrell Barker, Bill Dunn, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Stephen Hirtle, Judy Jacobs, Linda Josheff, Dan Kettner, Katya Maes, Bailey Nachreiner-Mackesey, Amit Pal, Dave Petrashek, Sue Schuetz, Lauryn Seering, PJ Slinger and Karen Lee Weidig.

Please take action TODAY to ensure the release of Zara Kay, an outspoken ex-Muslim activist who has been arrested on trumped-up charges in Tanzania.

Zara founded the group Faithless Hijabi (which provides support to women leaving Islam) and is openly critical of that religion and theocratic regimes.

Read more in FFRF’s full statement.

Police in Dar es Salaam arrested Kay on Dec. 28 and held her for 32 hours before charging her with a crime. We ask you to take action today to help free Kay.

The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims is asking sympathizers to contact Tanzanian embassies in their country and demand that the Tanzanian government drop all charges against Kay, return her Australian passport and allow her to leave the country.

The Tanzanian Embassy in the United States can be reached by
Telephone: (202)884-1080 (202)939-6125 (202)939-6127
Twitter: @tzembassyus
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Fax: (202)797-7408
Website: https://tanzaniaembassy-us.org/

Please contact the Tanzanian Embassy today and demand justice for Zara Kay. If you’re active on social media, please share the message with these hashtags: #JusticeForZaraKay #JusticeForZara #StandUpForZaraKay

SUGGESTED TALKING POINTS

I am joining international calls for the release of Zara Kay from police custody. I demand that the Tanzanian government drop all charges against Kay, return her Australian passport and allow her to leave the country.

 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is condemning the Tanzanian government’s arrest and persecution of a young ex-Muslim activist — and asking for your help in ensuring her well-being.

Zara Kay, an Australian who has founded the group Faithless Hijabi (which provides support to women leaving Islam) and is openly critical of that religion, has been arrested on trumped-up charges in Tanzania.

“As is often the case, the charges against Zara are a pretext,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Her true ‘crime’ is the victimless crime of blasphemy and criticizing religion.”

Police in Dar es Salaam arrested Kay on Dec. 28 and held her for 32 hours before charging her with a crime. Kay is currently out on bail but has to return to police custody tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 5. We ask you to take action today to help free Kay.

The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims is asking sympathizers to contact Tanzanian embassies in their country and demand that the Tanzanian government drop all charges against Kay, return her Australian passport and allow her to leave the country.

The Tanzanian Embassy in the United States can be reached by
Telephone: (202)884-1080 (202)939-6125 (202)939-6127
Twitter: @tzembassyus
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Fax: (202)797-7408
Website: https://tanzaniaembassy-us.org/

Zara Kay has been an outspoken critic of Islam and theocratic regimes, especially on social media. According to the International Coalition of Ex-Muslims, charges standing against her include:

  1.  A social media post deemed to be critical of the Tanzanian president (light satirical posts were posted in May when Kay was in London, addressing the handling of COVID-19 in Tanzania).
  2. Not returning her Tanzanian passport after gaining Australian citizenship (she had misplaced it and never used it after gaining Australian citizenship).
  3. Using a SIM card not registered in her name (registered in a family member’s name).

According to Amnesty International, Tanzanian authorities have used the SIM card charge in other politically motivated cases.

“This witch hunt is what it looks like when a civil government enforces religious dogma: trumped-up nonsense meant to intimidate, silence and repress. Shame on Tanzania for such a gross violation of human rights,” says FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel, who knows Zara personally.

Please contact the Tanzanian Embassy today and demand justice for Zara Kay. If you’re active on social media, please share the message with these hashtags:

#JusticeForZaraKay #JusticeForZara #StandUpForZaraKay