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The Massachusetts Legislature is currently considering Amendment 759, which would remove medically unnecessary barriers to abortion care and improve access for reproductive health care throughout the state. Please tell the Senate Ways and Means Committee to include Amendment 759 — known as the ROE Act — in the final budget.

The amendment would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to make their own reproductive health decisions without court intervention. Furthermore, Amendment 759 provides care for later pregnancies in cases of lethal fetal diagnosis.

Read FFRF's official testimony.

As a secular nation, our laws related to health care, including reproductive health care, should reflect science. Amendment 759 is a bold and important step toward providing medically accurate and science-based reproductive health care for the women of Massachusetts.

Please contact Michael Rodrigues, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and urge him to ensure that Amendment 759 remains in the final budget.

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Alito

 

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito consummated the unholy union between the federal judiciary and the Federalist Society in a one-sided speech yesterday.

FFRF is appalled over Alito’s rant.

“It’s shocking to hear a supposedly impartial Supreme Court justice speak in such a hyperpartisan, reckless and entitled manner,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, “Alito didn’t sound like a principled jurist, but a Christian Nationalist trading talking points with Sean Hannity on Fox News.”

It’s no secret that Donald Trump let the ultraconservative Federalist Society select nominees: “We’re going to have great judges, conservative, all picked by the Federal Society.” Nearly all of President Trump’s 200-plus judicial nominees, including his three Supreme Court justices, have had ties to the conservative group.

Alito’s speech was the screed of an embittered, embattled minority fighting against the overwhelming majority. It highlights a central problem this country will face moving forward. Most Americans are not so conservative. Alito’s views are increasingly unpopular. He espouses the views of the conservative white, male, Christian Nationalist demographic. A shrinking demographic; a dwindling minority. But Alito is part of a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court. He’s an unpopular minority but empowered for life on a packed court.

This speech was an admission, a confession. Alito admitted that we are a nation governed by minority rule and confessed that, although their grasp on legislative power is slipping, Alito and his five buddies will solidify that minority rule with their judicial power.

Alito’s words have alarming implications for FFRF’s work. We have been racing to fight against a radical attempt to redefine religious freedom, and Alito made it clear that this push is only going to get stronger. In Alito’s fantasy, religious liberty requires that laws exempt Christians who disagree with the law, that Christians be allowed to discriminate as they see fit, and that Christian views on same-sex marriage and reproductive rights must be forced on the entire legal system.

Shockingly, he did this while condemning public policy based on science and reason, even in the middle of a lethal pandemic: “Just as the COVID restrictions have highlighted the movement toward rule by experts, litigation about those restrictions has pointed up emerging trends in the assessment of individual rights. This is especially evident with respect to religious liberty. It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.”

Alito talked about a famous religious liberty case, “a Supreme Court decision called Employment Division v. Smith” authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, which Alito claimed “cut back sharply on the protection provided by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.” He added, “Congress was quick to respond. It passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), to ensure broad protection for religious liberty.” Just eight days before this speech, Alito participated in oral arguments in Fulton v. Philadelphia, a case in which a Catholic organization is asking Alito and the other justices to overturn the very decision Alito just maligned.

Alito also opined on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which was heavily cited by the parties in Fulton, leaving no doubt which way he will rule in Fulton. He could not have been more clear: “For many today, religious liberty is not a cherished freedom. It’s often just an excuse for bigotry, and it can't be tolerated, even when there is no evidence that anybody has been harmed.”

“I’ll wager a year of my nonprofit salary that he finds for the Catholic organization and against the city,” says FFRF’s Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel.

Alito seems to prefer Catholic organizations that come before the court. Like Trump during some of his press conferences, Alito focused on “the protracted campaign against the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns.” He said that “the Little Sisters have been under unrelenting attack for the better part of a decade. Why? Because they refused to allow their health insurance plan to provide contraceptives to their employees. For that they were targeted by the prior administration. If they did not knuckle under and violate a tenet of their faith, they face crippling fines, fines that would likely have forced them to shut down their homes.” This is a Supreme Court justice talking about pending litigation. This wasn’t a mistake; he knew what he was doing: “The case was sent back to the Court of Appeals. And the Little Sisters legal fight goes on and on.”

Alito inappropriately discussed cases that have already been ruled on an interim basis, but that are continuing to work their way to the high court, such as pandemic “restrictions,” specifically discussing cases in Nevada and California, and snidely making his loathing for such orders clear: “Take a quick look at the Constitution. You will see the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, which protects religious liberty, you will not find a craps clause or a blackjack clause or a slot machine clause.” He also spoke of a pharmacy case out of Washington, in which a business meant to provide care for people refused a prescription. In Alito’s biased retelling, this was about “so-called morning-after pills, which destroy an embryo after fertilization.”

In one of the most disturbing passages of his speech last night, Alito again attacked marriage equality. Because homophobes are now called out as bigots, even if their bigotry is rooted in the bible, Alito sees this as discrimination against his religion. That’s right, religious bigots getting called out for their bigotry is bigotry in Alito’s addled world: “You can’t say that marriage is the union between one man and one woman. Until very recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now it’s considered bigotry. That this would happen after our decision in Obergefell should not have come as a surprise.”

Under federal statute and the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, judges must recuse themselves from cases where a “judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Unfortunately, ethics and recusal rules do not apply to the Supreme Court — something that ought to change. Instead, we rely on the justices’ personal ethics and moral code to guide them to recuse when their impartiality might be questioned.

But a judge with sound ethics would have hesitated before speaking to the Federalist Society in 2020, after it has helped pack the courts with partisan conservatives and Christian Nationalists. And any judge with ethics would not have spoken as Alito did. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has no faith that Alito will do the right thing in these instances precisely because his speech smacked of an entitled man above the law, not a man of the law.

Alito certainly did not mean for his speech to be a clarion call for court reform, something he condemned in his speech. But it is. If America fails to heed this call, we’ll pay a dear price. It’s time to expand the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary.

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For the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the apparent results of the U.S. presidential election will mean the Christian Nationalist takeover of the federal government should end. A new administration will mean a renewed chance to advocate for secularism and a return to rational debate.

Former Vice President Joe Biden appears to have locked up enough electoral college votes to win the U.S. presidency. While a recount demand is expected, litigation is likely to continue and all the vote counts may not be final, it seems “We the People” have spoken. Several Senate races remain too close to call, and if the Senate does not flip, it will complicate recovery from a Christian Nationalist executive. However, the results overall look like a victory for science over faith, for reproductive and individual rights over theology, and for reason over ideology.

After years of playing defense, FFRF is no longer in that situation. It appears we have a path cleared to achieving gains for our movement to keep religion out of government and public policy.

President Trump was carried into office on a crest of Christian Nationalism four years ago, a wave that was hostile to everything FFRF works for. We trust the relentless religious assault we’ve been beating back for four years will diminish — and we’ll do everything in our power to ensure that.

FFRF is poised for the opportunities ahead. Our team of attorneys and 30-some staff, and our 33,000 members, are the watchers on the wall separating state and church. We’re the largest U.S. association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) and the third-largest association of nonbelievers in the world. We’ve added a strategic response campaign, a D.C. lobbyist, and our educational efforts have played a major role in the secular surge. We’ll continue to fight and remain vigilant no matter which party is in the White House or controls Congress.

FFRF has been working with our allies to develop a common secular agenda that Congress and the new administration can quickly implement. We look forward to repairing damage inflicted on secularism and its values. This will entail repealing many Trumpian executive orders, regulations and extrajudicial bodies (such as the Religious Liberty Task Force), but must also include major judicial reform.

Unprecedented obstructionism in the Senate blocked President Obama not only from nominating Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, but also from filling more than 100 seats on the federal bench. The Trump administration has since packed the courts with more than 200 individuals handpicked by the Federalist Society, including unqualified zealots who do not reflect the American people, trampling Senate rules and norms along the way. An illegitimate process allowed Trump to make his third Supreme Court appointment just last month in the midst of the national election — an appointment that clearly endangers abortion and LGBTQ rights, as well as decades of First Amendment precedent separating religion from government.

FFRF has a talented legal team, and it believes that any legal defense of the First Amendment — of the cherished American principle of the separation of state and church — must necessarily mean reforming our federal courts. We face a hostile federal judiciary, more dedicated to Christian Nationalism than the rule of law.

Regardless of the Supreme Court, we’re gaining in the court of public opinion — reflected in the increasingly secular U.S. demographics. But we can’t let theocratic court packing jeopardize civil rights, the Establishment Clause and our nation’s future. Even with the election results, it is clear that for reason, humanistic values and our secular Constitution to prevail, our nation will need to unpack, correct and rebalance the judiciary. With your help, we’ll get to work.

The U.S. Supreme Court exhibited worrisome signs today during oral arguments in a major case involving a Catholic group that’s seeking to discriminate while participating in a government foster care program.

In Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the conservative 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court indicated that it may upend the city’s nondiscrimination rules in favor of religion.

“The Supreme Court’s handling of this case is troubling and it signals an intent by some on the court to have religion trump the civil rights of LGBTQ citizens,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Catholic Social Services sued Philadelphia after the city stopped contracting with the organization for foster care screening services. The group had said it would refuse to work with same-sex couples, which violates the city’s contracts and anti-discrimination policy. Catholic Social Services lost in its legal quest before both the district court and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. However, some conservative justices on the Supreme Court seemed ready to rule that religion is a special license to discriminate.

A recurrent theme in the court’s questioning concerned whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was somehow different than other forms of discriminaton, such as on racial grounds. Justice Samuel Alito asked the counsel for the federal government, “Didn’t the court say [in Obergefell] that there are honorable and respectable reasons to continue to oppose same-sex marriage? Would the court say the same thing about interracial marriage?”

Justice Elena Kagan, who aligns with liberal justices, followed up on this line of argument and asked, “Do you think it is a compelling state interest to want to eradicate discrimination against gays and lesbians?” The attorney for the federal government struggled to answer. He replied, in part, “In the abstract, perhaps.”

“There seems to be an inherent belief by those defending discrimination against same-sex couples that it is somehow a lesser and permissible form of discrimination,” says FFRF Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott. “This position is neither honorable nor respectable, as discirmination is wrong regardless of whether it is religiously motivated.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh signaled his strong disagreement with the city of Philadelphia’s policy of nondiscrimination in foster care services. He discussed a “balance” between the rights of same-sex couples and religious beliefs, noting language from the court’s prior decisions on the issue. Kavanaugh then criticized the city, saying, “[W]hat I fear here is that the absolutist and extreme position that you’re articulating would require us to go back on the promise of respect for religious believers.”

This is the first week that Justice Amy Coney Barrett has joined arguments before the court. She asked one of the attorneys a hypothetical where a government entered into contracts with all hospitals and required that “every hospital has to perform abortions.” She questioned whether the government would be exercising its licensing authority in that instance or whether the hospital would be contracting for a government service. (View the full FFRF report on Barrett at ffrf.us/barrett ).

FFRF filed an amicus brief in the case, strongly opposing the contention of Catholic Social Services that it can discriminate as a government contractor. “If CSS is permitted to discriminate in this case, the rights of religious minorities and the nonreligious would be put in peril,” FFRF observed in its brief.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court will keep that in mind while handing down its decision.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the largest national association of freethinkers, representing atheists, agnostics, and others who form their opinions about religion based on reason, rather than faith, tradition, or authority. Founded nationally in 1978 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, FFRF has more than 33,000 members, including members in every state and the District of Columbia.

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce that it has awarded three $1,000 scholarships to nonreligious students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The scholarships are part of FFRF’s Cliff Richards Memorial Student Scholarships and are in partnership with Secular Student Alliance.

FFRF is providing the scholarship funds and chose the students from a pool of applicants; the Secular Student Alliance has done the legwork and vetting. Two recipients chose not to identify their last names for privacy reasons.

Marie Chantal is a junior at Howard University, majoring in chemical engineering with a concentration in biotechnology and biomedicine. She plans to attend medical school to become a doctor specializing in contagious diseases. She hopes to provide aid in the refugee crisis and build Africa’s medical infrastructure. Marie was born in a Rwandese refugee camp, so she and her family know the impact of war. “I do not have a name for my secular identity,” Marie says. “I just know that I have seen Catholicism imported by colonizers stop my people from seeking justice for themselves because they believed in a savior falling from the sky. I have seen religion hurt my people.” Marie is a member of the Youth United Nations Association, Black Action Movement and Planned Parenthood. She has organized fundraisers and panel discussions for Freedom House Detroit, which helps asylum seekers. She has presented at conferences on cultural competency and preventative methods against sexual harassment in higher education and has produced a documentary promoting Black mental health.

Kourtney is a health sciences major at Spelman College. Her desire to learn more about herself through education led her to pursue a career as a medical examiner. During her sophomore year, Kourtney chose to further her education in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, which lacks representation of Black students. She also joined the Student Organization for Anti-Racism to advocate increased representation of African-American students in international classes. This year, she has been focused on increasing turnout of young voters. Kourtney feels that Secular Student Alliance provides a safe space for nonreligious and religious students to connect with each other and discuss differing viewpoints with civility and respect.

Timothy is a first-year student at Tuskegee University majoring in aerospace engineering. Raised in an Independent Fundamental Baptist home, Timothy attended a private Christian school until eighth grade, then attended public school due to issues with bullying. As the first in his family to go to college, Timothy is a role model for his younger brothers. His secular identity is relatively new and started when his interest in science began to challenge his religious beliefs. At age 17, he left the church, which disappointed his parents, who then disabled his phone, tried to take his car and threatened to kick him out of the house. Timothy is involved in the Black Lives Matter movement and encouraged voting on campus. He also works with local organizations to combat institutionalized racism. As someone who had his thoughts and ideas hijacked from an early age, Timothy says: “It is very important to me that I do my best to encourage freethought among my peers. For when we have the ability to truly express our thoughts, then we may know who we really are and what we want.”

FFRF’s Cliff Richards Memorial Student Scholarships are funded by a bequest.

“We’re delighted to be helping these young freethinkers and HBCU students and are grateful to be partnering with the Secular Student Alliance,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.

The Secular Student Alliance empowers secular students to proudly express their identity, build welcoming communities, promote secular values and set a course for lifelong activism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is pleased to announce the first Yip Harburg Youth Activist Award winners, who will each receive $1,000.

This scholarship is made possible by the generous Yip Harburg Lyric Foundation and FFRF member Ernie Harburg, the son of the famous lyricist of “Over the Rainbow.” FFRF is providing the scholarship funds, and the Secular Student Alliance has done the legwork and vetting.

Yip Harburg, known as “Broadway’s social conscience,” was a staunch progressive activist. An atheist, he conceived and wrote lyrics for book musicals with political and social themes, including the anti-war “Hooray for What!” feminist “Bloomer Girl,” “Finian’s Rainbow” with its racial equality theme, and more than 600 standards, including “Paper Moon” and “April in Paris,” as well as the iconic Depression-era song, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” Harburg called himself a “rebel by birth.”

Each of the three winners is a college student with arts majors and a background in the arts. They elected not to identify their last names for privacy reasons.

Daniel, the first in his family to go to college, is majoring in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design and enjoys using his photos to tell stories and evoke feelings about race, sexuality and femininity. Daniel grew up with a religious Dominican mother, who credited God for everything they had. Daniel felt his mother was “discrediting all the hard work she’s done for our family and all the sacrifices she’s made.” Daniel has organized a photography fundraiser with other local photographers for the Black Lives Matter movement. While his photography centers around empowering women, Daniel also hopes to discuss humanistic and racial themes through his art.

Catherine is a theatre and music lighting design major at Rutgers University who hopes to work on Broadway and eventually become a teacher. She believes theatre and other storytelling art helps mold compassionate young minds. Catherine’s grandfather was a deacon and multiple great-aunts and uncles of hers are nuns and monks. Despite this, her parents raised her in a home devoid of religion. So when she was old enough, she chose on her own. “I am an atheist and proud of it,” she says. Catherine is an outspoken advocate for secularism and has participated in multiple women’s rights marches, Gay Pride Week, March for Science and Black Lives Matter protests. In high school, she was captain of the debate team, writing mock bills focused on race and gender.

Braxton is a Navajo native from Idaho who grew up in an LDS-Mormon family. Braxton felt the church and most members shunned his family because of their nontraditional background, family members’ addictions and their overall lifestyle. Braxton officially left the church because he disagreed with the church’s vocal stance against same-sex marriage, among other things. “I now identify as an atheist and strive to show people good comes from good people, not God,” Braxton says. Braxton saved enough money to attend Utah Valley University as an audio digital media major, but during his second semester was struck by a car, fracturing his skull and rendering him unconscious for three days. After three full weeks in the hospital, Braxton had to relearn how to balance, walk and speak. While his doctors suggested that he drop out of school, Braxton decided nothing was going to stop him from being the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. When he went back to school, he started the Chess, Audio and Card Games Club on campus and a volunteer and internship program between UVU and Primary Children’s Hospital. This year, he opened a concern/recording space for musicians and songwriters to combat Utah’s “censorship for the sake of censorship.”

FFRF is grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Yip Harburg Lyric Foundation and Secular Student Alliance to support young freethought. The Harburg Foundation and FFRF together published Yip Harburg's Rhymes for the Irreverent, a compilation of Yip’s biting and witty light verse.

“We are so proud to be able to support young freethinking artists with these scholarships,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It is a wonderful way to carry on Yip’s legacy.”

The Secular Student Alliance empowers secular students to proudly express their identity, build welcoming communities, promote secular values and set a course for lifelong activism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, like our 33,000 members and every other American, is anxiously awaiting the final results of the 2020 election. Our members may be “faithless,” but we maintain our faith in democracy.

FFRF has plans in place to redouble our advocacy for freethought and the First Amendment, whichever way the presidency and Congress go, and we’re eager to get to work. But however eager we are, we believe that every vote counts and every vote should be counted before the election can be called. Given the unprecedented turnout, the number of votes by mail, the close races — all in the midst of a pandemic — it is perfectly reasonable that a winner is not yet known and may not be for some time.

As a secular organization fighting for the separation of state and church, FFRF understands that evidence, science, reason and compassion must be the basis for our public policy. One of the truly unique aspects of the U.S. Constitution is that it declared, for the first time in human history, that power comes from the people, not a god or deity. That means that the people must have a say in our government for it to be legitimate. Our vote is that voice. For judges to deny us the vote, or to refuse to count our votes, is to deny the Constitution they swore to protect and defend.

For much of American history, the universality of “We the People” was merely aspirational. We believe that every vote by “We the People,” no matter who for, must be counted. To do otherwise is to deny the Constitution we defend.

Now, we must stand together to make sure our votes count — and that democracy prevails.

1AmyConeyBarrettPhotoAs the Senate voted (52-48) to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, despite an ongoing election in which more than 63 million Americans have already voted, know this: It’s not over. Now we fight, not for one seat, but for the entire federal judiciary.

As even more Americans stood in line and filled out ballots, Barrett took the oath of office at the White House in a ceremony last night that mirrored the superspreader event announcing her nomination just one month ago. Barrett was touted as a popular pick, a conservative talking point belied by Gallup polling numbers. Brett Kavanaugh (+4) and Barrett (+5) are the most unpopular nominees since Robert Bork (+6). Bork went through the nomination process and the Senate voted him down 58-42, with bipartisan opposition. Harriet Miers, whose nomination was so unpopular that it was withdrawn, polled at +8.

Barrett’s unpopularity is partly due to the illegitimate process — this is another stolen seat — and partly due to her conservative zealotry.

This entire process is unprecedented. In the middle of a pandemic — with the president, vice presidential aides and some senators on the Judiciary Committee all contracting COVID — and in the midst of an election, Barrett became the first justice in more than 150 years to be confirmed with no votes from the minority party. And, despite claims to the contrary, the timeline is truly unprecedented.

The Senate Judiciary Committee broke its own rules to rush Barrett to the floor. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, condemned the larcenous process and asked: “But if all of this rule-breaking is taking place, what does the majority expect? What do they expect? They expect that they’re gonna be able to break the rules with impunity and when the shoe, maybe, is on the other foot, nothing is going to happen?”

The cherished constitutional principle of separation between state and church is in danger because Barrett is a religious zealot who will put her personal religious beliefs above her oath of office. Barrett is a threat to many of the other issues that FFRF members work for and care about. Roe v. Wade, racial equality, LGBTQ equality — including equal marriage, reproductive justice and even the right to birth control — are at risk. More broadly, health care is in jeopardy in the midst of a pandemic that has so far killed 220,000 Americans. This is partly why the Barrett vote was so rushed.

FFRF’s full report on Barrett, including her desire to put prayer back in public schools and her stated willingness to use governmental power to promote her personal religion, may be found here.

The battle for this seat is done, now the fight shifts to a bigger battlefield. The high court has already been packed with Christian Nationalists like Barrett and Kavanaugh. By the end of this congressional term, there may be more than 250 President Trump-appointed judges in our federal courts, including 30 percent of all federal circuit judges and about a quarter of all district judges. The courts have been captured. We now need to think about unpacking, rebalancing, correcting and expanding the courts.

It increasingly appears that the struggle to retain and defend the all-American principle of separation between religion and government must encompass a campaign to rebalance and reclaim our courts from theocrats like Barrett.

With your support, the Freedom From Religion Foundation will continue to champion the First Amendment in the courts and fight Christian Nationalism and the union of state and church in the court of public opinion.

Our fight has never been easy and it just got a lot harder. We are up to the challenge, but we need your help.

 DONATE TO FFRF 

1AFCAOsceola

 

Halt the access you’re providing a Christian group to your athletes, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking a Florida school district.

The Osceola School District is apparently permitting several outside adults to act as “character coaches” for various athletic teams throughout the district. Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Area Representative Eric Dimmick has been repeatedly granted access to the district’s student athletes, particularly the football team, during school-sponsored events. Dimmick and other “character coaches” have been allowed access to student athletes in team locker rooms and at practices. Dimmick actually describes himself as a “full time missionar[y]” and has further elaborated:

Now, every day I get to see how God will use the ministry of FCA to potentially impact the lives of tens of thousands of students on dozens of campuses throughout Osceola County! With a team of coaches, teachers, churches, chaplains, and character coaches we are sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ like never before on our campuses. My mission field is the classroom, locker room, field, track, pool, and court. I am truly living a dream come true! My love of sports, and heart for athletes and coaches teamed up with my love for Jesus and passion to share His love with others! There is nothing greater than witnessing a generation accept the invitation of Jesus Christ to follow Him!

Coaches may not grant outside adults access to school-sponsored activities to proselytize to students or agree to have a volunteer teach other people’s children that character centers on religious belief, because public schools may not advance or promote religion, FFRF reminds the school district.

“No outside adults should be provided carte blanche access to minors — a captive audience — in a public school,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to Osceola School District Superintendent Debra Pace. “This conduct is inappropriate and should raise many red flags. The district cannot allow its schools to be used as recruiting grounds for religious groups during school-sponsored events.”

Permitting church representatives regular, or even one-time, access during school hours to proselytize and recruit students for religious activities is a violation of the Establishment Clause, FFRF adds. Courts have granted injunctions against schools for their complacency in such situations. And it is especially important that coaches maintain arm’s length separation from the FCA and its events, since the group has declared its intention to get coaches to “play the role as pastors.”

FFRF is asking the district to commence an investigation into the alleged complaint and take immediate action to ensure that its football program no longer allows outside adults, including FCA volunteers, to have access to its students to evangelize during school-sponsored events in violation of students’ constitutional rights.

“Representatives of the privileged majority religion cannot be provided a special opportunity to spread sectarian religious messages,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “This reveals the district’s cluelessness about how increasingly diverse the youth in our country are.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 33,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 1,600 members in Florida and a local chapter, Central Florida Freethought Community. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

 

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote to advance Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court means her approval by the full Senate is now a foregone conclusion. And that’s all the more reason to keep fighting.

We are grateful to you and other FFRF supporters who responded to our action alerts in force. Tens of thousands of you contacted your legislators and spent hours on the phone protesting the Barrett nomination and the packing of our courts.

The cherished constitutional principle of separation between state and church is imperiled. Barrett is going to be a disaster for so many of the other issues that FFRF members work for and care about. Roe v. Wade, racial equality, LGBTQ equality — including equal marriage, reproductive justice and even the right to birth control — are at risk. More broadly, health care is in jeopardy in the midst of a pandemic that has so far killed 220,000 Americans.  

FFRF’s full report on Barrett, including her desire to put prayer back in public schools and her stated willingness to use governmental power to promote her personal religion, may be found here. Barrett is a member of the Roman Catholic fringe group “People of Praise,” which has been called a “cult” by former members, including Coral Theill, who appeared on FFRF’s “Ask An Atheist” show last week to discuss the group and the misogyny, authoritarianism, toxic male dominance and abuse that Theill experienced. 

The fight is far from over, but we need to shift. The high court has already been packed with Christian Nationalists like Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh. By the end of this congressional term, there may be more than 250 President Trump-appointed judges in our federal courts, including 30 percent of all federal circuit judges and about a quarter of all district judges. The courts have been captured. We now need to think about unpacking, rebalancing, correcting and expanding the courts.

It increasingly appears that the struggle to retain and defend the all-American principle of separation between religion and government must encompass a campaign to rebalance and reclaim our courts from zealots like Barrett.  

In the meantime, the Freedom From Religion Foundation will continue, with your support, to champion the First Amendment in the court of public opinion and with strategic legal actions. Please consider donating today to help FFRF continue to educate the public about the dangers of theocracy, Christian Nationalism and the mixing of religion with politics.

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As you know, the U.S. Senate is rushing to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, an ideologue who would threaten the separation of state and church, for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is co-hosting a National State/Church Call-In Day today! Please call your senators and ask them to oppose this confirmation!

Barrett, a Christian Nationalist, is a dangerous choice because she believes that the government can, and indeed must, promote religion. Her confirmation to the court would give this fringe view a clear majority.

She has shown support for the argument that employers, based on their religious beliefs, can deny required benefits like birth control coverage. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she voted to exempt religious organizations from bans on large gatherings. She has criticized long-standing precedent that prevents public schools from forcing prayer on students.

The separation of church and state is at risk. We need our high court to protect the rights of everyone. We should only confirm a justice whose record demonstrates she will respect this fundamental First Amendment principle.

Barrett’s personal religious beliefs aren’t relevant. Her position on the separation of state and church is. And unfortunately for all Americans, that position appears to be open hostility. Read FFRF’s full report here.

Please take action — call your senators and ask them to oppose the confirmation of Barrett today!

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