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JamieRaskinSeveral members of Congress have introduced a National Day of Reason resolution to counter the National Day of Prayer.

Led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, co-chair of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, a number of national legislators are championing a resolution proclaiming May 7 as an annual National Day of Reason. Other sponsors include Reps. Jared Huffman, Mark Pocan, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jerry McNerney and Pramila Jayapal, all Congressional Freethought Caucus members.

The National Day of Prayer occurs on the first Thursday in May (May 6 this year) as proclaimed by an unconstitutional congressional law requiring the president to encourage citizens to “turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.” FFRF won a historic federal court ruling in 2010 declaring the law unconstitutional, which was later thrown out by an appeals court based on standing, not the merits.

The National Day of Reason resolution is an attempt to repair the constitutional damage. Raskin’s resolution reads:

Whereas the application of reason has been the essential precondition for humanity’s extraordinary scientific, medical, technological, and social progress since the modern Enlightenment;

Whereas reason provides the vital catalyst for confronting the crises of our day, including the civilizational emergency of climate change, and for cultivating the rule of law, democratic institutions, justice, and peace among nations;

Where irrationality, magical and conspiratorial thinking, and disbelief in science have undermined the national effort to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, contributing to the death of more than 555,000 people in the United States;

Whereas reason and science are fundamental to implementing an effective coordinated response to beat the Covid-19 virus, which includes improved social confidence in the safety and efficacy of vaccinations and evidence-based solutions to the inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, and involves the federal government, the states, and the scientific and medical communities;

Whereas America’s Founders insisted upon the primacy of reason and knowledge in public life, and drafted the Constitution to prevent the official establishment of religion and to protect freedom of thought, speech, and inquiry in civil society;

Whereas James Madison, author of the First Amendment and fourth president of the United States, stated that “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty” and “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives” and

Whereas May 7, 2021, would be an appropriate date to designate as a “National Day of Reason”: Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the House of Representatives supports the designation of a “National Day of Reason” and encourages all citizens, residents, and visitors to join in observing this day and focusing on the central importance of reason, critical thought, the scientific method, and free inquiry to resolving social problems and promoting the welfare of humankind.

FFRF appreciates so many of our representatives in Washington, D.C., diligently striving to ensure the triumph of reason over unreason.

“We are grateful to Rep. Raskin and other co-sponsors for working so that reason and our secular Constitution will prevail,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

1AWeThePeople

 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is educating Kelly Tshibaka, a U.S. Senate candidate in Alaska, on the founding principle of separation between state and church.

Tshibaka was co-founder and formerly pastored The Lighthouse Fellowship, affiliated with the Foursquare Church, founded by evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. She has recently been under fire for supporting a gay conversion therapy group when in college.

Kelly told an interviewer in 2015, “God keeps wanting me to serve in government . . . I’m more valuable to His work here than at church.”

While at Harvard Law School, Tshibaka also wrote several articles that are now resurfacing that reveal an alarming lack of awareness about one of the central founding principles of our secular democracy. She has written, for example, that “There is no wall of separation between church and state.”

FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker have written a letter to Tshibaka to correct this erroneous claim.

“Separation of state and church is a founding American principle that benefits every citizen and treats us all equally. It’s a prerequisite for the religious freedom so many Americans cherish,” write Gaylor and Barker. “Without the separation of state and church, public officials can use government power and the machinery of the state to impose their religion on other citizens.”

The phrase, “a wall of separation between church and state,” FFRF informs Tshibaka, was coined by President Thomas Jefferson in a carefully crafted letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802, when they had asked him to explain the meaning of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court, and lower courts, have used Jefferson’s phrase repeatedly in major decisions upholding governmental neutrality in matters of religion.

“Anyone seeking to represent ‘We the People’ as a member of Congress and take an oath to the U.S. Constitution should be aware of the secular founding principles of the document,” comments Gaylor.

Disclaimer: The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization and, in accordance with IRS regulations, does not endorse any candidate for public office.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Madison,Wis.-based national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members across the country, including in Alaska. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Protect Abortion rights

 

The Alabama Legislature is considering a dangerous anti-choice bill that would greatly hinder access to comprehensive reproductive health care in the state. We need you to speak out against this extremist proposal.

The bill, HB 377, would ban medication abortion outright. Since the Food and Drug Administration approved the drugs used in medication abortions in 2000, it has become an extremely safe and effective option for women seeking to terminate a pregnancy. In 2017, medication abortions accounted for 39 percent of all abortions in the United States with a success rate of 95 to 98 percent. Risk of major complications related to medication abortions is minimal — less than 1 percent.

Anti-choice politicians continue to look for any route to restrict access to reproductive health care in an effort to inflict their religious beliefs on all citizens, even outlawing medication that has been proven safe and effective. Medical decisions like choosing abortion are between patients and their doctors and should not brook interference from dogmatic politicians. This 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 Alabama House Judiciary Committee has a hearing on HB 377 tomorrow, Wednesday, April 28, at 1:30 p.m. local time. Please use our simple, automated system to contact all members of this committee and urge them to vote no on this extremist measure. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided. Personalized messages are always the most impactful.

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Protect Abortion rights

An extremely strict so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill that would outlaw abortion after six weeks of pregnancy has been passed by the Idaho Legislature and will now head to Gov. Brad Little’s desk to be signed into law. Please use our simple, automated system to contact Little and urge him to reject this extremist measure.

Six-week abortion bans like this one (HB 366), 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. Read FFRF’s full statement condemning HB 366.

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.

Please click on the red “Take Action” link below to email or call Little’s office and urge him to veto HB 366. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided. Personalized messages are always the most impactful.

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FootinDoor

Last month, we urged you to oppose an Illinois bill aiming to inject Christian nationalism into public schools. Despite opposition from constituents, this bill has passed the Illinois House and will now be considered by the state Senate. Please take a few moments to contact your state senator and urge them to vote no on this bill.

The bill, HB 217, would permit Illinois public schools to display “In God We Trust” on school property. This bill 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.

The motto “In God We Trust” is inaccurate, exclusionary and aimed at brainwashing American schoolchildren into believing that our nation is a theocracy. Please use our simple, automated system to contact your Illinois state senators and urge them to vote no on this bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

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BibleParentalDiscretion

The Missouri Legislature is advancing a dangerous bill aiming to inject Christian nationalism into public schools in your state. Please take a few moments to contact your state lawmakers and urge them to oppose this theocratic proposal.

The bill, HB 108, would introduce bible classes into public schools and would require every school in the state to prominently display “In God We Trust” on school property.

This bill is part of the nationwide legislative push known as Project Blitz, which 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, inspire patriotism or to teach the bible in the context of U.S. history, we know their true agenda is to abuse their access to young and impressionable children and indoctrinate them with religious orthodoxy.

Read more about bible classes in public schools.

HB 108 has already passed out of its House committee and will now be heard by the full House of Representatives. Please click on the red “Take Action” link below to use our automated system to call or email your representative and urge them to vote no on HB 108.

TAKE ACTION!

BlackCollarCrime

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is applauding the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s announcement of a statewide probe into the Roman Catholic clergy’s serial sexual abuse and cover-up.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul has reportedly notified Catholic churches across the state that his office will review sexual abuse allegations against clergy and other faith leaders. “I agree with the many survivors of clergy abuse, and those who support and have advocated for them, that a review by our office is necessary to provide accountability and, ultimately, healing," Kaul writes in his letter of notification.

This probe is long overdue, as FFRF emphasized earlier this year when it called on the attorney general’s office to launch such an investigation. In its January letter to Kaul, FFRF described a recent, tragic Wisconsin case involving the suicide of a man after St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, part of the Roman Diocese of Green Bay, stopped paying for counseling and medication he needed after being abused by priests.

FFRF has advocated for this type of investigation in Wisconsin and every state across the country, alongside the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD USA). FFRF has been sounding the alarm on the lack of oversight of clergy sexual abuse crimes for decades, running a “Black Collar Crime” section since the 1980s in its newspaper, Freethought Today, and publishing the first nonfiction book exposing the crimes, Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children, by Annie Laurie Gaylor (1988).

“Who monitors the clergy, who have all too often been treated as above the law? The abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church will not stop until secular authorities intervene and hold the predators and the hierarchy accountable,” comments Gaylor, FFRF co-president.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Madison-based national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 1,500 members and a Kenosha-Racine area chapter in its home state. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

 trans rights

The Tennessee Legislature has passed an extremist anti-LGBTQ bill that is now headed to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. Please take a few moments to read about this dangerous measure and urge Gov. Bill Lee to veto it.

The bill, HB 1233, is deceitfully titled the “Tennessee Accommodations for All Children Act.” In reality, this bill is another transgender bathroom bill — a favorite of the inflammatory Religious Right — by another name. If signed into law, this bill would allow students who don't want to share bathrooms with transgender classmates to request single-occupancy restrooms. Otherwise, if the student sees a transgender person in the bathroom, the bill would provide the student with a cause of action against the school for "psychological, emotional and physical harm suffered," plus attorneys' fees and costs.

Anti-LGBTQ legislative efforts are rooted in religious dogma. For example, the nationwide effort known as Project Blitz includes sweeping anti-LGBTQ measures while advancing the lie that America is a Christian nation, aiming to cement religiously motivated discrimination into the law. This bill, like those before it, is an attempt to perpetuate unscientific views about "biological sex" and to baselessly paint transgender students as predators.

Please use our simple, automated system to urge Gov. Bill Lee to veto this cruel proposal. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided. Personalized messages are always the most impactful.

TAKE ACTION!

AddisCreationism

 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging an Arkansas school district to investigate claims made in the Legislature that one of its teachers has been unconstitutionally teaching creationism.

During a recent Arkansas Senate Education Committee hearing on HB 1701, which would have permitted the teaching of creationism in public schools, state Sen. James Sturch, a teacher at Southside Charter High School in Batesville, Ark., said:

So, is my biology teacher down the hall breaking the state law because he’s already teaching creationalism [sic]...What is currently allowed for them to do as far as teaching theories? Is there any guidance at all? So what do the standards say, or what to the standards allow teachers to do? It’s just, I eat lunch with the biology teacher down the hall when I’m there, everyday, and, you know, I know that he doesn’t believe in the evolution theory, yet he teaches both. He teaches both the creationalism theory and the evolution theory, one right after the other. He treats them both equally. He lets the kids have the discussion, and lets the kids kind of decide on their own which is more feasible and to me that was always the right approach. It’s just, as I said, I am not against this, as far as that goes, it's just that I want to make sure that we’re not going to limit that.

Thankfully for Arkansas students, parents and taxpayers, HB 1701 died in committee after FFRF announced it plans to sue should it be passed into law. But Sturch’s claim that Southside School District students are being subjected to illegal religious indoctrination raises serious alarm.

FFRF has written a letter of complaint to Southside Superintendent Roger Rich, alerting the district to the impermissibility of teaching creationism in its schools. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled that teaching creationism is teaching religion and therefore in violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

“Teaching creationism or any of its offshoots, such as intelligent design, in a public school is unlawful, because creationism is not based in fact,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line to Rich. “Courts have routinely found that such teachings are religious, despite many new and imaginative labels given to the alternatives.”

FFRF also sent a letter to Sturch to educate him on federal law surrounding teaching creationism. Line writes:

“To answer your question, it is irrelevant whether the biology teacher you work with is violating state law by teaching creationism because it is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and this has been clear for decades. Arkansas specifically has a history of losing in court while attempting to defend creationism, in various forms, in public schools.”

The district must take immediate action, FFRF emphasizes, to ensure that the teacher Sturch was making a reference to does not continue his alienating and illegal practice of teaching creationism to a captive audience of public school students.

“Evolution, like gravity, is a scientific fact,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “No controversy exists in the scientific community regarding the fact of evolution, and the teaching of alternative theories or a controversy is not only inappropriate and dishonest, it is unconstitutional.”

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

EarthDay2021 

Over the past year, the world watched the United States become the hot spot of a global pandemic while elected officials at every level flouted collective safety measures in favor of prayer and willful ignorance. It was, and remains, a shocking and horrifying display of the danger of public policy guided by science denial and religious dogma.

The climate crisis, the biggest threat facing our planet as a whole, requires urgent collective action. The same sinister activation of anti-science propaganda that fueled this pandemic has undermined reasonable policy solutions to combat climate change and preserve a livable planet for future generations.

A significant correlation exists between religiosity and climate denial. While other factors — such as political party affiliation, race and ethnicity — are stronger predictors of views about climate change, Pew Research has found it is the religiously unaffiliated, not those who identify with a religious tradition, who are particularly likely to say the Earth is warming due to human activity. White evangelical Protestants stand out as least likely to accept the science of climate change. Bad-faith politicians and their corporate sponsors have, for decades, manipulated this willful ignorance to avoid environmental regulations that may cut into their outsized profits.

There is, however, renewed reason for hope. The United States has rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement. The Biden administration announced this week its pledge to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half by 2030, which aligns with scientists’ prediction of the needed reduction to avoid the most disastrous implications of climate change. Biden has also named Gina McCarthy, an environmental health expert, the first White House National Climate Adviser.

While the White House has committed to taking these crucial steps on climate change, there is still much work to be done to counteract the anti-science agenda that impedes reasonable, humane policy solutions in favor of environmental destruction, denialism and corporate greed. Preserving the separation of religion and government in favor of reason-based policy is an undeniable component of the path forward.

Religion’s view of the afterlife hinders our collective ability to tackle climate change. As FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor often says: “The only afterlife we ought to care about is leaving our descendants and our planet a secure and pleasant future.”

Secular Americans have always refused to bend our knees to any ignorance — be it rooted in religion or elsewhere. Demanding meaningful action on climate change must be no different.

FloydMural

Image from Lorie Shaull via Flickr

The Freedom From Religion Foundation applauds the “guilty on all counts” verdict in the George Floyd murder trial against Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

We all watched the horrifying video documenting a helpless African-American’s life being snuffed out by a pitiless and indifferent white police officer. African-American bystanders desperately tried to point out that Floyd was not resisting arrest and then didn’t appear to be breathing during the horrifying nine and a half minutes officer Chauvin remorselessly kept his knees on Floyd’s neck. The prosecutors brought out the details of Chauvin’s cruel restraints — how his body weight was bearing down on Floyd’s lungs, shoulders and windpipe, how Chauvin was pulling at Floyd’s fingers, restraining his legs and ignoring Floyd’s pleas: “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe.”

Since the Floyd killing, our nation has far greater awareness of police killings of African-Americans. Thankfully, we no longer have a malicious, uncaring president blowing racist dog whistles. But convictions of white police officers for killing Black, Indigenous People of Color are almost unheard of. “Even as tens of thousands of Americans protest police brutality and demand overhauls of law enforcement, a yawning gulf remains between public perception of police violence and how it is treated in court,” notes The New York Times.

Police shootings of Black Americans by cops continue unabated, including in Minneapolis. Barely a week ago, Daunte Wright, 20, was senselessly shot and killed in a Minneapolis suburb after a minor traffic stop by a police officer who claimed she meant to fire her taser, not her pistol. In late March, a 13-year-old Latino, Adam Toledo, was caught on video being shot to death after being chased by police and obediently tossing a handgun before raising his hands. That is why the Chauvin conviction is so significant.

Americans — white or black, religious or freethinking — must speak up and demand not only justice for Floyd, but a national reckoning with racial profiling, police brutality, vigilantism and institutional indifference and racism. The jury verdict was a step toward this national reckoning.