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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is cheering a report from Gallup that formal church membership among Americans has dropped below 50 percent for the first time in Gallup’s 80-year history of asking the question.

“Americans are waking up,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, a former evangelical preacher and author of several books on “losing faith in faith” and leaving religion behind.

Gallup noted that this is likely not an anomaly caused by the pandemic and quarantine, but part of a long-term trend. “U.S. church membership was 73 percent when Gallup first measured it in 1937 and remained near 70 percent for the next six decades, before beginning a steady decline around the turn of the 21st century.”

The “decline in church membership is primarily a function of the increasing number of Americans who express no religious preference,” explains Gallup. In 1999, 70 percent of Americans belonged to a church, so the drop to 47 percent in 2020 is a massive loss of one-third.

Perhaps the most important finding was that church membership declined in every single demographic Gallup measured: age, gender, marital status, education level, geographical region and race. For instance, the number of non-Hispanic white adults who belong to a church dropped 16 points (from 68 to 52) in the last two decades, while non-Hispanic Black adults dropped 19 points (from 78-59) over that time.

FFRF notes two caveats that make the findings even more exciting. First, this is self-reported church membership. Demographers and sociologists have long known that survey respondents overreport their church attendance. Actual church attendance is about one-quarter to one-half what is self-reported.

The Gallup datapoint is slightly different, seeking to determine formal membership with specific houses of worship, but is still likely overreported for similar reasons.

Second, America appears to be returning to its irreligious roots. At the time of our nation’s founding, most Americans — the vast majority — were unchurched. This fact cuts against the popular and misguided Christian nationalist narrative that our Christian nation was founded for and by Christians. According to U.S. historians and religion scholars, Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore, “The highest estimates for the late eighteenth century make only about 10-15 percent of the population church members.”

FFRF has long sought to educate the public about freethought (using reason to judge religious claims) and to provide a community and soft landing for people leaving religion. “It’s working,” notes FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

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The Arkansas Legislature is considering two bad amendments to your state constitution. Please contact your lawmakers now to oppose them.

  • SJR 14 would enact a state version of the federal law called RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The federal RFRA law is directly responsible for the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby debacle, allowing religious business owners to avoid following laws that they claim conflict with their religious beliefs. State RFRAs, based on the federal version, are emboldening corporations and business owners to discriminate against LGBTQ people, religious minorities, the nonreligious — and any other group their religion declares inferior.
  • SJR 16 would require public school teams to be designated based on “biological sex.” The impetus for this phony concern over women’s athletics comes out of fundamentalist Christian opposition to trans individuals. The marginalization of trans athletes is rooted in archaic gender stereotypes based on false and stereotyped understanding of strength, biology and gender roles. There is a long legacy of this troubling sex discrimination in athletics. These myths, of course, are closely tied to the long history of religion treating women as inherently inferior to men. Ironically, the same folks who are behind this legislation have historically treated women’s sports as second class.

The Arkansas Senate State Agencies & Governmental Committee has a hearing scheduled on these two bills tomorrow, Tuesday, March 30, at 9:30 a.m. local time. Please click on the red “Take Action” link below to use our automated system to urge all members of this committee to vote no on these two proposals. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

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The Florida Legislature is considering a bill intended to inject prayer into public schools. Please take a few moments to speak out against this theocratic measure.

The bill, SB 282, amends a part of code about studying the bible to require public schools to set aside time each morning for students to take “a moment of silence.” This bill is a thinly veiled attempt to encourage public students to engage in a scheduled prayer during school hours.

Public schools exist to educate, not to proselytize. Children in public schools are a captive audience. Making or encouraging prayer an official part of the school day is coercive, invasive and unconstitutional.

The Florida Senate Judiciary Committee has a hearing scheduled on this TODAY at 3:30 p.m. local time. Please click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact all members of this committee and urge them to vote no on SB 282.

Read more about what's wrong with this type of legislation.

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ZuckerProulxPR

 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is delighted to announce the FFRF Secular Studies Endowment at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., the trailblazing home of the country’s first Secular Studies program.

The $300,000 gift, made possible thanks to a bequest by FFRF member and ardent atheist Kenneth L. Proulx, will help the Secular Studies program fulfill its mission to increase understanding of — and disseminate knowledge about — secularism, atheism, agnosticism, humanism, naturalism and freethought in societies and cultures, past and present.

Pitzer College, which is part of the Claremont Colleges, was the first college in the United States to inaugurate a Secular Studies program in 2011. Annually, more than 200 students take a secular studies course. Initiated by Professor of Sociology and Secular Studies Phil Zuckerman, the program has six affiliated faculty members representing the fields of history, philosophy, religion, science and sociology. Course offerings include “Sociology of Secularity,” “God, Darwin and Design in America,” “Fundamentalism and Rationalism” and “Anxiety in the Age of Reason.”

Pitzer’s Secular Studies program has an outsized reach, thanks to Zuckerman, founder of the program and an associate dean at Pitzer. Zuckerman has written a number of popular and academic books and papers on secularity, including Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment (2008), Atheism and Secularity (2010), Living the Secular Life (2014), The Nonreligious: Understanding Secular People and Societies (2016), The Oxford Handbook of Secularism (with John Shook) (2017) and What It Means to Be Moral (2019). He’s a frequent contributor to Salon, the Los Angeles Times, Free Inquiry and Freethought Today.

“This amazing grant aligns perfectly with the goals of both FFRF and the Secular Studies program: to support education around secularism, atheism, and humanism,” comments Zuckerman. “It will help generate more course offerings, student and faculty research and campus programming. I am both thrilled and honored.”

The purpose of the endowment is to broaden, develop and innovate the study of nonreligious people, groups, movements, thought and cultural expressions and increase the canon of scholarship and scope of visibility of secularity.

A wide range of activities and initiatives supported by FFRF’s endowment are envisioned over the years, including course development, research stipends, student travel, distinguished speakers and panelists, symposia or conferences. The college envisions FFRF’s endowment as a lead gift in a goal to someday establish a Center of Secular Studies at Pitzer College.

“FFRF is so pleased to support the critical work of Pitzer’s Secular Studies program,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, “because it values the study of the impact of freethought and skepticism here and worldwide. We consider Phil Zuckerman to be a national freethought treasure.”

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

Pitzer College is a top-ranked liberal arts and sciences college located in Claremont, Calif. Its Secular Studies program is an interdisciplinary program focusing on manifestations of the secular in societies and cultures, past and present.

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The Hawaii Legislature is advancing a positive bill (HCR 178) that would require all public schools to make menstrual products available to students at no cost. Please take a few moments to urge lawmakers to support this measure.

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

Read more about the religious roots of menstruation stigma.

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

This bill has a hearing on Tuesday, March 30, in front of the House Finance Committee. Click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact all members of this committee and urge them to support this important bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

TAKE ACTION!

ProtectAbortionRights

The Oklahoma Legislature is advancing two anti-choice bills that gravely endanger access to abortion in the state. Both bills have already passed one chamber of the Statehouse, so this may be our last chance to stop them. Please take a few moments to oppose these dangerous bills.

The first, HB 2241, is an extremely strict so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill that would outlaw abortion after six weeks of pregnancy has been introduced. 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 second, HB 1904, would establish a new requirement that any doctor performing an abortion must be board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology. This is a so-called TRAP law meant to make abortion more difficult to obtain.

Legislation designed to curb access to abortion services aims to codify 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 Oklahoma Senate Committee on Health and Human Services has a hearing scheduled on these bills on Monday, March 29, at 2 p.m. local time. Click on the red “Take Action” link below to use our automated system to contact all members of this committee and urge them to oppose these bills. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

TAKE ACTION!

HydeSmithCindyThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging the junior senator from Mississippi to recant recent Christian nationalist comments she made in defense of voter suppression.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defended a voter suppression bill in Georgia during a Senate Campaign Finance Committee hearing this week. The bill, if passed, would implement a number of undemocratic voter suppression tactics, including prohibiting early voting on Sundays. This is a thinly veiled attempt to restrict voting by Black Georgians, who often vote after church as part of a “Souls to the Polls” campaign.

Hyde-Smith commented that voting should not be allowed on Sundays because “Georgia is a Southern state just like Mississippi, and I cannot speak for Georgia, but I can speak for Mississippi on why we would never do that on Sunday or hold an election on a Sunday.”

Holding up a dollar bill, Hyde-Smith continued:

This is our currency, this is a dollar bill. This says, “The United States of America In God We Trust.” Etched in stone in the U.S. Senate chamber is “In God We Trust.” When you swore in all of these witnesses, the last thing you said to them in your instructions was “so help you God.” And God’s Word in Exodus 20:18, it says “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”

FFRF has sent a letter to Hyde-Smith, pointing out that in our secular nation it’s inappropriate to base public policy on the bible or on Christian nationalist disinformation.

Elected officials who allow their personal religious beliefs to dictate public policy are violating their secular oath of office.

“The cornerstone of our government is our secular democracy,” FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel writes. “The nation’s original motto, E Pluribus Unum —‘From many, [come] one’ — embodies the value of a robust democracy, while underscoring how inappropriate it is for a lawmaker to impose her personal religious beliefs in the form of voting restrictions.” Seidel notes that the “In God We Trust” motto was belatedly adopted in the 1950s, not at the founding of our nation.

Seidel also notes that Hyde-Smith’s remarks on the Senate floor cited the wrong passage of the bible. The reference to the Sabbath is found in Exodus 20:8. The passage she mistakenly cited sanctions slavery. “That you turn to a book and its passages permitting slavery to defend the Georgia voter suppression bill was apt,” adds Seidel.

Hyde-Smith’s comments are out of touch with American values, especially in a country that is becoming more demographically secular. Nonreligious Americans are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population by religious identification, FFRF points out. Thirty-five percent of Americans are non-Christians, and this includes the more than one in four Americans who now identify as religious unaffiliated.

“Sen. Hyde-Smith represents all Mississippians, not just those who adhere to her religious beliefs,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Our message to her is to get off her knees and get to work for the rights of the people, including our freedom to vote on Sundays.”

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

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A few weeks ago, we called on you to speak out against Montana’s SB 215, a bill that could drastically expand religious privilege in your state. Unfortunately, this bill has passed out of committee and will now be put up for a full House vote, its last stop before the governor’s desk.

Please take a few moments to contact your state lawmakers and urge them to vote no on SB 215. This is our last chance to make sure that SB 215 does not become law.

SB 215 is a state version of the federal law called RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The federal RFRA law is directly responsible for the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby debacle, allowing religious business owners to avoid following laws that they say conflict with their religious beliefs. State RFRAs, based on the federal version, are emboldening corporations and business owners to discriminate against LGBTQ people, religious minorities, the nonreligious — and any other group their religion declares inferior.

Click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact your representative and urge them to oppose this bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

TAKE ACTION!

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An unconstitutional resolution is advancing through the Tennessee House that would designate the bible the state book of Tennessee. Please take action against this unconstitutional move by zealous legislators to force Christianity upon Tennessee citizens regardless of their religious — or nonreligious — preferences.

The proposed bill, HJR0150, is both illegal and fiscally irresponsible, as it would almost certainly result in a preventable lawsuit that would cost state taxpayers dearly. A virtually identical measure was wisely vetoed by the Tennessee governor in 2015 and declared by the state’s attorney general to violate both the federal and state constitutions. At the time, the General Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee estimated that the inevitable lawsuit could have set Tennessee back more than $100,000.

Religious faith is a matter for private conscience, not state endorsement. The bible is rife with violence, misogyny, homophobia, genocide, slavery and intolerance of nonbelievers — it has no place as the state book of Tennessee. This resolution has passed out of committee and will now likely be voted on by the entire House. Click on the red “Take Action” link below to call and/or email your representative. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

TAKE ACTION!

Vaccines NJ

 

Last month, we asked you to speak out about a dangerous pair of bills that would expand religious exemptions for the Covid-19 vaccine, putting innumerable Tennesseans and Americans at risk. With your help, one of those bills failed in its House committee, but the other bill passed its committee despite opposition from voters. Now the Senate has introduced its own version of a blanket Covid-19 vaccine exemption.

The bill, SB 187, would prohibit any state or local authorities from “coercing” anyone to get the vaccine, including imposing vaccine requirements for public spaces such as schools or public buildings. When people choose not to vaccinate, it not only compromises their health, but also jeopardizes the “herd immunity” for those who cannot receive vaccinations for health reasons or because of their age. When these people are allowed to freely enter public spaces, the health and safety of untold numbers of Tennesseans is put at risk.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee has a hearing scheduled on this bill this Thursday, March 25, at 12:30 p.m. local time. Please take a few moments to contact the members of this committee and urge them to vote no on this bill. Click on the red “Take Action” link below to be connected to the committee members and feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

TAKE ACTION!

theologybiology

The Delaware Legislature is advancing a positive bill (HB 20) that would require all public and charter schools to make menstrual products available to students at no cost. Please take a few moments to urge lawmakers to support this measure.

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

Read more about the religious roots of menstruation stigma.

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

This bill has already passed the Delaware House unanimously and will next be heard on Wednesday, March 24, at 11:30 a.m. local time by the Senate Committee on Health and Social Services. Click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact all members of this committee and urge them to support this important bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

TALKING POINTS