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MaydayThe Freedom From Religion Foundation and four other national secular nonprofits are teaming up to address the increased need for food and shelter assistance due to the pandemic.

In a three-hour fundraising event — “Mayday for Humanity” — FFRF, The Freethought Society, Recovering From Religion, Secular Student Society and Secular Coalition for America will raise funds for homeless shelters and food banks in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and California.

The virtual event featuring entertainers, singers and celebrities will take place on Thursday, May 6, at 7 p.m. Eastern, during which donations will be collected to benefit pre-selected homeless shelters and food distribution centers. The event coincides with the National Day of Reason called by freethinkers to counter the unconstitutional annual National Day of Prayer proclaimed by Congress.

“‘Hands that help are better far than lips that pray,’ as the 19th century freethinker Robert G. Ingersoll famously noted,” comments Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF Co-President. “During this pandemic, the need for helping hands, not useless prayer, is even greater."

Celebrity endorsers of the National Day of Reason Mayday for Humanity include John Davidson, Penn & Teller, John de Lancie, Julia Sweeney, John Fugelsang and Jon Huertas. Entertainers and co-hosts are Ian Harris and Leighann Lord. For more information about the event, please visit the following Facebook event page or the event registration page.

“The Freethought Society is proud to be a co-sponsor of an event that celebrates the National Day of Reason in sharp contrast to the National Day of Prayer,” commented organizer and Freethought Society President Margaret Downey. “During the ‘Mayday for Humanity’ event, the nontheist community will take action and raise funds for citizens in need because prayers simply don’t work to solve human problems.”

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 urged you to speak out against HB 2648, an Arizona bill that would declare religious services “an essential service” and make it virtually impossible for the state to impose health, safety or occupancy requirements on church services due to an emergency.

This bill has advanced through both House and Senate Committees and your lawmakers need to hear your opposition to it today.

In addition to the dangerous provision involving emergency orders, this bill contains astoundingly broad language that, as written, would give churches a “get out of jail free” card for virtually any law. The bill states that the government, including courts, may not impose any “monetary fee, civil or criminal penalty, damages award, or injunction” against a religious organization in connection with the organization’s exercise of religion.

If this language were passed into law, churches that were caught covering up sexual abuse could argue that they are immune from all civil and criminal penalties, so long as they argue that their conduct was related to their religious exercise. And this is just one example — on its face the provision is so broad that it would apply to all penalties that an organization claims connected to its exercise of religion. Arizona lawmakers must be made aware that this provision was slid into HB 2648.

Please take a few moments to contact your state lawmakers and urge them to oppose this bill. Click on the red “Take Action” link below and feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

TAKE ACTION!

MontroseLogoA Pennsylvania public school district has discontinued injecting religion into each school board meeting due to intervention by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

A concerned Montrose Area School District community member alerted the state/church watchdog that the school board had a practice of opening every meeting with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer following the Pledge of Allegiance. Additionally, all nine members of the board were reportedly participating in reciting this Christian prayer, during which students were sometimes present.

FFRF sent a letter to Superintendent Christopher McComb, alerting the district to the unconstitutionality of beginning official district meetings with prayer, especially when students are present.

More than 60 years of U.S. Supreme Court decisions have affirmed that religious ritual and indoctrination are inappropriate and illegal as part of school-sponsored events, FFRF emphasized.

“Students and parents have the right — and often have reason — to participate in school board meetings,” FFRF Staff Attorney Madeline Ziegler wrote. “It is coercive, embarrassing and intimidating for nonreligious citizens to be required to make a public showing of their nonbelief or else to display deference toward a religious sentiment in which they do not believe, but which their school board members clearly do.”

FFRF requested the district respect the First Amendment by refraining from scheduling prayers at official board meetings — and its plea had the desired effect. McComb informed FFRF via email that “this practice has ceased and will no longer continue.”

“We commend the district for correcting this ongoing violation,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Board members are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way. The school board, however, cannot lend its power and prestige to religion.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 1,000 members and a chapter in Pennsylvania. 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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New York is advancing a pair of good bills, S. 3086/A. 3891, which would increase the minimum age for marriage to 18 with no exceptions. Please take a few moments to make your voice heard on this important issue.

More than 200,000 minors in the United States were married between 2000 and 2015. A new report published just last week warns that the Covid-19 pandemic is threatening decades of progress toward eliminating child marriage worldwide. School closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy and parental deaths are putting an additional 10 million girls globally at risk for child marriage before the end of the decade.

According to UNICEF, minors who are married are 50 percent more likely to drop out of school. Additionally, early marriage doubles a teenager’s chances of living in poverty and triples the likelihood that he or she will be a victim of domestic violence, compared to married adults. Often, these marriages stem from antiquated and horrifying religious beliefs that compromise the safety of children, but many states still allow the practice in order to pacify powerful theocratic constituencies.

Click on the red “Take Action” link to use our automated system to contact your state lawmakers and urge them to vote yes on these bills. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

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CabelloCountySchoolsThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging a Huntington, W.Va. school district to rein in a teacher using her position to denigrate LGBTQ and non-Christian students.

A district parent alerted the state/church watchdog that a Cabell County Schools health teacher has been abusing her position to proselytize students. Last week, the teacher reportedly went on a three-minute rant, during which she taught from the bible, expressed disgust that some students don’t believe in a god and disparaged non-Christians. The teacher implied that non-Christians are not and cannot be brought up with “morals and values.” She reportedly admitted that she is aware she is not allowed to promote her personal religious beliefs in class, but said that she tries “to squeeze it in a little bit without getting in too much trouble.”

The teacher reportedly also said that she doesn’t “believe in” same sex relationships. When teaching students about hormonal changes during puberty, she remarked:

“The thing is you have to choose, what are you going to do with those feelings and thoughts? And if you’re brought up with morals and values, then God’s going to be there to help you make better decisions.”

FFRF has written a letter to Superintendent Ryan S. Saxe, asking that the district ensure this health teacher ceases preaching her religious beliefs to students, teaching from the bible or denigrating non-Christians.

“Because this teacher has admitted that she is aware of, and yet unwilling to follow, the law, which prohibits religious indoctrination in the classroom, she has admitted that she is not fit to be a public school teacher,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line. “She understood the law and deliberately violated it, imposing her religion on other people’s children in the process.”

The district’s response, FFRF emphasizes, must be commensurate with the deliberate nature of this violation of students’ rights — this teacher knew that she was trampling their rights and the law and it did not deter her.

“This health teacher’s religious screed is both shockingly unlawful and ethically impermissible,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The district must protect its students from this coercion and scorn.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members across the country and members in every state, including West Virginia. 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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The Freedom From Religion Foundation applauds Scotland for voting to repeal its blasphemy law.

The theocratic provision dates back to 1825 and has not been enforced since 1843. The repeal was part of a broader bill updating Scotland’s hate crime laws. Scotland is following in the footsteps of the Republic of Ireland, which scrapped its own blasphemy law in 2018, after a public outcry when English comedian Stephen Fry was slapped with blasphemy charges. FFRF commends Humanist Society Scotland for its tireless efforts on this front.

The Scottish blasphemy law persisted far longer than it should have, since the Scottish Constitution includes prohibitions on religious discrimination and states, “All citizens have the right to freedom of religion or none, provided it is practised within Scots law.” This is a mirror of the situation in the United States, which has a thoroughly secular Constitution that vigorously protects free speech and conscience, but many of whose public officials promote religion and denigrate nonbelievers.

Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives historically passed a resolution calling for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy and apostasy laws. This resolution passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (386-3), and was championed by Congressional Freethought Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jamie Raskin.

Today, many countries still outlaw blasphemy, in some cases making it punishable by death. It is crucial to repeal even blasphemy laws that are not currently enforced, because other nations point to such provisions to justify their horrific laws or countenance targeting of nonbelievers or “apostates.” Promoting secularism and the right to speak critically of religion is a universal win for freedom of speech and religious liberty.

“Blasphemy is a victimless crime,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, “but laws against blasphemy can become a life-and-death matter.”

FFRF, through Nonbelief Relief, has helped 25 individuals imperiled by their “blasphemous” atheism find a safe port, and continues to aid such individuals.

Religious freedom requires the freedom to criticize religion. Americans should take note, and celebrate that our Founders figured this one out almost two and a half centuries ago.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members across the country and members in every state. 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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The Oregon Legislature is considering a good bill (HB 3294) that would require all schools to make menstrual products available to students at no cost. Please take a few moments to urge lawmakers to support this positive 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 is being heard by the Oregon House Education Committee next Tuesday, March 16, at 1 p.m. local time. 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!

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One year ago today, President Donald Trump declared a national day of prayer to stop the pandemic and called on the country to “pray for God’s healing hand to be placed on the people of our nation.”

More than 540,000 Americans died in that interval. That’s more than one American, every minute, for a year. By March 14, 2020, about 57 Americans had died from the coronavirus, according to the World Meters numbers. Exactly one year later, 547,234 Americans are dead. The Johns Hopkins numbers are similar.

Trump’s proclamation proves correct FFRF principal founder Anne Gaylor’s adage that “Nothing fails like prayer.”

Trump trusted in prayer and disinformation as his pandemic response, and it killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. In his call to prayer, Trump invoked the motto, “In God We Trust,” and the bible, declaring, “As we come to our Father in prayer, we remember the words found in Psalm 91: ‘He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.’ ” That johnny-come-lately national motto, a product of the McCarthy era, is not a statement of American values, but a dangerous way to govern.

The Biden Administration, by turning to the scientific and medical experts, and by exhorting Covid-19 mitigation, in less than two full months has been able to predict that the end of the pandemic is in sight.

At the time, FFRF castigated the Day of Prayer as “worthless,” “useless” and dangerous. Quoting FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel, FFRF editorialized that “we believe — we know — that science is the answer to the coronavirus, not religion. Thoughts and prayers won’t stop a virus any more than they will a bullet.”

Thoughts and prayers failed. The pandemic scythed through this nation, aided by churches that refused to close, a Supreme Court that egged them on and a president that turned to prayer, anti-science and anti-masking rhetoric instead of medicine and science. It is perhaps America’s most costly lesson in the dangers of denying reality. We hope it is one our nation never forgets.

MichiganFlagThe state of Michigan has corrected an unconstitutional entanglement after intervention from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

A Wolverine State resident alerted FFRF that the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services’ official required study materials for those who wish to become licensed insurance agents were promoting religiosity and explicitly discriminating against nonreligious people. The ethics exam materials stated:

“Virtually all the world’s religions teach essentially similar codes of ethics that emphasize honesty, respect for others and their rights, and selflessness. Therefore, in both business and personal situations, highly religious people are likely to act in ways that most of us will regard as ethical. … Moreover, those for whom religion is not a central force in their lives are more likely to act in self-centered, ethically questionable ways.”

The materials also held “religious leaders” as being the opposite of “gangsters and serial killers,” and claimed that under “duty theories” of ethics “individuals have duties to God.”

FFRF sent a letter to the department, alerting it to the unconstitutionality of peddling these erroneous and discriminatory claims. As an official government entity, the department is mandated to remain neutral on matters of religion, it emphasized.

“By teaching test takers that people who are less religious are more likely to act in ‘ethically questionable ways,’ the department is perpetuating and lending government approval to these harmful misconceptions about nonreligious Americans, who now constitute one in four Michiganders,” FFRF’s letter read.

The national state/church watchdog’s admonishment had the desired effect. Director of the Office of Insurance Licensing and Market Regulation Michele Riddering informed FFRF in a letter of response that the conflation of religion and ethics has been removed from these materials.

“We recognize that this complaint originated with a concerned Michigan resident regarding some of the education materials that are available to applicants and licensees,” Riddering writes. “Therefore, we passed along those concerns to the education provider, and the education provider has modified the language at issue in an attempt to address the concerns.”

The materials now attribute the source of ethics to famed philosophers such as Aristotle, Kant and Bentham.

“We applaud the department for taking these concerns seriously and correcting the study materials,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members across the country, including over 800 in Michigan. 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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The Tennessee Legislature is advancing a bad Covid-related bill that will jeopardize public health in favor of preferential treatment for churches. Please call on state lawmakers to reject this dangerous bill and instead prioritize the public safety of all Tennessee residents.

The bill, HB 1137, prevents emergency orders from prohibiting or imposing restrictions on religious gatherings, even in the event of a deadly pandemic. If passed, this bill would strip state and local leaders of a critical tool shown to save lives by slowing the spread of this deadly virus and would give preference to religious gatherings over secular ones.

Governments already regularly limit worship gatherings that jeopardize public health. For instance, the government prohibits churches from cramming too many people into a building in violation of fire codes and also requires that church buildings comply with necessary building codes. Preventing large gatherings due to a pandemic is even more crucial. Limiting the size and scope of religious gatherings is not a ban on worship any more than speed limits are a ban on driving.

Read FFRF’s Covid state/church research guide for more information.

The Tennessee House Civil Justice Committee has a hearing on this bill on Wednesday, March 17, at 12:30 p.m. local time. Please click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact all members of the committee and urge them to vote no on this bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

TAKE ACTION!

MarriageAgeCartoon

 

The Texas Legislature is considering a good bill, HB 1590, which would increase the minimum age for marriage to 18 with no exceptions. Please take a few moments to make your voice heard on this important issue.

More than 200,000 minors in the United States were married between 2000 and 2015. A new report published just this week warns that the Covid-19 pandemic is threatening decades of progress toward eliminating child marriage worldwide. School closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy and parental deaths are putting an additional 10 million girls globally at risk for child marriage before the end of the decade.

According to UNICEF, minors who are married are 50 percent more likely to drop out of school. Additionally, early marriage doubles a teenager’s chances of living in poverty and triples the likelihood that he or she will be a victim of domestic violence, compared to married adults. Often, these marriages stem from antiquated and horrifying religious beliefs that compromise the safety of children, but many states, including Texas, still allow the practice in order to pacify powerful theocratic constituencies.

The Texas House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee has a hearing on this bill next Monday, March 15, at 10 a.m. local time. Click on the red “Take Action” link to contact all members of this committee and urge them to support this bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

TAKE ACTION!