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ProtectAbortionRights

The Maryland Legislature is considering four extremist anti-choice bills that threaten abortion access in the state. We need you to speak out and tell legislators to oppose these thinly veiled attempts to undermine reproductive rights and freedom of conscience. The bills:

HB 1198 would require physicians who prescribe medication for abortion to tell patients about so-called “abortion reversal” procedures, which the American Medication Association (AMA) has called “a patently false and unproven claim unsupported by scientific evidence.” Legislating medical procedures based on this pseudoscientific dogma could have potentially deadly consequences.

HB 1109 would require patients to undergo a burdensome 24-hour waiting period and mandatory ultrasound before they are able to get an abortion. Because mandatory waiting periods delay abortion care, abortion procedures unnecessarily become riskier.

HB 0997 defines abortion as the “intentional killing of an unborn human being” and the definition of an “unborn human being” as “a living human zygote, embryo, or fetus, beginning the moment of fertilization.” This dubious definition is based on the dogmatic religious belief that ensoulment takes place at conception, explicitly conflating a human embryo with an “unborn child.”

HB 0846 would prohibit abortion if there is a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. This is a favorite tactic of Christian nationalists — passing legislation that will restrict access to abortion under the guise of anti-discrimination protections. This is a smoke-and-mirrors attempt to restrict access to reproductive health care without actually increasing resources or social services for people who give birth to children with disabilities.

The Maryland Health and Government Operations Committee has a hearing scheduled on these four bills on Friday, March 19, at 1:30 p.m. local time. Please use our simple, automated system to contact all members of this committee and urge them to oppose these unnecessary anti-choice measures. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

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The Iowa Legislature has introduced a new bill that would drastically expand religious privilege in the state.

The bill, SF 436, 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 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.

The Iowa Senate State Government Committee will soon consider this dangerous measure. Click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact all members of the committee and urge them to oppose this bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

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The Washington Legislature is considering a good bill (HB 1273) 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.

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 passed the House and will now be heard by the Washington Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee on Tuesday, March 16, at 1:30 p.m.. 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.

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AddisEntanglement

The Montana Legislature has introduced a new bill that would drastically expand religious privilege in the state.

The bill, 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.

This bill has already passed the Montana state Senate. The House Judiciary Committee will now hold a hearing on this bill this Thursday, March 11, at 8 a.m. local time. Click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact all members of the committee and urge them to oppose this bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

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The South Carolina Legislature is considering a bill that would mandate the teaching of religiously slanted topics and materials in public schools. Lawmakers need to hear your opposition to this extremely damaging measure.

This bill, HB 3002, would require many specific areas of instruction on America’s history, including various religion-infused topics such as “the life of young George Washington, including the Native American legend of his divine protection” and “God-given rights.” Additionally, this bill would require the South Carolina Department of Education to use materials from specific conservative entities such as the notorious Heritage Foundation. The bill even removes a provision of the law requiring instruction on the Bill of Rights.

This bill is a thinly veiled attempt to insert myths into public education regarding the role of religion in America’s founding. This measure is about advancing the Big Lie that the United States was “founded on God” or Christianity, dismantling the wall of separation between religion and government, and subsequently brainwashing American schoolchildren into believing that our nation is a theocracy.

The South Carolina House Education and Public Works Committee has a hearing on this bill coming up tomorrow, March 10. Please click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact all members of the committee and urge them to oppose this bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

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The Alabama Legislature is advancing a bill that would, most notably, prohibit puberty-blocking medication for trans minors. State legislators need to hear your opposition to this discriminatory measure.

The bill, HB 1, puts private medical decisions in the hands of lawmakers and endangers transgender youth in the interest of advancing a dogmatic religious ideology. If passed, the criminalization of puberty-blocking medication would force trans minors to undergo permanent unwanted changes rather than delaying the decision until they are older. This bill would also require teachers and medical professionals to notify parents if a minor discloses to them that they are trans, which could potentially seriously endanger the child.

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.

The Alabama House has already passed this bill. Now, the Senate Committee on Healthcare will hold a hearing on this bill this Wednesday, March 10, at 1:30 p.m. local time. Click on the red “Take Action” link to contact all members of the committee and urge them to vote no on this dangerous bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

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Photo by Jarek Tuszyński via Creative Commons

 

The U.S. Supreme Court has strengthened the constitutional rights of all Americans.

In an 8-1 decision today (March 8), the court ruled that those who have suffered past constitutional deprivations can have their cases heard in court, even when they only seek an award of $1 in “nominal” damages. The justices resolved a split between circuit courts of appeals. Those courts were divided as to whether a nominal award was sufficient for courts to issue rulings in such cases.

The case, Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, made strange bedfellows between religious outfits and organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Both types of groups would like to see federal courts resolve constitutional challenges rather than have a belated change in government policy in response to a lawsuit “moot” the case.

Uzuegbunam involved a challenge to restrictions on religious literature distributions at a Georgia college by two former students. After the suit was filed, college officials got rid of the challenged policies and then sought to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the changes mooted the case. If the case were dismissed, even though the students were successful in ending the policy, it would mean the case would not become precedent that could be invoked by students in similar circumstances. The plaintiffs argued that at least one of the students should be able to pursue nominal damages for past violations of his constitutional rights. Nominal damages are court-awarded symbolic amounts of money (such as a single dollar). They signify the violation of rights that are hard to quantify in actual dollars.

“This decision will help protect First Amendment rights and allow for plaintiffs to have their cases heard,” says FFRF Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott. “Government actors can no longer change the rules in the midst of litigation and then turn around and claim that the plaintiffs’ claims are unworthy of a court decision.”

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, stated: “This case asks whether an award of nominal damages by itself can redress a past injury. We hold that it can.” He added, “Nominal damages are not a consolation prize for the plaintiff who pleads, but fails to prove, compensatory damages.”

Chief Justice John Roberts was the lone dissenting justice.

Prior to the decision, FFRF had prevailed against similar tactics in one of its ongoing cases. In that lawsuit, a West Virginia school system temporarily ceased its bible instruction in elementary schools. The school system then argued in court that the plaintiffs’ claims for past injuries were moot because only a claim for nominal damages remained. FFRF defeated these motions in the district court. The Uzeugbunam decision finally puts the issue to rest.

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The Missouri Legislature is considering a bill that would allow bible classes to be offered in public schools. Please take a few moments to make your secular voice heard and ensure that Missouri students are not subjected to proselytizing.

The bill (SB 323) states that a purpose of public school bible classes is to document “the influence of the Hebrew Scriptures or New Testament on law, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values and culture.” This language invites teachers to repeat myths that the bible is the source of morality and values, or that it is the basis of American democracy.

While politicians often claim that these laws are intended 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. Besides the obvious bias in requiring classes on one specific set of religious texts and no others, public school bible classes have been tried across the country and have invariably ended up unconstitutionally promoting religion. Click here to learn more. 

Bible classes are unnecessary and they open public school districts up to costly legal battles when the line between state and church is inevitably breached. The Missouri Senate Education Committee has a hearing scheduled on this bill tomorrow, March 9, at noon local time. Click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact all members of the committee and urge them to reject this bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

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Although it may not be obvious at first glance, a pending voting reform bill will not only accomplish political change but will also help protect our First Amendment and keep state and church separate.

HR1, also known as “For the People Act,” would “expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy.” The House recently passed the sweeping election bill, but it faces likely roadblocks, such as a filibuster, in the Senate.

How will HR1 buttress the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause? “Anything that reduces the influence of money in politics and strengthens ethics rules will help us keep state and church separate,” explains FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel.

It is eye-opening to examine who opposes the bill. Christian nationalists, theocrats and the Religious Right want fewer ethics rules and fewer voters because they want more influence. They are afraid of the For the People Act, HR1, for all the reasons FFRF is excited by its promise. It isn’t a coincidence that the architect of the most disastrous campaign finance judicial decision of all time, Citizens United, is a virulent Christian nationalist group that, along with Mike Huckabee, attacked FFRF in a 10-page letter sent out to 2 million Americans.

Anti-abortion groups also oppose HR1, launching a $5 million disinformation campaign against it, with Ken Cuccinelli, an authoritarian Christian nationalist, leading this charge. They understand that their anti-choice agenda will fail in a country where three-quarters of the people support reproductive rights — if all voters get an equal say in elections.

Yet another ardent critic of HR1 is our previous president, who used his podium at the recent, shameful gathering at CPAC not only to promote his Christian nationalist playbook, but to attack the bill. He warned against those who “are racing to pass a flagrantly unconstitutional attack on the First Amendment and the integrity of our elections known as HR1.”

A vibrant, fully enfranchised electorate is the best guarantee to protect our secular Constitution and secular government. A diverse electorate ensures that no sect or group can take charge of the government to privilege itself. The framers called this the “mischiefs of faction” in The Federalist #10. Madison used as an example the risk that a “religious sect may degenerate into a political faction,” advising that “the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger.” Put more simply, pluralism is one of the best antidotes to Christian nationalism.

The pandemic has made clear that universal vote by mail is a secular issue — it not only helps enfranchise secular voters (who tend to be older) and concentrate our clout, but it is public policy based on reason and science. Last April, the voter suppression efforts sweeping the country landed on the doorstep of the Freedom From Religion Foundation during the debacle that was Wisconsin’s in-person primary election. Several FFRF staff members were forced to risk their health or even lives — and the lives of their families — to vote in person during a pandemic after their timely requests for absentee ballots never arrived. The Wisconsin and U.S. Supreme Courts forced the state’s voters to violate stay-at-home orders and risk health to exercise their constitutional right to vote. That must not be allowed to happen again.

Unfortunately, state legislatures around the country are rushing to disenfranchise as many voters as possible — to date more than 350 bills in 43 states propose to tighten voting rules. Meanwhile, more than 700 bills have been introduced to improve voting access.

Some voting restriction proposals are even explicitly tied to religion. In Georgia, where a number of Black citizens traditionally cast ballots after church services in a “Souls to the Polls” campaign, the Georgia house has passed HB531, the “Sabbath commandment,” to prevent early voting on weekends. Voter suppressionists know a racial restriction won’t stand up, but presume a violation of the constitutional principle of separation between state and church will. A bill outlawing voting on Sunday would also target observant Jewish voters, whose Sabbath is Saturday. The bill would also make it harder to vote in terms of ID, drop boxes, absentee ballots and deadlines, runoffs — and much, much more.

Fighting for a secular government means fighting for policies based on reason, science, data, but also fairness. Many of the attempts to suppress votes are obviously unfair, but they’re also based on a Big Lie: voter fraud. This is a lie pushed by Christian nationalists to help them codify and solidify their power and privilege, as FFRF has documented about the attack on the Capitol.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation works so that reason and fairness — not religion — will prevail in government. HR1 will help us reach that goal.

“White Christian nationalism has benefitted for decades from undemocratic structures in our republic,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “It’s time to change that. It’s time for the Senate to pass HR1.”

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Image: Matt Wade Photography via Creative Commons

 

A coalition of secular groups that includes the Freedom From Religion Foundation has contacted the Biden administration on behalf of nonreligious Americans.

FFRF and 18 other secular advocacy organizations have sent a letter to the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships with an agenda to advance the interests of nontheists. As our nation begins to recover from the enormous damage that the Trump administration inflicted on religious freedom and the separation of religion and government, the coalition offers specific directives to the current White House to restore true freedom of conscience for all Americans. Its letter reads in part:

Our community firmly believes that separation of religion and government is the bedrock upon which religious freedom is made possible. While the previous administration did everything possible to undermine these important principles to favor specific, politically well-connected religious viewpoints, we are confident that under the leadership of President Biden, Vice President Harris and your team, we will restore a more balanced understanding of religious freedom.

As part of this effort, the letter urges the Biden administration to issue an executive order instructing federal agencies to strengthen freedom of conscience by protecting the separation of religion and government, prohibiting discrimination in the name of religious belief and eliminating government funding of religious activities. In addition, it requests that the Biden administration direct the Department of Justice to correct several erroneous initiatives established in the last four years.

The coalition letter concludes by encouraging the White House to rein in the widely damaging Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which has been weaponized to erode civil rights since its conception. In order to correct this, the letter urges the Biden administration to prioritize the passage of the Do No Harm Act, which would amend RFRA to ensure that it cannot be weaponized to harm or erode civil rights.

FFRF, along with its coalition partners, looks forward to working with the Biden administration to advance an agenda that prioritizes true religious liberty and restores the separation between religion and government.

FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 34,500 members and several chapters across the country. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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The Illinois Legislature is considering a bill that would permit public schools in the state to display “In God We Trust” on school property. We need your help to ensure that young, impressionable students aren’t subject to religious proselytizing.

This bill, HB 217, 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.

While politicians claim that these laws are intended to showcase the national motto or inspire patriotism, it is clear that their true purpose is to peddle religiosity to a captive audience. These laws are about advancing the Big Lie that the United States was “founded on God” or Christianity, dismantling the wall of separation between religion and government. The motto “In God We Trust” is inaccurate, exclusionary and aimed at brainwashing American schoolchildren into believing that our nation is a theocracy.

The Illinois House Elementary & Secondary Education on Administration, Licensing & Charter School Committee has a hearing scheduled on this bill tomorrow, Wednesday, March 3. Please use our automated system to contact all members of this committee and ask that they stop this bill in its tracks. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided.

You can also submit a witness slip in opposition to HB 217, as well as any other bill being considered at the hearing, at this website. Remember that doing so will be a public record, but it is your opportunity to publicly weigh in on pending bills.

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