The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the proud recipient of the 2020 Ebenezer Award, annually bestowed by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Roman Catholic ultraconservative outfit.
The fund conferred this honor upon FFRF after the national state/church watchdog properly persuaded a public school in Pratt, Kan., to stop enlisting young students to support a Christian ministry seeking to convert children by offering them Christmas presents.
FFRF faced stiff competition. It was in good company, since the runners-up included New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, all of whom promulgated public health orders to protect the lives and health of a combined tens of millions of Americans. They were nominated because those orders applied equally to religious worship, which has been shown to spread the coronavirus at a fearful rate.
The Becket Fund, of course, did not mean to be kind in bestowing this award, saying “America’s most notorious grinches, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), a noted anti-Christmas activist group, has found a way to steal presents from children.”
It is true that FFRF stopped the public school’s partnership with a Christian ministry called Operation Christmas Child. Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organization run by Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, runs Operation Christmas Child, a “shoebox ministry” whose purpose is to convert children in the developing world to Christianity. The ministry describes itself as “a powerful tool for evangelism and discipleship — transforming the lives of children and their families around the world through the Good News of Jesus Christ!” That isn’t charity, but predation. There are many secular charities with no ulterior motives that exist solely to help children or families in need with which public schools may partner. Yes, FFRF proudly stopped a public school from taking part in a campaign to convert children to evangelical Christianity because doing so is inappropriate and unconstitutional.
This is not all the school was doing. The vice principal was also abusing his secular authority to impose his brand of conservative Christianity on a captive audience of students, leading them in prayer and using the morning announcements to read bible verses and preach. He said, “We need to remember to give all the glory to God, whether others agree with it or not, and I don't care if I offend anyone by saying that.” In other words, he knew that what he was doing was wrong. FFRF Attorney Chris Line wrote a letter to stop this abuse, and the superintendent stepped in to fix things.
Why did Becket Fund leave these facts out of its press release?
The Becket Fund’s full name is The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. If it truly believed in religious liberty, it would be fighting this gross violation alongside FFRF, instead of bestowing mock honors.
“The award shows that the Becket Fund is intent on codifying religious privilege in the law and is willing to ignore facts and reality to do so,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, who has debated Becket personnel a number of times.
Becket’s naming of FFRF to receive the “Ebenezer Award” is actually an admission that its true aim is dismantling the constitutional principle of separation between church and state. If the Becket Fund were fighting for genuine religious liberty, instead of religious privilege, it would be thanking FFRF for keeping divisive religion out of our public schools.
So, from FFRF to Becket, thank you for showing your true colors. This is an “award” we’ll cherish.