The Freedom From Religion Foundation is running a full-page advertisement in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today asking the question, "What does the bible really say about abortion?"
The answer, as the ad puts it, is: "There is no biblical justification for the assault on women's reproductive rights."
The ad features a compelling portrait of birth control crusader Margaret Sanger, and her quote: "No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body." It documents that the bible does not condemn abortion and, in fact, "shows an utter disregard for human life." It reminds the reader: "We live under a secular Constitution that wisely separates religion from government, and protects women's reproductive rights."
The ad is funded and was largely written by Brian Bolton, a retired professor and Life Member of FFRF, in memory of FFRF's principal founder Anne Nicol Gaylor (1926-2015), who was propelled into freethought activism by her experiences working to legalize abortion in the late 1960s and early '70s. Gaylor observed that the battle for women's rights "would never end" until the root cause of women's oppression — "religion and its control of our government" — is challenged.
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor notes that the right to abortion remains a major political controversy, as exemplified by its prominence in the presidential debate this week.
The ad refers the reader for more information to Bolton's article "God Is Not Pro-Life" and FFRF's nontract "What Does the Bible Say About Abortion?" It ran earlier this year in the Austin American-Statesman, the Houston Chronicle, the Tulsa World and in Wichita, Kan.
FFRF warmly thanks Brian Bolton, a professor emeritus who taught in Arkansas, for his generous support and commitment. Bolton also sponsors FFRF's annual graduate student essay contest.
For more information on biblical sexism and its reach into civil law, also see Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So, by Annie Laurie Gaylor, published by FFRF.
A Catholic Church-operated housing facility in Wisconsin's capital is being charged with discrimination against non-Catholics.
A student has filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission in Madison, Wis., over discriminatory rental practices at a downtown complex forcing renters who are not practicing Catholics to pay $1,200 more a year. The Lumen House building, a former Catholic school, is owned by St. Raphael's, a Roman Catholic congregation. It opened in 2014.
In her statement filed on Oct. 12 alleging unlawful discrimination, student Nicole Niebler noted that both St. Raphael's and Forward Management Inc. "discriminate against residents, and housing applicants, on the basis of religion and nonreligion." Niebler is president of the campus group AHA! (Atheists, Humanists & Agnostics).
Renters who participate in qualifying Roman Catholic religious programming and are approved by Father Eric Nielsen of St. Paul University Catholic Center pay $100 less a month in rent.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based state/church watchdog organization with 23,500 members nationwide, including about 500 in the Madison area, has helped investigate the problem and file the complaint on the student's behalf.
"Many current and previous renters at Lumen House appear to be owed a significant refund from St. Raphael's over this overt and invidious form of discrimination," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
The application asks residents to "describe your involvement at St. Paul's." Options for qualifying participation include being part of Knights of Columbus, Students for Life — an antiabortion group — or "leading bible studies." The application form includes a line for a signature by a Catholic priest.
Niebler has considered renting a new apartment next August after she graduates. She toured Lumen House apartments earlier this month.
She told the Madison Equal Opportunity Commission that she knows Lumen House "offers a $100 monthly discount to students who are approved by St. Paul University Catholic Church," but "is an atheist" who is not willing to apply to a Catholic priest for reduced rent or to attend worship services or participate in Catholic programs.
FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott notes that the church is also discriminating under Madison's Equal Opportunities Ordinance by giving preference to students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Lumen House has a quota to rent 10 percent or less of its units to non-UW students. Forward Management asks prospective tenants about their student status. Once the quota has been reached, Forward Management refuses to rent to nonstudents.
"This sort of discrimination based on the belief or unbelief of a prospective renter is a violation of that person's civil rights," says Gaylor. "It has no place in any civilized society and forms a legitimate basis for a legal complaint."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is protesting the denial of a freethinking license plate to a Pennsylvania nonbeliever.
FFRF member Jeffrey Prebeg Jr. wanted one of three license plates: ATHE1ST, NO GOD, N0 G0D. All three of these plates were and are available, according to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Motor Vehicles' personalized registration plate availability website. However, Prebeg received an Oct. 11 letter stating, "We are unable to process your application because the department reserves the right to deny issuance to any requested personalized plate." Under the enclosures line, it read, "DENIED ... ATHE1ST, NO GOD, N0 G0D."
No specific reason was given for the rejection. It seems that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles is relying on 67 Pa. Code 49.3 (b) (1): "A personal registration plate may not contain a combination of letters or numbers or both, which, in the judgment of the department, has connotations offensive to good taste or decency or would be misleading."
Such a rule is unconstitutional, however.
"The Bureau of Motor Vehicles restriction of the message because of the viewpoint being expressed violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment," FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel writes to Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards. "The Supreme Court has continually struck down viewpoint discrimination by the government."
The proposed plate cannot be considered obscene under any interpretation of the First Amendment, FFRF asserts. Similar overbroad language has been challenged and struck down in a number of other states, such as Michigan, Missouri and Vermont. A Pennsylvania court would agree, as a 2010 case demonstrates. George Kalman wanted to name his film company "I Choose Hell Productions." When the state rejected the title as "blasphemous," a federal court ruled that this violated the First Amendment.
FFRF requests an assurance in writing that the Pennsylvania Bureau of Motor Vehicles will approve Prebeg's license plate request. And it recommends that down the road, the Pennsylvania code regulating the issuance of license plates should be amended to comport with the First Amendment.
"Our government is not charged with protecting the religious sensibilities of citizens," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "A minority viewpoint cannot be silenced just because it is unpopular or irreverent."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with more than 23,000 nonreligious members all over the country, including almost 800 in Pennsylvania.
In spite of the Freedom From Religion Foundation's concerns, Dane County appears likely to approve the Catholic Church's management of a public-funded homeless center in Madison.
Dane County is working on a contract with Catholic Charities Inc. Diocese of Madison to provide a publicly paid and affiliated resource day center for the homeless. The charity has a vocal religious mission in its tax return stating that it "serves as a visible presence of the Catholic Church of the Diocese of Madison by providing services that effectively address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of individuals and families."
FFRF sent out a letter to the county opposing this contract in September. Unfortunately, the Dane County executive board has taken steps to further solidify this partnership.
Catholic ideology is officially at odds with reproductive and LGBTQ rights. The Wisconsin State Journal has described Catholic Charities as an "outreach arm of the Church." FFRF's extreme skepticism that the organization can remain true to church doctrine without discriminating against women seeking contraception and the LGBTQ community has been borne out by subsequent revelations, as can be seen in activist and former Alder Brenda Konkel's Facebook message below.
"The homeless come in all religious and nonreligious stripes, who, regardless of affiliation, are in desperate need of even-handed and secular facilities without fear of religious coercion or expectation of worship in order to utilize such services," FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi last month. "Those of us taxpayers who are nonreligious, comprising 24 percent of the population, today outnumber rank and file Roman Catholics. Non-Catholic believers — Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, Hindu and others — are equally concerned with our tax dollars being used wisely and equitably to ameliorate conditions for the homeless in our county."
While it is admirable that Catholic Charities is working to address the needs of the community, it is unnecessary for county government to partner with a religious organization to fulfill the community's needs.
There is a Dane County Board meeting this Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 7:00 p.m. where public comment on the county budget will be allowed. Urge Dane County to partner with a secular organization or make new arrangements so that the county itself is providing programming and resources at the homeless center.